Mellow Mummy: Baby Stuff For Free: Lesson 1 – Second Hand, Not Second Rate : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Baby Stuff For Free: Lesson 1 – Second Hand, Not Second Rate

Welcome to the first in a series of blogs about how to get your hands on FREE baby stuff. Now, I'm not one to scrimp and save (trust me, I love to splurge cash I don't have on my little munchkin), but I am someone who likes to try before I buy – this whole parenthood malarkey can be very pricey and if you're going to splash out on expensive baby buys then why not grab a few freebies along the way?
  • Free baby stuff can help you decide which products to buy (or to avoid) in a huge market of baby gear where the choice can sometimes be mind-blowing.
  • Free baby stuff can sometimes be exactly what you need, saving you money which you can spend on other luxuries instead.
  • Free baby stuff is a great way to discover what's out there, to experience things you'd never have had the chance to, to explore websites and retailers you'd never previously have heard of and you never know, you might uncover a few gems!
In these lessons I'm going to share the secrets that have helped me make the first 6 months of motherhood that much more affordable. In lesson 1, I sing the praises of second-hand goods.

If you buy all your baby gear brand new, you can feel like you're pouring money down the drain – some of the clothes, toys and gadgets get used for a matter of weeks, sometimes even days, perhaps never at all! As an existing mum, you probably wouldn't think twice about dressing your subsequent children in hand-me-down clothes, or re-using toys and other baby kit.... but as a first-time mum, there's a lot of pressure to provide a complete set of brand new and shiny baby kit for your new arrival. That's where second-hand goods come in, what's wrong with someone else's hand-me-downs? Someone else's barely-used baby stuff?

Don't be afraid of second hand goods. Its not embarrassing to dress your baby in pre-worn clothes, and they almost certainly won't give a hoot. Its not cruel to offer your baby pre-loved toys BUT... quality is important; If you can get your hands on some good quality second hand products then neither you, nor your baby will ever know the difference.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have close family with children who can pass on quality hand-me-downs but if you do, drop some hints and you never know, you might inherit a lot of their stuff. Family aren't the only source of freebies though; there are an awful lot of people out there who have done the baby thing before, just dying to offload the baby kit that they no longer need and which is cluttering up their house. I've had clothes from my neighbours, a complete set of re-usable nappies (un-used) from a colleague, and even some goodies from a friend of a neighbour! Keep dropping those hints and see what comes your way!

The number one rule is “always say yes!”. Not only is it polite not to turn the offers down, but it means that the offers won't stop coming and that you can stock-pile free goodies for your baby! Whether you have a little one already, or whether you're pregnant and preparing for their arrival, don't be afraid to stash away your free baby goodies until the time comes when you need them. Clothes for a child much bigger than yours may seem to be a silly thing to stock pile, but you'll be surprised how quickly you need them. When you sort through the items you've been given, don't be too quick to dismiss things as unneeded; you'll be surprised how your attitudes change with experience and if you don't give something a go, you'll never know what you've missed out on.

Once you do get to sorting out the things you've been given, please bare in mind that the things you don't need, or the things you don't like may be someone else's treasure! Always pass your unwanted items on to other people who need them (remembering to check with their original donor first, to make sure that they're cool with it). If you're looking for someone onto whom you can pass your baby stuff, read on...

I've been a free-cycler since long before Lara came into existence. Freecycle is a network of online forums (I'm pretty certain the plural of forum isn't forums but I haven't recently brushed up on my latin word endings, so it shall have to do) where people can offer items for free, or request items for free. Recently, many of the UK Freecycle groups have changed to Freegle which is a UK-led initiative that achieves pretty much the same thing.

The concept is simple. If there is something you want, then post a 'WANTED' message. If there is something you want to get rid of, then post an 'OFFER' message. I tend to browse the offer messages on two different local groups, several times a day, responding to the messages I like the look of as soon as I see them. As you can imagine, good quality baby goodies are VERY quickly snapped up.

There's an art to getting the items you want.

If you are posting a WANTED message:-
  • Be quite specific about what you are looking for, you're more likely to get offers if you ask for 'a bottle steriliser' rather than 'anything for a new baby'.
  • Explain why it is you want or need the thing you are asking for – people like to know that their property is going to a good home.

If you are responding to an OFFER message:-
  • Respond ASAP (first check for later TAKEN posts to make sure the item is still available).
  • Be polite.
  • Check your spelling!
  • Always let them know when you are able to collect the item.
  • Explain who you are and why you want the item – free-cyclers tend to shy away from people who might be trying to make a profit out of their items such as ebayers or car-booters. Make it clear that you're a mum in need and that their property will get good use.
I have pretty much kitted out my entire nursery using items from Freegle. Goodies I've picked up include a crib, bedding, nursery storage, a breast pump, breast-milk storage bottles, sterilisers (of all shapes and sizes for me to try), a booster seat, top 'n' tail bowl, clothes (some of them brand spanking new), nappies, baby cosmetics. Admittedly, there has been some tat along the way - stuff that really is only good for the dustbin – but other people have different standards to me. Conversely, some of the stuff has been totally unused and in pristine condition.

If you do manage to get your hands on some free-cycled goodies, and they don't look as good as the description made them seem, then don't be surprised (there's usually a reason why people are getting rid of this stuff!)... and DO NOT despair! I've found that a bit of elbow grease can bring things back from the dead! My crib was covered in cobwebs and baby sick, but now looks (and smells) as good as the day it was bought. My steriliser looked like a bio-disaster but a little love, a trip through the dishwasher and some descaler did the trick. Don't be too quick to bin the stuff that looks like rubbish!

And remember... if you get something through Freegle, and you decide you don't want it (or if you have other unwanted baby bits), pass them on to someone who does!

If you get the second-hand bug then don't forget that there are a number of other places where you can pick up bargain quality seconds (obviously not for free, but near enough!). Ebay and Car Boot sales are both popular options, but my personal favourites are my local NCT nearly new sales where I tend to buy all of Lara's bog-standard vests and sleepsuits for next-to-nothing. Some of the baby goods sold at NCT sales are brand new (with labels) and all of them are of a great quality, with the added bonus that a small part of the price you pay goes to charity.

Coming soon...
Lesson 2 – Make the Most of Baby Clubs
Lesson 3 – Winning Ways
Lesson 4 – Offer Your Views
Lesson 5 – Great Ways to Get Something for Nothing
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