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There is no doubt about one fact in my household. I am the savvy shopper. Take for instance this weekend. My daughter has been wanting more dresses because she stubbornly refuses to dress for the weather and wants to be her normal girly girl self. So I told my husband I was headed out to Once Upon A Child in Wappingers Falls. Of course while he was at Wal-Mart he couldn’t resist shopping for his little princess. The price of 3 dresses (some of which were on clearance) at Wal-Mart – $30. The price I paid for a dress, pair of dress shoes, video for my son, cheater swaddler and a ton of baby clothes for the new little girl we’ll be welcoming in July – $36.50.

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I’ve been excited to head out to Once Upon A Child for awhile now as the only children’s consignment shops in my area are pretty small. Here’s how it compares.

1. Better Organized Than Some Consignment Shops – They are better organized compared to some local shops, yet still require a little digging for sizes especially when it comes to the bins of shoes. You do get a similar vibe to being in a regular retail store with fairly organized racks, BUT at Once Upon A Child (as with other consignment shops) it’s up to you to double check sizes and check for stains and rips.

2. The Price Is Right – The prices are really great and range anywhere from $1.50 (at least in the baby aisle) to $10. BONUS: I signed up for their e-mails on their website and got a $5 off a $30 purchase coupon e-mailed to me, saving me even more money.

3. Brand Oriented – I personally am not one to ooh and ahh over particular brands or stores so I don’t usually use that as a considering factor, but I know a lot of shoppers like certain brands for their durability, fit, etc. for their kids. If you’re willing to view shopping as more of a treasure hunt, you can find a lot of great brands here. I got an outfit for my baby with the Babies ‘R Us tag still on it.

4. Clothes in Excellent Condition – A lot of the clothes and equipment looked brand new. With the exception of a pair of pants I picked out for my son that had a grass stain on them (which I noticed at checkout and put back), everything else I picked out was darn near sparkling.

The one drawback to this place over my local consignment shop was that they were unwilling to negotiate on price, even when the article is damaged. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve had luck negotiating prices with other consignment stores especially if there is minor damage. I recently got about 17 maternity items (roughly half a bag’s worth) for $25 at my local children’s consignment shop, negotiated down from her asking price of $40 for the full bag or $5 a piece. I love being able to negotiate.

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My son Jayden, giving me his best mug for the camera.
My little guy was forced to look at dresses with mom and big sister Hannah.
Luckily my neighbor Allison joined me with her two kids so we were
able to browse in shifts while watching the kids.

5. Selling Was A Breeze – What I liked was being able to just drop off my items at the desk after filling out a short form with my info on it and then find out what their offer was when I was ready to checkout. Some consignment shops do store credit or consignment only, which means you only get paid when they sell the item, which could be months down the line or not at all. Once Upon A Child does straight buys and pays you on the spot or takes the offer amount off your bill. They don’t take everything and may be a little pickier than some places, but that’s why their things are in great shape.

Now you probably understand why I almost never shop retail for my kids clothes. Even paying clearance prices at most retailers is more expensive than shopping second-hand.  If you’re strictly a retail shopper, Once Upon A Child offers a perfect transition from retail into the world of second-hand. What are your favorite local consignment shops?

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When I had a conversation with my Aunt last summer, I mentioned that I wanted to have another child. She asked me if I was sure because it’s so expensive. My response- “it’s as expensive as you choose to make it.” I’m not saying having a baby is free, but there are plenty of things you can do to save money.

1. Wait a little while before you go shopping. Don’t rush out to the store the minute the pregnancy test comes back positive.  Wait and see what you get at your baby shower if you’re having one.  If you’re not having a shower, inventory hand-me downs from previous children, cousins, friends’ kids, nieces and nephews, etc.  It’s important to know what you really need BEFORE you venture out to the store to buy it.

