Fall's arrival and the back-to-school season sound the alarm to purchase clothes for the kids. That growth spurt your son had over the summer has transformed his jeans into Capris. And the fit of your daughter's Sketchers are sketchy at best.

Before you pay top dollar for new clothes, think consignment sales. Fall and spring are the most popular seasons for these eco and budget friendly events. Take a large building, add many consignors with lots of gently used clothing, shoes, and toys, and you have the opportunity to find some great deals.

To make the best of your consignment shopping spree, consider the following tips:

1. Bring cash. Many consignment sales accept cash only. Some accept credit cards but not personal checks.

2. Don't wait until the last day. The early birds get the best selection.

3. Cash in on last day sales. Most consignment sale organizers reduce their merchandise by as much as 25-50% on the last day to help get rid of inventory.

4. Know the return policy. Most consignment sales have an "all sales are final" policy.

5. Bring the kids to try on clothes. If the sale doesn't allow you to return your purchases, make sure the clothes fit.

6. Write down the kids' sizes beforehand. If you're not bringing the kids, write down their sizes to save time while shopping.

7. Shop for different brands. Consignment sales present the opportunity to buy boutique outfits or higher-end merchandise priced for your wallet.

8. Don't waste time on box store brands. Target, Wal Mart, and Kohl's always keep their bargain brands priced low; therefore, the price on these items at consignment sales isn't much savings.

9. Examine the merchandise for defects. Sure it's a good deal, but scrutinize that shirt for holes, rips and missing buttons.

10. Negotiate an "as is" price. If you find a defective item that you can easily fix, ask an associate about taking an additional 10% off the asking price.

11. Set a budget. Yes, the deals are good, but if you exceed your clothing budget, the point of saving money is lost.

12. Shop for an entire season. The kids may not need heavy winter jackets now, but the price is right. Shop for the entire fall/winter season.

13. Bring bags. Especially reusable totes.

14. Think holidays. Why pay full price for holiday dresses and Halloween costumes that are only worn once? Many consignment sales will have holiday items for sale.

15. Donate some purchases. Many organizations that work on children's behalf accept gently used clothing throughout the year. Consider purchasing an additional shirt or pants to donate.

With the right strategy and shopping sense, consignment sales can help you replenish your child's closet without breaking the bank. Happy shopping!

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