This past weekend, I did some major resale shopping. One of my favorite stores EVER is Once Upon a Child, a nationwide resale franchise that carries gently used (and sometimes brand-new) clothing, toys, books and gear for children. In my mind, it’s kind of pointless to drop tons of money on brand-new clothes for young children because they grow so fast that they might only wear some items once or twice. In addition, it’s a great way to spoil my son because I can get awesome toys for next to nothing.
If you can’t already tell, I love resale shopping. I don’t feel bad about spending money there because you get a lot for a little. You know the other great thing about resale shops? They’ll buy your old, unwanted stuff! That being said, here are my best tips for buying and selling at resale shops.
Know prices beforehand. You aren’t going to save any money resale shopping if you aren’t shopping smart. It’s important to know the average retail price of items that you’re interested in, so you don’t end up buying used when it’s the same price as buying new. As an example, I once bought a high chair cover at a children’s resale shop for 8 or 9 dollars. I found the same exact cover for $9.99 brand new at a major retail store and was NOT a happy camper.
Wait for sale days. Just because it’s a thrift store doesn’t mean they don’t have sales. Sign up for the store’s email or mailing list to stay aware of deals. My favorite resale shop often has “dollar clearance days.” I got three pairs of shorts for my son this weekend, and only paid $3!
Don’t buy what you don’t need. Admittedly, I buy a lot of toys at retail stores that my son probably doesn’t need. However, just like any other shopping trip, it’s important to set a budget because the impulse buys are just too tempting. I told myself that I wouldn’t spend more than $50 this weekend – and I only spent $35! Go into the store with a clear goal of what you want or need, and don’t veer off course.
Shop early and often. Find out when the store puts out their new items to get first pick. Shopping early in the morning can also be a good way to get the best stuff. One time I went shopping when the store opened and snagged a mint-condition toddler chair for $15. To date, this is my best purchase there EVER.
If you really need something, don’t be afraid to ask. That toddler chair I was talking about? I never would have found it if I didn’t ask about it. Employees are sometimes able to help you find hidden gems, or specific items that you really want or need. While some retail shops will surprise you with their organization and ease of use, others tend to be jam-packed and require some digging. Employees will know just where to look.
Think long-term. I found my son the cutest Valentine’s Day shirt (it said “my mommy is my Valentine”!) this past weekend. I snagged it because it was large enough that it’s unlikely he’ll outgrow it by February, and also because I don’t feel like paying the price for a brand-new V-Day shirt in season that I know he’ll only wear once.
Shop for quality. You can get cheap stuff brand new for… cheap. Buy quality merchandise at thrift stores, it’ll last longer, fit better, and look terrific.
All stores are not created equal. Shops that are doing better are generally able to buy more of your stuff. Don’t go to the hole-in-the-wall shop that’s going out of business. If it’s the kind of store you would personally frequent, it’s probably a good bet.
Clean absolutely everything. If it’s dirty, stained, wrinkled, or smelly, you’re going to get less money. Don’t bring in things covered in pet hair or dirt, because you won’t get as much as you would for a clean item.
Keep original packaging. Say you’re selling a TV or a microwave. If you have the original box, packing, and instructions, it’ll probably be easier to sell.
Presentation counts. Don’t crumple everything up in a garbage bag and lug it into the store. Fold clothes neatly and put them in a laundry basket. The first time I sold clothes, I brought them in a garbage bag to the store, and they only took one or two of my items. I’ve fared much better with a laundry basket. It makes a difference, trust me.
Sell in-season. Seasons are important. Chances are stores are not going to want to buy your winter gear in the mid-June because their profits are fueled by supply and demand. In addition, boost your sales by selling in the middle of the week. Non-peak times allow buyers to look more thoroughly at what you’re selling, so selling on a Tuesday or Wednesday will boost your chances of getting more items sold.
Don’t be afraid to say no. There will be times when you’re trying to sell and you get offered a ridiculously low price for your pieces. If you don’t like the price, you’re not obligated to accept it. If it’s a really small amount of money, you might as well just donate to goodwill rather than accept a handful of change.
Resale shops are a key part of my frugal-shopping strategy. If you shop smart, you can get just about anything for WAY less than retail stores. Good luck and happy shopping!