Feeling Used

I must have gotten bit by the garage sale bug this last summer (by summer, I mean May to October, because it’s still warm here in Texas!). We’ve had a blast buying used toys, books and clothing from Craigslist, eBay and Amazon. Here are some tips from yours truly, a  serious online-shopper junkie:

eBay

I am a huge fan of buying used toys (provided they are in clean and nice condition). I am slightly obsessed with Tonka Chuck and Friends Wheel Pals cars. I saw them at Wal-Mart for $5/ car and thought they were the cutest toy cars ever. I’m talking about the soft version (not die cast), also perfect size (4″) for a toddler’s hands. But I was reluctant to buy them at full price so I did some research on eBay. The next thing you know, I bought a nice collection of them at a decent price and was able to resell some of the ones we didn’t want. Many older cars are discontinued too so buying them used gives them a second life and plenty of them were in like new condition. I think I like playing with them more than my kid does. But whatever.

UPDATE: Because of our Hot Wheels collection, Baby took an interest in these Tonkas for about a year and decided HW are way cooler, which they are especially because Dad says so, even though he is a year under the HW age guidelines. (Uhh…why SG…why?) So just be careful about giving your kids toys in the “right time, right place.” My Tonka collection which would have been perfectly fine until age 3 is waiting for Baby #2 now.

51G0QAHNcqL I’ve also had some serious regrets buying from eBay when I have not been informed enough. eBay shopping requires serious research into prices, item condition, and if you’re talking about clothes, body measurements are essential to have.

  • Ask questions. If you are unclear about an item’s condition, always, always ask. Read descriptions carefully and do your homework: Is it in a home full of pets? a smoke-free home? The seller may not accept returns, and even when he/she does, you’ll most likely pay for return shipping. Ask the seller for photos if those they posted are unclear or dim.
  • For clothing, take your measurements and know your brands well. When wearing Ann Taylor Loft, somehow I’m a size 2, while on the other hand with H&M I’m a size 6. Each brand has a size chart on their site for reference; while it may not reflect that particular item, it’s at least a good place to start. Take measurements of yourself (or whoever you are shopping for) and ask for the measurements of the article of clothing from the seller if you are unsure about sizing.
  • From personal experience, I suggest buying used clothing from individual sellers in “excellent used condition” rather than huge sellers on ebay like thrift stores or mass clothing resellers like Twice. I think people generally take better care of their clothing when in their own homes (and worn by themselves or family members) and you are less likely to have the smelly thrift store smell when the item has been washed well and stored properly.

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Craigslist

SG has had some seriously fun times buying Hot Wheel tracks off Craigslist, mostly for fun: mostly for himself but a little bit for Baby too. We have scored some major deals from toys other people’s children have grown out of. Yeah, can you tell we’re a bit too obsessed with cars in this household?

  • Act fast and devote some time. Stuff that is on Craigslist that is priced to sell goes quickly. Make sure you have enough time that day to track down the seller, schedule travel time, and take time to go look at what you are buying.
  • With Craigslist and other negotiable shopping, always go in with your price in mind. What will you be willing to spend? Will you give the seller his/her asking price? When do you walk away?

Amazon

My love for Amazon runs deep. I love Amazon. So it’s natural that when I discovered Amazon Warehouse that I would love it just as much. They have some awesome stuff for babies and toddlers for a good discount. You can view Warehouse items here. Or you can search on a regular Amazon product page; if they have Warehouse products available, it will be found under Used (next to New) and labeled “Open Box.”

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  • On Amazon Warehouse, “like new” or “very good” items are usually worthwhile. I’ve only ever sent back one open-box item (a Fisher Price booster high chair seat) that was really in badly used condition (when described as like new or very good); it had noticeable signs of wear. “Very good” usually means the original box has been replaced by a generic or Amazon-brand brown box. Amazon is also very good about returns in case this sort of thing happens
  • I’ve purchased Pampers Wipes (came without the box or a dented box, packages are all still sealed), Kleenex tissues, and other household items. The items are usually damaged in packaging but fine otherwise, just make sure to read the description before buying.
  • For used books, the Amazon Marketplace is a good option. What I dislike, however, is that a seller cannot offer combined shipping, so you will end up paying $3.99 (or more) for shipping per item even if you buy 5 items from the same seller. Keep shipping costs in mind when searching
  • .A lot of “new” books posted in the Marketplace are not actually in new condition, they have a remainder mark on them (usually a line of permanent marker long the edge of a book) especially if you are looking for an older-published book. If aesthetics is a concern (for a book to be gifted, for example), buy new directly from Amazon or with a seller who has described their item as unmarked, not a remainder copy, pristine, etc. As a book snob (think of the girl who looks at every single copy at Costco or BN for dents and marks before buying one–that’s probably me) this has been a big issue for me. (New to me means unspoiled in every way; sometimes a slight bent corner but really nothing major.)

Once Upon a Child Review

Confession time. I like buying clothes. I also like buying clothes for my child.

I am a huge believer in retail therapy (within your means, of course.) When I was pregnant with Baby, I stockpiled onesies, shorts and rompers from Gymboree, a store that has quality items but can be pricey if you’re not careful. Luckily, most stuff was on clearance, but it was still kind of ridiculous to buy every single thing brand new.

I realize now that I was a little bit psycho about buying everything nice and new for my baby. Perhaps things would have been different if we were still in the poor student days of Simple Guy’s postgraduate schooling. But I was spoiling myself and totally unrealistic about buying used.

Lesson: if you buy used stuff for your kids, it does not mean you love them less.

