No doubt about it, kids are expensive. With the bombardment of information telling us what we need beginning before our babies are even born (useful but sometimes overwhelming), the accumulation of kids' stuff starts early. My third child is one and a half, so I've had a bit of experience buying, accumulating, and purging kids' items, from toys to books to clothes and more. Following are some tips for where and how to save.
Books. It's important to me that my children are surrounded by books and have free access to them most of the time. They have books in their rooms and in the playroom, and I let the older two read until they are sleepy for naps and bedtime. So in our house, books are consumed — figuratively, and, yes, literally. Crystal clear in my memory is the day I found my 18-month-old daughter in the crib with a pile of pages torn (and stacked neatly?!) from one of her favorite books. And my son has been known to take a chew out of Clifford.
Of course, I teach the children about how to respect books (turn the pages gently, don't step on them, definitely don't throw them, etc.) but as any parent knows, stuff happens. Because I know our books will be well-loved, I buy most of them from consignment sales. This way, I'm not upset over the waste of money when we have a book mishap. If there's a book we particularly love, I will buy it new on Amazon and add it to what I consider our long-term library.
Let's not forget the public library, either! The kids love to go, every book is "new" to them, and we can discover some gems we'd like to add to our collection.
Baby items. With the exception of car seats, whose history you really need to know, most baby items can be purchased used or even borrowed from friends — saving you a bundle! This includes things like travel cribs, bassinets, bathtubs, baby carriers, and high chairs. Many of these things will only be used for several months or a year or two and can last through many children and even many families. Keep your eye on Craigslist, scour garage sales and thrift stores, and see if any friends have extra items. Many times parents who are done with the baby stage (or in between babies) are more than happy to pass along their items. Note: Be sure to look up recalls on any items you buy or borrow.
Baby food gadgets. This is one of those areas in which I feel "now I know." I don't believe most parents need any special items for making or storing baby food. If you have a Vitamix or other blender, and/or a food processor already, these are more than enough to make your own purees. As far as storage, freezing serving sizes in muffin tins or ice cube trays is perfect. This stage lasts mere months, and you'd do well to save yourself the expense and storage real estate by using what you already have.
Clothes. Finding used kids' clothes is another huge money-saver. My favorite way to shop used is to stop by a local consignment shop periodically — their prices are great and they've already filtered items so that I'm selecting from items that are very much like new. This way I can buy quality clothes at a fraction of the price.
Toys. This one is hard for me and I waffle. On the one hand, it's great to be able to buy toys used, especially, again, from reputable consignment stores so that you can be sure of all the pieces being included, etc. But I tend to go a bit overboard and then end up with too many toys!! If I had this to do over again, I may do more specific research and channel money toward fewer but more high quality items that are often hard to find used (Magna Tiles are high on my list, currently). However, for things like puzzles, blocks, and the like, buying used (provided you can trust you won't have missing pieces) is an excellent option.