Monday, April 25, 2011

Cyber-Debates - whats your take?

As a stay at home mommy, I've found myself inundated in the cyber-world. Between the 8 billion blogs and the increasingly annoying Facebook, I've found that I've replaced my social circle for a cyber one. Part of this was done out of necessity - I'm a VERY social being and having many young kids just makes it hard to get out with others, and part because it WAS fun. I loved being able to reconnect with people I haven't seen or talked to in many years! And...why call someone for advice, I can just read the millions of different opinions about it on blogs. Hello google!

But recently I've felt this cyber-world becoming heavy on my heart. I think there are several reasons for this. First, it doesn't really connect you with others. It's a pseudo-connection. I've taken face-to-face time and replaced it FB statuses and messaging, soo unfulfilling and find I still want face-to-face time!

Second, I don't feel like its edifying to the body. This one hurts me hard {conviction!} and also presents itself in many different forms. EVERYONE is opinionated. Everyone. Your FB status or blog post can be dissected, analyzed and either agreed with or refuted in the matter of minutes. I've seen this most on mommy blogs - my favorite example is this one from a close friend who was just being funny and ended up with quite the debate on her hands (and yes, I contributed- oof!).

But I also see it in the blogs of many fellow believers. And it just makes me ache. And I wonder, can a debate about non-essentials be edifying to the body?? Can we openly debate an issue while still showing love to one another and WITHOUT continuing to make true Christianity look like a three-ring circus.

I think this really this ties back into number one above. When we remove the face from our communication, it allows us to be more, dare I say harsh?, than we would be if we were face to face. I know when I read a blog that I don't agree with, my initial reaction is to "flame" the person with the correct view. I don't have to see them or talk to them - I can just say what's on my mind in whatever manner I feel like. Ouch. And talk about being left feeling more prideful and burdened than if I had said nothing at all!

I've had several people say that there needs to be a "sarcastic" font. This is probably true, but then we would also need an "I'm speaking in love" font along with a handful of others that represent emotions and tones that can only be deciphered when speaking to each other in person.

The truth is that there will be things out there people say, write and do that you won't agree with. I for one am tired of the "I do it right, you do it wrong" arguments. The world isn't black and white. When we treat it as such, we lose the opportunity to be examples of Matther 22:39 - "And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

I've {recently} made it one of my purposes to try to live this out. I want to respect how others do things and what they think, because I want others to respect me in return. When I read something I don't agree with, I've stopped myself from writing any initial thoughts and responses. Instead, I ask myself "could I say this to their face if they were standing in front of me". If the answer is "no", then I know I shouldn't reply with anything. If the answer is "yes EXCEPT they may misunderstand me", then I also don't respond.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good debate. And if you know Jeff and I even a little, you know we love a good intellectual argument. And I know I will still fail in my communication. I'm prideful. I think that my beliefs are the best, the way I mother - the most correct. But thankfully! God is slowly breaking down my pride and replacing it with His love.

So I ask - can debates {on mommy choices, biblical non-essentials, etc.} be done respectfully and in love in the cyber-world we now live in? What's been your experience?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Silly Baby

I'm not sure what was going through her mind, and really I shouldn't even ask because she was very happily entertaining herself, but Sophia was rolling on the floor playing with a handful of zip-ties for about 20 min. Of course, I had to grab the camera. She was having way to much fun. So, here's a quick sequence :)

Any chance you could guess that she's teething? At least I think she's still cute with her tongue hanging out!

Oh, and as soon as I grabbed the camera, Izzi had to join in the fun!

Always the model :)


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Clothing for three little girls...part 4 (Shopping)

Christmas 2010 - Coordinated (NOT matchy-matchy) Gymboree Velour Dresses

So...this is the last post that I'm going to do for a while on kids clothing. Feel free to ask questions at any time though - I am always happy to share what I do and what I've learned.

