Cute Done Cheap: Tips for Shopping Consigment Sales


Where I live, consignment sales for kids’ clothes are a big deal. There are several of them that happen in the spring and fall, but the big one is Rhea Lana, which is actually a “chain” of consignment sales that started in Arkansas and are now all over the place.

I’ve been buying the Bit clothes at Rhea Lana since (just a few days) before she was born, and it really is a good way to get a deal on clothes. If you like to have a lot of clothing options (she declared this morning “I love to wear lots of pretty clothes!”) and don’t want to pay full-price for things your kid will probably stain or grow out of by next week, it’s an option well worth looking into.

One of the local sales is happening now, and I scored a bunch of good stuff yesterday, so I thought I’d share some of my tips for making the most of a consignment sale or resale shop experience.

Go When It’s Not Busy

pink dress
The find of the day: a fully lined, wool-blend Gap dress for $5.

One of the perks of being a consignor at Rhea Lana’s is getting to shop before the sale opens to the public. Though I was consigning this time around, I didn’t actually go to the presale. It’s just too crowded when all those people are there. You can’t really see everything or take the time to make intelligent decisions. It’s like Black Friday, but without the $99 computers and the lines are just as long.

There’s no upside to shopping early other than more selection, but if you can’t really see what you’re choosing it doesn’t matter if you have lots of choices. I think you can also get in a panic that somebody else is going to get that deal before you do, so you end up picking up more stuff and not putting things back that you might if you had more time to think about it.

Instead of going on Saturday I went on Tuesday just after they opened. There was hardly anyone there at all and no one else was shopping the size I was in. And there was plenty of good stuff left. (If you really want a deal and are less concerned about selection, wait until half-price day. I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing that at the next sale because there’s very little I still need.)

Set a Limit

I always have a (rather arbitrary) price limit over which I will not buy anything, no matter how precious. You could also set a limit for how much you’re willing or able to pay for your whole shopping trip (I like a per-item limit so I don’t have to do math).

Either way, setting some kind of limit will reign you in and force you to focus on what you really need (and, let’s face it, what you want or think is just too cute to pass up).

Make a Survey Pass

dresses
More dresses from the consignment sale.

The best part of going to the sale when it’s not crowded is the luxury of time. You can go through each rack, pull out the things that interest you, then spread out somewhere, survey, pare down, look again and so on (more on that process below).

Hopefully you will have some kind of idea what you’re looking for to guide you through this part, whether you’re looking for school clothes, dresses, pants or a little bit of everything. I was sort of trying to do a whole fall and winter wardrobe because I know I have very little from last year that still fits her (just a few things I bought at the end of the season in a bigger size). So I knew I wanted pants, long-sleeved tees and sweaters, as well as a couple of play dresses and maybe some fancier dresses for holidays and parties.

Had there been any winter coats or shoes I like, I would have gotten those, too. I didn’t take pictures in the store, but after my pass through I had a huge pile to go through.

Separate and Evaluate

sweater
I’ve dubbed this one the maternal guilt sweater, because it’s something I could make her if I had time this fall.

Once you have your big pile, it’s time to start cutting. The first thing to do is look through and take out anything with obvious stains, pilling, worn spots or anything else that just doesn’t look great. Sometimes it’s hard to see grease stains, and I know I’ve brought home stained things before, so¬† you want to take some time with this.

On this round of examination you might find that you picked up some things that are really similar (I had two fleece pullovers with hearts on them, for instance) so you can choose the one you like best and put the other one back.

Then it will help if you separate your clothes into categories — pants, tops, dresses, etc. — so you can see how many of each type you have a cull that to a more manageable number. The way you pick what you’ll keep will be personal but will include some combination of what you like and what your child needs, what’s in the best shape and has the best price.

By the end of all this, I came out of the store with 24 items (with sets it was 29 pieces total) and spent $94.50, or about $3.26 per item. Not bad for an hour’s work.

Do you shop consignment or resale? I’d love to hear your tips!

Thanks for visiting, commenting and sharing.

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2 Comments

  1. KarinZimmer

    Love all your tips Sarah. I went the other day but had both boys. So it was not that productive. So I suggest if you have to take your kids bring a snack and strap him in the stroller! I had kaden in the stroller and Karl was walking, but could not spend quality time browsing. I did find some cute things, I was really looking for a winter jacket for Karl but could not find anything his size under $20! I also almost bought a winter jacket for $35. The lady working there told me the brand was really good (spider, I have never heard of it before) so it was a great deal since they range in the $100’s. Since I don’t have a smart phone I believed her. Later I saw a friend with a smart phone and ask her to search for the jacket, we could find some in the $60 range. So if you think you want a toy or a nice item but not sure about the brand use the smart phone to search the value.

  2. admin

    Ooh, that’s a good idea about researching brands. I didn’t get anything expensive so that wasn’t a problem for me. And yes, going without the kids if you can is a must — I know most people can’t, but it does make it easier to be selective.

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