Thursday, March 23, 2017

5-minute Guide to Consignment Sales

'Tis the season of consignment sales! Within a short drive of where I am in western Kentucky, multiple organizations are advertising great deals on gently used kids' clothes, shoes, sports equipment, toys, gear, you name it. The focus is spring and summer wardrobes, so if your family has outgrown last year's warm-weather duds, now is a great time to seek items for this year.

I've been to a few of these sales since becoming a mom. The first one was completely overwhelming and I went over my budget, piling everything I could carry, and then drag, into my basket. Even as I drove home I knew I had overdone it. There was just SO MUCH GOOD STUFF at SUCH GREAT PRICES!

I have since figured out the best way for me to get the most out of my time and money at such a sale. And while I'm no pro, I want to share a few tips for those who haven't shopped one before.

1. Research the sale you're attending.
If there's an early bird sale and you want first pick, don't miss it. If there's a half-price portion of the sale, and you're really only going for the best of bargains, wait until that hour. If there's a cost for admission, don't be surprised at the door. Find out if they accept credit or debit cards or checks, or if it's a cash only sale. Know what you're getting into.

2. Arrive on time. Or late.
Unless the sale you're attending has advertised a very specific large item that you REALLY want to get to first, there's no reason to get there early and wait in line. Once shoppers are inside, they disperse and you're not having to stay behind all those people to see what you want to see.

3. Go alone. Or with a friend.
I like to shop these things solo; that's my best chance to focus and only select items that we can truly use. If you bring the kids, they will see toys/books/games/clothes/shoes/etc that they want. If you're good with that, take them. But know that there are typically a LOT of people at these things and many blind spots where you would not see your kids if they ducked around a corner. If you want adult company while shopping, select your browsing buddy carefully. For example, I may not take a friend whose child wears the same size as mine unless we have really different styles, because I would not want to both be reaching for the same items constantly. Just throwing that out there. 

4. Bring your own laundry basket or a large bag.
Some sales provide shopping baskets or bags, but if they do not, it's a real hassle to juggle the things you pick up along your path. If you're planning to do heavier shopping, baskets can scoot along the floor with you; I've seen some shoppers loop a belt or tie a rope to theirs so it can be dragged easily. With only one child, I am not usually shopping for that much, so I tend to take a large reusable shopping bag and it does the trick.

5. Shop for general categories of things.
Please do not go to a consignment sale expecting to find a size 5, slim cut, skinny jean with pink and purple sequins around the pockets. If you go in looking for very specific items, you may find yourself disappointed. Instead, approach it from the standpoint of "we could use size 5 jeans" and see where that leads. You may run across those sequined skinnies and that'll be so much fun! But if you're focused on only those, you may miss some great garments that could also be very useful. Same rule applies for all types of items: "dress shoes" instead of "gold sparkly one-inch wedges" and "play dresses" instead of "Lands' End 100% cotton dresses with long sleeves and no waistline" and so on.

6. Look thrice before you buy.
If you see something you really like, pick it up. If you go back for it in 30 minutes, or 10 minutes, or even 2 minutes, it may be gone. When you're finished shopping, go through all your items before getting into the checkout line. Anything that you're having second thoughts about, return to where you found it. When you get down to the items you plan to purchase, look again, once more, to make sure there are no stains, rips, or missing parts that you may have missed before. If any of the items are not up to the standard that you require, put them back where you got them; someone else might be glad to pay the listed price regardless of condition.

7. Enjoy!
Feel proud of how a little extra time and effort is saving your family a lot of money! And how your kids are going to look adorable!

I really do recommend these seasonal consignment sales; they're great for dressing children for a fraction of the cost of retail, including store sales. Sometimes their prices even beat thrift stores, and they're often better organized and more heavily staffed.

Although I have enjoyed many small victories, one of my favorite recent consignment sale purchases was a brand new pair of Sperry leather moccasins for my nephew for $2.50. What is the best bargain you have ever found at a consignment sale?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Day Trip: McKay Books Nashville

(This is the third and final part of a short series about how to spend a stellar day in Nashville. Start with parts one and two to plan your full day's visit!)

Now, I'm assuming that you're reading on because you expect to enjoy the Nashville Public Library and the Frist Center for the Arts and this is shaping up to be your family's kind of day. You may be exhausted by now, and if so, that's understandable. Stop while you're ahead! If you think your family digs the literary and the arts, and can handle one more stop, I suggest McKay. You may want to snag dinner or a snack before you go, though, because we always stay there longer than I intend.

