I never shop at thrift stores, rarely stop at a garage sale, have little patience for stores like Marshalls and TJMaxx, but when it comes to buying kid stuff I love consignment sales.
I am a member of a women's group that puts on 2 sales a year, and I always try and wait to buy my kids clothes until I've shopped the sale first. When I first joined the group my oldest was just a few months old. I volunteered at the sale and wondered why people would buy used clothes. Over time I realized the benefits of these sales. You can get almost new stuff for the really young kids. Think of how fast newborns out grow clothes. All the clothes being sold in the 0-6 mth sizes and even a lot of the 6-12 mth size was probably only worn a handful of times.
I gladly accept handmedowns from friends and neighbors but I have to admit that when my kids outgrow stuff, I don't pass it on. I sell it. That may be a little selfish, but my stuff is still being used by someone else, and anything I don't sell I donate. My goal is always to break even. I haven't managed yet, but this year I was pretty close. After subtracting my profits from my sold stuff from what I bought, I only spent $10. Some of what I sold I had purchased at the previous year's sale, so it was almost as though I was borrowing it. I know some people upcharge after getting a great deal, but I always charge a couple of dollars less than what I paid if it was something I bought on consignment.
This year I got the following:
For my son
5 long sleeve shirts
2 button down shirts
5 pairs of pants
4 pairs of pjs
1 pair of overalls
1 puffy winter jacket
For my middle daughter I got
2 pairs of pants
1 pair of leggings
1 velour top
For my oldest
2 dance leotards
1 pair of leggings
1 tutu from Claires -NWT
1 pair dance tights -NWT
Grand total was $76 (incl. tax)!!!
The most expensive thing was the winter jacket for $6, and it looks new. As kids get older it's harder to find stuff. I've pretty much given up getting any fitted pants for my daughters, that kind of stuff they need to try on. Sizes vary too much, but for the younger ones it's great. You still need to be a little careful with sizing as some things shrink. One of the pairs of pjs I got for my son were too small so he only wore them once but for $1.50, I can't really complain. I didn't find any books or toys for them this time around, but that stuff is always hit or miss anyway.
There are tons of consignment sales out there and a couple of websites list them. Consignmentmommies.com is one. They are often advertised on community bulletin boards, in the garage sale section of the local newspaper, on Craigs List, or in church or school bulletins. But the best way to find the good ones is word of mouth. They are often held by women's groups or parents of twins/multiples, some are private businesses. Talk to other bargain seeking parents and they'll probably know. It can take a little work to find the good ones, but once you do it's worth it. How do you know a good sale before you get there? Check their seller/consigner guide.
- Do they list brands that they will not accept? The more brands they list as unacceptable, the more high end stuff you will find. Usually the unaccepted brands are the store brands like Koala Kids, Circo, Jumping Beans. One sale I like to shop won't even accept Carters, which I love and I think has some of the best quality cotton around. Since I don't sell there, it doesn't really matter though, it just means there is more Hanna Andersson, Gymboree, Ralph Lauren etc to choose from.
- Do they require sellers to make an appointment to drop off their items? If so that probably means that they are individually sorting through the items to make sure they are acceptable. They check for stains, missing buttons, broken zippers, and reject any of those items. I'll admit we don't do this at our sale as we don't have the time, but I do feel better about shopping at sales that do this.
- Do they limit the number of items sellers can drop off? Some sellers want their unsold items returned to them and often they will try and resell it at the next sale. Limiting the number of items people can sell forces the sellers to weed through their items and sell their better merchandise.
Selling at a consignment sale is great for a couple of reasons. Obviously getting rid of your unneeded stuff that's still usable is part of it. It's another form of recycling. Think of all the plastic toys kids get these days, reusing them keeps more plastic out of the landfills and cuts down on demand for new plastic toys. I realize toys are a small part of what ends up in land fills, but every little bit that we keep out helps.
I even got my kids excited about it this time. I had them sort through their toys and told them that any of their toys that sold I would give them the profits. They each earned $9. Anything unsold I donate. For our sale it goes to a charity that helps low-income families.
While my kids were excited to get the cash when my youngest came with me to pick up my check she saw the truck being filled up with things going to charity, and asked me what was happening with all that stuff. When we were going through our list of sold items instead of getting upset that something didn't sell, she felt glad that some kid whose parents didn't have a lot of money now had a "new" toy to play with.