Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

Spring is here, and garage sale season is in full swing. It’s a great time of year for moms of young children. Much of my two daughters’ wardrobes are secondhand, along with many toys. A simple check of craigslist.org or your local newspaper should yield lots of potential treasures. Before you hit the streets, here are some tips to help you make the most of garage sales.

1.    When buying children’s clothing and shoes, buy one to two sizes or seasons ahead
rather than just your child’s current size. You’ll have a ready supply of clothing when you need it, especially during the winter “off season.” Store clothes for future use in plastic tubs with lids.

2.    Be selective about what you purchase. You’re just spending a quarter here or a dollar there, but it adds up. Resist buying anything unless you truly like it and will use it. Otherwise you’ll have a cluttered house and closets stuffed with clothing your children may hardly wear. Also, don’t ever feel obligated to buy something at a sale just to make the seller happy. If there’s nothing you want, offer a polite, “thank you,” and move on.

3.    Be aware that secondhand clothing doesn’t always fit like new clothing. Some clothes will shrink a bit after many trips through the washing machine and dryer. A 3T shirt may end up fitting more like a 2T shirt, so pay close attention.

4.    Carry an ample supply of cash, especially dollar bills and quarters. You’ll get the stink eye if you try to buy $1 worth of stuff with a $20 bill!

5.    Learn what is considered a fair price in your area. I generally spend 25 cents to $1 per item on baby and children’s clothing. If it’s a nicer item like a dress or coat, I will pay up to $3. A good price for shoes is $1 to $2 per pair, depending on condition.

6.    Don’t haggle too much. It’s fine to ask a seller to come down on a price if you really think it’s too high, but it’s rude to haggle for the sake of haggling. Try not to offer less than half the asking price.

7.    Avoid buying certain baby items secondhand. Any car seat that has been in an accident should no longer be used, and it can be difficult or impossible to know the history of a secondhand car seat unless you know and completely trust the seller. Even if you are sure of a car seat’s history, keep in mind that car seats should be replaced about every six years because they wear out and new seats have better safety features. Cribs also have new safety standards, so consider buying new.

8.    Don’t hesitate to do a drive by. I mostly shop garage sales for the kids’ items. If a sale obviously doesn’t have them, or if the sale looks small and unimpressive from the street, I keep driving. Time is valuable when you’re hunting for bargains.

9.   Save cash by purchasing big toys only at garage sales. Play kitchens, doll strollers and cradles, rocking horses, slides, bikes, and ride-on toys can be budget busters, but they are plentiful and less expensive during garage sale season. Some of my best finds are a Little Tikes kitchen valued at $175 purchased for $35, a Little Tikes rocking horse for $5, and an older model Little Tikes Cozy Coupe for $5. Be sure you have a vehicle large enough to haul things home in, or find a friend with a truck!

10.  Stash garage sale treasures away to give young children for Christmas and birthdays. Very young children won’t know you didn’t buy it new.

11.  Buy toys from garage sales without feeling guilty about cluttering up your house. When your kids are done playing and you’re ready to clear some space, sell the toys in your own garage sale or on craigslist or ebay. It’s like renting toys, and it provides the kids with some practically free entertainment.

12.  If you bring your children along when shopping at garage sales, help them learn to manage money by giving them a small amount to spend as they wish. My 4-year-old gets a quarter every Saturday and looks forward to selecting a little toy or trinket.

How about you? Do you love to shop at garage sales? What tips do you have for getting the best bargains?

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Category: Saving Money

Tags: children's clothing