Most parents spend thousands of dollars a year on clothing, shoes, games, and toys that are quickly outgrown.
Many times, these items pile up in our households, robbing us of precious space – and precious money in our wallets.
This has led some parents to take a good, hard look at what their kids really need and what they really use, and they have learned how to find a good bargain.
Katie Musgrave is a mother of three, and she has not purchased anything new for her family in two years, except essentials like food.
“It’s a habit we’ve got into, you can find pretty much anything in charity shops or on eBay, you don’t need to buy things new,” she tells the Independent.
Her children make their own decorations for their bedrooms, as well as handmade gifts for birthdays and holidays.
In a video interview, Katie’s adorable home, and her children with their toys, are on display.
You would never be able to tell that everything in the home and all of their clothing is second-hand.
You can see that Katie enjoys the “treasure hunt” and says that “we buy things that need smartening up,” such as a kitchen table she sanded down and painted and furniture like chairs and sofas that this talented mom has recovered.
She says parents can find many “good quality and good condition” items online and at yard sales and thrift stores.
Everything with the exception of groceries is bought second-hand, and her lifestyle is one that every parent can adopt — saving thousands of dollars annually.
We may be concerned about buying second-hand items for our children. Of course, we want all the best for them, but there are so many ways to buy items used and in good condition that there is really no reason not to take advantage of buying used.
The good news is, we’re not limited to yard sales anymore when looking for clothing and other items for our kids.
Second-hand children’s stores are big business these days. Many of them have very high standards for the items they acquire and re-sell, and there is a great deal of variety.
And don’t forget thrift stores – it may require a little work to find what you’re looking for, but sometimes the fun is in the bargain hunting!
So what are the best things to buy second-hand, and what should you avoid?
In general, the best items to buy second-hand for children are clothing. Kids grow so rapidly – and unpredictably – and are often so rough on clothing, that buying from a good second-hand children’s store can’t be beat.
There are a few ways you can make sure that you’re getting a quality item and not just a bargain that won’t last:
First, look for name brands. While we may avoid expensive name-brand clothing when buying new, these brands are costly for a reason – they are high quality and long-lasting.
Consignment stores and resale shops often offer items that look brand new at a fraction of the price.
If you find that perfect item, be sure to give it a good once-over before buying it.
Check the item in good light. Look for holes and stains. Chances are, if the item is only stained and not ripped or torn, the original owner likely gave it away because the stain couldn’t be removed.
Many consignment stores, especially those that only take children’s items, will even offer you store credit for your own children’s outgrown items – and some even pay cash – so you can clean out your kids’ outgrown items and trade up for the next size.
Other great places to look for kids’ clothing are swap meets and yard sales, especially if you already know the person you are buying from.
In fact, many neighborhoods have their own clothing swaps several times a year. You may just be able to snag that adorable dress your friend’s daughter wore for school pictures in exchange for a few of your daughter’s old t-shirts.
Buying children’s clothing second-hand doesn’t always mean items are old or worn. Some people only have one child or bought an item in the wrong size and didn’t want to take the time to return it.
There are great deals to be found on quality items and you may get three or four times as many items for the same amount you would spend on one piece of clothing at a department store.
There is often more variety when shopping second-hand as well. You may find dozens of different styles and brands in one place, instead of running to several different stores to get what you need. What mom has time for that?!
Yard sales and thrift stores are also great places to buy “play” clothes.
Kids get dirty, they are rough on things, and sometimes it is nice to have a few used items on hand so they don’t ruin their good clothes. If you spend a dollar on a pair of jeans that they ruin playing in wet grass, you’re not losing much money.
Buying second-hand is also good for the environment – reusing items is always a good idea and, even better, will always save you time and money.
So, what about toys, games, and baby furniture?
With toys, this is just a matter of using your discretion. Does the toy look like it’s in good shape – clean, no broken pieces, and intact?
Check games, puzzles, and other toys to make sure all the items are accounted for before purchasing.
If it’s age-appropriate and meets these criteria, it’s probably a good bargain.
If you’re unsure about items like strollers, walkers, and cribs, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just because you’re not paying full retail doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a good product.
Make sure that all the hardware is accounted for with cribs and toddler beds. It is always safest to use the original manufacturer’s hardware.
Consignment stores will often let you put an item on hold while you do some research. Take down the model number and look online to make sure there are no recalls. You can also call customer service to see if they sell hardware kits – most do. After all, who hasn’t moved and lost a few screws for baby’s crib?
Now, a few words of warning about things that are best bought new – car seats and shoes.
Never buy a car seat from a yard sale or swap meet unless you personally know the neighbor or organizer who can verify it was never involved in an accident. And the same tips apply as with cribs and beds – check for recalls and signs of wear first.
Car seats should never be purchased from thrift stores. These stores often accept large bundles of donations without looking through them first, and you have no way of knowing where the seat came from, how long it was used, or if it was ever damaged.
While kids’ shoes don’t bring up a safety concern like car seats and cribs, experts have some advice for buying second-hand shoes for growing kids.
Everyone has a different gait – a different pattern of walking and standing – and shoes become molded to a person’s feet in a short time. In fact, you may not be able to tell just by looking inside.
The best way to determine whether kids’ shoes have been overly used is to check the soles. A shoe that was rarely worn will have complete tread – the rubber will not be worn down.
If they look new on the bottom and the inside, they were probably only worn once or twice. Good bets are dressy shoes that were probably rarely worn (like those shoes you made your son wear for Easter that he never wore again) and rain and snow boots that are often made to go over existing shoes.
Don’t forget that there are many opportunities to purchase second-hand online, although keep in mind that you may not be able to inspect the item as closely as you would in person.
As with everything else as a parent, use your discretion and instinct. Work with your neighbors and get to know the owner of your local consignment shop. Build a relationship, ask questions, and start saving that money!
You may find that you get hooked on bargain hunting, and you may just become an expert and never buy new again!
(h/t Mommy Underground)