How to Afford Twins: Free Used Stuff

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Categories Finances and Saving, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Theme WeekTags , , , , , 3 Comments

There’s a lot of free used stuff out there for kids, if you know where to look. Children go through stages and sizes so quickly that there’s often a lot of wear left in their things after they no longer need them.


My girls, M and J, are small for their age, so they end up receiving hand-me-downs from their friends. I’m not too proud to accept used things from friends, or even strangers. I see both the offer and its acceptance as gestures of love.

Getting free used stuff, from
Photo Credit: reinvented

One former neighbour kept my girls in shoes for 2 whole years. I didn’t buy a single new item of clothing this summer beyond splurging on birthday dresses for all 3 of us. My kids have had a constant influx of new clothes from an older girl on our street, a classmate and a former neighbour.

Of course, it helps that M has no interest in wearing clothes that match her sister’s. If your kids wear matching or coordinated outfits, this may not work for you. I do find, though, that many of my friends buy the same things in different colours for their girls, and there are usually 3 hot shades that are “in” in a given season. Completely different brands will feature exactly the same colour scheme. You might be surprised by how many coordination opportunities you can find with hand-me-downs.

When two of my ex-husband’s high school friends announced that they were both pregnant with girls, I split my daughters’ matching infant and toddler clothes in two and mailed two diaper boxes of gently used clothes to Washington State. I’d been holding onto them in case any friends had twins, but everyone seems to have b/b or b/g twins.

Getting free used stuff, from
Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles

J and M determined told me that they no longer play with their doll house. I asked them to sit on their decision to give it away for a couple of months, but they’ve held firm. We’ll be passing their dollhouse and furniture to another little girl, the daughter of an old friend of mine from grad school. We hope she’ll also get many years of joy from it.


Getting free used stuff, from
Photo Credit: Renee Silverman

My daughters’ dance school has a fantastic shoe exchange program. Since they teach tons of growing children and know how expensive dance supplies can get, they have a big  bin of ballet, tap and jazz shoes in the office. When a child outgrows their shoes, their parent can add them to bin and go through the shoes that are already there to find a replacement, one size larger.

I do still occasionally have to buy new dance shoes, but the majority of my girls’ shoes have come from the bin in the 4 years they’ve been taking lessons. If your kids dance, play soccer, or use other specialized equipment, perhaps you can look into setting up a similar exchange.

Freecycle Exchange

Here’s how the Freecycle Network describes itself:

It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.

Participating in Freecycle groups has been a great motivator to keep me decluttering. If I don’t use something but it still has life left in it, I no longer hold onto it in case it comes in handy later. Unless it has sentimental value or I see a real use for it, I offer up unused things to people who will give them new life.

Getting free used stuff, from

I’ve been in 3 different Freecycle groups in my time. They work similarly, with some variation. Some groups allow pet rehoming posts, while others don’t. My two adult cats came to us through Freecycle offers. Their previous family had lost their home and couldn’t keep them. Some groups ask you to offer at least one thing for each thing your receive. Some groups are sticklers for you specifying the area of town you’re in, while others are less stringent. Some ban people from the list if they have a history of asking for stuff and then not showing up to pick it up. As long as you use good judgment about who to share your personal information with, you’ll be fine.

In general, you sign up for an email list and quickly learn the format and etiquette for offering your unused stuff to others for free. Watch the list, and when something comes up that your family needs, send a nice email to the offerer. Some people use a first come-first served policy, but I always took at least a day to try to identify the most needy people for my girls’ hand-me-downs. Clothes and shoes are frequently offered in Freecycle messages, but I’ve seen washers and dryers, exercise equipment and even food given by people who won’t use them to people who will.

Since I work outside the home, I often leave bags or boxes labeled with the recipients’ names on my front porch for them to retrieve at their convenience. There’s something very satisfying about blessing others with clothing that came to my girls through the generosity of strangers in the first place. I gave my girls’ cribs away, one to a newly widowed mom of 6 who had recently taken in a pregnant high schooler, bringing her brood to 8. That was a pretty great feeling.


