Image Credit: Annie Spratt
FACT: Children are expensive!
They constantly grow out of clothes, break things or simply need more challenging books and toy.
They need costumes for World Book Day and other themed days, for school plays, you will be asked for gift donations for school fetes, they need bedding, furniture and stationery. Never mind the fact that you have to feed them too - phew!
If you are on a tight budget, the cost of all this could cause sleepless nights, so before you head to the high street or shopping centre, why not try your local charity shops.
For a fraction of the cost of high street items you can pick up good quality or even designer kid's clothes and accessories, as-new condition books and games and even furniture for your children's bedrooms.
You never know what will turn up in a charity shop, but with these 7 top secrets you will be charity shopping like an expert in no time!
Charity shops get lots of items donated that are still unworn, unopened or unused in the box.
Yes, they will be priced a little higher than the used stock, but in most UK charity shops they will be at most be 50% of the original purchase price and are often dramatically less.
Some people advocate tactical shopping and think that certain times of day, or certain days of the week yield better stock.
Not true! Most shops have little storage space and get donations out on the shop floor as soon as possible. And you never know what someone might donate today!
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Avoid clothing items from cheap, fast fashion chains or any poor quality garments. It’s no saving if they are unwearable after a few washes.
The only exception to this that I would make is for costume items that you don’t expect to be worn more than once.
Charity shops mostly won’t sell books that have been chewed, damaged or drawn on, so the few baby and toddler books on the shelves will be good ones.
If you have older children look out for school study books and revision books, but check the dates in them as school syllabuses can change fast these days, especially now that the new 1-9 GCSE syllabus will make many study, revision and textbooks outdated.
Older books on science, maths and languages may be worth picking up as the information in them will not date so much; other subject books may not cover the correct syllabus topics if they are not recent publications.
When you find an item that is a real bargain but is perhaps a few sizes too big, it is tempting to buy it to save for later.
This is OK as long as you have the self discipline not to do it on a regular basis! I know someone who found several bags of forgotten and unworn charity-shopped clothes in their attic which were way too small for any of her children.
I’m not too bad at this myself but I must confess that I have a pair of boys Boden trousers that I was unable to resist on 50p rail that I kept for over five years before they fitted my eldest son. Then, of course, he had a growth spurt and only got to wear them twice....
Lots of the games that are donated to charity shops are hardly used, but be warned, some shops are more scrupulous than others about checking whether games are complete, so always ask to look inside the box if it taped up.
I once bought what appeared to be a cool Lego kit for my younger son from a charity shop. Imagine our disappointment when we got it home to find a random collection of bits of mismatched Lego along with a chewed biro and a couple of sweet wrappers. We were a lot more careful in that particular store after that.
Soft toys that are bought secondhand should always be machine washed before giving them to your child to play with. If you have the slightest concerns about asthma or eczema you should also put the toys in the freezer overnight to kill any dust mites that could be lurking as well.
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This is my absolute top tip; party clothes such as tiny suits and fancy party dresses for can be the most expensive items of clothing that we buy for our kids, yet so often they are only worn once or twice at most.
When these outfits turn up in a charity shop they will cost massively less than they did new. So before you hit the high street to find an outfit for a big birthday party, a prom or wedding, check out your local charity shop.
Finally, if you are grateful to have been able to save money with your savvy charity shopping, please help both a charity and other cash-strapped parents by donating your own outgrown clothes, books and toys when you have finished with them.
Even your well-used items can help a good cause, as many charities will also take damaged, dirty or otherwise unsalable clothing items which they can sell for recycling into rags. However please do check first if your chosen charity can use rags before donating, otherwise they will simply have to put them in the bin.
About eParenting: eParenting was started by Jacqui O'Brien in 2004. At the time her kids were 1 and 4 and kept her nice and busy. Now they are teenagers and still keeping her pretty busy!