I've been asked a bunch in the last week for tips on how to shop with reselling in mind. The biggest answer to that question comes in learning to not think like a buyer but as a seller. You begin to view clothes as an investment as opposed to a necessary budget line item. Once you think like that, you begin to approach clothing with the idea of reselling.

Not all clothes will resell. The ability to resell clothes is directly dependent on brand, condition and even size. It is much easier to sell size 2T and up than it is to sell infant clothes. This is purely based on quantity. When kids reach and pass 2T, clothes get worn for longer which means they get worn out. Infant clothes are in abundance. They get worn for short periods of time or some not even at all. When you go to resale stores, this is why you always see them in abundance. Good condition name brand older sizes are hard to come by so they sell great.

So, here's how I personally shop with reselling in mind: I choose to stick to the name brand stores - Gymboree is my most popular, then TCP, Old Navy and Gap. Naartjie is a personal favorite but I don't make it up there often. Then I have a handful of boutique/Nordstroms brands that I watch for - Baby Nay, Baby Lulu, Jenna and Jesse, Lavendar Alley and Little Angel Club. I also watch for Nortstroms blowouts and Nordstroms Rack sales. I have also picked up these same brands at used clothing stores, like Hissyfits, because once they are worn, they will resell for about the same price (a little less).

The general rule for pricing your clothes for resale is 30% of the ORIGINAL price, not the price you pay. So when you shop the sale racks, keep this in mind. This holds true for most every brand - the only exceptions I would list are TCP, Old Navy, Target and Carters. The reason being is that they are in abundance. EVERY mom shops there. So when you got to resale or consignment sales, they are the most popular brand. So I price those lower - 20%-25% of the original value. But hands down, Gymboree, Gap and Boutique/Nordstroms brands are absolutely the easiest and quickest to resell and you make the most money back.

Another tip for shopping with reselling in mind is to think about what YOU would pay for the item if it were used. If you weren't in the actual store and instead were at a used clothing store, what would you be willing to pay to get the item. Then compare that with the price your are paying for it new to see if it's worth it. If there's a large difference (more than a couple dollars) it's probably not worth the investment unless it's SOOO cute, you just can't leave it behind.

Here are some more tips for getting the most for your money: (see the start of the list here)
~ Never pay full price. Period. Even if you have a coupon, always match your coupon to sale items.
~ Earn rewards, then spend them**. Gymboree, Naartjie, Justice, Kohls all offer rewards for shopping. They are only earnable during certain windows and only spendable during certain windows. Most will save you 50% (for example, $25 off a $50 purchase) and Kohls earns you 20% off your next purchase ($10 earned for every $50 spent).
~ Couple rewards with sale prices. Sometimes you can even join coupons WITH rewards for additional savings. Gymboree doesn't allow this, but most others do. BEWARE, don't spend more than the reward (see below)!
~ Shop in Outfits. This one might sound crazy to some of you, but yes, I shop in outfits. This is because they resell for MUCH more. Single items you have to price fairly low. If the shopper doesn't have something to match it, they won't buy it unless it's a deal. So, I shop in outfits to resell in outfits and increase profit by at least $3 over single items.
~ Beware of huge advertised sales. Did I just say that? Yep. Here's why - the stores goal to get you in is to advertise "huge sales". But "Huge Sale" doesn't necessarily mean the best prices and usually prices are a little higher than any other day. For example, one would think Black Friday would be huge for savings. Actually, this isn't true. Stores do a handful of "get you in the door deals" and almost everything else is more expensive. You can actually find BETTER savings shopping two weekends prior to Black Friday, than on it or after.
~ Beware of Outlets. I love the outlets, don't get me wrong, and we all know I shop there. BUT again, beware of falling for less than stellar deals because it's an "outlet". For example, Gymboree Outlet only offers a very occasional coupon. Because their prices are only slightly lower (about 20%) than a regular Gymboree, you can actually find BETTER deals at Gymboree than the outlet. Gap operates in the same fashion. {also, Gymboree and Gap outlets carry identical clothing lines - the outlets are delayed by exactly one year which can be helpful in matching kids when you have sizing changes}


**Here is an example of a typical Gymboree experience (with reselling in mind) - I usually repeat this about twice a year depending on needs.

