Don't Get Goosed by Consignment Sales!

You hear that the biggest sale of the month,season,year, ever is happening and you grab all of your spare cash to head there before the doors open!  You absolutely must partake in the bargain hunt!  Stop, take a deep breath, and realize that even at consignment sales, despite all of their wonderful attributes, it is possible to get goosed.  Here are a few gentle reminders to keep things in perspective.

Planning and Budgeting Still Matter: 
Even though the kids are outgrowing clothes faster than you can do laundry, it's essential that you keep inventory at home.  Otherwise, how will you remember that Joey already has three cute dinasaur-themed shirts in size 2 or that Suzie doesn't need a third pair of pink polka-dot pants, no matter how much she begs?  Likewise, if your family has budgeted $100 for kids' clothes within a certain period of time, that budget still holds -- whether you blow it on three outfits at the mall or find twenty different outfits at the consignment sale.  Especially if you're paying with a credit card, it's easy to justify overspending on "bargains."

Check Clothing Construction and Fasteners:
All clothing is not made the same and does not wear the same.  Some consignment sales will help screen to offer only the better brands, while others will allow all discount store and outlet brands.  No matter what the brand, plastic zippers can go bad, and snaps on jeans and overalls can eventually fall apart, so check them.  Sometimes the dress that looks like new will only stay that way if you dry clean it (expensive), so read the fabric content.

Boutique Items Do Not Count as Bargains:
Be aware of the boutique areas at popular consignment sales.  Organizers count on volumes of people venturing through on the way toward a gently used bargain.  But the boutique vendors are selling new, novelty items whose purchase can cancel out your savings on those bargains.  For instance, if you save $10 on a used outfit and then buy two new hair bows for $5 each....get the idea?

Think Off-Season for Deepest Discounts:
Resalers have gotten more and more sophisticated about their approach to seasonal selling.  They stockpile winter coats to only show you when you feel a nip in the air and hoard summer shorts until spring.  Several times at various thrift and consignment stores I've asked about a type of item, to be told by the staff that those can't come onto the sales floor until a certain date.  Guess where those unworn items with the price tags still on them come from?  The savviest shoppers, who are also trying to earn profits by selling at consignment sales, are buying new clothing off-season at retail stores.  Yes, that means thinking of Christmas in June and summer vacation in January.  If you are buying a new item (on the resale racks) with the retail tag attached at a consignment sale, you are not paying the lowest possible price. 

Charities or Nonprofits Still Offer the Best Bargains:
Year-around, people donate items to their churches or the nonprofit group of their choice for thrift stores or weekend sales.  Often, volunteers do all of the coordination.  Then, as much as 100% of the profits from items you purchase goes to support those good causes in your community.  Especially when there is no consignment mark-up involved, these types of resalers are able to offer you the very best bargain prices. 

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