Guest post by MaryEllen at The Deal Scoop
The reader tip last week on stockpiling clothes is something our family has already been using to save an incredible amount of money each year. As I read through the comments on the post, I noticed some readers’ concerns.
There were some readers who don’t think they could find good enough deals at yard sales to make stockpiling clothing worth their while. Some felt that all they can find at yard sales is junk and that they would rather buy clearance items at the stores. Then there were those who admitted that they aren’t organized enough to know what they need and don’t need.
Here are a few tips on how to get the best prices at yard sales and how our family has been able to make stockpiling clothing work for us:
On Friday night, check your local paper or Craigslist.org ads for Saturday’s yard sales.
(Or if you live an area with a lot of Friday sales, check on Thursday night. Go whenever is best for the area in which you live.) Most people will list some specific items that they will be selling. Mark the ones that specifically have kids’ clothing listing and skip the rest. In my family’s experience, you will barely have time to make it to just those yard sales, and there is no sense wasting time and gas going to yard sales that don’t have what you’re looking for.
Plan your route ahead of time.
If you need directions to certain places, be sure you have them all printed out the night before so you can go from place to place quickly and use gas efficiently. The more gas you use, the more those yard sale clothes will cost you!
Go as early as possible in the morning.
Many people think there is only junk to be found at yard sales, but a lot of times that’s because there are high-quality items to be had for nearly pennies. The first ones at the yard sales find all the best stuff before it’s gone!
Set a target price and don’t be afraid to make deals in order to hit it.
This is probably the most crucial part to the whole game of stockpiling clothing, and I’ll be the first to admit that my husband is more skilled at it than I am. Our family’s personal target is $0.25 per clothing item, $1 for a pair of shoes and up to $1 for nice dresses for our daughter. That may seem like quite an ambitious goal, but my husband has proven to me that it is quite doable. Here’s what I’ve learned by watching him:
::If a seller has high quality items and is asking 50 cents each, pick out three things and ask if they will take $1 for all three. Nine times out of ten, they will. Although that is $0.33 per item and not the target $0.25, you can average it out later.
::Ask the seller if they will consider a bag special. If there are a good number of items in which you are interested, ask the seller if they will allow you to fill a shopping bag for a certain price. If they will sell you a bag of clothing for $3 to $5, you should be able to hit your target price. (This is especially true when you’re buying smaller sizes because you can fit more pieces into the bag.)
If they charge $5, you’ll need to fit at least 20 pieces into the bag in order to hit $0.25 an item. (It’s amazing how many pieces will go in when they’re folded neatly!) If they charge $3, you need to fit at least 12 pieces in the bag in order to hit your target.
Then, there are always the sellers who surprise you by saying, “Sure, fill a bag for $1!” It happens, and those are the times that help you bring your average back down to the target price when you’ve paid a little more for something you really like.
::If a seller is asking $1 for a pair of shoes, ask if they’ll take $0.50. The worst they can say is “no”, and if they say “yes”, you’ve just brought your average price per item down. If they’re asking $2, ask if they’ll take $1. Then you can get the shoes at your target price.
Skip the junk.
Don’t buy something just because it happens to be your target price. If you don’t like it or it’s worn out, skip it. You’ll find something else later.
Buy only classic styles and colors.
Remember, by the time your children wear the clothes you find, it may be a couple years down the road. Trendy things go out of style very quickly and you’ll end up not using them and wasting your money.
Keep a detailed list of what you have and what you need.
I don’t think it makes sense to buy another pair of pants, even if they are only $0.25, if our son already has enough pairs in that size. On the other hand, if the end of yard sale season is approaching and we see that he still needs pants for the upcoming winter, we can up our target price for that item. I’d rather pay $0.50 or $0.75 for the pants instead of waiting until we get out the winter clothes only to find out we have to run to Walmart and buy a couple pairs at full price.
Our family uses two spreadsheets, one for boy clothes and one for girl clothes. Each spreadsheet includes every size from birth through several sizes beyond what our children currently wear.
There are categories for every different item, such as play shirts, shorts, dress pants, dress shirts, etc. We also include every size of shoes.
Every time we come home from yard sales we immediately wash everything and add it to the spreadsheet. The next time we find something at our target price we can check to see if we already have enough of that item in that particular size. We keep a copy of our spreadsheets on the computer, and carry a printed copy with us to the yard sales.
Properly organize all the clothes you have stockpiled.
It’s no fun to know you have clothes available when your child has a growth spurt, but you can’t find them anywhere! I like to keep everything in airtight tubs that are labeled by size and gender. I haven’t figured out a better way to do shoes, so everything just gets thrown into either a “boy’s shoes bin” or a “girl’s shoes bin”.
When one of our kids outgrows their shoes, I just look on the spreadsheet to make sure we have the next size for them. Then I can rummage through the bin to get their next size shoe. I love being able to make a trip to the attic when our kids have a growth spurt instead of making an emergency trip to the store!
We Save Over $140 Per Year By Stockpiling Clothing and Shopping at Yard Sales
If you’re still not convinced that stockpiling clothing from yard sales would be worth it to you, here are a couple rough figures of how much money we save this way. Let’s say my little girl needs a minimum of five tops, five bottoms, three Sunday dresses and three pairs of shoes for each season. If we buy the five tops and five bottoms at $0.25, the three Sunday dresses for $1 each, and the three pairs of shoes for $1 each, we end up spending $8.50 for an entire season’s worth of clothing.
If we found some really great sales at Target or Walmart and bought the same amount of clothing for $5 a piece, we would spend $80. So we save at very minimum $71.50 per season, or $143 a year per child.
The more children you have, the more your savings will multiply. Plus, though I have nothing against clothes from Target or Walmart, our children are wearing Children’s Place, OshKosh, Gymboree, and Carter’s clothing instead. Many times the clothes and shoes we find are brand-new with the tags still on.
I do understand that this method of saving on children’s clothing is not going to work for 100% of you due to lack of storage space or because you may live in a rural area with very few yard sales. However, I do hope that those of you who have the means to do so will give some of these tips a try. You may be surprised at how well you can do!
MaryEllen Bream is a stay-at-home mom who is always looking for more ways to stretch her family’s budget. When she’s not playing with her kids or shopping yard sales for their clothes, she can be found sharing deals and money-saving tips on her blog.