Some things I believe should not be bought used, like car seats and cribs and mattresses and shoes. But clothing’s okay used, in my book.

I wish I knew about Once Upon a Child before I had Baby.

They sell baby clothes that are gently used of some good brands too (Carters, Gymboree, Janie and Jack etc). I only started shopping there recently, and this whole time they were only a five minute walk away from my house. (What was I thinking?) So far, I’ve bought a decent jacket, a few dress shirts, and some sweatshirts as we are preparing for a trip to a colder place soon.

We’ve successfully gotten the “thrift store” smell out of the clothes by simply adding a bit of white vinegar to the wash. I’ve loved most stuff I’ve bought there and I keep going back to see what is new on the racks. And get this. A lot of the smaller sizes like 0-3, 3-6 and 6-9 months have a big selection on clearance which for OUAC, means 50% off. (Say what?) It is perfect for the new mom!

I found some of the stuff I got at Gymboree there—I think I still did better buying my stuff from the clearance rack at Gymboree rather than Once Upon a Child. But it’s still an awesome option to keep in mind, if you don’t want to swim through the Gymboree red bins which always reminds me of those crazy Chinese women at the marketplace. (I realize I kind of look like an idiot, on my hands and knees, but it’s a sacrifice of self-image I’m willing to take for a great bargain!)

It has been especially helpful as Baby has gotten older, for toddler clothing. Toddlers don’t outgrow their clothing as quickly and the sale racks of Carter’s and Gymboree of bigger sizes are sparse–it’s really hard (but not impossible) to find what I want.

Please note: this review does not include selling old stuff to OUAC. I do not have any experience with selling to them. And I would try to gift my gently used clothing to a new mom before selling, but that’s just my situation and preference.

How I Pack My Diaper Bag for a Toddler

And we’re back! I don’t know what happened last month. It seemed to fly by. We had family over and lost track of time. It felt very much like summer here in the DFW area so we were still in the lazy-days-of-summer mode. I don’t know about you but I am excited for fall.

Baby is a toddler. But on this blog, I’m still going to call him Baby, probably for forever. Despite the meltdowns and fits over nothing (sheesh!) I love this phase because we are a lot more free and able to do more. We’re taking walks to the grocery store (conveniently across the street) and to the park and to the library (heaven). I’m still kind of waiting to take him to Dallas for the aquarium and other exciting adventures, but the time will soon come, I’m sure.

What I love most is that I don’t have to take a lot of stuff with me anymore. I pack lighter and smarter. Toddlers need snacks instead of nursing cover and burp cloths.  They need distractions since they are more awake and more opinionated. If you choose your snacks and toys carefully, they will also be easy to carry.

It also helped that I got a smartphone last year. Finally. We were like the last people on earth to get them. No more pad and pen like during Baby’s newborn days. I carry around a mini computer instead.

You will need:

  • a diaper bag (bag shown is still the Petunia Picklebottom Boxy Backpack)
  • hand sanitizer and facial tissues
  • wipes and diapers
  • a change of clothes (think simple and basic) stuffed into a wet bag (Itzy Ritzy)
  • mom stuff: cell phone, keys, snack
  • snacks, snacks and more snacks! (i.e. food pouches, crackers)
  • spoon/fork (plastic ones from your take-out dinner will do), sippy cups, bib
  • small toys and distractions

UPDATE: The Boxy Backpack is still doing well. It has been in constant use for almost 24 months.

Ideas for Snacks

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  • I still love these food pouches but I buy only a few for going out. Baby’s teeth came in so slowly, so textured foods have been a huge challenge for him so I always like to have an option in case he can’t eat what we are eating. If you can find them on sale, they are a great portable option. (I found Earth’s Best Apple Apricot Yogurt smoothie on clearance at our Sprouts for 50c. I also found Happy Baby 3rd stage at Kroger for $0.99. Check those displays!) Baby finally has mastered sipping through a straw, so these pouches with a straw-like opening are fun to sip and I don’t need to use a spoon anymore!

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  • Unsweetened applesauce is a great option for an on-the-go snack. These individual cups from Walmart are good for the diaper bag. There are many varieties and brands (organic, light, cinnamon etc.) but I like to use the unsweetened kind. They do need a spoon and bib though as they can get messy.

pouches

  • Another applesauce option is GoGo Squeeze. We get ours from Costco, about $10.99 for 20 pouches. I like their smaller size, it’s just perfect for a light healthy snack and doesn’t ruin Baby’s appetite.
  • Other ideas are string cheese, Gerber snacks (puffs, crunchers), Teddy Grahams, Hello Panda, and Goldfish Crackers.

Ideas for Toys and Distractions

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  • Toy Cars: I just love these Tonka Mini Wheel Pals from Playskool. They are no longer sold in stores. I bought mine off eBay after buying a huge collection of the larger Tonka Chuck and Friends Wheel Pals. (Note: Just make sure you look for ones of excellent used condition, as a lot of the wheels of the smaller cars get worn and don’t roll as smoothly or at all. It is hard to find ones that are like new, because they were probably played with a lot)
  • Baby REALLY loves his dad’s collection of Hot Wheels, a lightweight toy that’s better for older toddlers age 3+ but we monitor 2-year old Baby playing with them. We bring two cars on vacations so he gets his fix of car-playing even when we’re not at home.

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  • Another idea is the Take and Toss straw cups from The First Years. Once you get your baby to use these, they are amazing. While not completely spillproof (like if the straw is pulled out), they are really durable and also lightweight. Baby loves to hold the lids, the straws, the cups. And I don’t feel bad if they get destroyed. These are available at WalMart and other retailers.