Thursday, March 6, 2008

Frugal Friday -- selling children's clothes

Twice a year I take the time for something that saves our family incredible amounts of money in our clothing budget. Every March and September a number of local schools and early childhood associations hold used children’s clothing and toy sales. These offer a great opportunity to buy and sell clothes and toys with what has the potential for being a great return on your investment of time and energy. About the only things I buy new for my kids are socks, underwear and shoes/boots. With a family of seven, that’s enough in itself!

I started buying and selling at these sales shortly after our first child’s birth, and have rarely missed a sale. I have learned quite a bit about making the most of these sales over the years. This first post covers selling the clothing and toys, and the second post will detail tips on making the most of your dollars as a buyer at these sales.

Why not just hold a garage sale? Good question. For some people that may be a great option. I don’t live in a setting suitable for one, so that doesn’t work for me anyway. I live at a residential school in a residence hall. No garage, and nowhere near a main road. Also, I find I can ask almost double for my items at these sales compared to the price I would sell them at a garage sale. I do lose 25% of the price I choose to the organization, but even that is tax deductible. Also, I still have to spend the time pricing, dropping off and picking up, but I don’t have to spend 2 – 3 whole days sitting out in the garage haggling with customers. That alone is a big plus from my perspective.

First of all, shop around when looking for where to sell your unneeded belongings. You may not live in an area with many options, but I have at least 8-10 sales that I could choose from within 20 miles. To put this in perspective, I live in the ‘country’ and the closest anything is 6 miles away, so 20 isn’t really too bad for me. Each has its own fees (usually a registration fee and also a price you pay per sheet of tickets that you then fill out and tag your items with) and varying percents of sales it offers to its sellers. I actually go to one 20 miles away to sell because it has a great crowd of devoted buyers, has some of the lowest fees, and offers me 75% of the sale price that I put on the clothes. Others offer as little as 50% and charge double for registration and ticket prices. It is worth it to me, since I sell a few hundred dollars worth of items each sale, to drive and earn the higher percentage. It is most likely too late to get into a spring sale in your area, but if you shop the sales, pick up the fliers they likely have on your way out and do some comparison shopping for the fall.

So, you have decided to sell at a clothing sale and picked the sale you like. Now, it’s time to jump into the pricing. I save anything saleable as my children grow out of it (both clothes and toys are grown out of over time . . .)

So, my first step is to pull everything out of the closet that I have been putting in there for the past few months (no, my son was not in the closet).

Next, I sort the bags and boxes. I sort the clothes into three types – items to sell at this sale, items that I need to hang on for the next season’s sale, and items that are not sale quality. My sale, and most in this area, refuses clothes that they find stained, missing buttons or zippers, with holes, or out of season. Items that I know won’t sell (out of style, ugly, etc. – mostly gifts we never used) or they will not meet the sale’s standards I bag up to bring to either Goodwill or to my mom, who does love to have garage sales (go figure), and she either sells it or gives it to various missions or shelters. The sorting took me about an hour, and I went through about 200 pieces of clothing.

Now, it’s time for pricing. This is an extremely subjective matter. Prices I am sure vary by area, but I can generally get $2 per piece for clothing, a little more for brand name, newer, dressier items, a little less for inexpensive items (shorts, tank tops, etc.) This is something you just get a feel for over time. I don’t price items what I would pay for them, because most people aren’t like me. I don’t like to pay more than a dollar per item, but I have found that I sell 65-75 % of my stuff when I price it in this price range ($2 per item). This is something good to look for as you shop, too, and see what other clothes are selling for. As I price, I do another check of each item to make sure I think it will sell. If I don’t think anyone will buy it, it is a waste of my time to price it and haul it, when I will most likely just end up hauling it back. Pricing took me about 2 hours for clothes (100 pieces) and another 2 hours for toys (I lost track how many toys, a lot!) We recently cleared out our kids’ toys and eliminated about half of their inventory, so I have a lot to sell this time!

Then, box it up and it is ready to go!

I drop off Friday morning, and pick up any leftovers Saturday afternoon when the sale is done. I also shop the sale and get the vast majority of my kids’ clothing for the upcoming season. In recent years I have made more than I spent at the sales, so this has been a very worth while involvement for my family.

One note on toys . . . We try to clear out the ‘toy room’ now and then. As I am going through pricing toys for the sale invariably a child comes and says, “Mom, that’s my FAVORITE toy, you can’t get rid of that!” Never mind that three months ago they said they never played with it and we could throw it out, now it is the must-have item of the century! So, here’s our deal. If they see me pricing something that they absolutely want to have back, can't live without it, all they need to do is trade me something else from the toy room of comparable bulk to take its place (size is the key!) This has worked well for us, and the trades have been kept to a minimum.

My clothing sale experience has generally been a good one. It is work, but it pays off for us with cash back into our budget for other clothing expenses.

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