Looking for a deal? For budget-minded parents in search of quality used kids’stuff, consignment sales offer an ideal solution. Typically held on weekends in the spring and fall, these seasonal sales are a form of community recycling that let parents buy discounted items their children need and sell items that have been outgrown.\
What to know before you go
Consignment sales can range in size from small, school- or church-specific functions to large events that fill a gymnasium. Most sales include children’s clothing, shoes, toys, books, strollers, bedding, and all of the other miscellaneous stuff you never knew existed before having kids. Many appeal to a general audience while others cater specifically to parents of multiples or those interested in designer clothing. Ask other parents about their experience with local sales, and shop a few that hold the most promise.
A well-organized sale will only accept clothing for sale that is currently in season and in good condition. Toys should be working and include batteries, if needed. Clothing should be separated and marked clearly with gender and size, making it easy for you to quickly narrow down the racks that may hold bargains for your family. Expect toys and books sorted in bins or set out on tables, and don’t overlook special racks that may hold swimsuits, Halloween costumes or winter coats.
The cost of items at a consignment sale varies, as individual sellers contribute to the sale and are responsible for setting their own prices. It’s an unwritten rule is that a gently used item in good condition should cost roughly one-third the full retail price. For instance, a stroller that retails at $100 would probably be priced at $25-$40 at a consignment sale. Expect to pay more for new items and popular brand names.
Tips for the bargain hunter
Know what you want. The savvy consignment sale shopper will enter a sale with an idea of what her family needs. Take inventory of your children’s closets and toy boxes, and figure out where the gaps are. Does your oldest son have T-shirts in every color, but no decent jeans? Is your preschooler ready to move up from picture books to early readers? Being specific will help you avoid being swept up in the excitement of a bargain.
Don’t trust the tag. Remember that used clothing has been washed and dried a number of times and tends to run small. Use your best judgment, and consider going up a size if needed.
Be smart. Be aware of items that may not be safe to buy used. For instance, most safety experts advise against buying used car seats or infant cribs. As always, be careful about choking hazards for younger children. Also check recalls for items you are looking
Cash, check or charge? Find out about the forms of payment that are accepted before you go. Some may have a cash-only policy, while larger sales may take credit cards. Come prepared.
Go it alone. Leave the kids at home. Bins full of toys are tempting for even the most well-behaved children. Shopping will be easier if you don’t have to say "no" to bringing home yet another stuffed dinosaur.
Finding a sale in your area
Word-of-mouth is often the best and easiest way to find out about sales coming up in your area. Look for flyers posted on bulletin boards at churches, schools, and daycare centers. Watch for advertisements in local newspapers and parenting magazines. Use an internet search engine, or try the online Kids Consignment Guide, which lists sales in most states.