On Consignment: Get More for Less this Christmas

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Consignment Shops: Get More for Less

Starting in January, I’m interning with a human rights agency in Washington, D.C. The agency has a very specific dress code, which my current wardrobe does not meet. In an effort to help me save some money, a good friend suggested that I shop for suits at a consignment store. She was right – I found some great clothes and paid a lot less than I would have in a retail store. But you know what else I found there? Christmas gifts!

It may sound strange, especially if your idea of a “consignment shop” is something like a Salvation Army store. But higher-end re-sale shops are a great alternative to retail stores during the holiday season. On my last trip to what is now my favorite consignment store, I found a beautiful necklace for one of my best friends. It only cost $10. (Don’t tell her that!) This particular store has a great selection of jewelry and watches.

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Consignment stores are different than other second-hand clothing stores because they have higher standards for the items they sell. At a Salvation Army or similar store, you can walk in with a bag of clothes, put them in the “donation” bin and often, no one checks the condition of the clothes. Consignment stores, on the other hand, look over every piece of clothing that’s brought in for resale. It’s not uncommon to find higher-end clothing with the tags still on them.

You can find everything from suits, sweaters and shirts, to shoes, earrings and watches at consignment stores. Many also have a decent selection of purses and wallets.

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The trick to shopping consignment is to find stores that carry quality products. This could take some time. You may also have to search for stores that carry the kinds of things your friends or family would want. Some stores specialize in “vintage” or other niche styles that are great if you have someone in your life who enjoys that style, but will be a big waste of time otherwise.

Before visiting the stores in person, call and find out what kinds of items they offer and what style. It will save you from using precious gas and time driving around town.

Once you’ve found the right store (or two), start shopping! When you find items you’d like to purchase, check them thoroughly before you pay for them. Consignment stores typically check items themselves before they even agree to sell them, but something could get missed – a small tear in a shirt or a missing clasp on a necklace. Make sure clothing has no stains or tears, and that no buttons or zippers are missing. When buying coats or lined jackets/suits, check the lining for tears. If you buy something that’s damaged, you may not be able to return it. Consignment store sales are often final.

Also, be willing to spend some time browsing. Well-run consignment stores generally have their merchandise well-organized, but it may still take you some time to find what you want. Clothes are usually sorted by size and sometimes by color. The same is true for shoes. But within one size and color will be a wide variety of styles. For example, you may find an entire rack of size 8 shirts, but on that rack will be everything from tank tops and t-shirts to suit jackets.

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Last but not least, have fun! Consignment store shopping can be a lot of fun because you can find some unusual and interesting items. Think of it like a treasure hunt. Only the treasure you find is for someone else. Happy shopping!

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