Saturday, March 26, 2011

So You Wanna Save Money? Be a Consignment Shoppin' Diva

Today I bought 60 pieces of clothing for my son, including a swim suit and swim shirt, Easter outfit, two pairs of shoes, five pairs of socks, and enough play outfits and church clothes to last at least the next six or seven months. I paid $150.

Do the math- that's roughly $2.50 an item.

Twice a year my community has several large consignment sales for children's clothing, toys, books, shoes, furniture, strollers, and everything in between that you can possibly imagine. I. am. addicted. Finding bargains and avoiding the pain of paying full price for things is one of my favorite things, and makes shopping fun for me. It gives me a sense of euphoria to be able to find things I need, in good or great condition, for unbelievable prices. Here is a list of the things I've found for Munchkin at various consignment sales and our local consignment shop:

Fisher-Price Bouncy seat: $12
Graco stroller: $20
Baby Einstein Exersaucer: $40
Bumbo seat: $20
Infantino shopping cart cover, still in the box: $10 or $12 (can't remember exactly)
Numerous books and toys: All $10 and under
Baby Einstein DVD's: $5 a piece
Christening gown: $20 (I know someone who paid three times that for her baby's Christening outfit!)
Baby food bowls, spoons, forks and sippy cups: $10 for about 12 pieces
Baby bath tub: $8

This is just a small list, and it just includes the bigger items. Some other big items, like our high chair, I planned to buy at the seasonal consignment sale, but Munchkin needed one before the sale came around and I wasn't able to find one I like at our local consignment store. That is one of the downfalls of consignment shopping-you either have to wait for the large seasonal sale, or take what you can get at the local store. Now, this can mean that you find amazing jewels, like my Baby Einstein Exersaucer that I was thrilled to discover at our local shop. I had eyed the very same one at Babies R' Us the day before I bought it at the consignment store. I believe the original price is twice what I paid, and mine is in excellent condition.

It is really important to me, when I do shop consignment sales, that I buy quality items that aren't broken, have all the parts, are clean, not (too) faded and are at a reasonable price for their condition. Buying on consignment is a great way to save money, especially when you think of how much use, wear and tear children's items get. Also, if you do take good care of your children's clothes, stain treat them, wash them gently so they resist fading, etc., not only can you get use out of them with multiple children (if you are so blessed) but you may even be able to get some money back on them by consigning them yourself. What an amazing blessing to your family that would be, if you are able to find clothes at a consignment sale for a good price, your child(ren) can use them for as long as necessary, and then you make money on them by consigning them when you no longer need them!

There are, of course, quality levels of consignment sales/shops and the items themselves. Some sales/shops are pickier than others when it comes to quality of items, others allow pretty much any ol' stained, severely faded clothing or broken toys to be consigned. You must be very picky about how you spend your time and money when it comes to these sales. There are no returns, no guarantees or warranties with these items, at least that I've found. Making a list of things you need, by order of size, season and priority is a good idea. Also, do some research ahead of time to get an idea of how much certain items go for at retail value- such as double strollers, Exersaucers, Bumbo seats-as well as the retail value of certain brands- Baby Gap, Carter's, Fisher Price, Baby Einstein, Graco, etc. For example, my mom and I went to a large seasonal consignment sale today. It is the second to last day of the sale, which means that most items were 30% off. Tomorrow, most items are 60% off! Anyway, we had finished most of our shopping but I wanted to check out the double strollers. (Don't get any ideas- 8 month old Munchkin is enough for me at the moment!) A friend of mine is due in June, and her firstborn is only 2. She had gone to the sale a few days earlier in search of a double stroller, but hadn't been impressed with the selection or prices on what was left. Fine, that's her perogative. When I checked today, there was a beautiful, high quality PEG PEREGO double stroller for $185. With the extra 30% off, the stroller was $130. Still pretty pricey to be buying something used, yes. Now I know that Peg Perego is a pretty pricey brand. So $130 seemed pretty decent to me, but I wasn't sure how decent. I checked online for the retail price of the stroller. SEVEN.HUNDRED.DOLLARS. Moral of the story- have at least a general idea of the retail value for the big name brands. You may just end up finding a gem, a high quality item that will last through several children. Even if you don't know how much a certain brand usually runs, just whip out your cell phone and do a quick Google search like I did. Trust me, it'll be worth it.

No matter where you live, how many children you have or what ages they night be, the chances are good that you can find a consignment sale or shop to suit your needs. In my area alone, there are 4 seasonal consignment sales (which means they happen twice a year), and one of which is put on by Mothers of Multiples. You only have to have multiples to consign at this sale, but anyone can shop. Think of how many double strollers you'd be able to find at a sale like that!!

Maybe you've got plenty of disposable income or just prefer to buy things new, tags still attached, no other child ever having worn or played with the things you buy your child. That's fine. (Although I have found several clothing items with the tags still attached-some industrious women shop the major clearance sales at popular children's stores, buy cute clothes outrageously marked down and then consign them. To them I say, "You Go, Girl!") But I encourage you, if you're even the slightest bit curious about consignment sales or shops, try it! Try it for fun, for saving, for your family, to be an example of good stewardship, or just to try something new.

My last bit of advice: as I've said before, not all consignment sales and shops are created equal. If you try one and are unimpressed with it, do at least two of the following things: either go later on a sale day, or get there earlier next time to scoop up the best stuff first, OR try another consignment sale or shop altogether.

Happy (consignment!) shopping!!

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