I’ve never been crazy about shopping, so I wasn’t exactly a “bargain shopper” before having kids. I didn’t do garage sales, estate sales, or consignment sales. Digging through racks and piles of unorganized items in search of a gem just isn’t my favorite thing to do. This aversion to shopping also includes retail stores, but thanks to the internet, I’ve been happy to do most of my shopping online since the mid-2000s. I love the convenience, brand selection, and the ease of comparison shopping that way (I’m an Amazon junkie). But mostly, I appreciate that it helps me avoid shopping malls.
Since becoming a parent, however, I’ve gradually warmed to the idea of shopping, more out of necessity than any other reason. Before our son (LB) was born in April 2013, we planned for a reduction in income during my maternity leave. Because he was our first, we were starting from scratch in the baby-and-kid-supplies-department. Even after two baby showers, there were still several larger items that we needed, but couldn’t afford to pay full price for. Instead of giving up, I began looking for ways we could buy them for less, and ultimately purchased everything we needed from either eBay, Craigslist, or Half Pint Resale (a local children’s consignment sale). The need to save continued after our daughter (LG) was born last March, because I planned to leave my career and reduce to a one income family. (Which we did in July 2015 – you can read about how we achieved that goal here.)
So after a few years experience at this bargain shopping thing, I now completely understand the euphoria that can come from buying something useful for less than full price. I’ve even grown to look forward to Half Pint Resale every Spring and Fall (usually April and September). In my experience, everything is very well organized for both shoppers and consignors, and the process runs smoothly. This is a first class operation! But don’t just take my word for it. If you give it a try, I think you’ll find that it’s well worth your time (especially if you follow our tips below).
The Fall sale is coming up soon (September 9-11, 2016), and I now have two little munchkins who need a new wardrobe in the next size up. Kids grow quickly, and replacing their clothing isn’t affordable unless I shop at deep discounts (like those found at the Half Pint sale). It always helps to have a plan, so here are 10 ways you can maximize success at Half Pint (or any other consignment sale, for that matter).
- Make a prioritized list. If you don’t go in knowing what you’re looking for, a huge sale like this can be overwhelming and you might miss something. Half Pint’s website has a great shopping cheat sheet here. Consider what you’ll need for the next six months, including gifts for others. When you arrive at the sale, find your highest priority items first. If they are larger items that you don’t wish to carry around with you while you finish shopping, utilize the hold tables or ask a sale volunteer.
- Do your research. If you’re looking for something specific (a particular brand/style of stroller or breast pump, for instance), it helps to do some comparison shopping online first, to decide what you’re willing to pay if you find it at the sale. Check into what the item costs new, as well as used. I recommend starting with eBay, since you can typically find particular brands, colors, and styles of an item there. You can even find what items have sold for in the past.
- Set a budget. Now that you have your list and you’ve done your research, a budget should be relatively easy to put together. Sometimes it helps to set a budget for larger items separately and add in an amount for groups of items like clothing, shoes, books, or toys. Please note that if you intend to buy larger items (baby gear, fun room furniture, bikes, larger toys, etc.), they are located in the “Big Express” (upper) section of the sale. If you buy larger items, you must pay for them before continuing on to the main sales floor, but Half Pint volunteers will hold them for you until you are finished shopping and are ready to leave.
- Shop early. There are two ways you can shop before the main sale.
- Volunteer. It’s easy to do, if you have the time to spare, and allows you to get first dibs on your must-haves. I have volunteered for the last two sales, and it can be a really fun experience. I’ve met some awesome people doing this and the time flies by. You can find information on volunteering here.
- Consign. Consigning is a great way to recycle your kids’ stuff. Not only does it save storage space in your house, it also puts 70% of the sales proceeds back in your pocket for more stuff! I’ve been able to minimize our net out-of-pocket spending by doing this. You can find information on consigning at Half Pint here.
