Looking at your shopping list and wondering how you’re going to pay for it all? Secondhand Style columnist Maria Munroe has some money-saving tips that might help. A seasoned local economist on the lookout for bargains, Munroe is also the mother of two daughters: Malia, 2; Tiana, 3 months. Munroe was too wrapped up in parenthood to write a column for this issue, but she managed to sneak in a half-hour Zoom interview to talk about her holiday shopping list, where she finds the best deals and how she talked herself out of buying something she wanted but didn’t need. Read on for his thoughts.
What’s on her kids’ wish list:
There is no specific toy that my 2 year old wants; she has no idea what she wants. I’ve compiled a list of things I think she might like, depending on her stage of development or what she’s interested in, like big wooden blocks and pretend play – dress-up accessories; fake makeup; smaller, imaginary versions of real things she has seen.
Her favorite way to keep a list:
I tracked things day by day on my phone. I use the Notes app or the free AnyList app. It’s supposed to be a grocery list app, but you can create different lists and take notes on each individual thing. I’ve used it to send ideas to family members or as a thrift store shopping list.
Best recent thrift store discovery:
Books are so cheap when you save! Replays in the Blue Mall in South Burlington is offering a one-time purchase deal on books. Since each pound costs 50 cents, this essentially means that each pound is a quarter. When I left a few weeks ago, I bought my daughter some activity books and they told me to go get one more. They gave me my total, and I thought, “That’s a lot less than I thought.”
Books she bought:
good night moon – funny enough, I have several parody remakes of it but I had never read the original, so I picked it up. And it was a lot: a giant The world of Nemo sticker block with all the stickers still in there. I paid a quarter for this which was awesome. And then there was another book with magnetic pages and little magnets you could attach to it. I was looking for things Malia could play with on the plane to Virginia when we visit family. Anything I can find to delay giving him an iPad as long as possible.
Favorite local thrift stores:
Goodwill, Once upon a time there was a child. For toys, I really like Boho Baby. Besides, I don’t think there’s a better book deal than Replays. We’ve bought books from time to time at Goodwill for $1, but now that I know I can get books for a quarter, I’ll probably buy books for a quarter.
Why second-hand clothes for young children are smart:
There are so many things for young children in thrift stores that simply haven’t been used. When someone is having a baby, everyone buys presents. I was across the street this summer, where we received a huge amount of clothes before my second daughter was born. We got three versions of the same outfit, so I gave away two.
The most useful article she found online recently:
A learning tower for children: I found it on Facebook Marketplace. It’s basically a tower that brings kids up to counter height if they stand on it. Malia wanted my attention but was always at my feet, so putting her at the same height as me made her much more comfortable. At first, she would play standing at the counter when I made breakfast or lunch for her. But now she is able to help me cook and cook, and she likes to taste. It’s probably been a year and she still uses the learning tower every day.
Where she finds leads online:
Facebook Marketplace is great, even though there are a lot of people arguing about things – if you don’t message first, you probably won’t get it. I have had the most success in local parent groups and local buy/sell groups. I am also part of the Buy Nothing Essex group on Facebook. The premise behind Buy Nothing groups is that no one pays for anything. It is a community of gifts. The person giving the gift chooses who to give it to, and there is no private messaging. I would also recommend VT Mamas Pay It Forward to any parents looking to donate free items to a new home this season, or parents who might use these items.
Sometimes it is better not to buy:
I really wanted to have a nugget sofa. It is modular and the pieces can be built into a sofa, but they can also be arranged to be used for climbing and fort building. It’s a very simple toy that costs hundreds of dollars. In many moms groups, it is recommended as the answer to almost every question. Like, “I need to sleep temporarily” – get a nugget couch. “I need something for my kids to climb on” – get a nugget sofa. I was starting to want
I really need to have that.
And then one day, my daughter opened this very thin futon that I had bought her at Goodwill. She flipped it in a way that gave me the idea to flip it. So I did, and she had a lot of fun climbing on it.
I searched almost daily on Facebook Marketplace for a nugget sofa, and this moment made me realize that we had everything we needed. My daughter found great fun playing with cardboard and using an old coffee can as a drum. She just wants to spend some quality time and be creative, so that’s my mindset this holiday season.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.