Freecycle, mentioned in Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.comCraigslist is a service similar to that of the Freecycle network, except that the majority of things posted are listed for a price, often negotiable. Instead of being primarily email list-based, Craigslist has a public website for each region that it covers. In addition to stuff, people also advertise services, jobs, housing and ridesharing opportunities.

I don’t troll Craigslist looking for free stuff, since my Freecycle lists cover me on that front, but I have occasionally gone looking for long-term investments. I bought my daughters a fine electric keyboard at a fraction of its cost new ($250 for a $900 instrument) and have been keeping my eye open for the right playscape to go in my backyard. I had a coworker watch Craigslist for me for the keyboard. I’m a singer, not a pianist, and he fixes up older keyboards as a hobby, so he was far more knowledgable than I. He was able to point me towards a solid instrument at a decent price and I snatched it up.

As with any activity involving meeting strangers, be smart about who you share your address with and whose home you choose to enter. Consider meeting in a public place or bringing a friend with you. Meet during daylight hours. Don’t share a whole lot of information about your kids.

And please, don’t forget to pass your own things on to others when you’re done with them.

What’s your approach to free stuff for your family? Do you love it? Think it’s tacky?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at and Multicultural Mothering.

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Pinching Pennies Part II

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Last month I wrote about financial stress and the toll it can take on a family. Read Part I here. This month I would like to share some specific money saving tips I have employed this week. For the sake of time and convenience, I am simply listing these suggestions.

* Pack your own food. Whether is is going to the mall, zoo, or park, packing your own food saves money. If you aren’t a fan of packing your lunch/dinner, it still would be a good idea to pack food for your kids. The two of my 14 month olds, eat as much together as one adult. The more kids you have, the more expensive it is to eat out. Simple as that. I can buy a lot of groceries for $30-$40, which is a rough estimate of how much it would cost the 4 of us to go some place other than the Pita Pit or Bob Evans!

* Choose outdoor activities. Parks, picnic areas, walking paths, pools, farms, outdoor concerts and festivals are all great activities that cost very little money. Search your counties website for weekend activities or festivals. We are planning on trying out a Greekfood festival this month, and a movie-in-the-park night.

* Invite people over to your house. As a SAHM, the fastest way to crazy-town is to be isolated with few social contacts. Make friends with your neighbors, invite them over, blow up the kiddie pool, pass out iced tea and enjoy another adults company while the kids run and play.  Being social doesn’t have to mean fancy dinner parties or expensive restaurant meals.

* REDBOX. Have you heard of this wonderful gem? Perhaps not if you live in a more rural area, but I bet it will be coming your way soon! Redbox is just that, a red box in various locations (ie grocery store). You use your email address and debit card to rent a new release movie…for $1! If you don’t return it by 9pm the next night, they charge you another $1, but still, it is a great deal. Reserve your selection online and you can be confident that the movie you want is in the box.

* Shop around for car insurance. When our rates went up (again), I started shopping around. Would you believe I found a reputable company that will cost us 50% less!? Many car insurance companies factor in your credit rating, so if you have less than perfect credit, shopping around could be especially helpful for you. Bundling your homeowners insurance can increase your savings.

* Save your leftover coffee. Making your coffee at home has been splashed all over the news as a great way to cut costs. So much so, that the coffee giant, Starbucks, is now offering incentive programs! I love my morning cups of coffee, but if I only have time to drink one, I pour the leftover coffee into a pitcher in the refrigerator. Voila! Instant iced coffee for MoM in the afternoon when I am hot, tired and am in need of a treat!

Okay, I know those were random tips, but I employed all of them in the past week. Which means I am not going to feel too guilty when I go get a pedicure tonight with my new mom friend/neighbor!

Feel free to post your best money saving tips in the comments section! We love hearing what you have to say!

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