To Thrift or Not to Thrift: Baby clothes and gear

Babies. Sigh. They grow up so fast, don't they?

Take it from a mom. Yeah, they do. So fast that anything you buy them will be too small within weeks. Babies wake up from their naps bigger than when you put them down. Toddlers grow like little weeds, AND they play so hard their clothing gets worn out before you get your value's worth. By the time they're in elementary school, the little nits seem to outgrow/ruin their clothes weekly.

That's why thrift stores are the only place to shop for kids.Obviously I may be preaching to the choir here, but as a mom of two, I see no good reason not to utilize thrift stores when clothing your kids. There are three principals I adhere to:

One: An expecting mom gets more new baby clothes than she can possibly use from friends and family.

Two: Babies grow out of these clothes within weeks or months.

Three: Why buy new pants and tops for school-aged kids, who will just put holes in the knees and rips in the sweater by the end of the week? Buy these basics at a thrift store, where just a little effort can reap you new or nearly new quality.

Yes, I know a percentage of new parents out there will grimace at this sentiment. It's supposed to be "only the best" for your little bundle. The urge to buy the most expensive gear for your new baby is strong. Indeed, the healthiest of the Parenting titles these days, Cookie Magazine, makes a fat living out of selling the idea of luxury brand-name clothing and equipment for children, to the more-money-than-sense set of parents.

To these people I laugh. "I'll find your $300 Oilily Toddler jacket your little Skylar or Dakota refused to put on for a year, then grew out of, at the thrift store down the block for $5. Bwahahahaa!"

There can be good shopping for your baby at the thrifts, too. For example, onesies - these are the little cotton one-piece suits your infants will live in for the first year and a half of their lives. They snap open at the bottom for easy diaper-changing. You, like every first time mom, will probably get dozens of these at your baby shower. Good thing, too, since baby will urp, burp and poop all over them, making it necessary to go out and buy more. If you don't get around to using all of the Onesies you were gifted with, your baby will grow out of them. A fat and happy six-month-old no longer fits in the adorable bunny Onesie your mother-in-law gave you for your newborn.

So you go to the thrift store and you find all the Onesies people never got around to using, or only used once or twice before their baby outgrew them. And you buy them ten for $1. Wash them (even though many will be brand new), and you have an economical solution to your daily baby dressing needs.

Other items worth buying for baby at a thriftstore?
  • Receiving blankets, new or practically new, by the dozen.
  • Baby socks. You're going to lose them anyway, so pick up a few dozen new or nearly new at thrift store prices.
  • Dress clothes, such as frilly dresses for baby girls and little suits for baby boys, which typically are bought for a one-time studio portrait and then grown-out of soon thereafter. Also, Baptismal gowns, used once, often end up in a thrift.
  • Jackets. In the warmer climes, these don't get a lot of wear before baby grows out of them
  • Strollers. People turn these around at a nice clip, which means that with a little luck and persistence, you might well be able to find yourself a nice brand of stroller with a lot of us still in it.
There's a whole school of thought on used toy. I wouldn't recommend buying baby toys at a thrift shop, as babies put these things in their mouths. Also, no on plush toys. These can harbor mites and are hard to launder.

Toys for the toddler and up set are good to go, however. I once found half a dozen large, thick plastic dinosaurs at a thrift store in San Francisco, selling for $1 each. These I knew sold for more than $20 new. Seven years later, my son still plays with these. Give your pre-schooler or older child a thrill and let them rummage the toy bin themselves. They'll be getting exciting new playthings for themselves at a fraction of the cost you'd pay at another store, and they'll be learning about the marvels of thrift store shopping in the process. Teach 'em young the value of a buck!
This post was written as part of a series on how to thrift shop smarter. Read more on what to buy, and not to buy, at thrift stores.
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