As their sign states, Nashville's McKay location is a giant warehouse full of used books, CDs, DVDs, and more. It's a book lover's dream. They seem to have a little--or a lot--of everything, including homeschooling curriculum. It's well organized, it's well staffed, and, in my experience, the prices are right.

Not only can you buy books here--and we never leave without a bag full--but you can also sell books here. So if you're planning ahead, toss a bag or two (or more) of books that your family has finished or outgrown into the car and stop by the selling/trading counter before you go any farther into the store. After they assess the books you brought, you'll have the option of cash or a trade credit. The trade credit will be worth more, and you don't have to use it that day for it to remain valid. If you're interested in selling or trading, their policies are listed on their website.

We've purchased everything at McKay from children's literature to auto mechanic manuals to math workbooks to comics to devotionals to board games. I find it hard to imagine anyone walking out of there empty-handed!

Enjoy your time there as you wrap up your day trip to Nashville!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Day Trip: Frist Center for the Arts

(Part two in a short three-part series. Part one is here.)

So, you've driven to Nashville, and your family has enjoyed an entire morning--and perhaps beyond--at the Nashville Public Library. Now what, you ask?

The next place I suggest stopping is the Frist Center for the Arts at 919 Broadway. It's half a mile away, and not a difficult walk. However, I always drive it, because there's another affordable parking lot easily accessible, and because by the time we're done there, we don't want to walk back to the library. But I suppose that's your call.

There are many things about the Frist that make it a great place to visit. First, the old post office building that houses it is beautiful. Second, there is no permanent collection, but instead they bring in incredible exhibitions from around the world, which means that every time you visit you will likely see something new. Third, the Martin ArtQuest Gallery--a huge hands-on creative space--offers loads opportunities for guests of all ages to experiment with various mediums and technologies. Fourth, and perhaps I should have led with this, visitors 18 and under have free admission, all the time; adults are $12 but there are discounts for college students, seniors, and active military personnel.

Pip and I have spent many hours at the Frist, and we're always excited to go back.

If you'd like to stay in town a little while longer but you're not sure where to go next, watch for the third and final installment of this Nashville Day Trip series!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Day Trip: Nashville Public Library

Although we don't live there anymore, we love spending time in Nashville, Tennessee! It's a family friendly place with lots of free and inexpensive things to see and do, many of which we easily incorporate into our homeschooling week when we have the pleasure of visiting.

If you've been thinking about taking your kiddos to spend a day in Music City, perhaps you'll find this helpful.

If you have elementary aged children and younger, start at the Nashville Public Library's Main Branch, on Church Street. Know in advance that there's an affordable parking deck attached to the library, and they will validate your pass at the circulation desk to reduce your parking fee further.

Go on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and here's why: most weeks on those days, there's an amazing story hour at 9:30, 10:30, and 11:30, with a craft time immediately following. There is no admission charge for either. Check their website or call the library before you go to make sure story hour is happening on the day you plan to visit.

Their story hour is a major production. It involves recurring characters--so don't be surprised that the "regulars" around you know The Professor, Mary Mary, Library Pete, and all of the puppet friends--songs, games, and stories. I have been many times, but I get a little emotional every time they invite all the children to join them onstage at the end to sing "What a Wonderful World" together, so be prepared for that precious sight.

After craft time, enjoy the amazing renovations recently completed in the children's department. Besides the plethora of books to explore and read together while you're there--because I'm assuming you do not have a Nashville Public Library card with which to take things home--there's so much more! You'll find all kinds of learning centers, like Tinker Toys and building blocks, as well as an indoor play structure, a puppet theater, and a small climbing wall. There's an area dedicated to teens where they can play ping pong or video games, and sometimes even experiment with a 3D printer.

If you packed a lunch and the weather is good, you can enjoy it right in the courtyard of the library, directly linked to the children's department. There are nice restrooms inside the children's area, with ample room for baby changing, and you'll also find water fountains that make refilling your water bottles a breeze.

If you'd rather pick something up, there are fast food places like Subway, Burger King, Sonic, and so on within a few minutes' drive from the library; heading south on 8th Street gives easy access to some of these options.

Wondering what to do after lunch? Watch for the second part of this short series!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Pip's Pizza Bites

Sometimes we need a quick snack or meal. It needs to be gluten free and it needs to be tasty. Bonus points if it's warm (is it just me, or does warm food seem more filling?). Extra bonus points if you can integrate a lesson on fractions into your creation.

