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The Benefits of Thrifting for Baby

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Maria and her daughter shopping at Boho Baby in Williston - MARIA MUNROE
  • Maria Munroe
  • Maria and her daughter shopping at Boho Baby in Williston

My little family of three recently moved from Hawaii, where I was born and raised, to my husband's hometown in Vermont. It was an easy decision to relocate closer to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins once we had our baby in late October. It's also made for a lot of change in a short period of time. I'm suddenly a new mom in a new state and have lived through a real winter for the first time! But amidst all of the change, one thing has remained constant for me: thrift shopping.

I grew up thrifting with my mom; she started bringing me along on shopping trips when I was just a toddler. After years of watching her turn secondhand finds into beautiful home décor and outfits, I started to love walking through the racks, imagining the new life I might bring to someone's old things.

You never knew what a thrift trip might lead to at our house. I remember when my mom brought home a tile cutter she'd bought secondhand. A week and a few Google searches later, our bathroom was retiled and redecorated. It was magical! By the time I was a teenager, I would happily spend entire Saturdays with my mom, visiting every thrift store on our side of the island and bringing home assorted treasures, from beaded boots to a floral trench coat.

Thrifting has proven useful at every stage in my adult life, too. It allowed me to experiment with ever-changing fashion trends in college without sacrificing my budget and to furnish an apartment with unique, quality pieces after my husband and I got married. But no stage in my life has paired quite as well with secondhand shopping as motherhood.

Pink Carhartt overalls, one of Maria's thrifting scores - MARIA MUNROE
  • Maria Munroe
  • Pink Carhartt overalls, one of Maria's thrifting scores

I've realized some hard truths about babies and their stuff during my first five months as a mom. Thankfully, thrifting has been a handy solution to help mitigate each of them. It allows me to make practical, cost-effective, eco-conscious purchases while still providing my daughter with what she needs. It also makes me feel a little less guilty for buying her things she doesn't need, but I think are cute, like a pair of tiny pink Carhartt overalls or a cape. (No baby needs a cape!)

My first realization should have been an obvious one: Kids are messy. Our daughter recently left behind her projectile milk-vomit phase and is now in her (equally adorable) chunky spit-ups and diaper blowouts phase. Babies can turn brand new clothes into "gently used" in just a couple of minutes, so I'm happy to just skip right to it. I find I'm less worried about my daughter soiling secondhand finds, because they aren't pristine to begin with and didn't cost much.

My second realization is one everyone warned me about, but it didn't click until I was living it: Babies grow so quickly. I think my girl made it just two weeks in pants for kids 3 to 6 months before they became too tight. It would have broken my fragile, frugal heart to have paid retail price for them, but I was put at ease knowing some of those pants were only a dollar. I also feel good knowing that, just like those pants, any secondhand purchase I make for her probably wasn't worn for too long before I bought it.

My third realization quickly followed the second: Kid stuff can easily become wasteful. There are things parents may prefer to buy new for safety reasons, such as car seats or cribs, but there are also a lot of things, such as simple toys and clothing, that if always purchased new would be incredibly wasteful. It would mean using something for just a few months before getting rid of it. Buying secondhand means diverting from landfills those gently used things that have so much more to give.

In the end, thrifting for my daughter is a win for everyone. She's clothed and content. I'm happy with the prices I'm paying. The planet is happy with less unnecessary waste being produced, and, along the way, my money supports nonprofit thrift shops and local consignment stores. I don't see myself changing my thrifting ways any time soon. And I'm planning to introduce my daughter to the thrifting world early, as my mother did for me. Thankfully, Vermont has a lot to offer in the world of secondhand. Here are a few places I've embraced since moving here:

Goodwill Store, 1080 Shelburne Rd., South Burlington
Big chain stores see fresh inventory often and have great prices. While I haven't had much luck with infant clothing at Goodwill locations, they're a good source for older kids' toys and clothes — and parents' stuff, too! This is a great spot if you have time for a treasure hunt.

Boho Baby, 34 Blair Park Rd., Williston
An adorable bohemian consignment shop! You'll pay a bit more here because they've done the work for you to curate great quality merchandise that is in good condition and fits their style. Perfect if you're looking for a boutique experience.

Once Upon a Child, 38 Taft Corners Shopping Center, Williston
Chain consignment is a happy middle ground between the previous two. It isn't as curated style-wise as other consignment stores can be, but they clearly check for condition and quality. This is a good spot if you're looking for a variety of styles and are fine with spending a bit of time sifting through the racks.

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