Unicorns, Peace Signs and Cats

As a mom of three young girls (two of which are school age), I’m focused on buying the essentials for back to school. What are the essentials? To me, that means practical purchases that will last my little ones through the school year.

On our way to a Goodwill shopping trip this past weekend, I asked my seven and five year old daughters what they thought were ‘essentials’ as they headed into second and first grade.

After explaining what the word ‘essential’ actually means, they gave me their answer: unicorns, peace signs and cats.

Okay. This should be interesting.

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After years of being a savvy thrift shopper at Goodwill, my focus has always been on shopping with an open mind, and not shopping for a specific item. You know….like unicorns, peace signs and cats.

I was going to have to work hard to either find these ‘essentials’ or convince these little ones that this isn’t the way thrift shopping is really done.

By the time we entered the sliding doors of the Massillon Goodwill store, my daughters’ list of essentials had become more specific. Unicorns were now pink unicorns. Regular cats would no longer work; they had to be kittens on the clothes, now. And, peace signs needed to include sparkle.

Anxiety was creeping in.

Without sharing the step by step shopping experience, which may or may not have included a few ugly mommy moments, here’s a spoiler alert: We found unicorns, cats and peace signs. And, here’s how we did it.

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  1. Bribe them. Our Goodwill had a massive bin filled with all kinds of little toys and gadgets near the register. Everything in the bin was $1. We made a stop there first and they each picked out a favorite tchotchke. The catch? Mommy will buy this toy for you if you behave while we shop for our ‘essentials.’
  2. Always get a cart. Even if you think you won’t be buying much, you will need a place to put your purse. I hang items for each daughter on either side of the cart. It allows me to have a clear idea of what we might be purchasing.  It makes it much easier to find tops or bottoms to match.  Once we have a match, it goes into the belly of cart.
  3. #defineyourself That is the theme for this year’s Back to School Shopping at Goodwill. Really, it’s one of the few places I can let the girls pick what they want and create a personal style, while staying in budget. Most of the items we purchased were $2 or $3 each, and some were the Color of the Week tag which only cost $1. Maybe that hashtag should be #defineyourselfatgoodwillbecauseitdoesnotbreakthebank. Probably too long for marketing purposes.
  4. Shop sizes smaller and larger.  Although my seven and five year old daughters technically wear the size in clothes, their body types are very different. As a result, we are best to search other sizes for our treasures. Leggings, for example, can fit up to two sizes smaller or larger than what they typically wear. These bad boys are meant to stretch! Also, one size up works for many sweaters or cotton shirts that may have shrunk. The result? A perfect fit for my gals. 
  5. Check out all departments. Keeping the kiddos occupied and engaged during an hour-long shopping trip is not an easy task. I mixed it up with frequent stops in the wares section where they could peruse through bins and shelves filled with toys, pre-teen décor and new products. As a result, we walked away with some great toy organizers and some cute décor items. BTS Mo 6

The trip was awesome all around. Goodwill is big enough to have a great variety (even those ‘essentials’ they wanted) and small enough that I wasn’t worried about losing my kids in a mega-store. Prices were more than fair and I was surprised how many Color of the Week $1 items we found without even trying. I can’t imagine anywhere you can purchase three overflowing bags of back-to-school fun for less than $65, other than your local Goodwill.

The total haul:

  • 6 tops
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 scarf
  • 4 pairs of pants/leggings
  • 1 jean jacket
  • 4 toys/misc décor items


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