With those goals in mind, Pip and I experimented with pizza bites this week. They take two minutes and they are yummy! Here are the first four steps:

1. Crackers (we used Glutino brand)
2. Pizza sauce (we used Mezzetta; it's certified GF)
3. Shredded mozzarella (we used store brand)
4. Pepperoni (we used store brand--just make sure it's certified GF)

When they're assembled, pop them in the microwave for approximately 5 seconds per cracker.

You can spice them up with Italian herbs, you can make them without the meat, you can add a little mushroom slice or banana pepper; just like pizza, the possibilities are endless! And you can individualize for each member of your family, all in the same batch.

I guess we've really missed pizza, since we've now enjoyed these three times this week already. What's your favorite go-to snack?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

5-Minute Project: Empty Your Bag

Before having a child, my purse was lightweight; I carried only the essentials. After Pip was born, I traded in the handbag for a diaper bag. Everywhere I went, I carried with me everything I could possibly imagine that I could need, and, often, in duplicate.

When she graduated from diapers and I retired the bulky bag, my shoulder bag felt so light again. I loved it. I'm not someone who changes handbags frequently--typically once per season, if that--but I kept a regular routine of rummaging through it once every week to make sure that I was keeping things streamlined. I never had trouble finding what I needed because there was nothing in the way.

I don't know when I stopped doing that. But I can tell you when I realized it: this weekend.

I had used a little bit of birthday money from my dad to order myself a new handbag. Well, new to me. It was my first purchase from Poshmark, and I was psyched to start carrying it. I had a few minutes before heading out the door, so I figured it was a perfect time to move things from the purse I was retiring to the new arrival. I figured dumping everything out on the table was the easiest way to determine how to place items in the new bag.

To my horror, this is what came out of the old purse; this is what I was carrying everywhere I went.

Besides my wallet, keys, and coupon file, the contents included 4 pairs of glasses, a set of Pip's mittens (even though it's been 60 degrees outside), receipts, pens and markers, multiple hair clips, an EpiPen, and a LOT of candy including an open, partially melted candy cane. Yikes.

After sorting through that mess, tossing what needed to be tossed, washing what needed to be washed, and putting away the things that didn't need to go everywhere with me all the time, I put the necessary items into my new bag. I don't know whether it's the bag or how little it weighs, compared to the old one and all its wonders, but I have a new pep in my step.

Today, I encourage you to lighten your load. This is not a metaphor. I am talking about the physical bag that you carry around: your purse, your backpack, your messenger bag, your gym bag, your Thirty One utility tote, whatever. Empty it out, and replace only the items you need to have in there. 

It's a relatively quick thing that can change how you feel walking out the door. At least I know it did for me!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Favorite Sale: Peebles

Our little shopping mall houses a Peebles. Since I signed up for their rewards club (NOT their store credit card, just the rewards club), I have enjoyed shopping there immensely. They send me coupons and sale reminders via text and email, and if I am careful to shop the sale and clearance racks, I find some amazing buys there!

This past weekend I ended up there kind of by mistake. Chris was working, Pip was with Mimi, and I was out alone--something of a rare occurrence. I stopped by the mall to return a beautiful birthday gift that hadn't been the right fit, and as I entered the building Mimi forwarded me her most recent text reminder from Peebles. "That's not why I'm here," I responded. "Worth looking," she replied. She was right.

First off, every department contained racks of clothes and shoes and household goods marked "clearance" which were up to 75% off. Second, all clearance items were buy one, get one free. And third, I had received an email for $5 off any purchase of $5 or more, just for fun.

I prowled around the store section by section. I wasn't looking for anything specific, just looking. I didn't want to spend much--or anything, really--unless it was something we needed or would definitely use. My last department was home goods. I headed straight for the clearance shelves. That's where I found this guy.

Pip thinks the Minions are great fun, and we use travel cups almost every day. This cup was originally $12.99; yeah, right. It was marked down to $6.49; I still wouldn't have bought it. Oh, wait, all clearance is buy one, get one free and there's a second, identical cup in the clearance section; now I'm getting them for $3.25 each. And I can use that $5 off any purchase? That's two nice kids' travel cups for a grand total of $1.49 before tax, and I "saved" $24.49. (The second cup is not in this photo because it was immediately washed and was in use at picture time.)

In case you're skeptical, here you go:

Of course I realize that not everyone could use a pair of Minions cups. But this same principle could be applied to clothing, jewelry, or other household goods. If I had felt like I needed a thing, I could have really cleaned up in the costume jewelry department.

And as if that savings wasn't fun enough, I was sent away with these parting gifts at checkout. They know how to keep me coming back!

If you don't have Peebles in your area, I suggest checking your local or regional department stores for the same types of member programs--and the bargains that come along with them.