As a family of 5 on one income, I used to think that Gymboree just wasn't an option for us. That is, until I figured out the "secrets" to buying Gymboree on a budget.
You have to treat everything you buy as an investment.
You have to take good care of it at all times. That means washing correctly, storing correctly and investing in a good stain remover. Most all of Gymboree's clothing is 100% cotton. Washing in cold with a mild detergent such as Dreft and hanging to dry is very important to maintain the integrity of the clothing. Storing the items is also very important. Sweaters tend to sag when left on hangers for a long period of time, so it's best to store then folded. Keeping lines together is helpful, but not necessary. I use ziplock bags to keep shoes, hats, headbands, socks and bows of the same line together in one place. Keeping a good stain remover on hand is extremely important, especially if you have an infant or toddler. No matter how careful you try to be, they're going to get something on the clothes. It's unavoidable. It's very important to treat immediately and wash as quickly as possible to keep the stain from setting in. There are a lot of good stain removers on the market. Choose a travel stain remover and keep it in your diaper bag. I keep one on the baby's changing table as well. Don't use bleach or bleach products! Not only do you risk ruining the clothes, but bleach hangs around in the fabric and isn't good for a child's delicate skin.
You have to be willing to buy used.
Used doesn't necessarily mean that it's worn out. I have found that most people who buy Gymboree for their kids take really good care of it. Look for listings with very good pictures. Read the item's description very carefully - look for how the seller cared for the item. If you have any doubts or concerns, ask the seller before placing your bid.
You have to be willing to resell what you buy.
To me, this is the hardest part. It's so hard to part with these adorable outfits, but it's essential to keeping your kids in Gymbo clothing. The good news is, Gymboree doesn't really lose value for a long time (5 years, sometimes more, from when it appeared in the store) because once a line has left the stores, it's never sold again. I've found that it's easier to part with outfits as long as I have a lot of great pictures of my kiddos in the outfit. That way you always have a reminder of it, without having to actually hang onto it. If you didn't snap a picture before your child grew out of something (guilty!), then just take a good picture of the outfit itself. Just don't hang onto the clothes!
Get familiar with Gymboree sizing.
There is nothing more frustrating than buying something on eBay only to find out that it doesn't fit. I have found that Gymboree runs pretty true to size. There is very little, if any, shrinkage provided the clothing is washed according to instructions. Being mostly 100% cotton, if you wash it in hot water and dry it in a hot dryer, it's going to shrink at least some. That's why it's so important that you look for how the seller cared for the clothing they are selling. If they don't state it in the auction, ASK! You can find Gymboree sizing charts on their website - www.gymboree.com.
Watch your shipping prices!
Shipping costs can add up quickly, especially if you're dealing with a seller that charges handling fees and/or ridiculously high combined shipping. Remember when buying on a budget that the shipping cost is part of the outfit cost. If you buy a pair of shorts for $0.99, it really isn't a deal if you're paying $10.00 to have them shipped. I've found that the best way to buy Gymboree and save on shipping costs is to find sellers that charge actual shipping, and also offer several items that you want. Personally, I try to buy no less than 3 items from any seller, unless it's just a really great deal or something that I've been trying to find forever. Just remember - the USPS gives priority mail boxes for free, delivers them to your door and then picks them up from your door when shipping, so don't fall for the "I charge a $15.00 handling fee for packaging, gas to the post office, etc." Be smart!
Don't get caught up in a bidding war over an adorable outfit. You're on a budget, but that other bidder might not be. Gymboree lines are almost always available frequently, so don't fall for the VHTF (very hard to find) line. Yes, it might be hard to find locally, but eBay is worldwide. Chances are with a little patience, you'll find it again.
Try to complete outfits whenever you can.
A dress alone is cute, but a dress with matching shoes, socks and hat will resell much better. Again, be careful of your shipping costs and the combined price of the outfit you are putting together. You aren't getting a deal if your outfit ends up costing you $30. Chances are you won't be able to resell it at that price.
Keep good records!
