Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Hit a Consignment Sale. Hard.

Most people drive by a consignment sale sign and pop in to see if there is anything they like. Saavy shoppers prepare. Start by researching area consignment sales on the Internet. Check out twins’ moms groups in your area; most have biannual sales and there are two or three of everything and lots of double (and a few triple) strollers. These biannual sales usually occur in March/April and September/October. In Maryland, try the roving Totswap, which holds 2 to 3 sales annually around the State.

Second, get an advance ticket. Advance tickets are usually available for a nominal fee if you have an infant or toddler, or are pregnant, or are consigning items. (Consider joining a Mom's group that holds regular sales; by belonging to CAMOM, I get in early; by volunteering, I get in the night before!)

Third, prepare a careful list of what you actually need. I’ve attached a worksheet at the bottom to help you out. Look over their wardrobes, consider how tight their clothes are right now (you might skip a size), and think about what goods you want for their rooms.

Fourth, recognize that time is an essential element of breezing through consignment sales, so, have a clear idea of what you want before you go in, scan the aisles quickly and zero in on items that fit your needs. Note that these rules also apply to consignment stores and yard sales too.

The Plan:

  1. Leave the kids at home.
  2. Get a supply kit: Your list, 3x3 Post-its, a marker, a measuring tape, cell phone, and a checkbook or cash.
  3. Clean out your car. With multiples, I am always lugging around two car seats and a double stroller. These eat up most of the space in my roomy Prius. Leave them with the kids.
  4. Make a list of items you absolutely need, with dollar figures and numbers to buy, and stick to it.
    Big Ticket items: Changing tables, high chairs, play yards, exersaucers, strollers, swings. Measure your space for furniture, and note the maximum available space on your list. Do NOT buy a used crib.
    Baby Care: Bottles, feeding items, blankets, sheets, nursing pillows, breastfeeding supplies.
    Clothing: Kids need pretty much the same wardrobe you do. Buy enough for 2 outfits and one pair of Pjs per day for 5 days at least. That’s 5 Pjs, 10 shirts and 10 pants/skirts (or rompers), 5 pairs of socks, two light jackets, a winter coat or bunting, a sweater, and a hat or two. Buy sizes for the next 6 months, to cover your kids until the next sale. (If you have a 6-month infant, buy two sizes ahead at least, three if your baby is growing very quickly. For older children, buy a size or two ahead.)
    Toys & books: Buy for the next 6-12 months. Consider holidays and birthdays. Get some ideas of what will be age-appropriate online. Include a maximum number of books, DVDs, and toys on your list.
  5. Research prices online, especially for big-ticket items, to avoid overpaying. Best places to research: eBay’s completed items, Amazon, Overstock, and Froogle give an idea of current low prices. Write average prices on your list. If you know your favorite stroller is $220 new, then you won’t pay $150 for a used one, but $70 is a decent deal, $40 is a steal. I try not to pay more than half the cost new, unless the item is NWT.
  6. Have a budget. Include on your list how much you want to pay for each large item, and a total for clothes and toys. Research big-ticket items new and used prices, so you won’t overpay.
  7. Strategize. Hit your most important big-ticket items first; high-price items sell the quickest because the savings are bigger and there is a smaller selection. There is usually a huge selection of clothes, so scan the racks later. If you want a big-ticket item, take the ticket off the item, and use your Post-its to put “SOLD” and your name on it. Make sure a salesperson knows it’s for you, or move it to the hold area. Head to baby care items next, because most people will still be crowding the overfilled clothing racks. Once the clothes are thinned out a bit, hit the racks before grazing along the age-appropriate toys (6-12 months older than your kid). Of course, if your primary need is for clothing and you have no big-ticket items, hit the racks first, but prepare to be elbowed.
  8. Review your purchases before checkout. This is a vital step. It’s easy to overbuy or make mistakes with all the commotion and excitement. While shopping, spend no more than 15 seconds considering basic items, no more than 5 minutes looking over big-ticket items. If you’re unsure, put it in your bag or reserve the big item; you can always put it back, but purchases at these weekend sales are final. So grab anything that fits your basic criteria for size, color, brand, and style, then find a quiet corner and go through your choices carefully—at your leisure—before you buy. Literally sit down on the floor, lay out every piece of clothing one at a time (you’ll be cleaning them anyway), and consider each carefully. Look for busted seams, fraying, buttons, zippers, fading, labels, washing instructions, pilling, hems, and price. Consider the brand name in the cost. Eyeball the size, or measure to make sure it’s larger than your kid. Your goal is to return 10% or more of your selections to the sales floor.
  9. Check large items for recalls. Either have a smartphone with you or a friend with a laptop waiting for your call. By Googling the brand and model no. of large items, you can quickly ascertain whether the item’s been recalled. I never buy recalled items, even if they’ve been repaired. It is illegal to resell recalled items, as per the CPSC website. Don’t waste your money.
  10. Don’t waste time or money on broken goods. If it’s cracked, missing parts, badly stained, or torn, it shouldn’t even be for sale. I bypass DVDs with missing labels, pop-up books with small tears, anything that looks chewed-on, or items that look ratty. Let someone else have it.
By planning ahead, sticking to your needs list, and reviewing your purchase before heading to the checkout, you'll save time and money. Happy hunting!

Sample Shopping list:



No. to Buy

Price NEW

My price

Big-ticket Items



Car Seat

High Chair


Changing Table


Play Yard

Baby Care Etc.





Nursing pillows



















  1. Could I share this blog entry with our consignors for Children's Market in Jacksonville, AL? You have some amazing tips!

    1. Thanks! I'm happy to share; please include a link to the original post, and a byline "by Christina Ruiz Grantham, for BOGO Baby at


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