Monday, April 30, 2012

Shopping for baby and saving money at consignment sales

I am not sure where you live, but here in the south, Kids Consignment Sales are huge! The only brand new clothing I have bought Ellie are a winter coat she was too small to ever wear this year (75% off on Black Friday), one of her tutu's, and her hair bows. I am well aware of Zulilly, Totsy, and Keekoo and while they do offer great deals, I can still get better deals at local consignment sales events.

Consignment sales, though much smaller, starting taking off in Nashville when I was a teenager. I used to go help my mom shop for  my two youngest siblings at them, so I feel like I kinda have a system worked out.

Now, the first consignment sale Jared and I went to when we were expecting Ellie was, unwisely, the largest one in East Tn, on the opening day. It was at the end of the opening day, after we got done at our college ministry bible study. The sale was being held in an old K-Mart shopping center and was full. At the end of opening day, I am pretty sure there were items hanging from the ceiling! We pretty much just wondered around completely overwhelmed, and left with only a few purchases of shoes. Like infants need shoes.

I went back the next day with a bit more of a game plan, or so I thought. Once I was in the middle of all those aisles of girly frills, it started to get very overwhelming again. I was texting my mom like crazy and cursing the day I ever moved away from her! :) I remember tearing up (pregnancy hormones people!) as I texted her "its moments like these that let you know you never can out grown your need for your mom!"

Overwhelmingness aside, we made out great with our consignment purchases, and I feel like we have refined our process even more. This may not be the way to go for everyone, but it is working great for us, especially since our income just got cut in half since I became a stay-at-home mom.

I recommend still registering for everything you need and if you get it great, if not try and find it consignment. Our big baby gear - travel system, pack n' play, crib, glider, etc... we bought new, but got some great Black Friday deals on most of it. I had hoped to get more of it via consignment, but the big items are not as prevalent in this part of the state in the consigning circles. You can read my about my favorite baby products here.

Here are my Consignment Considerations.

Know your area sales.
Each sale is usually done by a different set of organizers, therefore has a different set of standards. Know the "nicer" sales, the equipment sales, etc... You can still get great deals at all the sales. I got most of Ellie's clothes for spring, summer, and early fall, at a sale that was known for their nicer clothes, and later got more play-type clothes and equipment at another sale a few weeks later. The bigger the sale, regardless of standards held, the better selection of your larger items.

Come up with your budget.
I am still figuring this part out. Since this is my first time shopping for a kid, I don't yet know exactly how much I need and how much that should cost. So instead of coming up with an overall goal sum, I set an item price limit, and I stick to it. As a general rule, I won't pay more then $4 for an item of clothing. I have paid $5 for some brand new Ralph.Lauren smocked dresses, and a few other high end brand clothing for special occasions. I did find a Strasburgh outfits, regularly $150, for $12, and yes, I scooped it up. Ellie has several "dressy" events coming up, and she will more then $12 worth of wear out of it. When you are paying $1-$3 for most of your items, you can get a lot of clothing and accessories for less then $100!

Know what ages you will be shopping for and stick to it.
Before Ellie was born, I limited myself to shopping only through 3 months for her. Up until I was put on bedrest, she was measuring in the 75-90%, and was expected to be at least 9 lbs and 21 inches long. I wasn't sure how quickly she would grow once she was born, and didn't want a told of newborn clothes she would never get a chance to wear.  You will get a ton of baby clothes (especially if you are expecting a girl!) Therefore, I bought very few actual newborn clothes. I focused mainly on 0-3 months and 3 month outfits.

Also, for the sake of your budget, I don't recommend looking for toys and accessories you might need in the next 6-12 months. Shop for the near future, the distant future items can wait.

Have a general number goal of how many outfits per age category.
With your first, it is especially hard to know what exactly you are going to need as far as style and sizes. Here is what I did, and what I recommend for first time moms.

  • 3-6 new born outfits. A combination of footie-sleepers and layette gowns
  • 8-10 0-3 month outfits
  • 3-6 3 month outfits
This may not sound like enough clothes, but it is plenty to get you through until you figure out your child's growth patterns. Plus, remember, you will be getting a lot of clothes at your showers and as gifts.

