It’s back-to-school time, which means your wallet is about to take a huge hit—the average family with kids in grades kindergarten through 12 will spend upwards of $673.57 this year, according to a 2016 survey by the National Retail Federation. When it comes to buying clothes, backpacks and sports equipment, resale and consignment shops are a thrifty parent’s best friend.  

“Between online and storefront resale locations, it’s a $17 billion industry [according to the Association of Resale Professionals (NARTS)],” says Shannon Wilburn, CEO and co-founder of Just Between Friends, a pop-up children’s consignment sale held nationwide twice a year. Ready to get in on the deals and make a little extra cash? Here’s what you should know:

What’s the difference between consignment and resale? Resale shops give you cash when you drop off your stuff. At Once Upon a Child in Edison, the entire process takes just 30 minutes. “We are selective, but we invest in items upfront,” says owner Laila Ruzika. “There’s no waiting to see if your items are sold. We’re all about convenience.” 

At a consignment store or sale, sellers drop off gently-used items, then wait a specified period of time to see if they sell before cashing out. Either way, clearing out your kids’ closets can put some money in your pocket before you tackle your shopping list.  

We know…when you think of a consignment shop, cluttered is the first thing that comes to mind.  But today’s resale shops are anything but. At Once Upon a Child, everything is organized by gender, size, style and even color. 

Keep track of Special Events 

Milk Money, a local franchise with five locations throughout the Garden State, promotes its stores as community hubs for parents. “We have a play space for kids in each location, so parents can really spend the time to shop,” says owner and founder Danna Lyons. “And we host lots of community-building events, such as Sip and Shop nights for moms, storytelling and artist events.”

Both stores also host big bag sales twice a year to clear out existing inventory and make way for new stuff.  At Milk Money, buyers get to fill a bag provided by the store for $15. Shoppers can typically buy items for babies through youth size 20 at 50 to 70 percent off retail.

Stick to a Budget

Everyone loves a bargain, which is why it’s so easy to blow through your budget at a resale or consignment sale. Who can pass up a pair of Justice jeans for $8.50? Or a gently worn North Face jacket for $20? That’s why you’ve got to make a plan and stick with it. 

“You can really overspend because you think you’re saving so much money,” says Wilburn. “Know what things retail for so you know how much you’re saving.”

Wilburn also recommends shopping without the kids, who’ll try to talk you into buying things they don’t really need. Also, make sure you come prepared. “Measure your child’s inseams. Make them step on a piece of paper and trace their foot,” suggests Wilburn. “That way you don’t buy a bunch of stuff and find out it doesn’t fit your kids when you get home.” Another must: Check the store’s return policy before you buy. 

Do Your Homework

There’s a bit of prep work needed, whether you consign or go resale. “The better educated our sellers are, the more they will get out of the process,” says Ruzika. Make sure you read up on each store’s requirements for preparing your items for sale.  (Detailed instructions can be found on most websites.) Heads up: If you’re selling baby equipment, make sure it hasn’t been recalled. And don’t bring clothes that have spots or stains, or gear with missing or broken parts. “We don’t want a garage sale atmosphere where parents have to rummage,” says Wilburn. 

Shop Online

While eBay and Craigslist are great places to sell your unwanted stuff or bargain shop for kids’ gear, there are a bunch of other sites that have gotten into the game. Clean out your kid’s closet, fill up a bag and send it to, an online destination for secondhand clothes that has a boutique feel. The site gives you cash back for items that are likely to sell.  You may not make as much as you would with a consignment storefront, but you won’t have to leave the house since the company will send you a bag with a pre-paid shipping label. (ThredUP says it accepts less than 40 percent of the items it receives. You can opt to pay a fee if you want items the site won’t sell sent back.)

Make sure to look for Facebook groups in your area that buy and sell used kids’ stuff. You’ll probably deal with hagglers and have to arrange for pick-ups, but you’ll also keep 100 percent of your profits. 

Teach ‘Em Young

Buying and selling via consignment and resale is not just a smart way to save–it’s also an easy way to help the environment. Lyons thinks of it as Earth-smart shopping. “The EPA says that textile waste accounts for four percent of landfills,” she says. “By shopping resale, you’re teaching your child that it’s okay to re-use things and that’s a valuable lesson to learn.” 

Your Shopping List

Just Between Friends
Pop-up Consignment Sales
Mercer and Somerset Counties and Swedesboro. Dates vary by location. 

Milk Money
Consignment Store
Maplewood, Princeton, Stirling, Cranford, Montclair.

Once Upon a Child
Resale Shop
Edison, Randolph, Paramus, Fairfield, Deptford, Maple Shade.

Online Consignment.

Christa Protano is a magazine editor turned stay-at-home mom who lives in Bridgewater. When not chasing after her two children, she writes about wedding and lifestyle trends.