Rubina Ahmed-Haq: Parenting by the Numbers


Kid Stuff: When to Save and When to Splurge

Plus, tips on how to become a savvy second hand shopper

Kid Stuff: When to Save and When to Splurge

As a mom of two, I know it’s expensive raising kids. From essentials like clothing and school supplies, to fun stuff like toys and crafts, there’s always something to spend money on. According to MoneySense Magazine, the cost to raise a child from cradle to 18 years of age is now more than $250,000. That’s a cool quarter of a million to bring up junior. This number can be pretty unsettling, especially for parents who are facing an insecure financial future.

The economy took a big hit in 2008 and many moms (including me) lost their jobs. Some moms haven’t returned to the workforce since then, or are working freelance, part time, or temp jobs. Any of these situations can lead to financial insecurity and create stress when the cost of raising kids continues to rise.

It wasn’t until I had kids that I discovered the wonderful world of the second hand economy. Up until that point, I never had a situation where I had loads of barely used items I no longer needed, coupled with looming big ticket purchases I would only use for a few months. One of my favourite places to shop is Value Village.

At Value Village, there are all kinds of high-quality, pre-loved clothing, toys, and household items at bargain prices. And you never know what you might find! Over 10,000 items arrive every day, so there is always something new to go through; all of which will contribute to lowering those hard-to-avoid child-raising costs. Here are some kid items I recommend saving on by buying second hand, and some you still need to splurge on.

Save On: Clothing and Shoes

Parenting pain point? Kids growing out a pair of jeans, shoes, or a jacket in a matter of months. It's costly to keep up with their growing demands (pun intended). Value Village is the right place for picking up gently used (and sometimes brand new) kids clothing. My kids are in need of bottoms for the summer, so I gathered up a pile of them for less than $16. If I were buying this same lot brand new, it would have cost me at least $80. To get the best quality clothes, check for loose stitching, fading, or stains. Also be sure to check the bottom of shoes for wear and tear.

Save On: Toys and crafts

One of the most impressive parts of Value Village is the "toy wall" (as my daughter likes to call it!) And it truly is a wall of toys.

On my latest trip, I picked up a few brand name ( VTech, Leap Frog, and Little Tikes) toys. The Little Tikes push and walk toy retails for more than $50. It was a bargain at $3.99.

I also found a colourful play mat, for only 99 cents. When buying toys, it’s always a good idea to Google the name when you get home to make sure there are no recalls on them. A toy can seem perfectly safe, but there could be a malfunction you may be unaware of.

Save On: Bed and Bath Items

My daughter was in her crib for three years, while it seems my son is only going to sleep in it until he turns one. Second hand bedding and bath items are a great way to save money. At Value Village, I found crib sheet and blankets for less than $3. Baby bath towels are also a big expense. If you want to go for the cute ones with the animal hood, they will cost you well over $30 brand new. I was lucky to find a few for less than $3 in almost new condition.

The second hand economy is robust and finding a bargain is easy but there are some kid items you should buy brand new. Here are some things you should splurge on.

Splurge On: Cribs and Car Seats

As it turns out, Value Village doesn’t carry cribs or car seats for infants. The reason being, they cannot guarantee that these items are safe, so parents looking for cribs and/or car seats should splurge on them and pay full retail. All children’s car seats and booster seats sold in Canada have an expiry or useful life date on them. You should also never use a seat made before January 1, 2012 because under Health Canada’s Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, it may not meet the latest requirements. Health Canada does not recommend using cribs older than 10 years. For all these reasons, splurging on car seats and cribs makes sense.

Splurge On: Gate and other safety equipment

Baby gates and other safety equipment also have to follow strict guidelines. For example, Health Canada warns that baby gates with diamond-shaped openings or "V" openings at the top larger than 38 mm (1 ½ in) are illegal to sell in Canada. Baby gates must come with information that identifies the manufacturer, model name or number, and the date of manufacture. It must also come with instructions for use and installation. In order to ensure your child's safety, splurging on these items is the best option.

Splurge On: The Outfit You Bring Baby Home In

This is a matter of personal choice so it may be different for you. Personally, I wanted to bring both of my brand new babies home from the hospital in brand new outfits. I spent a good deal of my pregnancy picking out that perfect, tiny outfit they would come home in. It's the one outfit I have saved and will probably give to them once they have their own kids.

Here are some more tips for becoming a savvy second hand shopper:

  1. Do some research. Know what the item you want costs brand new. It’s easy to spot a good deal when you’ve done your research and can see the item is at a steep discount.
  2. Don’t hesitate. If you see it second hand and you need it, buy it! Unlike retail stores, good items don’t last long. The best part is if you decide you don’t need it down the road, you can easily find a buyer on a buy and sell website.
  3. Visit often for specialty items. I’m looking for a dresser for my son’s room and I’ve been visiting the Value Village stores near me regularly to see if they have any in-store. One will come in, eventually!
  4. Before buying a new big ticket item, look into second hand first. My daughter needed a toddler bed and I found one that was practically brand new for half the price. She will probably only use it for a year but it feels good knowing I got a good deal.
  5. Sign up for the Value Village Super Savers club card. This card gives you access to more savings, exclusive events, coupons, and more.
  6. Donate your items once you are done. Just like you benefited from finding those second hand items, share the love by giving back what you no longer need.

The money I'm saving by buying second hand items has allowed me to put more money into my children’s RESPs and use the extra cash for fun activities. Don't forget to splurge on something for yourself. You've earned it.