Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Using Ebay and Goodwill to get the best deals on baby clothes

While I was pregnant I was obsessed from the very beginning on being prepared. I probably would have set up the nursery at 3 months pregnant if I could have. So instead I searched for the best deals I could find on all things baby. I knew I would need clothes of many different sizes since you can never really predict how big or small baby is going to be. I also knew that most babies (and kids) grow out of clothes fairly quickly. So why not shop gently used? I found deals by the plenty and stocked up like crazy (I would later come to regret not waiting till we found out the gender, as I now have an entire bin dedicated to girls clothes just sitting in my basement). There are a few downsides to over stocking up on certain sizes, unless you live somewhere the weather doesn't change too much it's hard to know when baby is going to be in a certain size. If I could do it over again I would go larger than what I estimate baby to be at at a certain age, better to have it be a bit large rather than too small.

I'll start with Ebay since that is what I used the most to begin with. I also like using Ebay since you have a bit of protection if an item is not what you were told it is, doesn't match what the seller has on the post or is damaged. You do have to pay attention to acronyms used in the post and descriptions, and examine the pictures. To start with, here are some common acronyms used on Ebay and what they mean:

EUC: excellent used condition
FC: fine condition
G: good condition
GU: gently used (item that has been used but shows little wear, accompanied by explanation of wear)
NBW: never been worn
NIB: new in box
NWT: new with tags
NWOT: new without original tags

Typically I look for EUC, NBW and NWT. NWT tags is sometimes like finding a unicorn depending on the size, you will typically find them in newborn and 0-3 month sizes. It also depends on the price you are willing to pay, I'm usually pretty cheap so I try to stay below $20 including shipping. As I go through the walk through of how I go about searching for deals you'll see what I mean.

When searching I try to be specific, for instance if L is low on PJ's in a certain size I will search "Baby Boys PJs/Pajamas 12 months/12-18 lot". If I have a lot on my plate, are low on funds or L has a lot of his current and next size up I'll only search once a week. If L is getting to the point where he is between his current size and the next size up I'll search about every other day. It really depends what you looking for, while I was pregnant I searched every day so I could find the best deals.

You can see some of the many options that ebay suggests just by typing in baby clothes. You could also go through the departments, but I find it best to search and then you tend to get more custom results.

I chose to search for baby boy clothes 12-18 months lots. I usually search in lots since you can get more bang for your buck. You will typically find you get more outfits or more items for the same amount of shipping as a single item. 

After searching I filter the results to Price + Shipping: lowest first. This is how I will usually find the best deals for the lowest price. Once you do this it will show the bid or buy it now price and shipping once you click on a listing.

If I get lucky I will find one for $0.99. These usually have the longest amount of time left, but I have gotten lucky just by placing a bid and waiting for the clock to run out.

Once you click on the listing you will be able to see more pictures (if there are any), the listing time, and your shipping cost.

If you are ready to place a bid great go for it, you will need to be registered with Ebay and for some listings Paypal. The listing will show you what payment types are accepted. If the time left is really long (I usually have a 3 day max) or you just don't know if you are sure about an item, you can always add it to your watchlist. Ebay will email you if the time is getting down to a day or less to remind you, but I would still periodically check your watchlist. 

As you are scrolling through the listings keep a watch out for lots with over ten items, the prices will be higher but you can usually find quite a lot of items with an overall great price. Make sure you are checking the shipping costs since some people will hike up that cost to offset the fact that they may only get the lowest bid. Check out this gem I found:

This to me is a great find for a couple of reasons, one: it includes 27 items (some people will count individual socks in the amount of items so make sure you check the description and do your own count) this one doesn't even have socks which is great; two the next bid starts at $10.49 which to me is a great price for that many items; and three the shipping cost is awesome (this may change based on where you are located from the seller). 

Basically it's all about being specific in your search, looking at all possible info on the listing (once you start this becomes habit, you can hit all of the main things within a matter of seconds and either bid or pass), and really going through the listings. If I set my max price before I even go onto Ebay I can be in and out within a couple minutes to half an hour. When I began I would go by departments or not be specific in my searches or not filter by price, it would then take me hours to find what I was actually looking for.

