Ten Cents an Item for High-End Children's Clothes
Some adults enjoy hunting through resale shops for bargains, and others hate it for all kinds of good reasons: much of the used clothing you see is out of style or worn out, and it often takes a lot of browsing to find something decent in your size.
But if you've been down on resale in the past, take another look once you become a parent. The resale situation for children's clothes and gear is totally different. Children -- especially babies -- wear each size for such a short time that they can't get worn out by just one kid. While kid's clothes are trendier these days, the styles don't change as quickly as adult clothing. A shirt with an applique kitty that was cute in 2003 is still considered cute today.
I used to visit children's resale shops and think I was getting a good deal paying $5 or so for a baby dress. And yeah -- that's better than the little Gymboree habit I had when I used to work across the street from one of that chain's boutiques. Rummage sale prices are usually much better than resale shop prices, but they have the disadvantage that you may have to run all over town looking at different sales to purchase a few gems.
This past weekend I hit the mother lode -- a mother's mother lode -- and it changed my whole children's shopping strategy. I'm now convinced that the absolute best way to shop for kids is at a group resale event. Many towns have events like these, run by a parenting-related organization. In San Francisco and some other areas, the Mother of Twins Club runs a big consignment sale once a year. In western Chicagoland, it's an parenting center and drop-in day care organization called Parenthesis.
These events offer the one-stop convenience of a resale shop, but prices closer to rummage or somewhere in between the two. A big church rummage sale can also be a kids' shopping opportunity, but these dedicated children's sales are better for several reasons: 1) You don't have to push past old ashtrays and porcelain poodles to get to the infant swings and school clothes and 2) participants in parenting clubs and organizations tend to be middle class or better, and they are unloading really expensive stuff.
Such events often have multiple shopping sessions with tiered pricing. For instance, I volunteered to help run Parenthesis' sale, and as a thank-you I got to shop a preview sale before the general public was allowed in. I loaded up on outfits for my preschool daughter with lables including The Children's Place, Gymboree, Baby Gap and even Ralph Lauren. I spent $72 on 30 items, the maximum I was allowed to purchase. Everything was like new. I looked up the Ralph Lauren jumper and found it retailed for about $50, so I figured that between that and a pair of Stride Right shoes I'd grabbed, it was like getting the rest of the stuff for free. Which was some consolation when my daughter and I lost one of the "new" hoodies the very next day.
But I wasn't done. The sale wrapped up on the last day with a half-hour "bag sale," where shoppers could fill a kitchen-sized trash bag full of stuff for $5. FIVE DOLLARS! I bought two empty bags and went to town. While a lot of the perfect and flashier pieces were gone, I loaded up on turtlenecks to wear under jumpers, as well as jeans and a few really nice items that the sellers had overpriced so much that no one bought them in the earlier part of the sale. I even snagged a winter coat and snowpants for a friend's child.
When I emptied my trash bags onto my dining room table, I saw that there were still plenty of high-end brands in there, and while a few items had barely visible spots and a couple needed to be washed, most were in much better shape than the hand-me-downs my daughters usually wear. I was almost ashamed at being too greedy -- I had five infant winter hats from Baby Gap and The Children's Place. Well, those baby hats are always getting lost! I counted things up and realized I had gotten about 50 items of clothing per bag -- an average of 10 cents an item. Needless to say, you can't get a pair of baby socks at Wal-Mart for 10 cents, much less the mint-condition Osh Kosh Bgosh spring jacket I got.
These sales are also a great place to get baby gear such as strollers, swings and even cribs. Many expectant couples register for all the expensive gear for their baby showers, only to receive piles of plush animals and tons of clothes instead. These sales can be a lifesaver in that situation. Like with any used baby gear, you'll want to check for recalls at the Consumer Products Safety Commission before using such items. Serious shoppers may even want to call the serial number into a spouse at home or into the company's 800 number right from the sale, to avoid losing the item.
In all, I spent about $70 on clothes for my own kids, and a few bucks more on gear (including a $10 portable playard). I have probably never spent that much on my kids' wardrobes in one year before, since what we don't borrow or receive as gifts is often a Target brand. And that Target stuff is just fine, but I also really appreciate the touches on the more expensive kids' garments: ribbons inset at the cuffs, for instance. Also, the expensive stuff doesn't get stretched out and faded as easily. Now that I know I can go back to this organization's sale twice a year, I'm not going to bother borrowing any more hand-me-downs. The sorting and returning clothes just isn't worth it.
Another thing I will never do, after working and shopping this sale, is buy infant clothing for a baby shower. I know people like to have pristine new sleepers to put on a brand new baby, but you should have seen the shoulder-high stacks of baby clothes on the tables at this sale. Everyone had tons of onesies and sleepers to get rid of, and no one really wanted to buy them, because most people receive way more brand new ones than they need. It all seems like such a waste.
I can't promise you'll find a resale jackpot like I did, but do check around your community for large consignment or rummage sales. You'll be glad you did.