Smart Consumer: Save big on your little bundle of joy -- buy baby gear second-hand
Previously owned clothes and goods can be just as good as new, writes John Cradden
There is nothing like the feeling of bringing home a newborn baby, particularly if it's your first. But at a time when you might also be experiencing at least a little bit of anxiety (not to mention lack of sleep), the last thing you need is pressure to fork out huge sums of money to buy only the very best equipment.
A basic set of essential equipment is likely to cost more than €1,000 new, and that doesn't even include nappies, clothes or toys.
But many first-time parents can be bombarded with advice from well meaning family and friends about things they "just couldn't do without" -- leaving them with a list longer than their new baby and a bill of as much as €3,500.
A new survey by SuperValu and Irish parenting website Eumom.ie suggests even this sum is only the tip of the iceberg.
Almost all the mums surveyed said they spent more than €5,000 purchasing items for their newborns in the first year.
"Most of the must-haves turn out to be extravagant extras, and are not at all necessary for a tiny newborn or little toddler, and end up costing new parents a huge amount of cash and causing a lot of guilt," says Fiona Quinn of Arís, a group that runs second-hand sales of baby, toddler and maternity goods.
Mandy O'Rorke, founder of baby equipment trading website Babybay.ie says: "The pressure is really from the media, because there's a big interest in celebrity mums now, too, and what's the trendiest buggy, changing bag, latest must-have gadget, and so on."
1 No arguments there, but deciding what is essential and what's not is still a bit of a head-scratcher.
According to Quinn, essential items (besides clothes, nappies and toys) would include a buggy, cot and mattress, baby bath, high chair, bottle steriliser, car seat and baby monitor.
In her opinion, items such as baby swings, top'n'tail sets, bottle warmers, changing tables, changing bags, Moses baskets and bath seats are not essential, but warns that "the list is endless".
2 OK, that's a good starting point. But I wouldn't say no to a few extravagant extras if they weren't so, eh . . . extravagant.
Well, whether you regard a My First Convertible 3-in-1 Car Walker from Mothercare as an essential or an extravagance depends on your point of view, but €100 is still €100.
But, like many other varieties of baby equipment, there is so much available second-hand, and in perfect condition, for less than half the new price.
3 How much can I save by buying second-hand?
Generally speaking, most second-hand baby items should sell for between a third and half of their price when new.
Some particularly popular items might sell for a bit more than half price, but only if they are practically new or unused.
But if you get to meet the seller, polishing up your haggling skills could result in even more savings.
4 Where are the best places to look for second-hand stuff?
There are a load of websites.
The classified sections of parenting websites such as Magicmum.com, Rollercoaster.ie and Eumom.ie are good places to start, as are more general online classifieds such as Donedeal.ie or Gumtree.ie.
Another fast-growing local website is Babybay.ie, a classifieds website specifically for the trading of baby items, which has featured on RTÉ's Dragon's Den. All items must be in new, nearly new or good condition.
"A lot of the clothes in particular would be new with tags, unwanted gifts or the child just hasn't got round to wearing them," says O'Rorke.
"Babies get so much clothes and don't get round to wearing a lot of them, plus what is worn is practically new as they wear them for such a short time."
5 But I hate buying things online.
Well, it sounds like Arís might be up your street. This service basically organises car-boot/garage-style sales specifically for second-hand baby equipment, running in community, school and parish halls around the Leinster area.
Founder Fiona Quinn decided to set up Arís partly because she hated buying second-hand baby stuff online, and is now organising sales every four to six weeks.
"I wanted to bring back good ol' fashioned face-to-face selling," she says. "Forget the internet, forget photos, forget emailing and waiting around for house visits wondering if this is the caller who will actually buy."
The sales have been proving hugely popular since the first took place in October last year, and in every sale to date, seller spaces have sold out weeks before the event, she says.
There are other offline alternatives as well, such as The Second Hand Buggy Shop in Celbridge, Co Kildare, which sells all kinds of used buggies in good condition, usually for around 33% of their new price, although some popular items might sell for 50%, but no more than that, say the owners.
Parents with buggies to offload will be paid 75% of the price the item is sold for.
One advantage to buying from a shop like this compared to a private seller is that it offers a basic guarantee, in that if you manage to find any defects shortly after buying, you will get your money back, as long as you bring the item back within a few days.
6 Are there not some items you should always buy new rather than second-hand?
There are no hard and fast rules about this, but certainly most parents might not be happy about buying used mattresses, soft toys and even carseats.
"Some people feel a bit funny about carseats, but as long as they haven't been in a crash I think they're fine," says O'Rorke.