By Rachel Paxton
Consignment shopping can be fun as well as rewarding. I was first introduced to consignment shopping when I was pregnant with my daughter, about 12 years ago. The trend of buying second-hand items was just beginning. I started shopping at a store that consigns women's and children's clothes, toys, and baby furniture. At first I just bought some baby clothes there and marveled at how inexpensive they were (1/3 or less of retail prices). As my daughter got older I didn't have any little girls to give her clothes to, so I started consigning her clothes. The consignment store decided how much the clothes should sell for, and after the clothes had sold, they gave me 30 to 50% of the purchase price. For just a few items that might only add up to a couple of dollars, but if you make a practice of taking in all of your children's outgrown clothes, it can add up quickly. Where I shop, they will either give you the cash when the item sells, or they will hold your money "on account" so that when you buy something there in the future, your purchase is subtracted from your account.
After I had started consigning my daughter's clothes and realizing the benefits I was receiving (when you both buy and sell items at consignment stores, you get the benefit of low prices, your children get the benefit of wearing the clothes until they quickly outgrow them, and then you get to re-sell them, making a profit that almost equals the value of buying the clothes in the first place!), I started going through my dressers and closet and realized how many clothes I had that I never wore. I was a little reluctant at first to get rid of so many clothes, but I took a deep breath, and consigned them. I ended up bringing home at least $50 for a couple of grocery bags full of clothes. I realized that I could use that money to buy new (used) clothes that I really would wear, and that no money would have left my pocket! That's when the adventure really began. As time went on, I got braver and braver about simplifying my life and getting rid of all of the things I didn't want or need anymore. Have you ever paid a lot of money for an outfit and then didn't like it after all? Of course you have! Many times people are reluctant to part with clothes that they paid a lot for and never wear (maybe because it shrunk the first time you washed it). Consignment shopping takes all of the guilt away! The first step is to let go of the guilt and get rid of the clothes. When you start buying your clothes at consignment stores, that guilt is never there. If you decide you don't like something you bought there, take it back and consign it. You didn't pay much for it in the first place, and you can use the money you get from consigning it to buy something else.
At first I usually just kept the money and didn't buy new clothes with my profits. I only shopped there occasionally and didn't see much I was interested in. Then I started going more often and realized that there really were great clothes there, but they go in and out of the store so fast that you have to go often to find the best deals. I haven't bought a brand new pair of jeans in years. I have, however, bought many brand-name pairs of jeans consignment shopping that would have cost anywhere between $30 and $50 new, and I paid about $8 a piece for them. Many look like they've never been worn.
I bought and sold my daughter's clothes there from the start. She is now 11 years old and I have very rarely ever bought new clothes for her. My sister spent about $50 on a shirt and a pair of corduroy overalls for her last Christmas. A few weeks later we found a similar pair of overalls in another color at the consignment store for about $8. My daughter was thrilled. I'm glad she can also find joy in consignment shopping. I know that in a couple of years she may not be as thrilled about buying second-hand clothes, but buying used clothes is becoming a lot more acceptable. More and more people are becoming fed up with expensive prices and the high cost of living in general. Our favorite consignment store even recently created a section just for teens that looks just like a department store display.
If you don't have a consignment shop in your town, the next time you visit the nearest big city, check out their yellow pages or ask around. Even if you make a trip once or twice a year to clean out your closet, it's well worth the effort! In these times of corporate "down-sizing" and just trying to get by, don't spend a large portion of your money on new clothes. You don't have to be as extreme as I am and buy all of your clothes at consignment stores, but if you keep your eyes open and look for opportunities to spend less on clothing, you won't regret it!
To get you started, I found a great web site called the Internet Resale Directory (forementioned site is offline now), which features thousands of resale businesses, from antique stores to thrift shops, consignment to flea markets, and all types of secondhand, surplus, and salvage businesses around the country and around the world. Give them a try and see what you can find.
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