Value of Thrift

Spring is the season of cleaning and geting rid of extra stuff, which means yard sales, thrift store donations, and consignment. That’s a good thing, because we need to equip ourselves for Moonbeam’s arrival. We’re doing well as we try to balance budget against acquisition, thanks to Jenny’s multifaceted strategy. It probably takes more work than she lets on, but she enjoys it and it’s hard to argue with the results.

She monitors the local freecycle mailing list for things we need. We live in a good community for the freecycle model, which means that there are lots of active participants. It’s a double-edged sword: even though lots of items are listed, it’s easy to lose out on good items when someone else gets in first. In the past few weeks, Jenny picked up a big box of baby clothes, a new diaper bag, and best of all, a high chair that’s much newer and nicer than the one we had been using. Elena loves her new high chair, but she noticed that her old one was by the front door–Jenny had listed it on freecycle and to Elena’s dismay, it got picked up this morning.

It isn’t as easy for us to go for long, leisurely yard sale excursions as it was before Elena, but we still make an effort. A few weeks ago our church participated in a community-wide day of service. I painted benches in a local park, and Jenny and Elena supported the projects by taking cookies and pictures. On the way home they stopped at a fundraising yard sale outside of a church. The organizers were wrapping things up, so everything had been marked down steeply. Jenny filled a whole bag with clothes for Elena and Moonbeam, but it only cost her three dollars for the whole thing–literally pennies for each item of clothing.

When we found out that Moonbeam was a boy, Jenny decided that we should divest ourselves of some of Elena’s saved baby clothes, mostly larger sizes*. She signed up for a semi-annual consignment sale we had attended last fall. It’s a well-run program, but they have high standards. All the clothes had to be clean and in good condition. Jenny had to enter them into an online inventory in advance, then print out price tags and pin them to everything. Then she had to go to the event site at a scheduled time to hang everything up in its designated category. Even though it seems like a lot, it gets good results; many of our items sold, and we had the fun of seeing the progress as they updated Jenny’s inventory page during the sale. Jenny even signed up for a volunteer shift, which increased our commission a few percentage points.

In addition to clothes, we consigned some big toys–a rocking motorcycle and a vintage tricycle–in our attic. They must have been abandoned by a previous tenant. After our landlady told us we could dispose of them how we chose, we entered them into the sale. Elena had fun playing with them for a few days, but she was able to let go of them easily when it was time to take them away. The rocking motorcycle in particular contributed to the bottom line, and Jenny was happy to see it sell while she was working the checkout line.

Consignment isn’t just about selling; there’s also a buying aspect. As a consigner and volunteer, Jenny got to go to the pre-sale, and picked up some great stuff. Not surprisingly, she found some clothes, although she noted that even cute boy clothes are never as much fun as girl clothes. Even better, she found a Pack-N-Play at a great price. We already have one Pack-N-Play, but this one converts to a bassinet and has a changing table attachment, so it will be far more useful with a newborn. If anyone in the area wants to take the other one off our hands, please let me know. It’s still in good condition! Otherwise, it might end up as part of the circle of thrift, as we let it go through craigslist, freecycle, or the next consignment sale.

Thanks to the consignment sale, our baby budget is in the black. We’re searching for a couple of big-ticket items, but don’t have any leads on where to get them used for a good price. In particular, we’re looking for hints and tips on where to get a comfortable recliner and a wooden rocking chair.

*We have a standing rule not even to discuss the possibility of future children while in the midst of a pregnancy, but these are clothes that, even if another girl were to join our family, wouldn’t be worn for at least five years.


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  1. Pingback: Favorite Posts | The Number Field

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