~ In March, I purchased $105.27 in clothes from Gymboree for our trip to Cali. I purchased 14 items total averaging $7.52/item. This was done by buying sale items and using a 30% off coupon. This purchase earned me a $50 gymbuck good off a $100 purchase (50% off).

~ Last Week when the Gymbucks became redeemable, I purchased 10 items for $54.90 averaging $5.49/item. My total pre-gymbucks was 109.80 so you see the great savings you can earn. (I quickly added up what I would price these items for when I resell them (probably next spring or the one after) and it would be about $40. That's means that these 10 items new from Gymboree will cost me less than $15 in the end.)

~ If you average the two trips it comes out to $6.67/item. Most items purchased were either size 4T or girls 5 (so they weren't cheap baby clearance items). When you compare that to stores like Kohls and Target where you average $5/item you can begin to see why I choose to shop at Gymboree. ADD into that the fact that Gymboree resells for $2-$3/item MORE than Target and Kohls then it begins to make complete budget sense. You will actually save MORE money shopping and reselling clothes from Gymboree than from Target or Kohls.


So those are my clothing tips. I often get comments on how cute my girls are always dressed and I think to myself, but I don't spend that much on clothes - anyone can do what I do. It takes time, energy, coordination, self-control and shopping more often than most like, but anyone can do it.

Did I miss anything? If you have a tip or trick that has helped you save money on clothes PLEASE share with the rest of us :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Clothing for three little girls...part 3 (Consignment)

If you've followed my last couple post, you know that I am ever questing to find a way to recycle my kids clothing - with the hope of getting to the point where all of my clothing budget for new sizes is funded by the selling of old sizes. I don't sell everything (we couldn't survive without hand-me-downs), but instead have become strategic about what I purchase and when I purchase it. Combining hand-me-downs and reselling, I'm almost to the point where all the new clothes I buy is funded by the selling of our few old ones.

The method that has gotten me there? Consignment Sales. They're on the rise in the valley of the sun appearing in churches and temporary store locations twice a year. They give you the absolute best bang for your buck. Here's how they work:

I'm using Kids Closet Connection as my example - but all pretty much work the same way, including Rhea Lana's and PVMOM.

1. Sellers sign up for sale - date and location are preset by the managing company.
2. Sellers enter items into the managing company's database. Sellers set their own prices. (TIP: price a little high then offer 50% off on the last day of the sale)
3. Sellers print tags created from the database and attach to items.
4. Sellers drop off items at sale location the day prior to the sale.
5. *optional* Sellers can pick up their unsold items post-sale. Otherwise items will be donated.
6. Sellers will receive a check via USPS withing 10 business days of the sale closing.

There are two reasons why you get the most for your items by selling this way. First, you price your items either the same or slightly under what you would see them on sale for at a consignment or used clothing store. This is about 30% of original value. Second, you keep 70%-80% of the sale price. Consignment/Resale stores offer - at MOST - 50%. Most of the time it's lower or store credit. And garage sales, well can you say $0.50-$1 per item?

The other nice thing (at least to me...) is that I do this twice a year. That's it. Every fall or spring I pull out my bins from the previous year and begin sorting into three piles: sell, donate, and hand-down. If you're more organized than I am, you can do this before storing at the end of each season but I'm not quite there yet and find I often change my mind :) I love not having to constantly drop of loads at local consignment shops and *try* to wait patiently for them to sell. This is all over with in one weekend and I have a check in hand a few days later. Can you say wonderful??

Wonderful. :)

Here's the link to the sales I participate in: There's also great information on this site about consigning in general.

I've been getting lots of questions about what sells best and what to buy with reselling in mind. I promise my NEXT post I will discuss that!! If you can't wait, check out the comments section from part 2 to see a brief resale pricing guide by brand.

