A frugal mom's guide to buying second-hand online — and what's still worth buying new

Smart tips for purchasing used baby and children’s gear, toys and clothes

Smart tips for purchasing used baby and children’s gear, toys and clothes

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Before becoming the mother of two young children, I don't think I ever bought anything from a Facebook group. Now, constantly on the lookout for savings, short on time and keenly aware of the brisk turnover of clothes and all the other stuff in the life of babies and toddlers, I'm a convert to the economic and ecological benefits of the circular economy and second-hand shopping online. Here's what I learned along the way about parent-to-parent marketplaces, finding great deals online, and what's still worth buying new.

Crowdsource product reviews

If you're on Facebook, the social network's numerous parent buy and sell groups — many organized by neighbourhood or other geographic boundaries — can be a surprisingly helpful resource for honest, up-to-date product recommendations. Even if you're not planning on buying the item within the group, it can't hurt to get unbiased, detailed reviews from other parents before making a big purchase such as a stroller or crib.

Learn the acronyms

In peer-to-peer marketplaces on Kijiji, Facebook and Bunz, there are a few commonly used acronyms that help to quickly indicate the item condition and terms of sale or trade. Google them and you'll come across definitions for terms such as Sold Pending Pick Up (SPPU), In Search Of (ISO) and Excellent Used Condition (EUC). You'll pick them up quickly.

Safety first

Be aware of product recalls and expiration dates when buying children's gear second-hand, particularly when it comes to car seats. Because car seats and boosters have a set lifespan of anywhere between 6 and 12 years, many parents prefer to simply buy them new.   

Measure twice

Whether you're buying a bike or a pair of sandals, make sure to check manufacturer websites for sizing information, or ask the seller for detailed measurements, whenever possible. On the second-hand market, there's generally no opportunity to change your mind about a purchase after the initial exchange, and no refunds if your toddler's feet are actually bigger than you thought!

Consider trades

Why not declutter your home while acquiring something you actually need through trades with other parents? After all, that stockpile of adorable, seasonal baby clothes from your firstborn won't be so helpful if your second or third child is born at a different time of the year.

Discover new favourites

The majority of kids' stuff in the second-hand marketplace is gently used, brand-name products. But don't be surprised to find stylish, one-of-a-kind items that you wouldn't have found at the mall, too. Like a handknit baby sweater or vintage Eames rocking chair that's child-sized. 

Don't stockpile

Online, you might be tempted to to snatch up a great deal on something you don't really need for ages — for example, an adorable wooden balance bike for your newborn — and stash it in the storage unit or basement. Avoid these impulse purchases, because your particular toddler might go straight from baby walker to tricycle…leaving you with a balance bike that's gathering dust.

Shop consignment on social

Most children's vintage, second-hand and consignment stores don't have an e-commerce website because of their relatively quick product turnover, but many will post images of new arrivals on Instagram and facilitate sales via comment or direct message. Follow the accounts of your favourite local boutiques to shop your feed, and you'll also be the first to know about sales and promotions in-store.

Pass it on

The best part of the circular economy is that once your kids have outgrown something, unless you're saving it for the next baby, it's an easy process to sell or donate it to someone who can use it. 

Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.