This is VERY important. Don't rely on your memory because you will forget. The idea here is to work with the same amount of money over and over. I started with $250 (man I love tax season) and bought 3/6 month clothing. When I resell it so that I can buy 6/12 month clothing, I want to make as much of my initial investment back as I can. If you don't keep good records, you won't know if you've made your money back. Here's the system that I use: I made a one page template in Microsoft Publisher that includes the following:
A picture of the item I purchased
Purchase price, including shipping costs
"Sold for" price (filled in when I resell the outfit)
Space at the bottom for notes and additional photos
When I purchase an item, I put a picture of it on the template (a great place for pictures if www.gymbohaven.com) and fill in the areas. Then I print the page and place it in a 3-ring binder. When the item arrives, I complete the "Condition notes" section, noting any flaws, etc. If there is a stain, I will try to remove it (sometimes it comes out, sometimes it doesn't - Oxyclean works WONDERS). If I get it out, I'll update my notes. I also use the space at the bottom for additional items that I acquire to complete the outfit. I usually put a picture and write how much I paid for it out to the side. Don't start a new sheet for a pair of socks - put them on the sheet with the outfit that you bought them for.
When it's time to resell an item, I have everything that I need in one place - a picture of the complete outfit so that I don't leave anything out, the original price that I paid for the outfit, the size, the line that it's from and any flaws that might be on the outfit. This system might not be ideal for you, but hopefully it will start a brainstorm in helping you find a system that does work. The important thing is to keep great records, no matter how you do it.
TIME TO RESELL!
When it's time to resell the items that your child has outgrown, first make sure that you have some pictures of your child in the outfit. If you don't, take some! Even if the outfit is just a little too small. You'll thank yourself later. If you just can't get it on - then save a picture of just the outfit.
Take GREAT photos! Iron everything that's even a little bit wrinkled. It will look much better in the photo. If there is an especially adorable embellishment on the item, take a closeup photo of it. Take pictures in good lighting. Bright sunlight is too glaring, but a slightly overcast day provides perfect lighting for great pictures. Lay everything flat if you can - it looks better than hanging on a hangar where embellishments and decorations can be hidden. If at all possible, include a picture of your child IN the outfit looking as cute as possible BUT READ THIS FIRST (enother eBayer's guide to protecting your children from predators).
Write a detailed and accurate description, including how you cared for the items. Note any flaws and include a picture of the flaw if possible. The flaw might not be that big of a deal to a potential bidder, but I can guarantee you it will be a big deal when they get the outfit and it wasn't mentioned. It's ALWAYS best to be honest.
Charge exact shipping charges, and no more! If you're selling a lot of items in the same size, offer to ship everything they can fit into a box for $10.00 and use a flat rate box to ship it. This will encourage multiple purchases from the same person and will also help with increasing the bid amount for your items. Don't charge a handling fee for gas (the PO will pick it up for free), packing materials (the PO gives you free boxes, and will even bring them to your door) or your time. Yes, your time is valuable, but remember that you bought these items for much less than retail and now you're trying to pass the great savings on to someone else.
Start your auction low. It's hard to start an auction at $0.99 when you paid $20 for the outfit, but if you've provided a detailed description, great photos and reasonable shipping with combined purchases, you'll get close to (and sometimes more) than you paid for the outfit in the end.
NAME THE LINE! This is so important. If you're not sure of the line identification, visit www.gymbohaven.com or www.namethatline.biz/mainmenu. Don't leave out the line name!
Finally, when the item is sold, package it carefully and include a thank you card to your buyer. Write down what your item sold for so that you have a record of it. I write it down on the template sheet that I mentioned earlier.
Buying Gymboree new from the store isn't out of the question when you're on a budget. Gymboree has great sales, sometimes up to 70% off of the retail value. It pays to check the sale racks in your local store on a regular basis. You can also shop online at www.gymboree.com. Join mailing lists such as the one at Gymbohaven (great one) so that you'll be reminded of upcoming sales both online and in store. Circle of Friends also offers 30% off coupons from time to time. GymBucks are available from time to time as well - if you spend $50 you'll get GymBucks for $25. You have to spend $50 to use the $25 GymBucks, but that's like a half-off sale on anything you buy - and it can be used on sale items as well. I don't recommend using credit cards unless you're positive that you'll pay it off within the 30 day grace period, but if you're disciplined enough to use it wisely, using the Gymbo Visa card will save you 5% on all purchases.
ADDITIONAL SAVINGS OPPORTUNITIES
There are other ways to save additional money when buying on eBay. Check out my About Me page for more details.