Thanks for all the support and love!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Clothing for three little girls...part 2 (saving $$)

Easter 2010 - Gymboree Coordinated (ok, this is matchy-matchy) Sets.

Shopping!! I love the word... and most times the action. This, of course, solely depends on the presence, absence or behavior of the girls.

When Maddi was a solo child, I pretty much shopped at Target and Kohls for her clothes with the very occasional Old Navy/Gap/Gymboree/TCP thrown in. I would shop consignment stores and Kid to Kid and try to find the best "deals" on items. As she grew out of sizes, I began saving EVERYTHING in bins labeled by size and season in case baby #2 was also a girl. Well, she was. So, as I pulled out and sorted through Maddi's old clothes to create a closet for Isabelle, I decided to take the clothes I knew I wouldn't "reuse" to a kids store and sell them. Well, imagine my surprise when they took about half the items and said they could donate the rest! What? These are perfectly good clothes - just the wrong size/season for us!! I was so annoyed.

Have you ever experienced that??

So, I went home and started reserching. What kinds of clothes resell then? If I can't get something back out of the clothes I buy, then are they worth spending good money on? Or do we just wear them out completely and then donate? That seems like a waste of money - especially when kids continually need new clothes! There's got to be a way to recycle clothes and keep kids clothing costs low!

If you've ever shopped for used clothes, you, probably like myself, look for brand and condition. You (and I) want good brands (they hold up the best!) in good condition. SO it makes sense that those are the only clothes that resale/consignment shops would want! Also, same at garage sales. I have always noticed that my name brand stuff is immediately gone and the lower quality sits to the end to be donated. So, that must mean that if I want to resell my girls clothes, they need to be brand name and in good condition. Great. I don't have the $$ for brand name! Or do I???

Our clothing budget was about $90/month or $30/child/month. Give or take what each child may "need" in a given season. So I came up with the rules for every shopping trip I go on:

Rules for Shopping:
1. Never shop without a sale.
2. Never shop without a coupon.
3. Shop ahead. Once your kids hit the Toddler sizes (2T, 3T etc), you can pretty much guarantee that they will wear both a winter and summer wardrobe in that size.
4. Shop often. If I am consistently picking up things, I don't EVER end up with a budget busting trip because suddenly my child grew and needs pants and I have none.

Here's what I found - if you stick to those rules, you can buy name brand clothes for little money - even less than what you would pay for a used item at a resale shop and you're getting it brand new! Here's an example:

Gymboree - ALWAYS has off season clearances, they just might not be on the floor! If you ask a sales associate, they will bring out whatever they have in back for a given size. I purchased the following outfit for Sophia from Gymboree at PV Mall in December (summer size 18-24M, she was wearing size 6-12M at the time):

*Short sleeve Onesie with embroydered lion and flowers: Originally $14.75, on Clearance $2.99
*Lion and flower print cotton capri pants: Originally $12.75, on Clearance $4.99

Add on an additional 30% off for their "Circle of Friends" event and I paid $5.58 for a $27.50 outfit. That's over 80% savings!

Then, I will resell this outfit next spring at a consignment sale for $6. I will take home $4.20 of that meaning that this outfit cost only $1.38. And did I mention it's Gymboree?!?!

Here's a boy example from just THIS week at Old Navy:

*One long sleeve baseball style shirt with dinosaur and matching blue cotton cargo pants: Originally $12.50, on Clearance $4.49

Add an additional 30% off for their current clearance sale and that brought it down to $3.14. Add an additional 20% off printed coupon and final price was $2.52, again, over 80% savings. It will resell for $4 in a fall consignment sale with my take home being $2.80. That means I will MAKE $0.30 on this outfit AFTER it's been worn by our son.

SO, I realize (for those of you working mommies) that this takes time and dedication. And you're right it does. It takes planning and research on sales and couponing - and it takes time to shop, storing bins of various sizes and seasons, so this might not be a solution for you. But for us, I strongly feel that part of my job in staying home is to SAVE us money - however I can. This process has helped us sooo much - especially having three (soon to be 4) kids now!

