From Bump to Baby

Secondhand Shopping Do’s and Don’ts

You may have noticed by now that there are a number of articles out there that attempt to outline the cost of raising a child. Certain sites even have a calculator, to help you pinpoint what the cost will be for your unique situation and region. Check out, for example.

One quickly discovers it isn’t an inexpensive process. There are many strategies to help alleviate the high cost, and I’d like to address one simple way in this article – secondhand shopping.

Now, I’m well aware that for some, that phrase evokes images of toys, shoes and clothing that look, well, secondhand. I can relate, but, nevertheless encourage you to read on.

To tell you briefly about my background, I did NOT grow up secondhand shopping. Quite the opposite. We were treated to new clothes as we needed them, and the secondhand shops in our town left much to be desired. It wasn’t until the winter of 2007, when I was 7 months pregnant and starting to prepare for baby’s arrival, that I changed my outlook. I had stumbled across a Salvation Army-esque store in a hip Chicago neighborhood, and decided to enter. Inside the store were racks and racks of boy clothing in excellent condition with price tags of .50 and .75. Many were brand names of Gap, Children’s Place, and Lands End. I walked away with two very large bags full of clothes for our baby boy for the price tag of $19.

From there, I wondered what else might be out there, and in my perusing, have been pleasantly surprised. I’ve even found children’s specialty stores that do the “weeding out” for you – accepting only higher end clothes like Janie and Jack and Gymboree from its clientele looking to unload. I also started garage sale shopping – selecting primarily the high end neighborhoods in our community.

With all of my shopping, to qualify whether or not an item was worth purchasing, I’d ask myself, “Does it look used?” If the answer was yes, it got tossed back on the table or clothes rack. If not, it was taken to the register.

While I don’t rely on secondhand shopping for all of my children’s clothing and baby gear needs, I have found that there are certain items that are just not worth paying the high price tag for the “new” version.

A few to consider….

Buy secondhand as much as possible:

Books – This one is a biggie. Say you have $100 to spend. Would you rather buy 10 books new at $10/piece and have to read those same books again and again and again? Or would you rather buy 100 books at $1/piece and have an expansive library? Keep in mind two things – 1) You’ll read 2-3 books before naptime and before bedtime every…single…day. You will love yourself for building an expansive library and not having to read “Ten Little Ladybugs” for the 20th time in a week. 2) You will have multiple “phases” of books, for your child’s growing age. We have one set of books for the baby stage, another geared towards toddlers and preschoolers, and now another geared toward early readers. It takes a lot to stock these mini-libraries!

Puzzles – The same principle applies here. If you only buy 2 puzzles, your child will get bored very quickly. And again – you will have “phases” of puzzles for your child’s various stages (baby, preschool, elementary, etc.) We have about 20 puzzles in our “library,” and love rotating through them. Many are from garage sales, are brand name (think Melissa and Doug and Eboo), and in perfect condition.

Dress Clothes and Shoes – These are A) often worn only a handful of times previously and B) will be worn by your child only a handful of times. Do you want to fork out $40-$50, including shoes, for one new outfit at that rate? I sure don’t.

Halloween Costumes – The same principle applies.

Swimsuits – The same principle applies.

Holiday Specialty Items –Christmas sweaters, Valentine’s Day bibs, etc. Don’t get sucked into the store displays at Gap and Target! Well, maybe only every once in awhile.

Parenting and Pregnancy Books – I’m a little more lax on this one, mostly because of the excitement involved in your first pregnancy. These are fun purchases to make, and you will have them for future children. I would simply like to point out that EVERY woman who’s ever been pregnant owns the exact same books you’re about to purchase, and likely unloaded them to some garage sale or Once Upon A Child location. So there is a lot to choose from in the “used” market.

Buy New:

Everyday “Basics” Clothes – I rarely find leggings and graphic t-shirts (the stuff of everyday life in kid world) that aren’t faded and “used” looking. Knock yourself out every season with 5-7 new shirts and pairs of pants.

Hygienic Items – This probably goes without saying, but buy new for items like changing pads, changing pad covers, pacifiers, and the like.

Feeding Supplies – Buy your own feeding supplies new – bottles, spoons, sippy cups, etc.

Sneakers – Buy a nice new pair of sneakers or sporty sandals for every season. For looks, and for the health of your child’s foot.

Baby Gear – For your first child, get all the new goodies, with the expectation that the gear will be used for subsequent children. Start fresh with carsear, stroller, crib, furniture, etc. And enjoy every moment of picking it out.

These are just a few items that come to mind. Happy shopping (and saving!)


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