Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to prepare for shopping consignment sales

I'm not sure what it's like where you live, but where I am, we are getting ready to begin consignment sale season.  There are seven separate sales in the area I live I am already planning on shopping at between the last weekend in February and the middle of April.  However, going in to these sales without a plan can be both overwhelming and not nearly as beneficial as they should be.

1. Assess your needs.

For me, I find this is a process which takes a couple of steps.

If you are like me, you will already have hand me downs or items you've already purchased for the next size or sizes.  You need to have a list of exactly what you already own in order to figure out what you need. My little one despite being almost 16 months old is currently in 6-9 month clothing.  So, I will be looking for items in the 9-12 month size and possibly 12-18 month size.  I try to have lists for each size stored in my Kindle as I find it easy to retrieve when I mobile as well as able to save to my cloud.  For me, I find it most helpful to keep these lists as detailed as possible.  In the fall when I was shopping for 6-9 month clothes, delineating whether her sleepers were cotton or fleece allowed me to see that I would need more fleece sleepers for winter months.  I try to update each size whenever I shop, receive hand me downs, or receive new clothes for her as gifts to prevent me from having to do this all at once when I am preparing for the sale.

These sales usually take place twice a year, and the spring sales are usually geared towards spring and summer and fall towards fall and winter.  Many sales even explicitly exclude items that are not part of the seasonal guidelines they have set.  So, I don't expect to find any winter coats at these sales, I'm going to.  However, sometimes items do slip through like last fall where I was able to purchase an infant swim float for $2 that had survived through to the half off sale as it wasn't for the upcoming seasons.  In general though, you will be  shopping for the next two seasons.  In addition to knowing that you're looking more for short sleeved items when shopping spring sales, you will also want to think about any special events during these seasons you will want clothes for.   For instance, I know I will be looking for an outfit for Fourth of July at these sales.  Seasonal items are actually some of the best deals to be had at these sales since they normally get very little use especially holiday outfits.  But, don't forget accessories like sun hats and swim suits that cost an arm and a leg to buy brand new if you have to wait until you need them.

Also, consider how many of an item you need.  Even though I usually remember to put a bib on LB, she sometimes pulls her bib up or drools while eating snacks that can stain like freeze dried blueberries when I don't have a bib on her.  So, I know I need extra shirts especially to account for outfit changes due to stains.  I also take into account how frequently I can do laundry.  I usually only get to laundry once a week due to limitations as to when we can use the washer and dryer.  So, I try to make sure I have somewhere between 14-21 shirts or onesies in either short sleeve or long sleeve depending on the season.  I go through this process with each type of clothing.

2. Know your kids.

This means taking their measurements as well as knowing any special needs they may have.  For instance, my kiddo tends to have a longer torso and shorter legs.  This means sleepers were fine when she couldn't walk, but now that she can, she tends to trip over them.  So, I look for footless sleepers or 2 piece pjs instead of footies.  The measurements are important as sizes aren't the same from brand to brand.  The more well known kids brands sizing ie Carter's, Gerber, Old Navy, etc can often be easily found online in nifty charts like this one for infants.  Sometimes though you will run across brands you don't have information on or even an item that isn't on the chart.  Just last week when I was at Old Navy, I saw an adorable hat marked medium.  I asked a store associate what medium meant for hats in baby/toddler.  Not a single one could answer.  Eventually, we had to try it on to see if it would fit. If you have plan on having your kiddo with you at the sale, you can always hold items up to them to test them, otherwise, you may want to take a tape measure with you.

Additionally, I find it helpful to try to estimate what size they will be next season.  This can be tricky since growth spurts don't always happen as planned.  My daughter plataeued at 24 inches for months until she was below the zero percentile for height.  Then, she hit a growth spurt where she grew 4 inches in a little over a month.  However, you can often do a decent job of guessing by looking at the
CDC's growth chart and follow their curve especially when looking for kiddos under 4.

Taking all of this into consideration will allow me to make my list for clothing items I in search of.  Having a list to shop from not only makes sure you don't buy items you already have plenty of, but also helps ensure you don't forget things you will need.

So, I know my clothing list for the sale includes: 12 month short sleeved shirts, 12 month swimsuit, a 12 month outfit for Fourth of July, 18 month pants, an 18 month long sleeved black top, 6-18 month socks or 12-24 month socks, and training pants(We're getting ready to start potty training).