In my previous post I said that at the last sale, I made over $400. That's over 4 months of clothing budget for us. Considering I participate in the sale every 6 months, our clothing (and shoe) budget is down to under $300 a YEAR or less than $25 a month for all 3, soon to be 4 kids. And they constantly have new name brand clothes to wear. AND I can get them their "coordinating" sets.

This has been a WIN in this house. Plus I love the game of seeing just how much I can save.


If you want any of my tips for shopping sales and matching coupons please just ask - I am here to help save mama's money in any way I can!

**Also, I want to note that we also share, donate and hand-down clothes. Because I've become increasingly good at bargain shopping, I'm able to only have to resell a handfull of the girls clothes to meet our budget for the following 6 months :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Clothing for three little girls...part 1

So I sat down to write a post on Consignemnt sales and how to get the most bang for your buck with reselling your kids clothes and I realized that there is a lot more information to what I do than just the reselling. So I give you part 1 (the background) of how we clothe our three girls on a limited budget.

Raising three girls on a tight budget has definitely led to some creativity when it comes to clothing. This especially started coming into play as we added each additional girl to the mix. Clothing girls is waayyy different than clothing boys. First, there is the sheer number of things that girls wear. You have tops, bottoms, capri's, shorts, skirts, dresses, jammas, nightgowns and shoes to match each (did I forget to mention hair accessories?). Second, there is a ridiculously large selection. Third, it's harder (and more expensive) to coordinate girls without them being too matchy-matchy. This third point has become a major budget point in this house.

You see, for some reason, Jeff is actually more picky about their clothing than I am. I am perfectly happy to hand down clothes, and we definitely do, but there are still those outfits that become each child's favorite and fit them uniquely. Also, Jeff loves when I dress the girls super "cute" and he likes them coordinated (again, not matchy matchy) - whenever we're going somewhere out of the ordinary and often for church on Sundays. Yikes!

So, just how do I coordinate three girls across multiple clothing sizes and seasons?? Especially when they don't change sizes together. All it takes is one of them changing a size and the whole coordinated set is thrown out the window. Well, the solution I've come up with is Consignment Sales. No, not shopping them (though I do shop them) - SELLING at them!

There is a new awesome trend in the selling of baby items. I used to rely on Kid to Kid or HissyFits or Hopscotch resale shops to sell my kids stuff. Or if I gathered enough of it together I had a garage sale. But I was ALWAYS disappointed in how much I made. Really, I only get to keep 40% WHEN it sells? Or I get 50% store credit? Or even better - $0.50-$1.00 per item at a garage sale? There's got to be a better way! So, I started selling on my girls clothes on eBay. While I was much happier with the amount of money I was making on the clothes, the time it took to take pictures, create auctions, manage auctions, answer questions, ship just became a headache and more time than I could dedicate.

THEN I discovered bi-annual consignment sales. These are sales that are hosted by an organization and take place in the Fall (for winter clothes) and the Spring (for summer clothes). All you do is put your clothes on hangers, enter them in the sales database, print and safety pin their (auto-created) tags to the clothes and drop them off the day before the sale. That's it! You get to set your own prices AND you keep 70%. Plus if you're a net-worker and you refer a friend to sell, you keep 80%!

At the last sale I participated in, I was able to make over $400. It was sooo exciting and so worth it.

Wanna do the same? Stay tuned for part 2 and how to shop with reselling in mind

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blog? What Blog?

Yes, I am a blogger failure.

BUT! I try yet again. Here we go. I think there are two reasons for my blogging failure - first, I post too much on FaceBook. Second, our family is not that interesting. So I've decided that instead of just blogging about the family, what the kids are doing, etc., I'm going to blog about things that strike me. Whether it be mommy tips or lessons learned, what God is teaching us, or just a good place to rant, I hope to keep this updated more often...and put LESS on my FB :)