2. Buy it used.  With few exceptions like car seats and cribs, most baby gear can be found a lot cheaper used. Check your local children’s consignment shops, Craigslist, Ebay, and Freecycle.  You can always check with manufactures to stay up-to-date on recalled items.  Here’s the kicker about babies, you could spend big bucks on an item your baby will absolutely HATE. They are very fickle little people when they are first adjusting to life outside the womb.  If you have friends or family members with babies, ask if you can try out their baby gear to see if you’re little one likes it.

kid's consignment photo

3. Accept hand-me-downs with grace and gratitude. Babies often grow out of clothing or stop needing gear long before it gets worn out so put it out to friends and family that you are willing to gratefully accept any and all hand-me-downs that come your way. Sure some of it may not be your style or what you were looking for, but in my experience it’s best to accept it all. If you start pawing through these gifts and saying I’ll take this but not that, then people will become frustrated with you and not want to give you anything anymore.

Instead, take it all, say thank you and go through it at home alone. Don’t forget to thank those that bless you with hand-me-downs. You could be spending big bucks for these items, which you are getting for free. You can always give away, sell or trade items you can’t use (provided the giver doesn’t expect these items to be returned when you’re done with them).

4. Buy big ticket items in neutral colors.  If you aren’t finding out the sex of your baby before it’s born or if you’re planning to have another child someday, this tip is key.  Sure that pink stroller was super cute when you bought it for your daughter, but if your next child is a boy you’ll find yourself shelling out a bunch of money for a new one just because you don’t want to keep correcting everyone when they say, “Aww, what a cute little girl.”  Stick to neutral patterns and colors for playpens, cribs, highchairs, strollers, swings, etc. If you can pass the gear down to the next child, you’ll save yourself a bunch of money.

Stay tuned for more tips, and feel free to share your money saving tips here.

If I could have found a clean version of Macklemore’s popular song “Thrift Shop,” I would have included a link because it’s main hook “I’m gonna pop some tags” has become the anthem of bargain hunters everywhere.  Despite lyrics that poke fun at thrift shopping, it has undoubtedly made it acceptable, if not pretty cool, to shop at your local thrift shop.  Since this is one of my favorite ways to save money, I wanted to share 6 tips that make it even more fun to “pop them tags.”

1. You can find designer clothes.  I’m not one to tout the idea of being a slave to brand name/designer clothing, BUT if you are inclined toward this type of shopping, thrift shops have every brand under the sun. You just have to be up for the hunt.  I have found Polo and Burberry shirts for my son for $3 a piece at the Salvation Army in Middletown.  

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2. You CAN and SHOULD ask for discounts.  Always check the clothing thoroughly for rips and stains before you buy.  If you can mend small tears and are willing to wash out stains this can be a big negotiating tool, especially with smaller shops.  Two years ago I found this super cute pumpkin Halloween costume for my son, but when I opened it I found (as any mom could already anticipate) chocolate stains on the front.  I pointed it out to the sales clerk and she immediately gave it to me for half-price.  For $5 I was willing to wash the costume and as it turns out it looked good as new.

Also, ask when their discount days are and you could end up filling a bag of clothes for a few bucks.  Follow your favorite stores on Facebook and get the inside track on new deals and inventory.  Plus, you can request specific items and they’ll tell you when it’s in stock and possibly even hold it for you.

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3.  Look for MORE than clothes.  You can find great deals on book bags, Halloween costumes, prom dresses, books, toys, furniture, etc.  All it takes is patience. Only true bargain hunters may have what it takes to comb through the chaotic aisles, but if you do, chances are you’ll be rewarded with some seriously great deals.  

4. Clothes are used.  Seems redundant to state the obvious, but there is a big perk to that.  Clothes are less likely to shrink since they’ve already been washed and worn.

5. There’s no assembly required. Sure we all love spending hours putting together kitchen sets and toys designed with 6,000 parts (eye roll).  When you find toys at thrift shops, you benefit from some other parent’s hours of labor.  You get the prize without the work, now that’s smart “tag poppin.”

6. Shopping second-hand is Eco-friendly. I love that “tag poppin” encourages people to use things that might otherwise go to the landfill and saves enormous amounts of resources needed to produce new goods.

I encourage my fellow frugal warriors to check out thrift and consignment shops in their area.  Share your favorites here with fellow readers because a good bargain hunter is always on the lookout for prime hunting ground.  

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