As a mother of twins, it goes without saying that money is tight. With my guys getting further and further apart in both weight and height, that challenge is now increasing exponentially as the volume of items they are able to share gets smaller and smaller. Thankfully this opens up the possibility of hand-me-downs from one twin to the other, but the result always seems to be that the larger twin has a short supply while the smaller twin has a wardrobe that rivals my own packed closet.
Buying used clothing has pretty much been a requirement since they were born. Beyond gifts from family and some basic essentials from Wal-mart and Target, both their wardrobes and toy collections have primarily been sourced from other families. This not only helps us save money, it also gives me some peace of mind that if they totally annihilate some article of clothing (Have you read YUCK. Life with Boys?) there’s not too much of a loss.
Likewise, selling used clothing, equipment and toys has been a huge resource for our family and provides the budget for the next season’s needs. When it is time for me to buy for the next season, I usually round up last season’s gear and try to sell it first. That way when it comes time to buy, I have some funds already allotted and ready to go.
Here are the methods I have explored and tried to both source and sell used items.
1. Consignment Sales (Typically bi-annually or seasonally held, high volume and greater buyer “panic” – most items sell because of the “thrill of the chase” environment that these exclusive events generate.)
- For the buyer: Use a website like ConsignmentSaleFinder.org or other local resources to find sales in your area. Many of these sales advertise on a variety of social media platforms, newspapers and local kid hangouts. (BONUS TIP: Be sure to follow their Facebook page if they have one. Most sneak peeks are posted here, plus tips and tricks for getting in early or the actual sale layout. Plan your strategy in advance!) Ask around to see if anyone you know has attended to get a feeling for the sale’s reputation and whether items are higher quality, clean, fairly priced, etc. Bring a friend. Divide and conquer!
- For the seller: Reach out to the local sales and explore their consignor/consignee policies. Be sure to pay close attention to fees and/or the percentage you’ll take home from each item, any other restrictions or requirements, and whether you are responsible for hangers, tags, etc. Be sure to do the math and consider how you price your items so that all of these fees and potential responsibilities are taken into consideration and you come home with profit! If possible, join the hosting group and see if there are opportunities to contribute volunteer time towards planning and manning the sale. Oftentimes, you can get a greater percentage back on your sales for time served. (BONUS TIP: Be sure to ask around for appropriate pricing. You want to blend in with the bunch, and certainly not leave money on the table or worse yet, be the high priced seller whose items get left behind!)
2. Consignment/Resale Shops (Constant availability, usually high traffic around the holidays and seasonal changes, but can be otherwise spotty in sales.)
- For the buyer: Facebook is another great asset here. Local shops often post flash sales or the arrival of big ticket items on social media. Stop in to the store and develop a relationship with the owner. Let them know if you’re looking for specific items and sometimes they can source them for you or give you a special head’s up if inventory has arrived that would meet your needs.
- For the seller: Pay attention! Different stores have different policies. Make sure you understand exactly what you’ll be getting when you hand over your used items and exactly what is required of you to consign. Sometimes you will get paid for items on the spot (generally the least dollar option but immediate cash), sometimes you will get paid a percentage when items sell (can be a higher value but patience is a must!) and sometimes you simply get store credit (great value, but make sure the store stocks items you might need/want so that you can put store credit to use!). (BONUS TIP: Take a good look at the store set up, community reputation, etc. Is the store clean and organized? Messy and cluttered? You want the best environment for your items to sell. Adding items to a disaster-area heap of a mess that potential buyers have to sift through is a recipe for your items never selling.)
3. Craigslist (Constant availability, online network boosts high traffic, but posts can be buried quickly in busy categories. Bigger ticket items usually fly at higher prices.)
- For the buyer: Ask questions. Lots of them! Be sure to see pictures, ask about safety, recalls, age of the item…basically anything that might affect the quality and longevity of the item. Your best bet is to see items in person before committing to sale. Don’t be afraid to bargain on pricing, but don’t be cheap! It’s annoying and unfair and you wouldn’t want it done to you.
