How to Get Everything for your Baby Secondhand (and Save Thousands of Dollars)

by - Friday, September 27, 2019

How to Get Everything for your Baby Secondhand (and Save Thousands of Dollars)
picture from the wonderful and amazing jenny gg

You can (and should) get everything for your baby secondhand.

New stuff for babies is absolutely crazypants.

There are only two things that you might need to get new- the crib and the car seat. Literally everything else? Secondhand.

I wish someone had shared this wisdom with me before we had our first baby. We got so much stuff brand new (I can remember a hundred+ dollar splurge on the Carter's website, a baby shower of all new stuff, and more). We loaded up on so many perfect, white blankets and onesies just waiting for our baby to come out and enjoy. Maybe you are waiting for your sweet new bub the same way.

Now, two children in, I can tell you with total love and honesty that only hypothetical, in utero babies can really handle beautiful white babythings. Your real baby is going to poop on all of that. And your baby will grow so fast that some of the beautiful things you love will never get use. This turned out to be particularly true for me, because I "saved" beautiful things for special occasions, and then my beefy babies grew out of them before I even got the chance to use them.

But here's the thing- every parent has a pile of these beautiful things that actually didn't get much use. So if you get theirs, instead of brand new pretty things, you do all sorts of good things:

- You save money. Like, a lot of money. The average American family spends 60 dollars a month on clothing every month for a new baby (so 720 dollars a year). Just by getting clothes used, you can easily save 500 dollars in a year on baby clothes.

- You save the planet. American overconsumption is a major source of strain on our planet, and parents can be particularly guilty of this. The more you can get secondhand, the more clothes you keep out of landfills and resources you save. And that is just the beginning- most new items are now shipped in plastic bags (like you get when you order clothes online). Anything you buy secondhand won't have the shipping waste.

- You get a clear conscience. To try to keep the cost of baby stuff low, most companies ship their labor out to countries with lower standards of labor. That means that someone else could have been mistreated for that cute little onesie. If you buy it used, you haven't given companies your money for making irresponsible decisions about their supply chain.

- You get peace of mind about poop. I know two things about you, for sure- You are going to be an amazing parent. You will also have at least one day where your child is going to have an explosive poop all over an outfit. Like so much that you don't know what to do but toss it. Spending so much less on baby stuff empowers you to choose your battles and move the heck on.

- Did I mention it saves you money? It adds up quickly, and you can save thousands of dollars, easily. In our five years of parenting, I know we have saved thousands. Start a college or travel fund with that money, and give your kid moments they will never forget (instead of a room full of stuff they will never remember).

Now, if you want to get EVERYTHING secondhand, it can take some strategy, but it is totally doable! Here are the steps to take:

Step One- Ask Around (and Join Buy Nothing).

Once the word is out that you are having/adopting/fostering a baby, shamelessly ask the people you know if they have baby stuff they are ready to get rid of. If you don't know many people with older babies and toddlers, you can still do this by joining your local facebook groups for moms and your Buy Nothing Group (if you haven't joined your buy nothing group, you are missing out on an essential parenting tool- find yours here). Introduce yourself, say you are soon going to have a baby at your house, and that you are looking to put some baby stuff together.

This may seem weird and presumptuous, but let me tell you a secret about kids; they come with so much stuff. Overwhelming stuff. And stuff that is so important for a minute, than clutters all your corners long after. Part of parenting is desperately trying to get rid of that stuff, so you aren't begging for stuff, you are offering an opportunity that many parents will be giddy to take. Trust me, someone will be so happy to finally have something to do with their old toys and jumper.

Be brave, and put it out there that you are hoping to aquire lots of handmedowns for your baby. People may get it or not, but it's worth it to start there (because anything you get for free, you don't have to buy)/

Step Two- Explore your Local and Online Secondhand Spaces

When we were waiting for our first baby, a lot of the time we spent was simply doing research. What the heck is a sleeper? Do we want a co-sleeper or a pack n play?

There is no way to learn all this stuff without just talking and reading and learning about it. We shared our favorite green options for everything that your baby needs in our Green Baby Registry. In the same way, there is a lot to learn about where you can just get stuff. People end up at Target and Amazon because they don't have caretaker friends to tell them the actual good places to get stuff yet.

So, step one. Look up the kids secondhand stores in your area. My hometown of 6,000 people has one (it's pretty good too).  You are probably driving distance from one. If nothing else, there is probably a "Once Upon a Child" near you. They are EVERYWHERE. Make a list, go visit.

Second, join some parent groups on Facebook and just ask them!  They will know where the good secondhand shops are. They can also direct you to good kids buy and sell groups on Facebook. There are a bunch of good ones in our area, and we have gotten everything from rain boots to Christmas gifts on there for super cheap.

Lastly, know that no matter where you live, you still have options. Local is best, but it is not your only option. Kids on 45th ships all over the US. Thred Up is a magical gem on the internet, and you can buy every piece of your kid's clothes on there. If nothing else, Ebay is a go to that consistently surprises me. Ebay has everything (but magnatiles, which are too precious to be found secondhand as far as I can tell). For example, you know those Aden and Anais blankets everyone swears by? That are great but super expensive? There are 730 options on Ebay instead (so you can get 6 for 20 bucks instead of 4 for 40). All you have to do is check "Preowned," and if you want to do right by the environment, ask the seller not to ship in plastic.

