Last week I told you all about my Halloween costume and decoration strategy, and today I wanted to dive deeper into purchasing things secondhand.
Back when my oldest son was born, we didn’t have a lot of money. In fact for many years, my husband and I were able to claim the Retirement Savers Credit. Back then you had to earn under $50k per year for married filing jointly, although now it’s up to a $62k maximum. I had just finished college literally two months before he was born. Although my husband and I were married young, we really hadn’t expected to have kids quite that soon. I had planned to finish college and take a bit of a break for a while. After all, I’d been working full time and going to school full time nights and weekends for four years to get my bachelors degree. So I think I deserved a bit of a break.
Well guess what – unfortunately life doesn’t really care what you deserve. So my husband and I found ourselves parents after a mere two month “break” from my crazy full time work/full time school schedule. With not a lot of money, buying used was the way to go. I’ve talked before about my love of The Tightwad Gazette, and it was really that book that got me passionate about purchasing all the things my kids needed at tag sales and consignment shops. It’s a passion I continue to this day with my two year old.
Used Clothes For Babies and Kids Are Amazing
Most people looking to save money on clothes for their kids will shop at stores like Target and Walmart. But what if I could tell you that you can pay a fraction of the cost of new clothes at those stores, and get much better quality clothing and shoes in the process? It’s true. You just have to cruise tag sales and consignment shops. That picture at the top of the article? Of my two year old in an adorable consignment shop outfit, of course.
The reality of having kids is that until they’re about seven or eight, they will outgrow clothes and shoes well before they wear them out. If you have a baby shower, you’ll likely get a ton of baby clothes – so many that you can’t even use them all before they outgrow them. In fact I’ll often find clothes in consignment shops with tags still on them.
I buy used for two primary reasons. One is that you can’t beat the monetary savings, especially because you can get better quality clothes for less than the cost of cheap new clothes. The other reason is environmental. Given that there are so many amazing used clothing options out there, it seems almost wasteful to buy new. After all, there is a lot of environmental stress involved in manufacturing and shipping new clothing. Why contribute to that when you can lighten the load on the environment a tiny bit by purchasing used?
Tag sales are typically the least expensive place to pick up clothes for kids, unless of course you can get them for free somehow. When my oldest was small and I had a lot more time than I did money, I followed the Tightwad Gazette’s tag sale strategy.
Essentially on Friday evening I would get a list of all the tag sales in my town and neighboring towns. I would have a paper map (yes, paper-I believe they do still in fact exist) and plot each tag sale on the map in pencil. Fortunately the internet was indeed a thing at the time and I could find the location of each tag sale using Mapquest.
This would help me plan out the optimal route to hit as many tag sales on Saturday morning as possible. In addition to marking the locations, I’d also mark the hours so I didn’t show up too early. Some people will tell you to show up early, and although those that show up before the tag sale opens do get the best deals, those people are being rude. Don’t do that. Go when it opens.
I’d then head out after an early breakfast to hit the tag sales and pick up clothes, shoes, toys, and things for the house. In fact we picked up so many other amazing deals this was. New light fixtures for only $5 because someone wanted to replace the brand-new light fixtures in their McMansion with different brand-new light fixtures. I also once got a full, expensive set of one year old china for a dollar because the woman selling it purchased an entire brand-new set every. single. year.
As I mentioned, tag sales are usually the cheapest place to get clothes, but sometimes the selection can be hit or miss. Other times you might really need or want something specific – say, a Halloween costume, Christmas outfit, or fancy clothes and shoes for a wedding. Or perhaps you simply don’t have a great selection of tag sales nearby, or you don’t have time to search for those kinds of deals. The next best option for you would be consignment shops.
We’re lucky to have an amazing childrens consignment shop right in the next town over. I’ve been shopping there since my now-14 year old was a tiny baby, and the selection only gets better over the years. They only accept high quality, mostly name brand clothing in very good condition. You can find literally tons of clothes in sizes ranging from infant to elementary aged. After elementary school finding good used clothes gets more difficult, because kids start to wear out their clothes before outgrowing them. Difficult does not mean impossible, of course, it’s just that it will take additional effort on your part to find a bargain.
Used Toys – The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread
Kids don’t need toys, but they sure do love them. Depending on the specifics of your family, you might get more than enough new toys between birthday and Christmas to fill your needs (or sometimes, to fill a small landfill). But sometimes there’s a certain kind of toy you want that your child just didn’t get as a gift. Or perhaps you’re shopping for birthdays and holidays on a budget and need an alternative to new. Maybe you just don’t like the wastefulness of all the packaging, manufacturing, shipping, and low-wage labor that goes into toy manufacturing.
Enter: used toys.
Toys are another thing most kids outgrow before they destroy. The adorable little toys you get for your baby will only be used for a year, and then never touched again. Your toddler will absolutely love their toys but just for a few years until they’re a big kid. Once they’re a big kid, the toys they want shift yet again to other interests. If you buy new toys every time this happens, you’ll go broke.
The same tag sale and consignment shop strategy can be used to pick up plenty of awesome toys for your kids. Tag sales are actually my older kids favorite, because of the random nature of the finds and the fact that there are an awful lot of kids getting rid of a ton of very expensive toys – simply because they’ve tired of them. My kids now love scoring a good bargain and will brag for weeks if they find a diamond in the rough.
Consignment shops tend to be full more of baby and toddler toys, but boy do they have a boatload of them. I’ve seen those ride-on cars for toddlers (the ones that cost almost $200!), play kitchens, tricycles, books (oodles of books), movies, plastic toys, wooden toys, dress up clothes…you name it, you can find it for substantially less than buying new.
For example, recently my two year old had been wanting a bicycle so he can be just like his older brother. He’s obviously too young for a bicycle, so we went looking for a trike. We found one in Walmart and it was about $40! Ridiculous for something he’s going to outgrow in a year-two tops. So we kept on the lookout for one and found it at the consignment shop for a song. Now he loves riding around the house and porch singing “Riding my bike is fun! Riding my bike is fun!”
What’s Your Strategy?
Do you get secondhand things for your kids – or yourself? What’s the best deal you’ve ever scored? Let me know in the comments!
Want to learn more about teaching kids about money? Check out this great page with my top articles and resources I’ve found from around the web.
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