- Maria Munroe
- Malia using her learning tower
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 thrifter with an eye for great deals, Munroe is also a mom of two daughters: Malia is 2; Tiana, 3 months. Munroe was too consumed with parenting to write a column for this issue, but she managed to squeeze 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 her reflections.
What's on her kids' wish list:
There's not a specific toy that my 2-year-old wants; she has no idea what she wants. I've compiled a list of things that I think she might like, based on where she's at developmentally or what things she seems to be interested in, like large wooden blocks and pretend play stuff — dress-up accessories; fake makeup; smaller, make-believe versions of real-life things that she's seen.
Her favorite way to keep a list:
I've been keeping track of things day-to-day on my phone. I use the Notes app, or the free app AnyList. It's meant to be a grocery list app, but you can create different lists and make 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 go thrifting! Replays in the Blue Mall in South Burlington offers a buy-one-get-one deal on books. Since each book costs 50 cents, it basically means every book is a quarter. When I was checking out a few weeks ago, I got my daughter a couple activity books, and they told me to go get one more. They gave me my total, and I was like, "This is a lot less than I thought it was gonna be."
- Maria Munroe
- Malia using an old coffee tin as a drum
Books she got thrifting:
Goodnight Moon — funny enough, I have multiple parody remakes of it but had never read the original one, so I picked that up. And this was a great deal: A giant Finding Nemo sticker pad with all the stickers still in there. I paid a quarter for it, which was awesome. And then there was another book with magnetic pages and little magnets that you could attach to it. I was looking for things that Malia could play with on the plane to Virginia when we visit family. Anything I can find to delay giving her an iPad for as long as possible.
Favorite local secondhand stores:
Goodwill, Once Upon a Child. For toys, I really like Boho Baby. And then I don't think there's any better book deal out there than Replays. We've bought books occasionally at Goodwill for $1, but now that I know that I can get books for a quarter, I'm probably going to go buy books for a quarter.
Why thrifting clothes for young kids is smart:
There are so many things for young kids at thrift stores that just haven't been used. When someone's having a baby, everyone buys gifts. I was on the other end of that this summer, where we got an overwhelming amount of clothing before my second daughter was born. We got three versions of the exact same outfit, so I donated two of them.
Most useful item she found online recently:
A kids' learning tower: I found it on Facebook Marketplace. It's basically a tower that brings kids up to countertop height if they're standing on it. Malia wanted my attention but was always at my feet, so bringing her up to the same height as me made her a lot more comfortable. At first, she would play standing at the counter when I was making her breakfast or lunch. But now, she's able to help me bake and cook, and she likes to taste test. It's been probably a year, and she's still using the learning tower every day.
Where she finds leads online:
Facebook Marketplace is great, though there are a lot of people competing for things — if you don't message first, you're probably not going to get it. I get the most success in local parenting groups and local buy/sell groups. I'm also in the Buy Nothing Essex group on Facebook. The premise behind Buy Nothing groups is that no one pays for anything. It's a gifting community. The person giving the gift chooses who to gift it to, and there's no private messaging. I'd also recommend VT Mamas Pay It Forward for any parents looking to give items for free to a new home this season, or for parents who could use those items.
Sometimes it's better not to buy:
I really wanted to get a nugget couch. It's modular, and the pieces can be built into a couch, but they can also be arranged to use for climbing and building forts. It's a very simple toy that costs hundreds of dollars. In a lot of the mom groups, it's recommended as the answer for pretty much every question. Like, "I need temporary sleeping" — get a nugget couch. "I need something for my kids to climb" — get a nugget couch. I was starting to feel like I really need to have this.
And then one day my daughter pushed open this very slim futon I had gotten for her from Goodwill. She flipped it in a way that gave me the idea to turn it upside down. So I did, and she had a ton of fun climbing on it.
I'd been searching on Facebook Marketplace almost daily for a nugget couch, and that moment made me realize we have everything we need. My daughter has found a lot of joy in playing with cardboard boxes and using an old coffee tin as a drum. She just wants quality time and to be creative, so that's my mindset going into this holiday season.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity and length.