Don't judge me -- you can get some really good finds!
Guest blogger Sarah: Our eyes met over a rack of size 7 jeans. "Oh!" the other mom whispered, looking around. "I think we're in the same boat. I do NOT want to buy my daughter another new pair of jeans this winter."
I smiled, shrugged, and kept shopping. Twenty minutes later, I met her at the checkout. My hands were full of brightly colored summer dresses, shorts and capris for the warmer weather; she was discreetly paying for her daughter's jeans.
"I see that you, uh, found some stuff!" she said brightly, now clearly looking my children up and down. I'd been pegged as the Mom Who Buys Her Kids Used Clothing. I knew exactly what was coming next.
"What size is your daughter?" she asked, obviously wondering if her daughter's hand-me-downs would fit my kids. It was a kind gesture, but I don't need a handout (though I would have gladly taken one). My kids are well-clothed; their outfits just happen to be pre-worn.
My kids go to school wearing mostly name-brand clothes -- from Gap, Gymboree, Osh Kosh, Carter's and The Children's Place -- but I never actually visit those stores. Instead, I've found a consignment shop in town that sells good-quality, clean, name-brand kids' clothing for a fraction of the original price.
I can't figure out why people look down on resale shopping. Both of my daughters have six or seven beautiful new outfits for summer, and thanks to a frequent shopper's card, I didn't even flinch when the shopkeeper gave me the total. I saw one of my daughter's Easter dresses in a catalog for $55. I paid $8. I draw the line at socks and undies, but I'm happy to buy pajamas there, too, as long as they're in like-new condition.
Buying on consignment helps out other moms: They get 40 percent of my sale. It keeps more money in our household budget, and reusing someone else's clothing is better for the environment.
Here are some tips for getting the most for your money at a resale or consignment shop:
• Scout out a store that suits your style. I don't like to hunt for treasures, so I prefer consignment shops (where they're more likely to take only good-quality items) over thrift stores. If you like to shop, however, there are a lot of hidden gems to be found. Try out a few stores and figure out what works for you.
• Try things on. Most stores have a no-returns policy.
• Take a closer look before you buy. Check for stains, wear or holes before committing to buy.
• Watch for sales. Just like retail stores, resale shops have to clear their inventories out at the end of every season. When my daughter's winter coat finally bit the dust, I bought a replacement for just $4.
• Ask a lot of questions. I learned that my consignment shop takes in most of its new product on Saturdays, so we always shop on Mondays. A few months ago, I scored a big pile of Justice shirts for my older daughter that way.
• Get credit. When your kids outgrow their clothes, take them to your favorite consignment shop. Our store credit (from clothing and toys) will make our fall school-shopping much easier.
• Use resale to supplement your child's wardrobe. My kids are still little. I know that once trends become important, we'll start buying more of our clothing at the mall. But a signature piece from a favorite store can easily be paired with a pair of jeans or a skirt from a resale shop.
• When buying used toys and baby gear, be sure to check the manufacturer's website for safety and recall information.
What about you? Do you think buying used clothing is socially acceptable?