Rocking the Consignment Sale: Buyers Edition

A few months ago, I shared some of my best consignment sale ideas for those selling items. Today, I’m sharing some of the my best tips for BUYING at a consignment sale. I’ve been shopping consignment sales for over 7 years, and I’ve learned some great tricks and tips from friends and fellow shoppers over the years.


1. Have a game plan.

If you don’t, you will spend way too much money buying things that you probably didn’t need, and that’s the total opposite point of shopping at consignment sales, right?

I keep a sheet of paper with each kids’ name, their current size and their next size, and how many clothes I have for them of the differing styles. For example, Aly is in size 6 right now. When I go shopping in the fall, I will bring a sheet of paper that says she already has 10 long sleeved shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 4 dresses, 1 pair of leggings, and 9 skirts. Perhaps I’ll even make a note on there that says I REALLY need a pair of black leggings for her because one of her dresses requires it. I’ll also write a note that she has no footie PJs and that I NEED TO FIND a pair. When I’m shopping, I find a really cute skirt for $3. Do I buy it? No, I don’t, because I can see that she already has 9 of them. That’s more than enough already!

I’m sure there are a gazillion different ways to keep track of it, so whatever works best for you, but something that you don’t put too much time into and that you can bring along with you to the sale, because it’ll constantly be changing as you add items.

I also look one size ahead and pick up any good deals. I understand that not all kids are so predictable in their growing patterns, so it may not work for you. For us, our kids pretty much wear the same size as their age for an entire year.

2. Shop early and give yourself time.

Try to be there when the doors open. I’ve found that many sellers price their clothes incredibly low, and that if you get there early, you’ll be able to find some AMAZING deals. Also, don’t bring your kids and tell your husband or friend who is watching your kids not to expect you back home until lunchtime. Will it take that long? Probably not, but then you won’t feel rushed. Just think, if you’re shopping for most of your kids’ next season of clothes, wouldn’t it take you just as long to visit 10 different stores at the mall?

3. Bring cash, a big reusable bag, and a book.

Some sales take credit and debit, others are still doing the cash thing only. This will also help you keep on a budget- only bring the amount of money that you want to spend. A nice size reusable bag will be great for putting everything in while you shop. Again, some places will provide you with one; others won’t. Be over prepared. Finally, bring a book because friend, those lines are LOOOONG, especially in the beginning of the sale. It’s frustrating to wait for 45 minutes in a line, doing nothing. I bring a book to read in line or a podcast ready to be listened to on my phone (with earbuds, of course, come on now! :)). Annoyance will suddenly become a Saturday morning mini-vacation.

4. Examine the clothes carefully.

After I’ve shopped the sale, I’ll tuck into a quiet corner of the room to look through the items I chose. More often than not, I’ll find something that has a stain or notice that it’s a bit more worn than I first thought. No shame in it- take them back to the rack or ask someone to help you take them back. A few dollars saved here will mean more money for the items you actually need and want.

5. Don’t be afraid to dig.

Sometimes I’ll see a big bucket of items (socks, hats, shoes, etc.) and think, “eh, there’s probably nothing in there,” and keep on going. But sometimes I take the time and dig and I find some treasures. At the last sale I went to, I dug through the clothe diaper bucket and found absolutely new snap bumgenius diapers and inserts for $3 a diaper. AWESOME!

6. Visit the toy table.

Even if you think you probably don’t need any toys at the moment, consider checking it over anyway. I will often find items here and there that I’ll buy for the kids’ birthdays. When Anaya turned 2 in November of this year, she got a Little Tykes slide that fit into her bedroom. I found it just 3 weeks before at a sale for only $10. While it was a bit of a challenge to hide such a large item, it was a great birthday gift for her (and inexpensive as well!).

7. If you have time, shop twice.

At the end of a lot of sales (i.e. the last hour of the last day), they will do huge markdowns and have things like, “Everything you can stuff into this plastic bag is $5.” By this time, the racks will be more picked through and you just might find that gems that have been overlooked. Sometimes I’ll shop the sales and also buy stuff at this rock bottom prices to donate to organizations that serve under resourced parents.

**Finally, if you are an expecting mom, SHOP a consignment sale or two before you have the baby. New baby items are CHEAP and overflowing like milk and honey at these sales. Most sales also have a special time for new and expectant parents to shop, which is more often than not before the general public. It’s just smart, especially when you see that many of the clothes from 0-12 months STILL HAVE THE TAGS.

If you plan on selling at a consignment sale anytime soon, read some of my best tips for rocking the consignment sale as a seller!


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