It's estimated that the average American household spends upward of $600 getting kids attired and supplied for a school year.
Buying clothing, accessories and electronics secondhand can make that figure far more manageable for families living on a budget, said Melissa Meifert of Colorado Springs.
Seven years ago, Meifert and another Springs mom, Lynn Jennings, produced the first local Just Between Friends consignment event, bringing together multiple sellers of new and gently used maternity and children's items at discounts of up to 90 percent off retail. This year, the four-day resale extravaganza opens to the public Wednesday with 700 consignors in a 55,000-square-foot space at the Freedom Financial Services Expo Center on North Nevada Avenue. Items for sale include clothing for children and teens, toys, electronics, books, baby equipment, furniture and maternity items.
"We get families that are just so appreciative because it really stretches their budget as their kids continue to grow and outgrow their things," said Meifert, who expects to see about 4,000 shoppers over the course of the multiday sale. "A lot of families will even come in and Christmas shop at this sale."
Many of the families who shop also have items up for sale, Meifert said. Consignors price and tag their own items using an online barcode system, earning up to 70 percent of the sales.
"That can save them a lot and even make them a little money," she said.
Items that don't sell are donated to area nonprofits and aid organizations, including Children's Hospital Colorado, Peterson Air Force Base Airman's Attic, Crossfire Ministries and The Marian House.
Just Between Friends was created in 1997 by a Tulsa, Okla., mom and her friend, who hosted the first event with 17 consignors and gross sales of $2,000. By 2012, the business was a popular and successful national franchise with 133 seasonal shopping events in 28 states.
For those interested in selling at the event, if items aren't new they should be gently used with no stains, rips or tears. Inspectors will be on site to check the quality of all potential sales items and to make sure no recalled merchandise makes it to the aisles. That safety check means one less obligation and worry for parents as they shop, Meifert said.