Thrift stores, consignment shops, the Facebook marketplace, and sometimes garage sales are all wonderful spots to get clothes, baby gear, and kid’s shoes at deep discounts. But when I was pregnant with Philomena a friend from church introduced me to the magic that is children’s resale/consignment events.
I had never heard of these before, but I’ve since learned they are very common and let me tell you, they’ve made outfitting our family so affordable.
I have come up with a few steps that help me shop resales most effectively for our family.
Types of Sales
There are small variations in the types of consignment sales you may find.
There are a couple sales in my area the are run by big mega resale groups that rent out fairground buildings and go on for several days. Some “pros” of these sales are several days to shop, usually free admission, and a massive selection of items grouped by type/size. The cons of these are big crowds, long check out lines sometimes, and possibly higher prices than smaller sales. You may also need to have entry tickets for specific time slots to shop this type of sale. (You can find a directory to this type of sale here – https://consignmentmommies.com/)
I’ve also been to small local sales similar to what I described above but on a much smaller scale. Similar to the mega consignment sales, these will give you the convenience of all of the items grouped by size and type, but I also find the prices at these tend to be a bit higher and I find the check-out process a bit clunky and time consuming.
My favorite sales around here are usually hosted by various parenting organizations as fundraisers and you get to shop directly from other parents. They are held in school gyms in the spring or fall on Saturday mornings. Sellers rent a table for $30ish and just display their items like it’s a garage sale. To attend and shop you pay $3-$5 admission if you want in at the very beginning, and then $1 to $2 admission if you arrive after the early-birds for the remaining couple hours.
The cons to these are a smaller selection than the mega sales and you do have to dig a bit more for what you want, since you need to look at each table for the same sizes compared to seeing items grouped together.
There are lots of benefits to these individual table sales. You can sometimes haggle on prices for bigger ticket items or buying a large quantity from the same person. The prices tend to be cheaper and you also just hand them cash right there, making for a much quicker checkout experience. “I have three of the $1 shirts, here are three dollars” and go on your way. You also get to know sellers a bit when you go to the same sale season after season which I love.
Also, pay attention to the location of your resale. Two of my three favorite resales are in more upscale, affluent suburbs. I find lots of higher end brands at these, and so many times a parent at these tables will have multiple shoes/dresses/shirts/pants in the same size, and they’ll say, “oh she never even wore those we had so many!” Philomena’s church shoes for this winter were one of these great, completely unused finds for $2.
To find these smaller table sales look for them on Facebook, you may see yard signs around town the week before, or just ask around kid’s groups and you can probably find them.
If you’re in the Cleveland area, one of my favorite sales is the Lakewood sale by the Lakewood Early Childhood PTA.
What Do You Need?
Because of the low prices, it’s really easy to impulse buy and walk away with stuff you don’t need. Also, these sales can be a bit overwhelming with tons of tables to look at. More than once I’ve accidentally bought the shirt I needed twice because I forgot I already grabbed one at a previous table.
I need a list! Here is how I arrange mine.
The type of item goes down the center, and then I put the girls’ names on either side so I can mark the size needed then the quantity needed. Checking things off as you go helps you move faster and keep focused!
I sort my list like this:
Clothing items (think: outfits, shoes, winter gloves)
Big ticket items (think: bedrails, baby gates, high chairs)
Small ticket items (think: outlet plugs, kid’s silverware, diaper bags)
Toys (think: doll clothes, puzzles, books)
When to Go
So do you go early in the first hour and pay more, or save a few bucks and go later?
In my experience, the real need to go for the early-bird hour is if you are looking for big-ticket items. Strollers, pack n’plays, baby gates, toy kitchens, high chairs etc. all tend to move quickly at these because they’re some of the most expensive purchases you make for your kids so they result in the biggest savings!
Before Philomena was born and until she was about 18 months, I usually went early-birding because we were accumulating bigger ticket items we needed as time went on. Now that we have that stuff taken care of, I’m just going to these for clothes, shoes, maybe a few toys etc. There are always plenty of those things left when I get there an hour in for the cheaper admission.
Now one final consideration: if you go at the end, think the last 20-30 minutes of a sale, people are usually willing to make some SERIOUS deals. Some tables will let you fill a bag for $5 or they may say everything is 50% off.
Last weekend my friend and I were walking out of a sale and a like-new IKEA kids table and set of 4 chairs caught my eye.
It was priced for $40. The lady’s husband was packing their leftover items out to the car and she was so motivated when she saw me stop that she said, “I’ll give you the whole set and throw in that chalkboard for $25 total if you’ll save us from needing to drag this home to sit until the next sale.”
Here’s My Number
Sometimes you end up buying something a bit large or awkward. A huge box of wooden train tracks or an unwieldy pregnancy pillow etc. are things you want to snap up when you see them if they’re on your list, but they’re annoying to haul around the rest of the sale. Most sellers are happy for you to pay and leave them at their space until the end, so I always make a few of these SOLD stickies to put on my item when the seller puts it aside.
Reusable bags to put everything in (not all tables/sales provide sacks)
Plenty of cash (unless you’re sure a sale takes cards)
A stroller to put stuff into if you know you’re buying a lot
A spouse or friend and good coffee. (This is a really fun social outing to me. It is always more fun with someone else).
My online friend Sine (find her lovely Instagram here) is another resale enthusiast and she had some more great tips!
Shop for older kids first – (there are always tons of baby and toddler clothes but there are always less quantity in bigger sizes)
Know your brands—Especially if it’s for one of your older kids. A couple extra dollars to score a higher quality item is worth it so it can be passed on ( or resold once you are done with it)
If you have a kid who is oddly proportioned (in comparison to most clothes) then take measurements and bring a measuring tape with
Check thoroughly for stains and make sure if there are tags or safety pins attached that it hasn’t caused damage to the item.
Set a price point for various types of garments before you go. (No more than x dollars for pajamas/church dress/ play dress/ pants)
A Toddler Capsule Wardrobe
I am super excited later this week to share with you the capsule wardrobe I made for Philomena in just one morning of shopping resales last Saturday. I hope you’ll come back for it!