Once I have made my list for clothes, I, then, consider the other things I want to include on my list.  Some items are permanently on my list to look for at these sales such as wooden toys, books, hand puppets, and finger puppets.  This season, I will also be on the lookout for items to go with toys she already has such as Little People, doll accessories, and more play kitchen items.  Additionally, I am looking for a latching board and a farm set.

3. Create a budget.

You need to know before you shop how much you are planning on spending otherwise you may end up overspending.  Splitting your list into wants and needs will help with this.  LB needs short sleeve shirts, but wooden toys go on the wants list since she has some already.

3. Research the local consignment sales.

First, you need to find out what sales are available in your area.  There are several ways to do this.  You can check Consignment Mommies site, local mom calendar sites(In my area, the big two are Macaroni Kids and Fredparent,), and asking around in either local mom groups or forums.  Consignment Mommies has a lot of the larger sales, however, you will usually need to look to local sources to find out about the smaller sales often sponsored by schools or churches.  These smaller sales often have your best deals since they tend to have lower prices due to sellers getting higher percentages back.

Thoroughly read the websites of the sales.  I always begin by reviewing the schedules.  I prefer to go discount hours or days if they are available.  If there is no discount period, I try to get there early on the first day to get the best selection.  I always check any sort of restrictions they may have.  Many sales do not allow you to bring strollers with baskets.  Some take cash only or have cash only lines that move more quickly then their regular check out lines.  Some require you to bring your own shopping bags to bring your haul home.  Certain sales restrict items they sell to exclude car seats, cribs, or even infant clothes.  A few even charge an entrance fee.  Personally, I avoid those.  All of this information helps you be better prepared.

Reach out to other moms in your area for their opinions on these sales.  Often multiple sales will occur the same weekend.  In this case, you may need to choose which one to hit first or which one you may even want to miss out on.  Moms who have shopped these sales are really your best resource to help you decide.

4. Sign up for volunteer shifts if you are looking for bigger ticket items that will go quickly.

 If you are looking to get items which move quickly such as play kitchens, strollers, toy organizers, even baby carriers, the only way you can snag these items often is to hit the presale period if it is offered.  Depending on the sale, being able to attend the presale period is usually restricted to either volunteers or members of the military.  A few allow teachers or people in for a fee though this seems to be rare in my experience.  So, if you're in the market for those items which will sell quickly, it may behoove you to volunteer.  You will probably want to sign up early before the best slots are taken.  Most sales do not require you to consign to be able to volunteer though if you are many offer a higher percentage of your sales back to you making it doubly beneficial.

5. Arrange for someone to watch your kiddos if necessary.

Most moms prefer to go without their kiddos since these sales often take a couple of hours  of your time to sort through items and can have long lines.  I always bring my little one since I can babywear, and don't have to worry about her getting fussy or running away.  Another win for babywearing.

6. Find a friend or relative to shop with you.

I've tried hitting these sales by myself and with someone else.  Frankly, I think going with someone else makes things easier.  Even if you're looking for different kiddos, having a shopping buddy can be quite beneficial.  While an extra set of eyes is always nice looking for stains, holes, etc, the even bigger help can be having someone to watch your stuff to take a potty break.  I usually spend about 2 hours at these sales depending on their size.  Add my travel time to get there, and we almost always will need a potty break.  Only way to do that is with someone else with you.  It's also nice to have someone who can wait in the line if one of you is done shopping first.  Added bonus for me has always been that whoever comes with me always seems to find at least one outfit that she just has to buy for LB.

7. Clean out your car.

It is best to have the room just in case you find an amazing deal than have to leave it behind because you don't have room.

8. Set aside comfy shoes and clothes for the day of the sale.

I usually spend about 2 hours at these sales, but I know other people especially those shopping for multiple kiddos who put in much more time.  When you're standing that long often on concrete floors, you'll want to be comfortable.   You may have to do reaching and bending over to pick through items, so it's probably not the time to wear a skirt or shirt that may allow too much of your girls to be visible.

9. Throw a bag or foldable cart in your car.

Only some of these sales have bags you can use.  You need your hands free to look through the items, so I always pack a bag to keep my items in while shopping.  Personally, I like the big blue bags from Ikea since they are so roomy.

Now, you're ready for some consignment shopping.  Here's hoping you find lots of great deals. 
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