8 Tips For Shopping Children’s Consignment Sales

This past weekend was our local children’s consignment sale. This event takes place twice a year and I try to get all the clothes the kids need for the season here. In order to do this I have had to do a bit of planning before I shop.

The first time I went to the consignment sale I didn’t really need anything, Isaac was the only grandchild and was little and spoiled with clothes. I thought I’d just go and look around and shop. I walked in and was slightly overwhelmed. There is so much STUFF! I wandered around for a few hours and only left with a few things and a fried brain.

Thankfully I saw what an amazing opportunity this sale was, if I was prepared! So next sale I took mental stock of what clothes I had and what I needed. Then I got the the sale and forgot my mental list. To be safe I bought tons of clothes in various sizes for Isaac to grow into, but because I forgot what he actually needed, I still ended up having to buy him new clothes at full cost that season.

I finally learned I needed to be diligent and plan well, in order to get the most out of consignment sales. This season both kids were desperately low on clothes, so I had to be extra diligent, and it paid off. I got both kids a complete winter wardrobe for this year, as well as a few pieces for next year!


1. Go Prepared

This may sound like a no-brainer, but some of us get busy and forget to prepare and pay for it later, literally. Now, I take the week before a consignment sale and clean out the closet and pack away too small clothes and see where there are gaps in the wardrobe. Last spring I didn’t get a chance to do this, so I mistakenly believed I had enough clothes for Vivienne for this summer… I did not.

2. Make a List

Once you know what you need, WRITE IT DOWN. If you are like me, once you walk in and see all those racks, your brain goes blank. I have a page in my planner that details the kids sizes, what they desperately need, and what toys that would like. I keep this in my planner year round, not just for consignment sales.

3. Set a budget

I will admit, this sale I did not stick to a budget. We desperately needed so much that I couldn’t handle trying to add up the clothes while I was shopping. Normally I have a budget, and I have a general idea of how much of the budget should be allotted to each kid and category of clothing. Now I am not as strict on the budget at consignment sales as I am in other areas because going over budget here might save me later. For example: if I see an amazing toy that was on the Christmas idea list I will go ahead and get it even if it pushes me over budget because it is going to be a lot cheaper and less stressful than trying to get it closer to Christmas.

4. Stick to Quality brands

Clothing and toys are areas where I am very brand conscious, not because I like labels, but because some brands hold up better than others. I try to stick to quality brands that I know will last and can be passed down from one kid to the next. Our consignment sale also tries very hard to stick with quality brands so if I see something very cute from a brand I don’t know, I’ll give it a try to see if it lasts, but the majority of my buys are trusted brands. The good thing about the consignment sales, is I can get those trusted, more expensive brands for the same cost I’d pay for those cheaper brands new in stores.

5. Buy Bigger Sizes

This is probably the first thing I learned, since I didn’t need anything during that first sale, I bought clothes Isaac would grow into and then the next sale I did the same thing because I hadn’t learned to write down my needs. Then by my third sale I realized, this was actually good idea because I had clothes on hand in case of ill-timed growth spurts and unsuccessful sales. The thing is these sales are based on what consignors are parting with at any given time. This season’s sale I racked up, I got Vivienne tons of cute dresses for this winter as well as next winter, but the past two years have been a bit hit or miss with her sizes. Last spring sale I barely found anything in Vivienne’s size and since I thought she had clothes, I focused on the size I think she will be this next spring. If the clothes are very season specific, like Santa Clause smocked outfits, I am a bit more cautious and only buy one for two items if its more than a season in advance. However generic clothes that can be worn a good chunk of the year, I’ll buy those up to several sizes too big. I can always throw a sweater over a short sleeve shirt and call it winter ready.

6. Bring a Friend

Usually I have brought my husband, so he can carry everything and add up the clothes to keep me relatively on budget. But he is not very helpful with the actual shopping. This sale my grandmother came with me, while it meant I lost my carrier, I had a much better shopping helper. She could look at different racks than I was looking at and we were able to shop more quickly and efficiently. It is helpful to have another opinion when you start to get overwhelmed by all the choices. It’s also nice to bring a friend to watch your stuff when you have to pop into the restroom.

7. Bring Water and a Cart.

There is nothing worse then getting tired and thirsty when you are on a mission. I learned the hard way consignment sales are missions, so now I eat a snack in the car, and bring water in with me. The past several sales I’ve brought my huge shopping bag with me to help me carry things my husband couldn’t carry. However without my husband holding half the stuff, the bag wasn’t actually helpful. I didn’t realize how much I depended on a strong set of hands, so next sale I’m going to take one of those rolling market baskets.

8. Volunteer

There are several reasons to volunteer at your local consignment sale, the most important is that they need volunteers to make these sales happen. Without volunteers the sales will fall apart and then we all loose a wonderful resource. Now there are other benefits as well, our sale has special consignor rates and early shopping times for volunteers. Also if you volunteer with set up you can get a sneak peek at what is out on the floor. I have tried to avoid volunteering during the main sale in the past because crowds overwhelm me and I felt like I couldn’t be helpful. By the time I went to sign up as a volunteer for this sale, the only spots available were during the main sale, so I reluctantly signed up. Turns out I loved it! I loved getting to talk to ladies as I was bagging their clothes and see what all they got. If you ever doubt the importance of sales like this, volunteer during the half-price time, I met several teachers and daycare workers buying toys and moms buying for friends who needed a little help with clothes.

I’m still learning with each sale I attend, and I’m sure more veteran shoppers can offer more helpful tips, if you have any other tips, please leave them in the comments below.


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