Onto Goodwill:

I don't have any fun pictures for this one since each store is going to be different so showing you the ones I frequent aren't really going to help much. Goodwill does have a site you can shop and bid on items, but for Goodwill I prefer to shop in store. People donate some junky items so it's best to get your hands on the clothes.

Best things to look for:

Be sure to run the fabric through your hands. A lot of the items at Goodwill have been worn multiple times and washed just as many, if not more. The fabric should be soft, but not overly pilled or it's not going to last very long.

This is also a good time to check for stains, the collar area is the obvious go to area but also check the diaper area since diaper explosions can leave quite the stain. Now if you find something you just can't pass up and it has a stain there are many ways to get rid of said stain. Dawn dish soap, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda works wonders, as does boiling water and oxyclean. I personally prefer the dish soap cleaner as I typically have those items on hand. 

Holes are the next thing to look for. The armpit area is probably the number one place I typically see holes in shirts and the crotch area in bottoms. Sometimes these are easy fixes if you know how to sew (or in my case have time). I will usually pass on such items, in the past if it was just too cute I would buy it (sometimes they will give you more of a discount if you point it out), plan on fixing it and, oh look, there it still sits in my to do sewing basket. By the time I've gotten to it L has outgrown it. Just not worth it to me.

Smell the clothes. I will usually straight stick my nose in it, I know gross but if there is a smoke or mildew smell even if you wash it that smell may never leave. Plus if you think about it that's how close your baby is going to be to that smell, even grosser. 

That leads me to my next tip which to a lot of people is obvious but I wouldn't feel right not putting it out there. ALWAYS wash everything you buy!!! I can not stress this one enough. I don't care if it still has the tags on it or has a note on it saying "just washed in the most natural laundry soap on Earth", it still needs to be washed. My last trip to Goodwill in a very upscale neighborhood all the clothes had a very strong commercial detergent smell (this smell you can get out just by washing in your own choice of soap). 

Price can depend on where you are located and even different stores within a 5 mile radius. I've seen shirts go from $0.99 to $2.99, still not a bad price but I like to get the most items I can for the least amount of money. For shirts I try to stay below $2 and for pants/overalls below $4, outfits below $7.

Double check the size. Not just the size on the tag, but hold it up and see if it looks like the size it says on the tag. Better yet if you have your child with hold it up to them and make sure it looks like it will fit. This is especially helpful with some larger sizes that can run a bit smaller depending on the brand. Carters can run smaller or true to size depending on what it is, Children's Place runs a bit bigger, Old Navy has slightly "off" sizing but runs in the middle (6-12 months is a tricky size for me, you know Old Navy it doesn't actually fit for 6 months. In this case I usually go with if he fits in 6/9 month clothes then it will fit), Gymboree runs just a hair bigger but stick to it fitting the size you're looking for.

Go at the right time. Depending on what season you are shopping for, I like to go at the very beginning and very end of a new season. A lot of people will go through clothes when the weather starts to change and then get rid of what won't fit the next year. During summer I try to go on Mondays or Tuesdays since people will get rid of anything that didn't sell at a garage sale. You also have to figure in processing time for Goodwill, so even a Wednesday would work good. 

Also check out the shoe section. This is tricky since it really depends on what you are looking for and the time of year (see above). These you really have to check out, especially the higher you go in size. You will want to check the tread, the velcro/laces, the inside of the shoe, and the edges. Those are where you will typically see the most wear. If you have your child with you try them on, again as you go up in size the more broken in they will be. 

Some of these are obvious, but if you are like me at the beginning you go in see something cute and completely forget everything you planned on looking for and just throw things willy nilly in your cart. Always go in with these things in mind. The worst thing is buying something, getting it home just to realize it smells or has a hole that you couldn't even be able to fix. 

I hope you enjoyed the tips and feel free to share some of your own. Same goes for stain removal, have a favorite method? Share away. I am always looking for better ways to do things and for recommendations.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Decorating for the Holidays with Dollar Tree

Until this year I had no idea Dollar Tree had so many Holiday items to use for decorating! As I said in my snowflakes post I am trying to make L's first Christmas as magical as possible. So after perusing my usually go to cheap sites (Menards and Big Lots) I wandered over to Dollar Trees site. Oh my lanta they have just about everything you could need for some awesome Holiday decor. Now their site and store don't always have the same items but for the most part they are the same. I would not recommend buying from the website unless you need 50 wreath door hangers.

