There's nothing like the thrill of the hunt - finding cute, brand-named kids' clothes, toys, and supplies at ridiculously low prices! Consignment sale season in Atlanta happens twice a year. The spring sales that highlight warmer weather clothing start in late February and run through March, and the fall sales that feature cold weather clothing start in late September and go through October. Sellers get to make a little money and clean out their closets; community groups and churches make a profit for hosting; and shoppers get a new season of inexpensive kids' clothes. For a first-time shopper, the crowds and the rules can be overwhelming. Here are 12 tips to make your consignment sale shopping fun and productive.
1. Find the sales.
One way to find the best sales in your neighborhood is to ask around - usually there is one sale that is a favorite. The Bargain Watcher website has a great search function with links to most of the major sales.
2. Bring cash.
If you bring cash to a consignment sale, you'll be covered no matter what the payment policy is. Some sales don't accept credit or debit cards, while others don't accept checks. And if you have only cash, you'll have to stick to whatever budget you choose before shopping fever overtakes you.
3. Bring baskets or bags.
Large reusable shopping bags are great to hold your selections while you continue to shop. Some people bring laundry baskets, which are great for holding a lot of items but harder to maneuver in the crowded aisles.
4. Don't bring the children.
If at all possible, leave little ones at home. The sales are crowded, and almost no kid likes to shop in that type of environment. Most sales do not allow strollers, so if you need to bring a baby, try a sling or front carrier. If you have to bring your kids, try shopping with a friend: you can take turns staying in the car and entertaining the children.
5. Make a plan.
Make a list of items your children need before you go - if your second child already has five pairs of hand-me-down jeans, there's no need to buy three more pairs at the sale. Think about upcoming occasions. Consignment sales are a great place to find barely-used Easter and holiday clothing, as well as Halloween costumes and winter coats.
Keep a list of sizes for each child. Consider buying up a size because second-hand clothing may have shrunk with repeated washings. Find a pair of pants that fits your child well with a little room, and measure the inseam with a piece of string. Take the string with you to the sale to quickly assess pant sizes. You can outline children's shoes on cardboard, cut them out, and quickly slip them into shoes at the sale to see if they'll fit.
6. Inspect before you buy.
Consignment sales require their clothing and gear to be in good working order, but damage can be missed. Carefully check zippers and buttons on clothing. Make sure toys work and contain all their pieces. Check larger items like strollers and high chairs for damage.
7. Buy brands you know.
I'd rather pay $5.00 for a Gymboree shirt than $2.00 for an off-brand. I'm already getting a good deal, and I know the Gymboree shirt will fit my child and stand up over time. If you are buying baby gear, do some research on good brands before you go so you don't get stuck with a baby swing that doesn't work.
8. Determine your price limits.
There's no reason to pay more than a dollar or two for shirts from Walmart or Target. You can find shirts in their clearance sections for a dollar or two more that are new and not worn out. Brands like Faded Glory, George, Kid Connection, Garanimals, Mossimo, Cherokee, Hanes, and Xhilaration are from Walmart and Target.
By the same token, there's no reason to pay $12.00 for a pair of jeans from Gymboree - you can find them on clearance or at the outlet for approximately the same price.
If you have time, volunteer to work the sale. You'll get to shop first at the preview sale and find the best items.
10. Buy books and toys strategically.
I like to get a bag of action figures and a few books if the prices are low - I save them for long car trips or vacations. The excitement of some new toys, no matter how small, keeps my kids playing for hours.
11. Be safe.
There is a certain amount of risk when buying used baby gear and toys. Recalls happen and minimum safety standards change. Car seats and cribs are questionable second-hand purchases, so consider carefully before buying. Check the expiration date on the bottom of car seats. Car seats that have been in an accident should not be reused, but you'll have to rely on the honesty of the seller. Cribs are often recalled, and drop-side cribs are no longer considered safe.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a searchable database of recalled consumer products. You can print the child products and toy categories to take to the sale.
12. Hold off until the end.
Most sales mark their items down 50% on the last day. If you don't need to buy a lot, you might do best waiting until then to shop. You can also come back to see if you can score an item that was overpriced earlier in the sale. Check the tags to see if the item will be marked down on the last day.