10 Tips for Shopping at Kid Consignment Sales

I’ve been in a tizzy this past week getting all amped up for the consignment sale next week.  I’ve been making my lists and checking them twice.  I’ve been mapping out an attack strategy between my husband and I.  I’ve been greasing up the wheels on our carts so they will fly…  Sad, but true – I am OCD about my kids consignment sales.

Here are some tips and tricks to get the best deals at these sales:

1) Volunteer:  Each sale is different, but almost all of them let volunteers shop early before the general public.  Some sales have different tiers of volunteers based upon how many shifts/hours you work.  The people who volunteer the most get to shop before the other volunteers.  I have volunteered many times at 3 distinctly different sales and each time the volume of goods has decreased by almost half after the pre-shoppers and before the general public even gets in the door to shop.

2) Sell: If you want to get in early, but don’t have the ability to volunteer – become a seller.  Most consignment sales let sellers shop after the volunteers, but before the general public.  Some sales even have a “Fist Time Mommy” sale day when pregnant women or moms with children under  1 year can shop before the general public.  Read about each sale to get details on early shopping.

3) Make a list: Write down your “must haves” and your “like to haves”.  Once you enter the sale it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of “stuff”. 

4) Price items in advance: Take that list you made and jot down retail prices for your items.  This is a BIG help when you need to assess the value of the used items at the sale.  Just because someone is selling an item used, doesn’t mean that they have marked the price down sufficiently.  General rule of thumb: Consignment items are usually priced 1/3 of retail value.

5) Map out a strategy: This is where people think I’m crazy, but seriously – the big ticket items go FIRST and there is usually a race to get to them.  When you have a list of “must haves”, check to see if any are:  baby furniture, strollers, wagons, outdoor play sets, car seats, cloth diapers, etc… Basically, Big Items that cost a pretty penny when purchased new. 

The last sale we went to, I went to the sale 2 hours before the doors opened to get in line.  I was number 23.  My husband got off work early to join me 15 minutes before the doors opened.  When they let people in at 3pm, numbers 1-22 were hightailing it to the large item section with my husband in hot pursuit with his furniture dolly and bungee cords.  This is no joke.  (see what you miss when you don’t volunteer?)

6) Bring an extra body/find a sitter for the kids:  Bring someone to help you either A) stake out goods B)work as a tag-team partner in line so you can go to the bathroom C)help watch the kid(s).  Ideally, you will want to leave the kiddos at home.  Unless you strap your kids to your back, it will be a challenge to A) keep them from getting trampled/lost/underfoot B) keep them from the mounds of toys piled everywhere C) keep track of your stuff when you have to drag them to the bathroom for the umpteenth time and hope nobody poaches out of your basket.

7) Cash, Check, or Credit: Read the fine print about the sale.  Find out the different forms of payment they accept.  Some sales do not accept checks.  Some sales charge a fee for using credit cards or do not accept credit cards.  All sales accept cash.

8 ) Wear comfortable shoes/clothes, bring water: Many sales happen in facilities with concrete floors.  You will probalby be there shopping several hours.  Sales in the summer are sometimes hot and stuffy.  Be comfortable as there are usually no places to sit and rest.  The last sale I worked, a woman fainted dead away in the checkout line. 

9) Shop the discount day:  At most sales, the last day is the 50% off discount day.  Some sales even have 75% discounts.  I buy most all of my baby clothes on the last day.  For children 0-24 months there are so many clothing items that there is still plenty to choose from on the last day.  (As the child gets older most people shop the clothes items first as there are fewer choices.) I also hit up the books and bedding.

Not every item that is left on the last day is on sale.  It is up to the seller when they initially set the price if they want to let their unsold items go at a discount on the last day.  Pay attention to the rules of engagement (ie. Only items with prices in RED ink or Only items with GREEN tags).  They will have the rules posted throughout the sale.  The last thing you want to do is load up on a bunch of stuff and have to pay full price when you only brought $20.

10) Bring something to haul your stuff in:  Maybe I should have listed this one as #1, because I see newbies ALL THE TIME wishing they had brought something to put their stuff in as they try to balance armloads of goods.  Most consignment sales do NOT have shopping carts.  If they do, they have a very limited number and there will be a long wait to get one.  The newbies that go with kids tend to sacrifice the stroller for a buggy and haul their kids around all day on their hip.

As for a “hauling contraption” anything goes.  Here is what I have seen:

Laundry basket being dragged on the ground with a rope tied to it.  Empty strollers with no kids.  Furniture dollies.  Luggage carts from hotels that have the clothes bar.  Wagons.  Garbage cans with wheels.  Grocery carts.  Huge bags.  Rolling suitcases.  Folding luggage carts used in conjunction with Rubbermaid bins and bungee cords.  (Pretty much anything with wheels that you can put stuff in, attach stuff too, or stack stuff on.) 

We have our system down to a science.  My hubby brings our furniture dolly and lays it flat.  We then bring 2-4 rubbermaid bins and a bunch of bungee cords.  We can then stack 2 bins on the bottom and 2 bins on the top with no problem.  We can also stack 2 bins against the handle and leave the other half open for large items.  After the first round of shopping, he loads up the van with all the large goodies and I take 2 bins + bungee cords from him.  He goes home. I then pull our red radio flyer wagon out of the car, grab my huge IKEA shopping bags and head back in for round 2.  (Round 2 consists of clothes, books, and other items that my hubby would get bored looking through).  After another hour or so, I load up the car and head home.  Didn’t I warn you that I was a freak about consignment sales?  :-)

I’m sure there are more tips out there, but these are the big ones that have helped me get organized, stay focused, and save the most amount of money! Hope it helps you too. 

Frugal Tip of the Day:   Know that the big ones tend to happen twice a year and prepare in advance for them.  It’s hard not to impulse buy from a retail store throughout the year, but you will save so much money if you can wait.  Each sale is different. Read the fine print on the website before you go.

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One Response to 10 Tips for Shopping at Kid Consignment Sales

  1. […] prepare for the consignment sale season check out my top 10 tips for shopping at a consignment sale .  If you aren’t convinced of the savings, see how we fared at last year’s summer […]

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