Sometimes the most intimidating part of consignment sales can be the actual time you spend shopping. Unless you're like me, and are what my husband has termed a 'guerrilla shopper'. This method of shopping uses techniques passed down from the bargain-frenzied females on both sides of my family, as well as some tips I have gathered myself through my years of consignment shopping. If you don't have the guerrilla shopping gene, don't worry! The following list of ideas and guidelines will have you shopping with the best of them, and no one will know it's your first time!
Consignment sale shopping always goes smoothest if you prepare yourself ahead of time. Here's what works for me:
1. Get the largest and sturdiest clothes basket in your house. Tie a string to the handle on one end of the clothes basket, then make a loop on the other end of the string that you can put around your wrist. (If you have a dog, leashes also work well for this.) Now when you're shopping, you can put your clothes basket down at a rack and pull it around w/o having to carry it on your hip.
2. Trace your kids' feet onto a piece of cardstock or construction paper. Then, write on each foot what specific items you are looking for, and in what size, for each child. This is info that is easy to forget when you're looking through racks and racks of clothes, and then you'll get home and realize you forgot to get your son any winter hats, etc.
3. Bring a large sturdy tote bag to throw items like shoes, socks, and accessories in if you think your basket will be full of clothes.
4. Fill a large water bottle to bring with you. When the sale is busy, the room can get hot, and you'll get thirsty fast.
5. Find a sitter! Even if you have an older child, it is near to impossible to successfully consignment shop if you have kids with you. And, it can get really crowded in a consignment sale, making it hard to keep up with kids who are walking.
Shopping the Sale!
Approach a consignment sale strategically, and you'll find what you need without getting overwhelmed.
1. Strollers/Baby Equipment/Furniture is your first stop if you are in need of a new stroller or other piece of equipment. At most sales, you can pay for large equipment separate, and they will put a sold tag on it for you while you shop the rest of the sale.
2. After equipment, shop the shoes first. If you're looking for shoes, especially in the larger sizes, hit those bins when you come in the door. Kids can wear shoes out fast, and there is usually a smaller selection of shoes than clothing. Don't forget to use your footprint cut-outs to make sure shoes will fit!
3. Boys' clothes after shoes. I'm not sure if it's because boys are harder on their clothes, or because there is just less variety in boys' clothes, but there are always fewer boy racks, and the boy clothes are often priced higher. Hit those before the girls' so you can find the better clothes and better bargains.
4. Re-evaluate your picks before heading to the next section. Sometimes, when I'm in a shopping frenzy, I will pull way too much stuff off the rack. By going through my choices before heading out of the boys' section, I can weed out some of the more questionable items.
5. Be careful in the girls' section! The girls' section of consignment sales is some kind of shopping kryptonite. There are too many cute things on the rack, and I often find myself pulling things off the rack my daughter will never wear. One, maybe two, fancy dresses per season is all most little girls will need. If you have an older girl, remember their preferences too. Just because you think that ruffled peasant shirt is adorable doesn't mean that your daughter won't tell you it looks "dumb and poofy." (An actual comment from my four year old).
6. Don't forget accessories like socks, hats, etc. They can be hard to find, but most sales will have a couple bins of socks and accessories. Last year I bought my daughter a gallon bag filled w/Gymboree and Gap socks for $2. Awesomeness.
7. Save toys for last, and be discriminating. The toy section can be overwhelming, to say the least. Head into it with specific ideas for your kids, and don't get sucked in playing with baby toys if your kids are too old for them!