Most of us are struggling to get by in today's tight economy. This week, look for tips to help you make do with less. And in future weeks, we'll offer readers' ideas on how to cut costs.
If you've got a money-saving tip to pass along, use a touch-tone phone to call SUNDIAL at 783-1800 (or 268-7736 from Anne Arundel County). Once the system answers your call, enter code 4400. Or write Making Do With Less, Features Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.
Consignment store policies vary, so call around to find the right ,, one for you.
* Some stores pride themselves on their selectivity and will only take clothes in perfect condition and no more than a few years old. Other stores emphasize value and are more flexible.
* Don't waste your time and the store's with clothes that are soiled or obviously damaged. Donate them to your favorite charity instead.
* Find out if there's a minimum number of items required.
* Don't wait. Get those fall clothes to the store soon. Even used-clothing stores change with the seasons and often have no room to store out-of-season merchandise. And if you wait until next fall, the clothes may be too dated to provide you with maximum return.
* Check to find out how payment is made. Does it come by mail once a month or must you keep stopping by every month to see if anything sold? A few stores will even pay cash for baby equipment and toys.
* Most stores operate on a 50-50 split on the profits. Ask when the ticketed price will be reduced (often after 90 days). Can you pick it up at that time if you wish?
* Call first before arriving with your clothes. Appointments are often, but not always, required. A few stores will even arrange pick ups if you have enough items.
Shopping for bargains
The best place to take your clothes to be sold is not necessarily the same store where you'll find the best bargains, so be sure to do comparison shopping.
* Be prepared to work for your bargain. Often the very best prices are found in stores where there's a lot of less desirable clothing to wade through.
* You can often buy most cheaply at thrift shops run by charities, which are stocked by donation. The selection, however, varies widely.
* Go with an open mind. You must adopt a philosophy the very opposite of investment dressing. You might not have anything to go with that quaint little necklace now, but if you love it and the price is right, it's worth buying it to wear with something you might find later.
* Know your prices. It's quite possible to end up paying as much for something used that you could find new in a full-price store.
* Find out when new shipments are put out or when sales will be running.
* If you're looking for something in particular, leave your name and number in the request book, which many of the stores keep on file, and they'll call you.
* Check to see if there's a dressing room, and if not, take along a tape measure to compare sizes with clothes already in your closet.
* Find out if you can return items. It's rare for adult clothing, but some children's shops have a one-week return policy.
* Call first for hours. Many are not open conventional hours or Mondays.