I must have gotten bit by the garage sale bug this last summer (by summer, I mean May to October, because it’s still warm here in Texas!). We’ve had a blast buying used toys, books and clothing from Craigslist, eBay and Amazon. Here are some tips from yours truly, a serious online-shopper junkie:
I am a huge fan of buying used toys (provided they are in clean and nice condition). I am slightly obsessed with Tonka Chuck and Friends Wheel Pals cars. I saw them at Wal-Mart for $5/ car and thought they were the cutest toy cars ever. I’m talking about the soft version (not die cast), also perfect size (4″) for a toddler’s hands. But I was reluctant to buy them at full price so I did some research on eBay. The next thing you know, I bought a nice collection of them at a decent price and was able to resell some of the ones we didn’t want. Many older cars are discontinued too so buying them used gives them a second life and plenty of them were in like new condition. I think I like playing with them more than my kid does. But whatever.
UPDATE: Because of our Hot Wheels collection, Baby took an interest in these Tonkas for about a year and decided HW are way cooler, which they are especially because Dad says so, even though he is a year under the HW age guidelines. (Uhh…why SG…why?) So just be careful about giving your kids toys in the “right time, right place.” My Tonka collection which would have been perfectly fine until age 3 is waiting for Baby #2 now.
I’ve also had some serious regrets buying from eBay when I have not been informed enough. eBay shopping requires serious research into prices, item condition, and if you’re talking about clothes, body measurements are essential to have.
- Ask questions. If you are unclear about an item’s condition, always, always ask. Read descriptions carefully and do your homework: Is it in a home full of pets? a smoke-free home? The seller may not accept returns, and even when he/she does, you’ll most likely pay for return shipping. Ask the seller for photos if those they posted are unclear or dim.
- For clothing, take your measurements and know your brands well. When wearing Ann Taylor Loft, somehow I’m a size 2, while on the other hand with H&M I’m a size 6. Each brand has a size chart on their site for reference; while it may not reflect that particular item, it’s at least a good place to start. Take measurements of yourself (or whoever you are shopping for) and ask for the measurements of the article of clothing from the seller if you are unsure about sizing.
- From personal experience, I suggest buying used clothing from individual sellers in “excellent used condition” rather than huge sellers on ebay like thrift stores or mass clothing resellers like Twice. I think people generally take better care of their clothing when in their own homes (and worn by themselves or family members) and you are less likely to have the smelly thrift store smell when the item has been washed well and stored properly.
SG has had some seriously fun times buying Hot Wheel tracks off Craigslist, mostly for fun: mostly for himself but a little bit for Baby too. We have scored some major deals from toys other people’s children have grown out of. Yeah, can you tell we’re a bit too obsessed with cars in this household?
- Act fast and devote some time. Stuff that is on Craigslist that is priced to sell goes quickly. Make sure you have enough time that day to track down the seller, schedule travel time, and take time to go look at what you are buying.
- With Craigslist and other negotiable shopping, always go in with your price in mind. What will you be willing to spend? Will you give the seller his/her asking price? When do you walk away?
My love for Amazon runs deep. I love Amazon. So it’s natural that when I discovered Amazon Warehouse that I would love it just as much. They have some awesome stuff for babies and toddlers for a good discount. You can view Warehouse items here. Or you can search on a regular Amazon product page; if they have Warehouse products available, it will be found under Used (next to New) and labeled “Open Box.”
- On Amazon Warehouse, “like new” or “very good” items are usually worthwhile. I’ve only ever sent back one open-box item (a Fisher Price booster high chair seat) that was really in badly used condition (when described as like new or very good); it had noticeable signs of wear. “Very good” usually means the original box has been replaced by a generic or Amazon-brand brown box. Amazon is also very good about returns in case this sort of thing happens
- I’ve purchased Pampers Wipes (came without the box or a dented box, packages are all still sealed), Kleenex tissues, and other household items. The items are usually damaged in packaging but fine otherwise, just make sure to read the description before buying.
- For used books, the Amazon Marketplace is a good option. What I dislike, however, is that a seller cannot offer combined shipping, so you will end up paying $3.99 (or more) for shipping per item even if you buy 5 items from the same seller. Keep shipping costs in mind when searching
- .A lot of “new” books posted in the Marketplace are not actually in new condition, they have a remainder mark on them (usually a line of permanent marker long the edge of a book) especially if you are looking for an older-published book. If aesthetics is a concern (for a book to be gifted, for example), buy new directly from Amazon or with a seller who has described their item as unmarked, not a remainder copy, pristine, etc. As a book snob (think of the girl who looks at every single copy at Costco or BN for dents and marks before buying one–that’s probably me) this has been a big issue for me. (New to me means unspoiled in every way; sometimes a slight bent corner but really nothing major.)