I used to be an avid garage saler. I’d strap the kids into the minivan and we’d get our bargain on almost every weekend. I scored tons of super cheap, high quality clothes over two or three summers. I thought I had mastered this whole “dressing your kids for pennies” thing.
This worked well until I had my third child and I realized that my first two were really fake children — they stayed with me, didn’t mind the car and were all-around obedient. Don’t get me wrong, they could probably win a whining contest, but they were very tote-able. My third is what I call my “party-in-a-box” and driving around the streets of Portland all morning just didn’t work for him, so I had to quickly change my clothes-buying strategy (don’t even get me started on the fourth…).
Right about the same time, I discovered children’s clothing consignment events. These events are different from consignment stores that function like a store — you can shop any time but the stock is unreliable and you may have to make multiple trips to find what you’re looking for. Consignment events are different — the sales take place over a weekend and they are absolutely PACKED with everything you may need (or want) for your kids.
I’ve largely abandoned hard-core garage saleing, except for the occasional drive-by or Happy Valley Garage Sale (my favorite; I try hard not to miss that one!). I now shop one or two consignment events in the spring and again in the fall. Here are the 7 reasons why I shop consignment events instead of garage sales:
1. One-stop shopping. Just like Fred Meyer, but WAY cheaper (no kid’s club, though)! I can shop for all four kid’s clothing, shoes, toys, accessories and related paraphernalia in one trip.
2. Incredible variety. If something’s on my list, it’s usually at a consignment event because there are hundreds (or thousands) of families consigning. If I need a bouncy seat, there are at least 10 to choose from and I don’t need to drive to people’s homes like with Craigslist.
3. Save on gas. With fuel prices approaching the $4 a gallon mark, it’s important to factor your transportation costs into your savings. I’d rather drive to one sale than spend a bunch of money driving around the greater Portland area in search of super-cheap clothing.
4. No multiple car seat buckles. With four kids in car seats, I now factor this annoyance into deciding whether a car trip is worth it or not. And considering that getting my 18-month-old into the car seat has become a full-contact sport, I’d rather not deal with garage sales at this point.
5. Reasonable prices. Garage sale prices are hit-or-miss. Sometimes you score and find boxes and boxes of name brand clothing for $.25 a piece (happened to me once) and sometimes you find someone selling their kid’s 10-year-old Target clothes for $3 each. Consignment sales make things easy — I can consistently find reasonably priced clothing for all my kids.
6. Fantastic selection. Again, you have hundreds of families selling at consignment events, so there is an amazing selection. At most sales there are racks full of newborn clothes. It’s better than Target or Walmart! As the sizes go up, the selection of reasonably priced, good quality clothing goes down (kids wear clothes longer in the bigger sizes so there’s less of a good selection) but I can still find a number of great items for my older kids.
7. Good quality. Most consignment events have a good screening process and all items are checked for stains, holes and unusual wear. You won’t be wasting your time wading through stuff that should be made into rags or thrown into the dump.
As my family has grown and my obligations have increased, I’ve started to put more value on my time than I used to. I may be able to outfit my kids for less with garage sales, but I my time is worth money. I would rather pay a bit more at a consignment event and not do the garage sale circuit each weekend.
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