Tips for saving big at consignment sales
Yesterday I attended a pre-sale for a HUGE kids’ consignment sale in the area – Just Between Friends Consignment.
They rented out space in the Oaks Convention Center (near King of Prussia) with the hopes to fill the space with a ton of great deals. With over 700 individual consignors bringing in their gently used items, they easily accomplished that goal.
Here’s just a small glimpse at what you can find at the Just Between Friends sale in Oaks, PA. Table after table piled high with gently used (and even some new!) toys, baby equipment, games, puzzles, books, movies and more. Yes, those tables and clothing racks stretch all the way back to that very far corner. There’s a lot to take in.
Baby equipment and furniture as far as the eye can see. That’s not to mention the racks upon racks of clothing for all sizes.
There’s truly something for everyone here – every kid-related someone, anyway!
What’s interesting about this type of consignment sale is that the individual consignors set their own prices. So you may find three of the same items, but one could be marked quite a bit lower than the others. This is unlike a consignment store, where the store owners generally set the prices. Much like a neighborhood yard sale, I guess, if your “neighborhood” had 700 willing consignors living in it!
Tips for shopping at consignment sales
1. Do a little comparison shopping, even at (or especially at) consignment sales. As mentioned above, you may find several of the exact same items, all varying in price. Pay attention to those price tags and if you find an item significantly lower and still in great condition, snatch it up.
2. Consider paying a little extra for the packaging. Sometimes it’s worth it. Yesterday there were toys and clothes that were brand new, still in their original packaging or with store tags. In that case, it just may be worth paying a small amount extra, if you’re thinking of using it as a gift. The recipient will never know and you still will save a decent amount off the retail price.
3. Make a list of what you need. And make it as detailed as you can. Don’t just write down that you need sweatshirts for your son, for instance. Make a note that he’ll need 2 or 3 hooded sweatshirts for the season. That laser-like focus in preparation beforehand will help keep you from getting overwhelmed (or oversold!) while you’re at a sale like this.
4. Make a budget – and stick to it. Consignment sales can bring huge savings, but keep all those incredible deals in check or you’ll quickly bust your budget while finding deals!
5. Carry your kids’ sizes with you. Don’t forget sizes for shoes, diapers, hats and gloves.
6. Be willing to buy a season ahead. I picked up a Gap long-sleeved tee for my son yesterday that won’t fit him until next year. But it was in excellent condition and only $2. I didn’t buy anything else for him for next year, but a $2 Gap long-sleeved tee is worth throwing into next year’s clothes bin and saving for the next growth spurt.
7. …but don’t go overboard on buying ahead. Remember that sales like this are yearly (or, in this case, happen twice a year). There will be other sales and other seasons, so you don’t have to purchase all of next year’s clothing today. It also can be difficult to estimate your child’s growth, especially in that first year or two. For those with infants, I actually wouldn’t recommend buying too far ahead.
8. Bring a calculator. Keep a running total of items and make sure you’re coming in under budget. You can pare down and put things back as you go. Use it to check the unit price of items for sale (such as diapers). Yesterday I was able to use my calculator not only to keep myself under budget, but also to determine that the diapers I found were pretty comparable to the price of diapers I recently purchased on Amazon, using the Subscribe & Save option and Amazon Mom discount, so I didn’t spend the money I had budgeted on those yesterday.
9. Check online prices of items. If you have a smart phone, check Amazon or store sites while you’re to get an idea of what a particular toy is selling for and whether what you’re seeing is a genuine deal. If you don’t have a smart phone, that’s ok, too. Take that list you made and spend a half hour before you go to do your research, so you still have a general sense. And write those prices down on your list, so you remember when you’re there!
If you know you’re looking for a classic marble run, for instance, look those up to see what the general price range is before you go. Some prices will be so low that you’ll just know it’s a good deal. For instance, the marble run I found for sale yesterday for the kids was marked at $3. I didn’t even have to look it up before putting it in my bag.
10. Prepare yourself physically. Wear comfortable shoes, bring snacks and water and bring a basket (pulled with a rope) or large reusable shopping bags to carry with you. All that deal-hunting can turn into a bit of a marathon. Be kind to yourself and wear flats and throw a healthy snack and a water bottle in your purse before you go.
11. Know your weak spots. Survey your own house before you go and be honest about where your “clutter” tends to accumulate. For me, it’s books, educational toys (so tough to turn down!) and (right now, at least) clothes for my daughter.
We’ve been very fortunate with hand-me-downs on clothes for both kids, but right now we have quite a bit for my daughter. I knew that going in and didn’t even step near the little girls’ clothing section, as a result.
As far as the educational toys go, I set myself up with a strict limit: no more than two educational toys and two puzzles.
I steered clear of books, though it pained me to do so. I’m trying to make better use of our library and I’ve actually found many inexpensive books at thrift stores recently, so I didn’t feel a “need” to find deals on books yesterday.
12. Check the half-price sale (if they offer one). On Saturday, Just Between Friends will have many items listed at 50% savings. Grab those must-have items early in the sale before they disappear, but head back on Saturday to check if there’s anything else you need for half-price.
Here are a few items I couldn’t pass up at the consignment sale
This gorgeous wood barn from Melissa & Doug. I’ve searched high and low and haven’t been able to find it for sale anywhere anymore. They do sell a smaller version of the fold-n-go barn, but the one I found yesterday is a good deal larger than that.
Ours is pretty comparable to the wood deluxe stable they currently sell for about $70.
Our price (thrifted) – Just $8.00!
Savings – about $60!
Another favorite deal yesterday was this Pottery Barn Kids collage frame (with the box). This will be perfect in our little girl’s room, which we’re currently in the process of decorating. It’ll hold nine 4×6 prints.
These currently are on sale at Pottery Barn Kids for $44 each, but normally are $55.
Our price (thrifted) – Just $7.00
Savings – about $37-48!
The most adorable peacock costume from Old Navy for my daughter. This will find a special spot in the dress-up bin, whether or not she wears it trick-or-treating this year. I assure you, this photo does not do justice to the costume’s cuteness factor.
Old Navy peacock costume – no longer for sale, but Old Navy Halloween costumes run about $20
Our price (thrifted) – $5
Savings = about $15
Cuteness factor = priceless
The only other thing I bought yesterday was clothes for my son, who is at that age where boys are getting a little rougher with their clothes, so there are fewer hand-me-downs these days. With that in mind, I wasn’t sure what I’d find on consignment, either. I was in luck, though!
I was able to find quite a few great brand-name clothes in wonderful condition (Gymboree, Gap, Oshkosh), but my absolute favorite of the bunch – this Janie and Jack blue and brown rugby shirt. Not only is it my favorite color combo, but it’s also about as dressy as he gets these days, so it’ll be perfect for an upcoming family photo.
Janie and Jack rugby shirts sell for $34 each.
Our price (thrifted): $5
Savings: $29 – on the one shirt alone!
We were given $25 from Just Between Friends to spend on the sale and with that and $25 out of my own pocket, I came away with a fall wardrobe for my son (1 sweater, 1 sweatshirt, 3 long-sleeved tees, 1 pair of pants); the peacock costume for my daughter; the wood barn; photo frame, marble run and a puzzle. Not bad at all!
Want to find your own incredible deals? Check out the Just Between Friends sale in Oaks, PA from Sept. 13 – 15. Then come back and share what you scored!
What great deals have you found lately? Be sure to check out Crystal’s great scores, too!