by Jackie Rassner
Where babies are concerned, there’s no such thing as an investment item. They grow too quickly after all. The US Department of Agriculture just released new numbers estimating that it will cost $245,000 to raise a child born in 2014. If you are anything like us, it will feel like you’ve spent half that by the time baby goes to his or her one month check up. Our advice? Shop the secondary market and buy used. It is the best way to outfit your baby in style while living green and saving it, too.

Resale shops abound in Chicago and they’re not just for the vintage-lovers among us. The Second Child (954 W. Armitage) offers designer children’s clothing at affordable price points, promising in-season and impeccable pieces to fit within your budget. Mark your calendar for the last weekends of July and January when the entire store is marked down 70% to clear out for the next season. For an even larger and more varied selection of consignment pieces, stop by Kangaroo Kids (2071 N. Clybourn). And if you are after even lower prices, try a drive out to one of Once Upon a Child’s three suburban locations. This secondhand chain store, affectionately dubbed “the baby thrift store,” is packed with everything from clothing to bouncy seats, toys, and beyond. Up for some serious digging? We’ve scored some adorable pieces at the Salvation Army’s multi-floor Lakeview location (2270 N Clybourn).

Facebook groups
Groups like Chicago Mom Swap and Neighborhood Virtual Garage Sales connect you directly with moms trying to unload used items. We’ve found big ticket pieces like nursery gliders, stroller systems, and more for well under retail price. Saving money on these large items is not only easier on our wallets, it makes it a breeze to justify a babysitter for a night out on the town too.

Babies, Tots, ‘n’ More Consignment Sale
Chicago’s first and only seasonal consignment event company, Babies, Tots ‘n’ More puts on two sales each year. Since the sale found its start four years ago, word has spread and the event has grown incredibly: the April 2014 event welcomed more than 1,000 families to shop over 22,000 items. We love that unsold items are donated to local charities, offering assistance to families in need throughout the city, and providing consignors with a tax deduction. In the market for a big ticket piece? Be sure to shop to the pre-sale, open to consignors, volunteers, first time moms, and ticket-holders.

Garage Sales
A garage sale is still the classic way to buy second hand items on the cheap. To wit, we once picked up an entire 12-month wardrobe at the Old Town Triangle Neighborhood Garage Sale. Ready to embrace that old maxim that one woman’s trash is another’s treasure? Keep an eye on neighborhood associations for group sales, check in on neighborhood groups on Facebook, or go the old-fashioned route and scope these impromptu sales out on foot on Saturday or Sunday mornings.

When you know exactly what you are looking for, like let’s say a Bumbo chair, Jumperoo or specific playmat, our old standby Craigslist is a safe bet. You can easily compare prices for the best deal--and the convenience factor can’t be beat. Decide in the morning that you’d like a swing for your kiddo? A quick cruise around Craigslist and you’ll most likely have one by sundown.

The original second hand. Don’t be afraid to ask a friend for permission to raid her baby’s closet for cast-offs and too-small pieces. Just don’t forget to pay it forward when your little one outgrows the cute stuff too.

Note: Not all items are best used. Because regulations change frequently, car seats and cribs are best bought brand new.
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