Second-hand baby supplies are everywhere! Some items like car seats require research, but by spending just a bit more time and effort you can equip your baby beautifully for a fraction of the cost of everything new.
by Stephanie Gurley-Thomas
The reality has set in: a baby is expensive! When parenting chlidren, we're always looking for ways to save money, and it starts when we're parents-to-be and new parents. Second-hand finds and hand-me-downs can drastically cut our costs.
While I definitely encourage you to hit the consignment stores and to look at that stroller from your sister-in-law, be sure to watch that cutting costs doesn’t also mean cutting corners. But with a little bit of research and patience, you can save hundreds to thousands of dollars by going second-hand.
Great second-hand buys
● Toys. I was able to purchase an $80 Fisher Price™ Laugh & Learn Learning Home for just $25 from a Craigslist advertisement. It was missing a small, unimportant piece, and I had to pick it up and clean it, but do I care? No way! I saved $55 for a toy that my daughter plays with every day.
Toys make excellent second-hand purchases and can be found everywhere. Toys made with plastic and rubber parts can be virtually indestructible and can move from family to family with little wear and tear.
I do advise that you clean any used toy thoroughly before letting your child play with it—spraying with a solution of water and bleach will disinfect it just fine.
When can second-hand toys be a no-no? When they are very old and don’t meet safety standards. Think of the little red truck with sharp metal corners that your great-aunt Gertrude found in her closet. Lead paint was banned in 1978, so be wary of painted toys made before that date.
● Clothes. Creating a new wardrobe for your little one can get pricey, and fast! Because they are growing like weeds, babies grow out of whatever you get them at an alarming rate. The good news is that it is easy to find good quality second-hand clothing for a fraction of what it may have cost new.
We received so many darling outfits for our daughter in sizes 0-6 months that I truly think she could have worn something new every day. Now I have a bin full of barely used clothing that if we don’t use for a second child, I will be selling to someone like you!
If you rummage through the racks of a consignment or thrift shop, you will often find brand-new clothing with the tags still attached. Even if the tags aren’t attached, chances are you’ll find plenty of items in great condition. Aside from stains, babies (especially before they start crawling) don’t really put any wear and tear on clothing.
When searching for used clothing, look for stains, check the knees for wear, and test any elastic for stretchiness. Make sure the outfit has all its buttons and snaps and that the zippers work as well.
Some parents fret over the cleanliness of used clothing. Don’t—that’s nonsense! Just wash as instructed before putting the clothes on your little one.
● And more! Bedding, blankets, and washable stuffed animals are also great second-hand finds. Nursery décor, often sold in complete sets and in great condition, can be found with a little searching on the internet. Breast pumps are also good finds, but be sure to purchase your own tubing.
Great finds, but do your research
It’s very tempting to get high-dollar items such as cribs, high chairs, and car seats through second-hand means, but be sure to do your research before buying or accepting these items.
● Car seats. A used car seat may seem like the best economical option, but check it out thoroughly before using. Consumer Reports® Best Baby Products suggests using a second-hand car seat only if you can verify its history. It must be less than six years old and can’t have been in a car accident. Also, check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s list to see if that model of car seat has been recalled.
● Cribs. Again, you may be better off buying new than used when it comes to cribs. First, make sure that the slats of the crib are less than 2-3/8 inches apart. Anything wider can present a hazard to your baby.
The book Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields also warns of lead paint and missing parts or directions—if you put a crib together incorrectly, you may create safety hazards). Be sure you know the brand of the crib to check for recalls at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website. We purchased a $500 crib from a neighbor for only $100, but we first verified its manufacture date and also checked for recalls.
● High chairs. According to the booklet The Safe Nursery, by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “every year, thousands of children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with high chairs.” The booklet goes on to recommend that high chairs should have both a waist strap and a strap that goes between the legs.
You should also consider a high chair that has a post that goes between your child’s legs. The post may be attached to the seat or the tray and prevents your baby from slipping under the tray (and possible getting tangled or strangled by the straps).
● And more! Play yards and strollers can also be great used finds. Just remember that the newer the item, the better the chance that it meets the most recent safety regulations. Always check the items thoroughly for broken or missing parts, and definitely check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for recalls.
Where do I find second-hand baby items?
Everywhere! From family and friends (believe me, they want to get rid of this stuff!) to eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, consignment stores, and thrift shops, second-hand baby items are all over the place.
A recent search for “nursery décor” on eBay brought up 11,567 items. A search for strollers brought up 4,315 items.
And once you get into the second-hand habit, you’ll find it will continue to save you money all through childhood and even into the teen years. Second-hand sports equipment, Christmas sweaters, video games, textbooks—like your new life with your baby, the fun is just beginning.
Now living in St. Louis with her husband and toddler daughter, Stephanie Gurley-Thomas is a graduate of Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. She has over 13 years of experience in media relations, public relations, special events and writing.
© Photo by Gene Chutka