Musings on thrifting for a baby


It has come to my attention that I haven't been posting much about thrifting lately. It's not that I'm not doing any thrifting--I tend to hit the thrift store once a week, either with Buzzy in tow or when he's at home with Dad. My recent luck there has been fair-to-middling, I'd say; no amazing scores, but never coming home totally empty-handed. I've also be thrifting for far different things that I used to--namely, things for the baby.

Buzzy always needs clothes, so I always look at those, and I've gotten a few great things and a lot of useful things for $.99-$4.99/item. My best score on that front was an 18-month size Land's End parka, barely worn, found a mere week or so before we headed to the chilly climes of Minnesota for Christmas. Felt good about that one. I scored a $.99 Hanna Anderssen striped onesie that I love. I've snagged a number of pairs of Gymboree pants, which are my preferred brand right now, because they seem to fit him just right. Clothes are a fairly easy one, because I can tell at a glance what kind of shape something is in, and they are completely washable.

Toys are a bit harder. At this stage, when everything goes immediately into Buzzy's mouth, I'm only really willing to thrift toys for him if they are new-in-packaging, or can be completely washed. Basically, that means only hard surface stuff, like the vintage-esque Fisher Price pull phone I brought home recently. I so thought that thing was circa early 80s--it looked just like the one we had when I was a kid!--but the bottom says copyright 2009! I had no idea they still made those. Anyway, something like that can be fully submerged and soaked in hot water and vinegar, then scrubbed, so I feel OK about giving it to him. Things that can't get that treatment, though, I can't quite do yet. Hopefully I'll get over that when he's a bit bigger, as the toy section has always seemed to me to be one of a thrift store's high points.

Another easy-thrift, I've found, is baby linens--receiving blankets, crib sheets, etc. We don't actually need any of those things, having been very generously handed down and gifted a big stockpile, but I did buy him one crib sheet that I just couldn't resist--it has squirrels on it and was just too cute not to bring home. And again, completely hot water washable, so my germ fears are abated. I've also been checking out the fabric section of my thrift store lately, since we are just about out of blankets to use as backdrops for Buzzy's weekly photos, and I'm going to start needing to buy pieces of fabric. WAY cheaper to do that at the thrift store.

I've been thrifting a surprising number of super practical baby-related things new in the package. For example, I've found multiple unopened packages of breast milk storage freezer bags, and a number of unopened packages of pacifiers and bottle nipples. Those kinds of things can be very expensive. For example, a 50-ct box of milk storage bags is around $12 on Amazon, and they're generally $.99 at the thrift store, so if they are brands/varieties I think we'll use, I always grab them when I see them.

The biggest category of successful baby thrifting I've done, though, is for larger items. On my last trip, I came home with a little rocker type chair with a tray for Buzzy. Perfect for him right now, as he is loving sitting up, but isn't quite able to do it on his own yet, but also something that he'll only really use for a few weeks, so I wouldn't want to pay full price for it (probably around $50 for the kind I got). All of the fabric parts are removable/machine washable, so it was easy to clean up so Buzzy could use it, too. As I've mentioned before, Buzzy's pack n' play, changing table, and dresser are also thrifted. The pack n' play was a bit of a challenge, since is is fabric and can't be machine washed, but I satisfied myself with hot water, vinegar, and sunlight, and it has worked out great. Right now, I am on the lookout for three new higher ticket items--a foldable stroller (for the day, coming soon, when the bucket car seat caddy won't work anymore), an exersaucer/walker, and a high chair (I saw one of these for $5 the other day and I wish I'd bought it).

It has been interesting to me, as someone who has for more than a decade been willing to thrift just about anything I want or need, to realize that I do have different "rules" or "standards" when it comes to my baby. Would I thrift shoes for myself? Absolutely, if I could find any. For him? Probably not, unless they were new. Have I ever worried about the possible issues with thrifted furniture in the past? Honestly, no. Am I worried now? Absolutely. Which is probably good, honestly--I've been lucky so far, but that luck would have to run out eventually, and I'd end up with bed bugs or lice or scabies or something. Nothing like looking out for someone else to make you realize the ways in which you've neglected to look out for yourself.

How about you, fellow thrifters. Do you thrift a lot for your kids? What won't you buy? Any tips to make sure thrifted items are really clean before you give them to your baby? Leave a comment!


I will thrift anything for my son except for car seats (of course). Toys don't bother me. Hard things can be wiped with bleach wipes and soft things can be machine washed. I am very non-paranoid about germs though--I expect most people disagree with me there!

I'm actually a huge fan of thrifting baby shoes - at this age, they put so little wear on them, and outgrow them so fast, it's hard to even tell whether they're brand new or not. I felt like such a sucker the day I bought some cheapie new shoes for $10 at a regular store, then went to the thrift store and found 4 pairs of very nice, like-new, name brand (Robeez, the cutest Converse you've ever seen) shoes that added up to $10 all together. I think I'm going to hold off on buying any new non-thrifted shoes till my kids are actually walking.

I bought our oldest his first non-thrifted shoes a year ago when his feet had outgrown the kids' sizes. Because they lose those things. They wear the shit out of them dragging them on the ground. They get muddy and trashed, and I'd much rather it was a $3 pair of thrifted See Kai Runs than a $42 pair.

As far as toys go, if he were in day care, would he be allowed to play with the toys? Probably, right? So I'm not seeing the difference. Worried about bed bugs? Throw it in the dryer on high. Worried about lice? Ditto. But sooner or later, that naive little immune system will be challenged, and trust me -- better now than in fourth grade.

You have different rules for yourself vs. Buzzy because you don't chew on furniture or suck on your clothes, probably. (Or at least I've never seen you do that.)

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