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I have been a consignment sale girl ever since I helped run a local sale 17 years ago through our Mothers of Twins club. When I first started, though, I had no clue what I was doing and would come home with a ton of things we didn’t need just because in the moment they looked cute or I thought they would fit. For anyone who is going to venture out to sales this season, here are some of my top consignment sale shopping tips to find what you need and save your sanity during the sale.
11 Consignment Sale Shopping Tips
Have time to spare. Extra time means you can slow down and really look, not just fly through the racks. Since there typically aren’t large amounts of one particular item, there are a lot of individual items to choose from, and sometimes you need to have some patience to find the real treasures.
Wear the right shoes. This is simple but often overlooked—you don’t want to leave early because of blisters!
Know what you need. Go through your kids’ drawers the day before and make a detailed list of what they need; also, put clothing and shoe sizes on your list. I’ve seen some shoppers write this on their hands since their arms will be filled with items! Coming home to see that you bought 6 pairs of jeans when they needed shorts is a killjoy.
Measuring your children is often better than knowing sizes. A Gap size 6 isn’t the same as a Gymboree size 6. I take a cheap cloth measuring tape for each child in my purse with painters tape marking dress length, waist, foot size, and pant length. You won’t need to pull it out for every garment, but it will be there if needed as a reference (your kids will probably enjoy helping you make it, too!).
Leave the kids at home. This might seem obvious, but every year I go and see moms struggling to look through the racks while also keeping track of their kids. Childcare can be hard to come by, so consider trading time with another mom who wants to shop and watching each other’s kids!
Go early! If the sale starts at 7 am, people line up at 6 am. The best equipment and clothing goes first. Often the best quality is priced the same as some of the worst, so the first folks in the door not only get the great condition items, but they get great deals!
Take a laundry basket or rolling basket. You will not be able to carry everything in your arms. If you don’t have a basket with wheels, loop a belt around the handle of a regular basket and pull it behind you. (I know it sounds funny, but you won’t be the only one doing it!)
Be okay with lines. Just go prepared for a wait. You’ll wait to get in and to check out. There are great deals, but most of the time consignment sales have way more shoppers than volunteers, so be patient and kind.
Do a little research on the sale. This is an inside tip: Consignment sales that run as businesses usually offer the sellers a lower percentage of their earnings compared to nonprofit sales. Because of this, nonprofit sales have much lower prices for the same item because the moms selling their clothes don’t have to mark the clothes at a higher price to compensate for the decrease in commission. (Sorry if you run one as a business—but this is the truth.)
Use your phone to check recalls. Before grabbing a crib or other large baby equipment item, quickly do a Google search for the name of the item and the word “recall.” You don’t want to get home to learn that your crib shouldn’t be used to even hold stuffed animals! Also, do not plan on buying any car seats at a consignment sale. Most will not carry them, but if they do, you have no way of knowing if the seat has been in a wreck before. Car seats are also considered too old to use/sell after 5 years.
Shop for upcoming birthdays or Christmas. The toy and book areas can be great places to grab super cheap presents. Tuck them away and be set for your kids next birthday or Christmas. I’ve had friends get 1,000 piece lego sets for $15! Don’t look past dirty items, either—most things can be cleaned up to look brand new.
Do you have any big tips for shopping consignment sales? Tell us in the comments!