- For the seller: Be specific (and honest!) when describing your item. Post high quality images. Make sure your tagline on your post is simple but draws attention to a high quality item. Be sure to list any requirements (i.e. cash only, must be local to pick up, first come, first served) that you may have before you sell. Be sure your price takes shipping costs into account if you’re willing to ship it. Post items with an anonymous email and don’t use your personal email address.
4. Facebook Groups (Constant availability, online network boosts high traffic, items sell quickly.)
- For the buyer: Search for local groups in your area or check out national groups (I’m a big fan of Mothers of Multiples Resale and Mothers of Multiples Resale: Singles Edition.). Read the policies carefully and start sifting through the albums. You will need a PayPal address for national groups, but local transactions may be in cash depending on the seller. If items require shipping, be sure to do the math and make sure the price + shipping is still a bargain. (BONUS TIP: If having items shipped, try to buy multiple items from one seller to reduce the shipping cost overall and add value to your purchase!)
- For the seller: Double check the policies for any groups you join to be sure your items aren’t deleted. List location and pricing with high quality images with specific descriptors. If you have any requirements, like cash only or buyer to cover shipping or shipping included, be sure to specify on the post. If you don’t specify on the front end, you risk losing money and/or causing drama. Price fairly and consider selling groups of items together in lots, especially clothes. Pay attention to the group dynamics and avoid problem buyers and sellers. They are usually easily identified. (BONUS TIP: Ask in the group for shipping tips. Many of these people are seasoned sellers and have awesome tricks to minimize your shipping costs!)
5. Yard Sales (Your choice! Traffic can be hit or miss and value per item is significantly decreased.)
- For the buyer: Unless I’m absolutely certain it’s not going to be a problem, I avoid clothes, stuffed animals and anything with cloth/fabric and such. With pests like dust mites and bed bugs alive and well and running rampant, I just don’t want to risk it, and yard sales are prime time lower quality/care hot spots. The good thing about yard sales is that items are typically cheaper here than anywhere else. I just make sure I purchase items that can be sanitized completely to my level of OCD satisfaction. Bargain to your little heart’s content. Yard sellers do NOT want their items coming back in their home/garage.
- For the seller: Check with your local city office to see if you need a permit to host a yard sale at your home (lame, but it is what it is). Post on social media so that your friends can check it out and share with their friends. Make sure signs are in high traffic areas with the least amount of words possible. WRITE BIG! Use arrows! Organize yourself and have items priced ahead of time. You will have early birds that arrive while you’re setting up. Be ready! Postpone if the weather is bad. It kills sales. Be sure to have change at the ready.
6. Network with Moms with Older and Younger Children (WIN! WIN! WIN! Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Happy Mama here!)
- This is the power house option that will save you time, money and sanity in the long run. The benefits to buyer and seller are the same! If you have a relationship with another parent or a small group of parents that have kids both younger and older than yours, you have immediately set up your pipeline to sell them your used items and to buy their used items. Or simply trade! When the seasons turn, I always reach out to a specific list of ladies with kids older than mine with a “Hey, I’m looking for anything fall size 4T. Got anything to sell?” Likewise, I’ll reach out to my go to parents with a “The kids just outgrew a bunch of stuff sized 3T. Want to come take a look?” I also often get requests for items other parents are seeking. There is great trust in those types of relationships, ease of transaction, the assurance that items will be sold and no legwork or staging to prep items for sale. Seriously, I have one gal that just comes over and digs through my kid’s closet!
1. Always meet in public places. No homes! No night time pick ups unless it is in a super well-lit, highly populated area. Make sure people know where you are going and when you are expected to return. Bring a friend or spouse if possible. You can never be too careful these days.
2. Always do sales in cash or money order (no checks!). Or PayPal if you do it online. Point being…do it securely and always make sure money is collected before you ship. Never hand over items without payment unless you plan on generously donating to their cause. Likewise, when paying for items, pay in cash and have money ready to hand over when they arrive. No purse/wallet digging!
3. Don’t give people your home address. In fact, keep personal information to an absolute minimum. The less they know, the better. It’s just safer that way.
4. Trust your gut. If something feels off, walk away. Fast. You know the feeling. No bargain is worth tempting fate if your insides are sending you a red flag warning.
Stay tuned for another post on How to Store and Prepare Your Items for Sale! Coming soon!