Consignment Shopping for Back to School

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It’s the end of summer and moms everywhere will be buying, books, pencils, glue, clothes, shoes, backpacks, and more for back-to-school. The National Retail Federation‘s 2010 Back to School survey found that the average American family will spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics, compared to $548.72 last year, and close to the $594.24 in 2008.

Total spending on school-aged children in grades K-12 is expected to reach $21.35 billion. What can you do to make sure your back-to-school shopping doesn’t break the family budget? Not only are we entering the back-to-school season we’re also entering the fall/winter consignment sale season. Children’s consignment sales are popping up all over the nation and with the current economy they are growing more and more in popularity. As we enter the Fall/Winter 2010 season, moms are getting ready to sell, shop and volunteer to save LOTS of money. Here’s how you can get your share of the savings this season:

Before you go:

  • Take inventory: The last thing you want is to buy a new backpack if your child already has a functional one. (Just make sure it will last the whole year.) Check clothing inventory, accounting for the growth spurts kids are guaranteed to have.
  • Make a list: Not only of what you need, but also of what you have. This way when you spot a good deal and can’t remember what you have at home, you can just check your list.
  • Budget: Make a budget of your over all back-to-school spending as well as a category budget for each child: clothes, shoes, supplies. This will help you avoid the temptations to impulse shop.
  • Find the sales: Depending on where you live there could be over a dozen consignment sales during any given week. For help, try the Consignment Sale Search Engine. Keep in mind date, time, location, type of sale and number of sellers. The last thing you want to do is drive 20 miles to a sale and find there were only 25 sellers and it’s more of a glorified garage sale than a good children’s consignment sale. Most sales have a discount day where many items are an additional ~50% off. Decided if you want to shop on discount days or get first pick and shop earlier.

At the Sale:

  • Start with supplies: There’s usually more of a selection of clothes than supplies, so start by looking for backpacks, folders, books, etc. A good sale should have each of these organized into separate areas.
  • Check quality: If you buy a used backpack to save money and 2 months later have to replace it because it’s already worn out, then you didn’t really save money at all (in fact you probably lost some). Check and make sure whatever you are purchasing is truly like new quality. Look for holes, stains, worn out zippers and straps.
  • Shoes: To tell the true quality of a shoe, check the sole. If a shoe has been worn out, but just cleaned up then the soles of the shoes will still be worn out.
  • Clothes: Even if your children are required to wear uniforms, you can usually find them at consignment sales; most sales have a separate rack for school uniforms. Here again, make sure you check the quality of the clothes to be sure it really is a deal.
  • Homeschool: Even if you homeschool, there are some GREAT deals to be found. Everything from curriculum and posters to educational toys and craft supplies.

After the Sale:

  • Take Another Inventory: While consignment sales are a GREAT way to save lots of money it never fails that you’re still going to have to make a trip to the store to buy some NEW items. Usually items like crayons, markers, and glue are hard to find in good condition at a consignment sale.
  • Store Clothes Properly: Fall consignment sales start as early as July 5th. You may need to store the fall/winter clothes for a little bit. If you have the closet space try to hang as many as possible. Otherwise, you may want to get a large tote and fold the clothes neatly for storage. Add a fabric softener sheet for extra freshness.

The earlier you start thinking about back-to-school, the greater your shopping options are. If you start visiting consignment sales now and think about more than just clothes, you should be able to find many of the items on your list at consignment sales and avoid spending $606.40 this year.

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