- Measurements help. Before you go to the sale, it really helps to measure your child (then take the measurements and a tape measure with you to the sale). Clothing sizes can vary widely depending on the brand name or style (for instance, I find that store brands like Circo (Target) or Koala Kids (Toys R Us) run smaller and premium brands like Gymboree are a little larger). Helpful measurements include:
- chest under arms with arms down, across chest and shoulder blades
- waist at natural waistline (over the diaper, if your child wears diapers)
- hips at fullest part of the hips with child standing (over the diaper, if your child wears diapers)
- inseam – use pants that fit your child well by laying them flat and measuring the inseam from the crotch to the hem
- torso – measure around the body from highest point of the shoulder, down through the crotch, and back up to the shoulder (this one is useful for one-piece items, like body suits and girls swimming suits)
- foot (from heel to toe, or an outline of your child’s foot).
- For all measurements, except the foot, divide your number by 2 to get half of the circumference. Use your “halved” number to compare with the width of the garment.
- Go prepared. Take your own bags, enough cash (or a checkbook), your prioritized list, a measuring tape, and your child’s measurements.
- Bags. It works best if you bring enough bags to accommodate the items you intend to purchase (but there are large plastic bags available for use at the sale). To make it easier for yourself while shopping, use separate bags for the things you’re sure you’ll purchase and the “maybes”. Before you check out, make sure to put all of the items not purchased back where you found them for other shoppers.
- Payment. Half Pint accepts cash and local checks only. If you are unsure if your check would be considered “local”, it’s probably best to go with enough cash for your purchases.
- Take a buddy. The process of checking out is quick, but the line can be very long, so an extra set of hands is helpful if you intend to buy loads of great stuff in one transaction. Keep in mind, however, that if you are shopping at one of the early sales only one entrance to the volunteer sale is permitted per volunteer shift and one entrance per consigning family is permitted for the consigner sale. Admission to the main sale is always free.
- Leave your littles at home. I know this may not be a popular viewpoint, and it’s not always possible to find child care. I get it…I’ve been there…just hear me out. This sale is huge, busy, and can be crowded, with a long wait in line to checkout. This is not ideal for a toddler (or for his/her mom/dad to focus on shopping). While this event is fantastic for parents, it isn’t necessarily a child-friendly environment. If you need to bring your wee-littles, wear them in a carrier and/or keep them close to you. Also, check out Half Pint’s rules about kiddos at the sale.
- Take your time. This is not a quick in-and-out shopping experience. To make the most of the incredible deals, make sure to leave yourself enough time for shopping and the checkout line. Some other tips that fall into this category:
- Look for name brand clothes. There is usually an ample supply of premium brand clothing on the racks. You just need to search for them. In most cases, name brand clothes are higher in quality. They also have a higher resale value.
- Inspect your items. Although the sale volunteers do an excellent job of weeding out dirty or damaged items before the sale starts, it’s always a good idea to look before you buy. Inspect clothing for stains, rips, and tears (especially along the seams). Inspect other items for damage as well.
- Don’t forget seasonal items. At the spring sale you can find short sleeves, shorts, and swimwear. At the fall sale there are long sleeves, Halloween costumes, and winter gear. Either way, it will be a year before those types of items will be available at the sale again.
- Make a day out of it. There are even food carts selling yummy goodies outside of the sale, so there’s no need to rush. Whether you’ve hired a sitter for your kids, they are home with their other parent, or visiting their grandparents. Relax, eat, and take advantage of your time away. You deserve it!
- Buy a size up. Kids grow. Even though you have your child’s measurements, we all know kids can bump up a size or two in very short periods of time. I always buy clothes LB can wear immediately, and at least a few in the next size up. When buying shoes, consider whether your child will wear socks with them when choosing a size.
BONUS TIP: Go back for the half-price sale! There’s usually tons of great stuff left over on Sunday for the half-price sale and all Sunday shoppers can register to win a $100 gift certificate to the Spring/Summer sale! Don’t miss out!
Note: This post was originally published on March 23, 2015, and has been revised as of August 19, 2016.