Step Three- Register to have a Handmedown Baby Shower

If you are having a baby shower or registry, you can actually encourage others to buy (or bring) your gifts secondhand! We have written a whole post on how to word this in your invitation, so you don't have to feel awkward about it. We love eco-concious baby showers on this site, and we have thought of lots of fun themes that embrace that sweet baby's future by taking care of the environment. This can be really special if other parents bring baby things that are sweet to them to share with your new bub.

Another simple way to encourage secondhand gifts is to simply change where you register. Encore Baby Registry is specifically designed so that you can register for secondhand stuff (or mark off something when you find it secondhand).  Many of the mainstream registries also have a little box where you can check things off the registry even when you bought it elsewhere- make sure you use a registry that features that box, and if it is there, highlight it in your note at the top so that people understand how important it is to you.

Also, don't be afraid to depend on word of mouth. Be sure to articulate to the hosts that this is very important to you, so when people ask, you have back up. It will be outside of people's comfort zones, and that is ok, but you are allowed to be firm in your priorities.

But what if you get a bunch of brand new stuff? No big deal! Smile and say thank you. Depending on where you are from, secondhand showers might be well out of the norm. Everyone is doing their best. If you receive something new that you know you can get secondhand, just return it and get the secondhand one- you can use the money you saved for diapers or onesies or anything else that you need. Everyone still gets what they want.

Step Four- Last Minute can Still Be Secondhand- Ask Again, Shop Again, and Open Box

As the baby nears, you can have last minute panics about things you are missing. First, let me tell you there are lots of things (like high chairs, strollers, etc) that you still aren't going to need for a while. Sometimes, if you wait, you will have a much better sense of what your wants and needs are.

That said, when you are filling in those last minute blanks, you still have options other than just throwing your hands up and buying brand new.

First, ask around again. It may already have been months since the last time you asked- someone else might be listening! Plus, if you now have a specific list of requests, someone might be able to respond better. I have trouble with "we need baby stuff," but I can't resist when someone says "we need baby blankets." If you are using disposable diapers, you can even check around for people having leftover diapers in various sizes (this happens in my Buy Nothing group all the time- have you joined yet?).

Next, check secondhand stores again! If you know just what you are looking for, it may not take much time. Their inventory changes often too. We only use glass bottles (I am suspicious that plastic is terrible for our kids), and one of our local shops seems to get some in every few months. So I just check again.

If that fails, you still have Open Box. Amazon has an option online called open box. It basically means someone returned it after opening the box, but it was never actually used/ is still in basically new condition. In other words, some new caretakers got more than one bathtub or high chair at their showers, so they returned them.

It can be sneaky to find.
I find the easiest way to do it is to press "cntrl and f" and then just search it.
The Open Box button is usually sneakily hidden under the item details and before the "frequently bought together section.

Buying open box may not do as much good as other options, but it will still save you money and it can be great for those last minute things. For example, the City Mini Stroller (my recommendation for sure) is 280 on Amazon, but 211-240 Open Box (depending how flexible you are about color). Baby bath tubs are another great one to find open box (because lots of people get more than one at their shower). If you are out of ideas, open box is a perfect last resort that is going to save you money.

A Few Final Tips

Do NOT accept a crib or car seat used unless it is from someone you really, really trust. You can accept an expired car seat to take to a trade in recycling event (Target throws them), but do not use a secondhand carseat unless you know its entire history.

Avoid plastic. Plastic fibers, plastic bottles, and plastic toys all leech chemicals. New or used, we still don't know all the negative side effects these chemicals have on our children. Anything that goes in their mouth, I would avoid as much plastic as you can (so a glass bottle is probably preferable to a secondhand plastic one).

Don't worry about gender stuff. If it matters a lot to you, then do what makes you happy. Otherwise, if boy mom is offering your girl baby a bunch of clothes, take them. Your infant will not know the difference. Same for carriers, blankets, etc. It doesn't matter.

How to Get Everything for your Baby Secondhand (and Save Thousands of Dollars)

Ok, what are you having trouble finding secondhand? How can we help you rock secondhand shopping for baby?

How to Get Everything for your Baby Secondhand (and Save Thousands of Dollars)

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  1. The story of my first was similar to yours, I received sooo much stuff. Luckily my second baby was a boy too so he gets to wear his brother's hand-me-downs, as well as his cousins. Things are less expensive this time around! I'm just starting to raise a "green" family, so we have a lot of work ahead!

  2. Great tips!! I am bookmarking for if I have children in the future. Love your note about gender-specific clothing not mattering. I don't know why our culture has become so obsessed with gendering baby clothing...perhaps a way to sell more stuff? Good for you for bucking that trend!

  3. My boys had most of their stuff second hand. They were not going to complain and the environment thanked us too ... and even after 2 boys we passed a lot of things on to friends and other things are now in our holiday home for even ore children to enjoy.

  4. This makes so much sense, I hope you start a trend with this! Best for all of us (those with, and without kids sharing the planet).



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