Second Hand Clothes - Good Bargains or Just Gross?

Filed under: Opinions

Remember when thrift-store shopping was the the ultimate sign of indie cool? Hunting down checkered polyester sport coats and ratty sweaters to go with an attitude of studied ennui was all part of the scene.

But then came the kids. Dress my precious babies in pre-enjoyed onesies? Stained pajamas? Worn-out snowsuits? Never. Totally unacceptable.

The only sanctioned hand-me-downs were from my sister, whose taste is exactly the same as mine (organic cotton, bright colors, high-end labels) and whose washing machine I've seen up close and personal.

Kids Consignment Shopping

    Do you shop consignment for your kids? In this economy, it pays to have a strategy for second-hand buying. Here are seven ways to get more bang for your consignment buck.

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    The first trick for making consignment work is to get organized. Create a spot in your child's room for outgrown clothes, and add things to the bin or pile each time you think of it. When the bin is full, launder everything and decide what to sell and what to donate.

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    Sort your cast-offs carefully, because everything you take to the consignment store has to be in pristine condition -- no stains or tears or wear spots. Fortunately, babies and toddlers typically outgrow things before they wear them out, so you should have plenty to sell back. Everything that's not perfect goes in the give-away pile.

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    Donate before you shop, but don't just drop your donation and run. Go into Goodwill and look around. See anything in really great condition? Snatch it up and add it to your consignment shop pile. You'll pay pennies for it here, but you will most likely get more back at the consignment shop.

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    Don't expect much of a return for high-end duds -- fancy dresses and elaborately smocked pieces, for example. You'll make the most money on play clothes, because that's what people are looking for. Of course, if you're looking to buy a party dress, shop consignment. You'll pay virtually nothing for that fancy frock!

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    Find a consignment store that either specializes in children's clothes or has a dedicated area for kids clothing. Make sure you are clear about the store's terms of service, too -- what they buy and how they pay and how long they will hold things. And feel free to negotiate, both when you're selling and when you're buying.

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    If possible, get the store to pay you in not in cash but in store credit. Cash is tempting, but you'll get more bang for your buck this way. Take your haul of too-small clothes in and come home with a whole new wardrobe for your tot -- without ever opening your wallet.

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    Take good care of your consignment finds -- treat stains immediately and launder gently -- and you might be able to reconsign them when they're too small!

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I sound like a horrible snob, and maybe I am, but the economy is forcing me to re-adjust. I have boxes of hand-me-downs from people I barely know in my basement. These are clothes I would never, ever have considered pre-recession. Need new clothes? Hey, kids, let's go to Gymboree! Take clothing from friends? Mortifying.

I know lots of people don't feel shy about taking hand-me-downs, and it doesn't bother me to give ours away, but I'm still coming to terms with dressing my kids in pre-owned anything. (And I draw the line at used shoes.)

Last week we made a run to the thrift store to drop off some of the baby's outgrown clothes. My daughter roamed the shop while I negotiated with the owner. When she came back holding a white hoodie covered in rhinestones, I opened my mouth to tell her no.

Then I looked at the tag: $4.95. The kid needed a sweatshirt, this one looked clean and she picked it out. We bought it. My daughter was thrilled, but I'm still a little uncomfortable with the idea of being a second-hand family.

What do you think of buying clothes second-hand or from a thrift shop?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.