I mentioned a few weeks ago that I went to my first kids' consignment sale and I was totally in love. Inspired by Lazy Man and Money, I thought I'd give you a walk though of what it was like.
The sale I went to is run by Just Between Friends, a franchise consignment organization. Twice a year, they hold four sales in my metro area, all in different neighborhoods. I've heard that it's best to hit up as many sales as you can, because the selection will be different depending on the neighborhood. One area will have more clothing; another a better selection of items like high chairs and strollers - plus zip codes with higher incomes will have more expensive name brand items, if that matters to you. JBF sets up shop in abandoned retail spaces - former chain store locations that are currently in need of a tenant and so which boast register areas, bathrooms, and all the amenities of shopping in a regular store.
There are staggered opening times: pre sales are open to volunteers and consignors as well as first time moms, then general public days open first for a small admission fee ($3 or so, which goes to charity) and then for free, then there's another round of pre sales for half-price discounts and a last round of general public days.
I registered as a first time mom and went to the pre sale with a friend who also just had a baby. After being checked off the list (a bouncer at a garage sale!), we were handed large blue IKEA bags and turned loose into a huge retail space.
We were immediately faced with row after row after row of adorable girls' clothing, ranging from preemie sizes up to elementary school, neatly hung. There were a few rows behind that of boys clothing, then a row of maternity clothing. I hit up the diaper bags first, which were hanging next to the baby carriers, car seat bunting, and second-hand breast milk pumps. There were neatly organized rows of high chairs, booster seats, swings, jumpers, walkers, and car seats. There was a section of playpens and bassinets. The back wall held kids' shoes and nursery decorations, along with larger toys like doll houses and play kitchens, and a side wall showed off useful things like potties, baby tubs and strollers. Bins by the front held baby books, organized by age. Table after table held all manner of baby accoutrements: boppy pillows and covers, crib sheets, nursing supplies, bottles and bibs, safety gear, tiny nail clippers - everything you could possibly think to register for was present in that room.
And now, to the prices: WOW THE PRICES.
Infant onesies for $1 and sleepers for $2. Like-new Boppies for $5. Playards for $35. Diaper bags for $8. Books for 2/$1. Nursing tank tops for $5. Breast pumps for $30. Crib sheets and receiving blankets for a few bucks a piece. Car seats for $65 (I'm all for saving money but I did pass these up in the interest of safety). I spent about $160, and I came home with a couple of trashbags worth of clothing and blankets, plus a bunch of other stuff on my list.
Here was my strategy:
Make a list before going! On that list, write prices that you're okay with spending on each item - you can find a sample pricing list here on the JBF website to get an idea of what's reasonable.
When entering the sale, head towards the thing that matters most to you. In my case that was diaper bags. My cousin goes for the shoes first. The bigger things (cribs, car seats, etc) can be selected and put in a "hold" area in the back of the store. Try not to pick up anything that you don't want to lug around with you for another hour or so.
If you want a stroller, pick that out first thing so you can put the rest of your purchases on it and wheel them around (you can't bring your own strollers on pre sale days, but apparently other times you can - or some people bring laundry baskets on wheels). Take a swing through the tables of stuff for blankets, sheets, nursing supplies and other miscellany, and grab anything that matches your list - be broad here and grab it if it seems like it matches what you want, even if you're not 100% sure.
Then head to the clothes.
Got that? Go to the clothes LAST. Especially if you have a girl! There are so many clothes. So. Many. They won't run out of your size by the time you get there.
Set a price in mind per outfit and don't even take anything off the rack that's more expensive than that. My upper limit was $2.50 for a sleeper and $1 for a onesie. Many of the outfits are two or three to a hanger, all for $5 or whatever. I grabbed whatever looked cute and matched my price in a variety of sizes (a few newborn things, a lot more 0-3 months, and a couple 3-6 months).
Then hightail it to an empty corner or somewhere you'll be out of the way, and start sorting. I sorted clothes by price and checked them all over for stains and damage (merchandise is all checked for this sort of thing before being put on the racks, but I still found some). Then I weeded out stuff that I liked okay versus stuff that I loved - this was kind of hard, but there was truly so much of it that it wasn't hard to leave behind anything I was only sort of crazy about. Many of the table things were in ziploc bags and if the tops weren't taped I would open them up and check them for stains, damage and quality. Probably 95% of what I picked up was in great shape, but it never hurts to check, even when you're only spending $1.
I added up what I was spending as I sorted so I could stick to my overall budget, and then I took the things I didn't want to a drop-off point - there are volunteers that return unwanted items to the shelves.
The line to check out is long but moves fast - it winds right by the books, which is a great time to check those out. I always forgot to look at them until I was exhausted and headachey and standing in line to pay already, so I didn't wind up with as many as I would have liked.
I haven't implemented the rest of the consignment sale plan - sell stuff! I've started collecting things, though: extra pump parts, duplicates or things that don't match, Baby M's clothes as she outgrows them. When the spring sales come around, I plan to be a consignor, which will get me into the pre sales even earlier and hopefully I'll make back at least what I spend.
If I can swing it, I will go twice: once to the pre sale for "stuff" like strollers, diaper bags, nursing tops and other non-baby-clothing items. Then I'll go back to the half-price sale for clothing - there are seriously so many clothes that you'll still get great, cute stuff even after it's been shopped for days. (Note: this is true of girls' stuff; the boys' selection is not as great and might get picked over more quickly.)
Have you ever been to a kids' consignment sale? Any tips to share?