I used to be a rabid shopper, particularly when it came to stuff for my kids. I was at my worst when they were really little and I hadn’t yet grown tired of picking up after them. One of the first tricks I learned to keep the budget in check was to buy used.
Now I know there are moms and dads who wouldn’t dream of putting their precious Honey Boo Boos into an outfit some other child had already spat up all over. But not me. I figure if it’s in good shape and it’s washable, it’s for me. And kids care not one whit where you got it. (Later, when they’re teens, it’ll be a whole different story).
There are some guidelines you should follow when it comes to shopping secondhand particularly for babies:
- Don’t buy secondhand humidifiers or small appliances. Since you have no idea how old they are, or if they’ve been used properly, they may not meet current safety standards.
- Buy your car seat new. There’s no way to be absolutely positive that the seat hasn’t been involved in an accident, and this is one place you definitely don’t want to scrimp.
- Even if you buy your crib secondhand, buy a new mattress.
- Avoid playpens, highchairs, and large toys that are more than 10 years old. Safety standards are always changing (usually getting more stringent) and baby stuff has a way of outliving the latest in safety rules.
- When it comes to snowsuits, coats, hats, gloves, and the like, buy neutral colours and styles so that younger children can inherit items without looking silly.
- Check toys carefully for breaks and loose parts. Take everything home, dump it in the washing machine with soap and bleach, and rinse several times before handing them to your kids to play with.
- Some stores sell deeply discounted baby supplies like diapers, wipes and food. Make sure you check the dates on edible products. And be prepared for flaws such as tabs on diapers that don’t stick. (Packing tape works well as a replacement!)
The only way shopping secondhand really works to your advantage is if you’re buying stuff that you need and that lasts. Look for brand names since those companies who’ve worked hard to build their brands have reputations to maintain. But also consider how much work the item’s already done. After all, if the previous owner has raised six kids using the same stroller, it’s already paid its dues.
Just because you’ve bought an item secondhand doesn’t mean you can’t turn around and sell it once you’re through with it. If it’s in good shape, add it to your own garage sale or try it at a local consignment store. Secondhand stores are also a great place to recycle stuff so you can buy something else you need.
Every dollar you save in shopping for your kids can either go back into your cash flow or can be put towards saving for your child’s future needs. And there will be plenty of them: from school trips and skiis, to college and a car, your kids’ needs only become more expensive with time.