Make the Most of your thrift shop
Take along a measuring tape, and also take measurements of your kids (and maybe you and your spouse) ahead of time and write them down inside your pocket calendar or on a paper in your wallet- where you know you will always have it with you. Many times second hand clothes will not have tags because they've been cut off. If you can't have your family members try the clothes on, checking measurements is the next best thing.
Check all fastenings very carefully. Also look especially close at the knees, back pocket seams, and the crotch of all blue jeans. Those seem to be the places most likely to show weakness, thinning fabric, or holes.
Stock up, but with care. It's worthwhile to pick up boy clothes, especially after about size 6, if you have little boys who will be growing into them. Boys are harder on their clothes, and consequently, boys' clothing in good condition is harder to find when you need it. With girls' clothing you have more flexibility in general. We do have one girl who is an exception. She has multiple disabilities and a funny body shape possibly connected with that. There are only one or two particular styles that fit her and look nice on her, and she wears a girls' size that isn't as commonly found, so when we find clothes that meet our needs for her, I usually buy them.
Shop ahead: I look at thrift shops all year long for gifts, for stocking stuffers, for special finds that make suitable presents. I keep a stash in my closet.
Make use of Goodwill Rewards Cards in the U.S.- as I understand it, not every state has these, and the program varies from one state to another. In South Carolina, for instance, you get one point for every dollar, and when you get to 250 points, you get 25% off your next purchase, plus some other special offers. Wisconsin offers five points per dollar, and the points can be used for in-store specials. More here.
Use your thrift shop and yard sales to bring in a little bit of extra cash. Selling things on online is generally not a get-rich quick scheme, but it is a decent way to bring in some much needed extra income if you do your homework and are disciplined about it. I choose books.
My oldest daughter, married, two babies 2 and under, one with needs which take a lot of time with doctor and therapy appointments, has been reselling things on e-bay and making a steady amount of 'egg money' through her sales. She's started a new feature on the family blog inviting others to share their thrift store finds. She'll be including give-aways and advice on reselling- she's discovered some very interesting items that are steady sellers. please join her!
Be willing to look at things from more than one point of view- that's why I was able to get this 300 dollar item for 5.00- the store staff didn't realize what they had, so they had set this item up on the wrong end, and nobody could figure out what it was for.=)
ASK questions- the most basic question is "Are you having any specials today? Because I asked that question I was able to get my son this suit for .50 cents.
The store was running an unadvertised sale, and they hadn't got the signs out yet, either- they were selling all the men and boy clothes for $5.00 a bag. I bought several needed shirts for my husband and son, and squeezed in the suit as well, and it all came out to .50 an item when we got it home (tip: roll clothing, don't fold it, to fit the most items in a bag).
You can learn many lessons through thrift shopping- patience, delayed gratification, gratitude for what you have, creativity.