For Ellie's spring, summer, and early fall wardrobe that I just shopped for, I tried to focus mainly on 6 months. I got her 3-6 months, and 6-9 months as well, but when I looked at her projected growth charts, I knew she would primarily be in 6 months clothes the majority of the summer. Her 3-6 months and 6-9 clothes are more transitional seasonal clothing - short leaves and longer legs to accommodate spring and fall weather.

You don't have to shop all the racks and Skip the front area and top racks.
The last sale I went to, the 3-9 month (the ages I was shopping for) area went on for seemingly miles. Very few people are going to go through all of them. I go to the areas furtherest away from the entrance, as they are the least congested with shoppers, and I tend to think the least picked over. Also, there are usually top and bottom racks. Obviously the top racks are easiest to browse, leaving lots of great deals on the bottom racks, undiscovered. Most of my best deals, I have found toward the back, lower racks.

Stop and Take Inventory - sort, discard, and start over.
Your piles of clothes can grown quickly, so fast that you can forget what all you have picked out. Take a break and find a spot to sit and sort. Take inventory of what you already have. Really look for stains or imperfections. Discard clothes you realize you don't like/want/or need. Do you need anything else, or any other sizes? If yes, head back to the racks you haven't gone through, and take out only what you know you need more of. If you are set, don't go back to the racks you have yet to shop - you will find cuteness you will convince yourself you need.

Shop large items first!
Most places have holding areas for large items so you don't have to carry them around with you. Shop for these first! Our 'large' item finds for great deals are as follows

  • play mat: regularly $65, paid $15, still in packaging
  • swing: regularly $75, paid $30
  • Exersaucer: regularly $75-$100, paid $30
All items have removable/washable fabrics, and look completely brand new! I am also hoping to score a Britax this way, or via Craig's list!

Be prepared to be there awhile.
The last sale I went to, Ellie and I were there 3+ hours, because I went spur of the moment, and didn't plan ahead - bad bad idea! Part of what took so long was that I had to nurse her. And since I had left my stroller at home like an idiot, I had to carry her in the Bjorn. She took some naps, but also got really restless, so we took a break or two to get out and kick around, while I sorted through our possible purchases.

The lines at these sales can be ridiculous! The line was averaging 2.5 hours at the last sale we went to. Yeah. No deal is worth standing in line that long with a 3 month in a Bjorn! BUY THE FAST PASS, if they are available at your sale, as soon as you enter the doors of the sale. I paid an additional $10 bucks, and literally got escorted to the front of the line. Beyond worth it in my mind!

My Final Personal Preferences and Pointers

  • be very careful buying knit or jersey, especially as the kids get older. They tend to really pick and ball up. Plus they are more likely to hold onto stains. Some moms actually iron sleepers, etc... as this decreases the appearance of wearing. I shop mainly for cotton - preferably gingham and or searsucker of course... eyelet lace and smocking make it even better! :)
  • Look under the pinned on sales tags. Unfortunately, many moms are sneaky and place the price tags over stains.
  • Shop for your nicer clothing items first, if you have money left in your budget, then go back for the play clothes. I would rather buy Ellie's church and "dressy" clothes consignment, as this is where the savings are the biggest, e.g. her Ralph Lauren and Strasburg smocked dresses. You can buy sleepers on clearance at any Wal-Mart, Target, or Carters outlet for dollars.
  • find a babysitter for the kids. I could can be in an out of sale in less then an hour if I don't have Ellie with me!
  • make a list of wants but not needs, and shop for them at the 1/2 price day, usually the last day of the sale. I haven't started buying many toys yet, as we got a lot of baby toys as gifts. However, I had every intention of going our area's largest sale 1/2 price day to get Ellie s few developmental toys, and completely forgot. Ugh! Better luck next time.
And that, ladies, is my take on Consignment Sale Shopping Success. What tips and/or pointers do you have for shopping on a budget?

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