Thrifty Mom Fills Her Entire Wardrobe With Secondhand Clothes for Just a Few Bucks

A thrifty mom filled her entire wardrobe with secondhand clothes - with all items costing less than $10.

Twenty years ago, Nadine Stephens, 47, began looking in thrift shops for vintage fashions and furniture.

At the time, Stephens, from Brisbane, Australia, had four children for whom she had to scrimp because of her low income.

Thrifty mom Nadine Stephens closet
Nadine Stephens, 47, filled her entire wardrobe with secondhand clothes that cost less than $7.50 a piece. Amy Reast/Zenger

When she fell in love with finding incredible secondhand goods, she decided to adopt the lifestyle for good.

The schoolteacher committed to turning her home into a vintage paradise, filled with hand-me-down goods and upcycled furniture.

Not just that, but she opted to make her whole wardrobe secondhand too, at a savings of $5,000 a year.

Stephens sees it as her way of saving some money and doing her bit for the planet - and says it's easier than you think.

"I have a love of all things quirky and you don't get that in mainstream stores," she said.

"If I can avoid buying new, I will; I don't see the point of it when there are so many secondhand things out there.

"I think there is still a mindset that secondhand means bad quality; people can't believe some of the things I get.

"I even get friends asking if I can teach them how to thrift shop.

"But it's just about having patience and waiting to find the thing you need - it comes when you least expect it.

"Other than that, I don't really find it any different to shopping normally. Except you come out with a better mindset because you are saving the planet - and thousands of dollars."

Stephens began shopping secondhand as she raised her four children when money was tight, but the more she did it, the more she became hooked on finding all sorts of amazing items with slashed prices.

She filled her wardrobe to the brim with unique and quirky outfits that perfectly suited her style, and because she bought them all from thrift shops and rummage sales, nothing in her wardrobe cost more than $10.

Stephens explained that she puts together a list of items she wants to buy, and shops around to find them secondhand.

Sometimes, Stephens doesn't find the item she needs but won't go out and buy it new because she committed to a secondhand lifestyle.

Nadine Stephens thrift shopper
Nadine Stephens, 47, filled her entire wardrobe with secondhand clothes - with all items costing less than $10. Amy Reast/Zenger

She said: "If I really wanted a particular jacket, I might spend a few weeks looking at different ones in different stories.

"Sometimes, you can look for things for a really long time and not find them - you don't always get what's on your wish list.

"Sometimes it takes years to come across certain items, but it always comes up when you least expect it.

Adopting her own vintage chic style, Stephens said she is often complimented on her outfits.

"Nobody can believe what I get secondhand. There's the mentality that things that are secondhand are awful.

"But it's totally wrong - amazing things are out there. You just have to be willing to find what you like."

Not only is her wardrobe filled with thrift-shop steals, but she has also styled her home using secondhand styles.

Her house is adorned with maximalist colors and vintage prints while her upcycled cupboards and shelves are full of secondhand items.

She told how she scours thrift shops, online marketplaces and even sometimes collects free items from the roadside to find whatever she needs.

Stephens will upcycle items if she can't find exactly what she needs premade.

In the past she spent just $40 on a cabinet which would have cost up to $400 new. With some added elbow grease, you would never have known it wasn't brand new.

"I attached new legs myself, from an old table I found on the side of the road," Stephens said.

"Now it's the most beautiful piece of furniture and cost a fraction of the price."

She makes her own curtains using material cutoffs, but her most recent find was a six-piece dining set which she picked up for $65 in a thrift shop.

She spruced it up herself and reckons it would have cost more than $1,000 new.

She said: "We live in a throwaway society - nobody fixes things anymore, they just buy new instead.

"I could head down to the store and buy things new very easily, but I can't bring myself to do it because I know what's out there second-hand.

"I always look for quality pieces that are sturdy and well made because you know they aren't going to fall apart."

While her main motivator is to reduce environmental damage, she admitted the transition to secondhand-only has saved her a hefty sum.

Nadine Stephens thrift shopper
Adopting her own vintage chic style, Nadine Stephens said she is often complimented on her outfits. Amy Reast/Zenger

Stephens says she "couldn't put a figure on" what she has saved, but says it is "tens of thousands" over the years.

She said: "I've just bought a house so it's helping me to pay off the mortgage quickly.

"I'm also looking to buy a car so I'm putting money aside for that.

"I wouldn't do anything while my daughter is still in school, but I would love to save some money to go traveling one day."

Stephens said she can't imagine herself ever moving away from her secondhand lifestyle.

"Secondhand is my way of reducing my carbon footprint and feeling better about my place in the world."

With 20 years of a second-hand lifestyle under her belt, Stephens has put together a list of handy tips to help others get on board:

1. Be patient.

"Don't be impulsive with the things you are looking for. That perfect jacket, the perfect lamp is out there - you just haven't found it yet."

2. Set a budget.

"If you only want to spend $20 on a bookcase, stick to it. Don't be swayed - unless it's something amazing."

3. Write a list of the things that you are looking for.

"Secondhand stores carry a lot of goods and it can be overwhelming. If you've got your list, you're good to go."

4. Look on Facebook Marketplace and join your local marketplace group.

"There are lots of things to get from there for free."

5. Don't forget flea markets, yard sales, and rummage sales.

"They are generally cheaper than the secondhand stores as people are wanting to get rid of their stuff. Great prices everywhere."

6. When buying off Facebook Marketplace, always ask for a discount.

"Most sellers are willing to drop the price for a quick sale."

For more from Stephens, visit her Instagram @the.hummingbird.thrifter.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.