In my 20s, I was more than willing to throw down an obscene amount of money for a lovely pair of high heels and a new dress. Those were the days of the flirtatious flit and flitter that was my seasonal wardrobe. Now, as a mom of two lovely daughters, my wardrobe is much simpler: tights and a long shirt. Elegant? Nope! Easy? Yes!
When it comes to my daughters’ wardrobes, I have taken a frugal, yet still creative road. As is the burden of all second borns and beyond, my three-month-old SydneyRose is already the queen of hand-me-downs. But don’t feel too sorry for her because she has her fill of adorable outfits.
As a mother, I’ve finally learned this very important secret: never ever buy anything new.
We just don’t have the money to spend on the trendiest new shoes, jeans, and shirts for a five-year-old who will outgrow them in two months. But, that doesn’t mean my girls run around in shirts with holes in them either. I’ve stumbled upon quite the pleasant compromise: gently used consignment sale clothing.
Rather than shopping at a department store every few months, my strategy for the past three years has simplified. I get everything LillieMarie, and now SydneyRose, will need for summer and fall at the spring consignment sale and everything they will need for winter and spring at the fall consignment sale.
Just last week, I visited my all-time favorite consignment sale in Chattanooga: Just Between Friends. This bi-annual gathering of everything from furniture and toys to everyday clothing and costumes fills the Camp Jordan Arena in East Ridge to the brim each spring and fall. I, and many other mothers, descend on the succulent selection like starved locusts.
I’ve gotten surprisingly good at determining what sizes my daughters will grow into over the season, what styles (anything princess-like) they prefer, and how much the budget will allow for the year.
Some of the tricks I have learned along the way include:
Choosing the right day to attend
The larger consignment sales tend to run an entire week, from Saturday to Saturday. Picking the correct day to shop is paramount. If you are in search of high-ticket items such as furniture, you will need to buy one of the early-bird tickets and go on the first open day. (Usually, you can also volunteer a number of hours and earn your early shopping rights.)
The very last day is when most of the larger, most in-demand stock is gone and there is a large discount (sometimes 50% or more) on remaining items. However, on this day, your choices are limited. I’d go on the final day to get simple things like cotton shirts or to find really cheap toys. For example: if you want Duplos or twin beds and dressers go on day one. If you want random dolls to fill in for the ones that have gone missing over the last season and random clothing items to fill out the wardrobe, go the final day.
My favorite day to shop is the third or fourth day of the sale. I’ve stumbled across that number through trial and error and discovered that while there is hardly any option remaining for furniture, there are still a lot of good choices for clothing. I can find a few princess costumes, dresses for whatever holiday is coming up next, and shoes perfect for the season. The days following, I’ve found the pickings to get slimmer and slimmer as far as desirability goes, especially for shoes.
Determining what to buy can be a bit overwhelming when faced with an entire arena full of options. The whole point of consignment sales is to save money in the long run, not break the clothing bank.
My method for winnowing down selections is to make a broad sweep through the entire size range I need. This means I might have three times the amount I’ll end up taking out. I take this ludicrous mountain of clothing to a quiet area and lay it out, sorting carefully. As I have girls, I tend to sort into day dresses, fancy dresses, shorts for under the dresses, skorts, and shirts. I tend to cap myself at 15-20 items to help fight temptation, and trust me, there is temptation.
Once I’ve returned the items I won’t be getting, I make one final sweep for must-have seasonal clothing. At Christmas time, this usually means two or three extremely cute Christmas outfits: pajamas, dresses, and/or costumes. That done, I tally up before I have time to get drawn into buying anything else.
Look at the prices
My final advice for savvy consignment shopping is to pay attention to the prices. You may be able to find the same shirt at two quite different prices. Be willing to choose the one without the logo that is just as cute and nearly half the price. The kids don’t care as long as it is comfortable and in a style they enjoy. This is largely my opinion. I go for quality as often as possible over logos and haven’t been sorry yet.
So, if you’ve already been converted to the consignment sale isle, I look forward to seeing you next fall. If you haven’t dipped your toes in yet, search online for spring consignment sales in the area and dip those little piggies in to see what tickles them. You won’t be sorry. Happy shopping and, more importantly, happy savings!