Kids Consignment Debate: To Volunteer or Not.

While working yesterday, there was a debate going amongst the volunteers on whether or not it was worth it to work 2 shifts just to shop 2 hours earlier than the 1 shifters.

I say that it depends on:

1) The age of your child.  There is a plethora of items for infants, babies, and young children.  However, as your child ages above 4 or 5 years the merchandise thins out.  There are less clothes, less toys for older kids, less kid gear, etc…  You may want to be a double-shifter to buy stuff for your older children.  I’ve seen many parents focus on clothing in sizes 4 and up in particular.  If you have babies or young kids, waiting two more hours to shop isn’t going to make a big dent in the 100 hundred exersaucers that they have.

2)If you have other children or other sources of kid stuff. If you have readily available second hand goods from other children, friends, or family members you will inherently need less stuff and it may not be worth putting in the extra time.  This is also true if you have generous friends or family members who stock you up during the holidays and birthdays.

3)If you have specific items that you are looking for. Make no bones about it, if you have specific items that you want or need, the only way to ensure that you find them is to volunteer for extra shifts and shop early. 

For example, we wanted an outdoor play set, a Sit-N-Stand stroller, and a changing table.  These are considered to be “big ticket items”, meaning that they are large, often more costly, and usually have a smaller inventory.  When the doors opened, there were only about 10 play sets, about 8 Sit-N-Stand strollers, and maybe 15 changing tables.  By shopping first, we had our pick of the litter in both price and quality.

4) How thrifty you want to be.  There is an inverse or negative correlation between the amount of time the sale has been open to the amount of low cost items on the shelves.  In other words, as each hour and day passes, the number of low cost items dramatically decreases and all you are left with are the expensive, no discount items in the end. 

For example, when we shopped first (2 hours before the regular volunteers) we had our choice of 2 identical play cubes with the exception of the price tag – one was $10 and the other was $30.  Same with the changing table – ours was $10 versus $20+.  We were able to save over 50% just by being there first.

5) If you are looking for the best value.  Shopping early gives you an advantage if you are shopping for the best value.  You will have more choices of the same item to chose from in a varied price range.  Sometimes it’s not about finding the cheapest price.  It’s about finding the best quality for a price you can afford. 

For example, when we purchased the strollers we were the first people looking amongst the 8 or so Sit-N-Stand strollers.  After test driving them, we chose a $60 model.  By far not the cheapest, which was $20, nor the most expensive, which was about $80, but it was the cleanest, most complete, most balanced, and the smoothest.  Being that they retail for $120+, we were willing to pay $60 for a decent stroller.  We got the best value for our money by shopping first.

6) How much free time you have.  Unfortunately, no matter how you feel about reasons 1-5, if you don’t have the time to volunteer for more shifts, or if you can’t get off work for the early sale then you simply cannot do it.  Most people forget that time is money.  The amount of money spent on a babysitter or the amount of money lost from not working those hours isn’t always worth the savings you could find. 

My hubby and I could not possibly swing volunteer shifts on any day but Saturday or Sunday.  That narrows down our options immensely. If I had not signed up on the very first day that we could, we might have been screwed.

So, are you wondering why I dedicated an entire blog post to the “Volunteer Debate” versus waxing poetic about the color I am going to paint my nails today?  Simply put, I did not hear one thoughtful conversation about this while I was volunteering.  Many of the volunteer veterans were pushing the “its not worth giving up 5 more hours of your time for 2 hours of shopping” to the newbies who were asking.  The biggest reason they gave was that there was so much stuff that 2 hours wouldn’t matter. 

I don’t think it is that simple and I hope I’ve helped some of you to decide for yourselves what is more important.  If you think that I’ve put too much thought into such a trivial matter, just wait until you see my blog post about whether or not to buy brand-name versus generic canned goods…

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