A Zero-Budget Christmas
Part 5: Shopping Second-hand
(or Kids’ Edition, Part 2)
In the early years, when we were growing our family, finishing degrees, and working lots of jobs for little pay, second-hand items saved my Christmases.
It was during those years I learned that a gift does not have to brand new to be thoughtful and delightful.
If you’ve been following along with our Zero-Budget Christmas series from the beginning, you will not be surprised to find out that for most of our marriage, nearly all of the presents we gave in our home were not purchased new.
To this day, one of the ways I make Christmas work is by embracing the idea of “new to you.”
“New to you” items are not purchased brand-new, but they are new to the recipient. They are things that delight the receiver but would be unattainable for the giver if purchased brand-new. This can include absolutely anything: toys, clothes, books, sporting goods, electronics—anything you can purchase new, you can find gently used.
The benefits of embracing a “new-to-you” gift-giving philosophy are numerous. First, this concept allows you to give thoughtfully and even lavishly on a zero-budget. That’s because the brand-new value that is assigned to an item by a marketer is paid for by the first buyer. The second buyer gets the same item without having to pay for the privilege of taking it out of the box.
Second, focusing on new-to-you breaks the cycle of disposable consumerism. We are a throw-away culture. If a child is tired of a toy, or the teen doesn’t like that new shirt, or Grandma gives the kids a stack of books they have no intention of reading, those things show up at the thrift store.
That means that many nearly brand-new items are available for pennies on the dollar because someone got bored of them, the item wasn’t quite “right,” or it was never wanted in the first place. Buying second-hand looks for the value beyond the box.
When we shop and give this way, we teach our children that the price tag and the flashy packaging is not what matters. It’s the value that remains after those things are gone that counts. If children can learn that during their early years, they will be much wiser consumers later in life.
Third, if you’re a mama of little ones, buying new-to-you is the most brilliant thing you can do because most of the time, those gifts come unwrapped and pre-assembled! Can I get a “Hallelujah!” for not needing a screwdriver, pliers, a sturdy scissors, or a chainsaw on Christmas morning to get your two-year-old’s dump truck out of the box. Amen!
Many parents take gifts out of the packaging before wrapping them for this very reason. Well, if this is your habit, let me tell you: your child will not know if you unwrapped a new present or gave them a new-to-them present, and they won’t care. They’ll just be delighted with the gift.
So, are you ready to get started? If you’re not currently a thrifty shopper, or even if you are, here are some ways to find the gifts your family needs, second-hand:
- Shopping new-to-you requires a little more planning than retail shopping because you can’t control what you’ll find. I keep a running list of ideas for each child, and because we only purchase one or two “want” gifts each year, that keeps my options open.
- If you’re on zero-budget, don’t settle for retail thrift store prices. Watch for sales! Savers (or Value Village, depending on region), Goodwill, and many other franchises will have 50% off days or other promotions. I keep a running list of the things my kids need and wait for a sale. Many stores will also give coupons if you donate, so be sure to ask.
- Check out independent thrift stores, like those run by churches. In my experience, these stores have better prices, more helpful staff, and are generally cleaner and better organized than the chain stores.
- Thred Up and other online clothing consignment shops allow you to search for specific brands, sizes, and even quality. You can search “New with Tags” to find amazing deals. These stores tend to be pricier than brick-and-mortar thrift stores, but they also have better, more consistent inventory. Plus, the convenience of a search feature when shopping for clothing cannot be underestimated. If you do not have an account with Thred Up, use this link to get $10 off your first order. Sign up for their e-mail list and you’ll also get a discount code for a percentage off. As we have already mentioned, you can even donate to earn credit for purchases.
- Host a gift-swap. Get your friends together and have everyone bring their gently used toys, books, clothes, and giftables to swap. Fuel the fun with cookies and cocoa and barter away. Everyone will exchange used toys with “new-to-you” gifts to give–truly a zero-budget option.
- Put out an SOS on social media. This is one of the best ways to find specific gifts at a great price. If you have a child who loves American Girl dolls, Thomas trains, electronics, or anything with a name brand, ask your village! Need electronics for your teen? Ask the people you know and trust. You’d be surprised at what people are just getting ready to upgrade or have sitting around. They will willingly and reasonably sell or even give their stuff to you so they don’t have to bother with finding another taker.
- Search Craigslist and Ebay for specific things like sporting goods or brand-name toys. Craigslist has been a better source for second-hand items for me than Ebay, since many professional Ebay sellers keep prices just as high (and often higher) than you can find retail. But Ebay is still the source for collectibles, retired toys, or limited editions, and it comes with certain buyer protections, which Craigslist does not have.
- Search for local sales pages on social media, and join! Many towns, cities, and community groups have sales pages. If you don’t see something you’re looking for, ask! You may even be able to arrange delivery for large items.
Have you implemented a new-to-you Christmas gift-giving strategy in your home? I’d love to hear what has worked for you so we can be a little more savvy this year. Tell us in the comments!
*To begin reading A Zero-Budget Christmas from the beginning, start here.
**During this series, affiliate links may be included for your convenience.