It's no secret that raising a child is expensive: Annual costs run roughly $13,000 per child on average, including housing, food, and education, according to the latest figures from the USDA. And many child-related expenses only increase as kids get older.
With the coronavirus pandemic still very much a factor and many young parents reconfiguring financial priorities, now might be an especially strenuous time to take on the extra expenses of a new baby. But buying and selling gently used baby items can be a smart way to save money, and to earn a little extra, too. Here are a few tips.
- Ask for hand-me-downs. The average cost of clothing alone in a baby's first year can be up to $175, according to Walmart. Before you spend a dime on your baby to-buy list, make sure to ask family, friends, and even neighbors if they happen to have items like used baby clothes and toys they may be able to part with for free. Many parents rely on older nieces and nephews' hand-me-downs or join parenting groups where members pass around used baby clothes to avoid spending money on those items.
- Scour secondhand marketplaces. Before you buy something new, check marketplaces and sites that sell used goods, which can often be substantially cheaper than buying new. "Your thredUP, your Poshmark, your letgo, OfferUp: Those are all great options for buying," says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge. A baby raincoat sells for as little as $2 on OfferUp, for example, while a baby toy lot sells for as little as $5 on Mercari.
Remember to consider safety, though, and make sure the items you're looking for are safe to buy secondhand. As of June 2011, for example, the Consumer Production Safety Commission issued new standards for how cribs should be made, addressing "deadly hazards" observed with older models, according to its website. A used crib might not meet those safety standards, making it important to invest in a new one.
- Compare resale site terms. When it comes to selling items, Bodge suggests using the same websites you'd check out to buy items: thredUP, Poshmark, letgo, OfferUp, Mercari, and eBay. Side hustle expert Daniella Flores also recommends online thrift store Swap.com. Note that each of these sites has its own process, fees, and payouts. Poshmark, for example, takes $2.95 of each sale under $15 and 20% of each sale above $15.
- Consider minimizing your time commitment. "On ThredUp and Swap.com," says Flores, "you ship them the items and they price them out and list the items for you. It isn't as much [of a] profit as you only receive a percentage of the sales when the items sell, unlike what you'd get if you did it yourself on Mercari or Poshmark, but it takes the manual part out of it if you don't have the time."
Here, too, remember to consider the safety of others: Don't try to sell anything that's expired, was subject to a recall, or that may no longer meet current safety standards.
The potential danger of contracting the coronavirus can make buying or selling secondhand items seem more fraught. Still, there are ways to mitigate risk. "During the pandemic, you want to focus more on those [sites] that you're sending through the mail versus the ones that you're meeting in person," says Bodge.
If you choose to conduct an in-person transaction using a site like letgo or Facebook Marketplace, make sure to abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social distancing guidelines including wearing a mask and keeping a six-foot distance from your seller or buyer, and use electronic payment methods.
The chance of contacting the virus from shipping and receiving boxes is lower, experts say. The longer an item takes to get to you or your buyer, the less likely it is for whatever virus particles might be on it to survive. To be extra cautious when you've ordered an item, put the unopened box somewhere out of the way for a day or two before opening it.
If you've bought toys, make sure to wipe them down with a disinfectant. When it comes to clothing, it's good practice to wash it in the hottest temperature water that's safe for the fabric before your baby wears it.
"And put it in the dryer," Carolyn Forte, director of the Home Care & Cleaning Products Lab and the Textiles, Paper and Plastics Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, told Grow. "Washing and drying should kill anything that's on there."
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