The new school year has arrived, which of course means your kids are nagging you for new clothes.
Nobody wants to debut back to class in last year's duds. That's so 2009. But before you hit the mall, you might stop by some of Tampa Bay's many thrift stores and consignment shops. It may take a bit more effort, and you'll have to convince your kids that fashion can be just as hip secondhand, but your wallet will thank you. Consider it a treasure hunt. Here is a sampling of the area's options.
Hernando-Pasco Hospice Thrift, 6528 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey: It's a huge store, but organized enough that it's easy to browse. Stop by every Tuesday for half-off all clothing and accessories. Other random specials are announced at the store's opening each day.
Second Image of Tampa Bay, 9103 U.S. 19, Pinellas Park: Another local favorite, this shop has different deals each day. Monday Mark-down day features deals on anything in the store with a red dot — a scavenger hunt of sorts. On Tuesday seniors, students and military personnel receive an additional 25 percent off. Thrifty Thursday means 50 percent off anything $9.99 or less, and Friday is buy-one-get-one-half-off clothing after 4 p.m. until closing at 8 p.m.
Goodwill, 10596 N Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg: Browse tons of clothes and an even bigger warehouse in the back full of accessories and housewares. On Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the store opens up its "outlet," which features items priced by weight. Clothing and other textiles are $1.39 per pound, and toys and housewares are 50 cents per pound.
Sunshine Thrift Store, 4304 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa: This huge warehouse of a shop can be overwhelming, but those who don't mind digging through piles and piles of shirts and slacks won't leave disappointed. And mark your calendar: Sunshine's already cheap clothing is half-priced on the third Thursday of every month. Be sure to peek in the store's glass display cases near the cash register for their most covetable items.
Plato's Closet, 4023 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa: If you need to make room in your closet, consider trading old duds for cash. Don't expect a return anywhere near to what you
paid. Still, you'll get a deal if you stay to shop. Because the consignment chain inspects all its donations before accepting them, most of the selection is brand-name, newer stuff. It's a good option for kids who are squeamish about thrifting.
Sherry's YesterDAZE, 5207 N Florida Ave., Tampa: If you've got a vintage lover in your house, a walk through the conspicuous purple building in Seminole Heights is a must. You'll pay a little more than if you do your own hunting at some less fashionable thrift spots, but the selection at Sherry's is unbeatable. Outfits range from the costumelike to the classic. And with a huge array of jewelry, purses, sunglasses and knickknacks flanking the clothing, it's tough to leave empty handed.
• Be patient: It often takes a good amount of scouring before you find a score. At thrift store prices, the time pays off.
• Be open to alterations: Maybe you found the perfect skirt, but it's too long. Or there's an adorable blouse with awful ruffles along the sleeves. Don't give up. A local seamstress can work wonders.
• Bring cash: These days, most shops come equipped with debit-credit card machines, but you never know. You wouldn't want to lose out on a great deal because you can't pay for it.
• Wash before your wear: This may seem obvious when you're buying secondhand, but it's an important thrifting step. Don't forget about jewelry, either. Wipe your new accessories down with alcohol to sanitize them.
• Don't buy just because it's cheap: If you're a thrifting novice, you're going to be surprised at some of the prices you find. But even if it's only $1, don't buy something for which you wouldn't pay full price. A dollar's a dollar, after all.