Consignment Sale Shopping Tips

Last Fall, I wrote several posts on the consignment sale process. A walkthrough, if you will, on how best to go about consign your kids’ stuff from start to finish. Now, with the Spring sales coming up very shortly, I thought I would tack on a post on how best to shop the sales. I know a lot of people out there who feel very intimidated about walking into a huge convention center, and trying to push through both huge crowds, and huge racks of clothes to find items that will work for their kids.

I get the questions: Is it worth it? How long does it take to get through everything? How much do you spend? What types of items do you find? So, let’s explore this side of consignment sales, shall we?

1. If at all possible, volunteer at the sale. The only way most consignment sales function, is with volunteers. There is a TON work that goes into set up, running the actual sale, and then teardown – and these organizations need bodies. In return for helping a sale out, volunteers get to shop first. With most sales, the specific type of volunteering you do determines how early you get in to shop. Obviously, the earlier you get in, the better items you have the opportunity to buy. I personally, always volunteer for the ‘hardest’ spot – breakdown – and therefore am usually in one of the first groups to be allowed in to shop. I feel like it’s worth a little extra work to get first pick at all the really good stuff!

Tips for shopping at consignment sales

2. Go in with a plan. Before you show up to shop, think about what your main priorities are. Are you in the market for a big ticket item like a stroller or a pack n’ play? You’ll probably want to shop for those first, as quantities will be limited. Do you have a boy and a girl to shop for? You’ll probably want to shop the boy clothing first. Do you have an older and younger child? You’ll probably want to shop for the older kiddo before the younger one. Think about everything you want to look at, and put each category in order of priority (write out a list if you need to).

3. Know where everything is ahead of time. The sale I shop at regularly is at a large convention center – and things are spread out into organized sections, some of which are in different rooms. Once you have your shopping plan in your head, it won’t help much if you have no idea where the pack n’ plays are located versus where the clothing is. Most organizations will have a map on their website, or posted at the entrance to the sale. Take a few seconds to study it before you charge in with the masses.

4. Know what sizes you’re shopping for. This might seem like a no-brainer, but remember, most sales are seasonal. If you show up to shop a Fall-Winter sale in August, you might find yourself standing in front of the 2T clothing and thinking, ‘well, he’s in 2T now, but will he need 3T by December?’ My biggest piece of advice to measure your kids’ arms and legs before you leave, and then draw that measurement on your arm (see below). That way, you know exactly how longs their extremities are now, and whether that 2T shirt will cover their wrists now, and later.

Tips for shopping kids consignment sales

You’re going to look weird with pen marks on your arms but I swear, I learned this trick from a friend and can’t tell you how useful it is. Draw a line at whatever length your kids’ arms and legs are when you’re holding the shirt in your hand. I have lots of people stop me in sales and tell me ‘Oh my gosh, that’s brilliant!’.

5. Bring a cart. Check with your particular sale on what types of carts you’re allowed to bring in to shop with. My shop provides large plastic shopping bags, but I prefer to bring a rolling cart that I can both drop toys into, and hang clothes from the handle. Lot’s of people also shop with their stroller, or wagons (although wagons are so gigantic, when you get a bunch of people pushed into a small area to shop, they become very cumbersome).

Tips for shopping a consignment sale

6. Know what types of payment are accepted. Don’t show up to a sale with only your debit card, if they only accept cash. Remember, these sales can sometimes be small businesses, and paying by card might not be an option.

7. Be patient, and be kind. If you shop early as a volunteer or consignor the crowds might not be too bad – but if you shop when the sale is open to public, expect crowds. Expect a lot of people all spending time searching through racks of clothes, small children with their parents, strollers and carts and wagons and yes, lines to check out. Be patient with people, be considerate of other shoppers, and be kind.

Hopefully this helps – let me know if you have any questions!


  1. Um, that arm thing is FANTASTIC. You just made my life a whole lot easier at sales!

  2. I absolutely love consignment sales! The one I usually do yearly & volunteer at is the JBF sale.

  3. Love the pen mark idea ill have to remember that one. I love shopping and volunteering but not able to for this spring sale. I hope I can shop but not sure what the boys even need this year. They will be 5&3 in a few months.

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