Finally when Saturday came off to Dollar Tree we headed. I was in glitter, tinsel, snowman and Santa heaven. My first stop was to look for something to hang on the door. I knew I wanted something that would catch the eye and wasn't 100% sold on the traditional wreath. I found a very cute glitter snowman, but may create my own wreath from items found at Dollar Tree (I'll keep you updated on my main page). Across the aisle I spied jingle bells attached to door knob hangers. I am a huge sucker for jingle bells, they always remind me of the Holidays. I grabbed a Santa hat with jingle bells on the bottom.

So on to my next item (I made a list before I left the house so I could keep to my budget), ornaments. They had quite a variety of sizes to choose from (mainly in standard Christmas colors) and even clear plastic which may show up in a future craft idea on my main page. I purchased a couple different sizes in champagne, silver and red. I am planning a very fun project using the ornaments and some re purposed hardware store items so stay tuned for that.

I adore glitter, minus the mess, so that was my next stop. S has a glitter phobia so I had to sneak it into the cart when he wasn't looking. I always do any glitter projects on our screened porch to try not to get glitter all over the house, but have seen people use contact paper under whatever they are putting glitter on to keep the mess contained. I also picked up some glitter glitter glue, all for a project I must try again as the first try was a big fat fail. I'm hoping for a better outcome the second time around.

They had a great amount of stocking stuffers for kids of all ages. I found two packs of different designed socks for L which was great since the washer and/or dryer keeps eating his current socks. Dollar Tree also had a solution for that problem as well 3 pack of laundry mesh bags. Throw the socks in there when you take them off then throw the whole thing in the wash and no more lost socks.

I plan on going back for more as I already have more projects building in my head. Let me know if you have any favorite dollar items, favorite dollar store/spot, and any amazing ideas you have for dollar items. Also keep your eyes out for future posts on my main page for some of my dollar store projects.

Friday, November 14, 2014

First Cheap Tip

So I tend to look everywhere for cheap ideas, bargains and deals. Facebook has many group pages that you can find deals on. I subscribe to many garage sale pages and some neighborhood pages as well. The neighborhood pages can be worthwhile in a couple of ways, one it can let you know whats going on in your city and the cities around you and two you can find/help people find services in your area. Tonight I was surprised to find some websites that could get you a good deal on eyeglasses through a neighborhood page so that gave me the inspiration for my first cheap tip.

L's dad is the only one in our house that wears or needs glasses, but I'm keeping these in mind for the day when L will probably need glasses.

So the few sites that were mentioned (I have not purchased from any of these I am just passing on the recommendations of others. I have visited the sites and "pretend purchased"): Out of the two recommended sites this one seems to be the cheapest. Since S is the only one in the house that uses glasses I decided to pretend shop for him. Currently he has full metal rimmed glasses so I decided to look for similar styles, I believe S paid roughly around $400+ for his current glasses. On this site for similar frames and lenses the total cost came to $19.00! Even with customized lenses (I had no idea what his prescription was and apparently guessed some crazy numbers) the up charge was $9 total for both lenses. Shipping came to $4.95 so really not bad in my book. So total was right around $39. They had a lot of styles to chose from as well. This one has higher prices for the frames and lenses, but does have some good deals you just have to look for them. Right now they are also offering free shipping. Now some of the people that recommended this site stated that they got their first pair of frames and lenses for free. The only thing I could find stated you could try any frame free for 15 days, so that does not equal free to me. They are also having a cyber sale with 50% off right now. I again pretend shopped for S and chose the cheapest I could find were $49 (still better than the $400+ he paid), this again included lenses and on this site shipping so the final cost would be $49.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my first cheap tip and be on the lookout for more. If you have personally tried either of these sites and love them or hate them leave a comment to let me and others know. S has to get a new prescription so he may be headed to one of these sites soon.