Baby stuff is insanity. When you are having your first kid, you are already adjusting to the idea of caring for a new baby and the changes that will have on your life. When you consider all the stuff that babies need it can really be overwhelming. Not only do you need space in your home for a lot of new (usually hideous) baby things, but much of that stuff costs a small fortune. I am not into spending a lot of money, so am a big fan of buying used items at online buy & sells, thrift shops, and large consignment/yard sales. Plus you can feel good about buying used a lot of the time because you are keeping stuff out of the landfill and simultaneously supporting people in your local community. If you are in the market for some baby gear or clothing, then you're in luck because this Saturday, September 23rd from 9am-12pm at Exhibition Park there is a large Kids' Clothing & Equipment Sale hosted by Grapevine Events, and I have two sets of free tickets for two lucky readers! Enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post, or on Instagram!
If you're headed to the sale, or have an interest in bargain-shopping, here are some of my best tips for scoring a good deal:
1. Decide what works for you. This is definitely the most important step before committing to any purchase, but particularly with baby gear. I've talked before about how I rushed into a stroller purchase with my firstborn that was so impractical for us because it was on sale. Don't make my mistake! Consider your lifestyle, where you live, the activities you plan on doing with your baby, and anything else that could affect what you buy. What works for some people, doesn't for others, so really think about what you could see yourself needing.
2. Research. How is someone with no experience supposed to make decisions about breast pumps and bassinets? Well, once you narrow down what you think you need, do the research. Not all brands are created equal, and sometimes expensive doesn't mean better. Ask your mom and dad friends what they think about the things they have, but also read objective reviews. I often read Amazon.com reviews on products because there are so many. This is especially helpful for those big purchases, like strollers, where you are deciding between 2-3 different types and you want to know some details of each product. These reviews will also give you insight into what these companies return policies and customer service are like. You can really learn a lot of information from reading a few reviews, and it can save you a huge headache later on.
When you're preparing to make a big purchase, consider going into your local baby stores to check out products before you buy them. This will give you an idea of what something should look and function like as new, so if you stumble upon one that is secondhand you have an idea of what it should measure up to. Doing the research will also inevitably lead you to understand what the best price on a new product is, and even in some cases, what the value would be for a gently used version. You may also discover that buying new is better than used.
3. Less is More. I did not want to live in a house that was overrun with baby stuff, so decided early on that I wasn't going to purchase a lot of bigger fixture-like things if I could avoid it. This strategy has worked really well for me. You don't need everything, truly, and if you're on the fence about something really take the time to evaluate if it will fit into your vision/life. You do not need things because other people have them, but similarly if there is something dumb and you just want it because you want it, then go for it. LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE. I remember obsessing over this adorable $45 changing pad cover on Etsy, ultimately buying it and then having to throw it away after an unfortunate blow-out situation. I have not used a cover since, because as it turns out, plastic is very easily wiped/cleaned and I would estimate that I have saved myself approx. $23,827 in changing pad cover costs over the last 3 years. Not everything is practical, useful or helpful so if your items are too nice to use, or simply aren't functional then chances are they aren't worth the money. Anything designed for a baby should be able to accommodate all bodily fluids and be machine washable.
4. Bargain, Borrow & Trade. If you find a deal on something used, always negotiate on the price. I don't personally understand WHY people feel their things are still worth 75% of the original cost 3 years later, but they do, so haggle. My husband said this one time to me when we were looking at a stroller on kijiji that was 5 years old and priced at half the original cost, "why would we go halfsies with someone on something and then let them have exclusive use of it for the first 5 years". Yeah. We wouldn't. This doesn't apply to all things, but for the most part this is how I approach price negotiations.
I lend and borrow stuff ALL the time. I feel really comfortable giving my things to people to use for a short time. At the moment both my beloved MacLaren Quest stroller and my AmSafe Cares Toddler Airplane harness are loaned out to two different families who are traveling soon. If you need something short-term, ask someone to borrow it. A quick facebook post can yield opportunities you may not have thought of previously, so use your network! For some baby gear, you may be able to find lending libraries in your community, in Saint John I know there is one for baby wraps and carriers.
Lastly, consider trading people for stuff they want. I have gotten many baby things in exchange for stuff I've knitted. I have also paid people in unwanted gift cards, and one time even did a straight furniture swap for a dresser. Everyone feels like they came out ahead, so it's win-win.
5. Know when to spend. Not everything should be bought used. Many people, myself included, would not buy a second hand car seat (and in fact many consignment shops and sales won't accept them). I did however, donate my old one so perhaps I am being a tad hypocritical here. Check out the facebook group NB Safe Little Passengers for better info on car seat safety. Similarly, spend on items that you will use and rely on regularly. We have several strollers, and use all of them for different things. I paid up for all of them, and would do it again in a heartbeat (can you tell yet that I have a thing for strollers?). Don't cut corners when it comes to safety or health of course, but also spend money on the things that are important to you and that will get a lot of use.
6. Be Smart. Don't meet people in dark alleys alone. Don't commit to buying big items without checking them out first (in a public well-lit place preferably with someone). Trust your instincts. If you stumble on a goldmine, take advantage. I have a friend who has a son two years older than my oldest and one year she gave me a great quality snowsuit as a hand me down. Now, when I'm looking for something specific I message her first, and she usually has (and is looking to get rid of) exactly what I need.
7. Pay it Forward. Sell your own gently-used items to other people looking to save a few bucks, and donate what you can. You get excellent deal-finding karma when you help other people score their own deals. If you are looking for places to donate items in Saint John consider First Steps, Romero House or Hillcrest Baptist Church. In fact, the Kids' Sale Event on Saturday supports many charities in our community, including the West Side Co-Op Preschool and several other local groups via Saint David's United Church! I will definitely be there on Saturday, so if you're thinking of going, don't forget to enter the giveaway!
If you can't make the sale, fret not there are a lot of other great places to shop for baby stuff in Saint John. Check out Guy's Frenchy's for clothes, Once Upon A Child, Kijiji, and local Facebook groups like this one and this one.
Make sure you enter the giveaway for your chance to win 2 free tickets to Saturday's sale. These are early access passes, so you will get the chance to shop an hour before the doors open to the public! I am giving away another set on Instagram so tell your friends, and enter both!