Raquel, our very own business manager, is a mom of two beautiful babies – a 3-month-old baby boy and a 4-year-old girl.
I’ve met Raquel before she became a parent, and for the past four years, I’ve been watching her grow as a person, as a businesswoman, and as a mom. And in that last role, she absolutely kicks butt! She simply is one amazing mama! On top of that, she is a master of getting virtually anything she needs FOR FREE! From baby clothes to a new stroller(almost free), and a “40 flat screen Tv. And today she is kindly sharing with us all the “how-tos” of the art of “getting it free”!
Text by Raquel Federowicz.
Growing up in the ’80s, I often heard my parents saying:
“Don’t talk to strangers or get in cars with people you don’t know!”
In today’s reality, almost on a daily basis, I do the exact opposite of what my parents told me. I get in cars with perfect strangers ( using ride-sharing apps like Uber or Lyft) and meet with people I only met on the internet to get various goods from them.
Growing up, I had no concept of how much anything cost but appreciated everything I had. In this day and age, money rules everything. When you are living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, life makes you very painfully and quickly aware of that. Taking care of ourselves, getting clothed, and fed is one thing. The minute we add to the mix little humans – our responsibilities, everyday task load, and the budget – all goes to the level one might call insane. All of this can be very overwhelming, especially in one-income households and when the bills seem to be over our heads.
There are many ways families will try to save money. I’m sure you’ve heard of extreme couponing! Well, I’ve got a new term for you. When I became a parent four years ago, I tapped into this side of myself that I didn’t know existed. Well, that’s not entirely true – I’ve always loved a good thrift store or consignment store. What I never thought was that being thrifty would help me save as much money while providing me with virtually everything that I needed. I became an “extreme (Facebook) thrifter. ” I joined all the local mom’s Facebook groups, learned about clothing swaps in the area and online, found online “buy nothing” groups, and became pretty friendly with the owner of a small thrift shop on my street.
My husband was the breadwinner for a while when I stayed home from work for eight months after our daughter was born. I would troll moms’ groups every day while breastfeeding or when my daughter napped. I was in disbelief by the number of items people put on their curbs( buy nothing groups!), give away for free or sold for a fraction of a price that same brand new item would be.
I was a preschool teacher before my daughter’s birth, and a lot of families in my classes were super excited to hear that I was pregnant. I returned to work, and to my surprise, families brought garbage bags FULL to the brim with clothes and shoes for my daughter. Some items still had tags on, some were in excellent shape, and some were more for play.
I accepted all of it, full of gratitude!
The only new, big-ticket item we ended up buying for my daughter, was a changing table. We got a cosleeper, mini crib for my parents’ house and a regular size crib, jumperoo, baby carrier, baby (stroller)bag, etc. from friends, family, and families I babysat for at the time. At our baby shower, we received a majority of the other large items we needed.
Over the years, while my daughter was growing, I mastered the art of thrifting. I ended up paying for the items I needed only very few times and in minimal amounts – amongst the few things I paid for was a barely used Uppababy Cruz stroller for $75 ( what a DEAL!) and an Ikea extendable toddler bed for $50. Other big-ticket items I’ve got entirely for free included:
– an Uppababy mesa car seat,
– unused Uppababy bassinet,
– baby bottles,
– four different breast pumps,
– maternity clothes,
– bags and bags of clothes – including brand name clothing and shoes
(some of it brand new),
– a 40″ Smart TV,
And the list goes on. It may sound like I’m tooting my own horn here and maybe in a way I am, but for a reason. I want to share my experience and what I’ve learned to help other moms and families.
NYC is anything but affordable. When you have kids, finding a great way to save money doesn’t just make you feel good – it also saves your budget and sanity.
I am thankful for the online community I’ve built so far. People that I once picked up items from, who were strangers, now text me for playdates or whenever they have more items that they would like to give away.
And knowing that items we have once purchased or acquired that we no longer need can be rehomed not only makes me feel great but also makes way more sense than tossing it into the trash. The saying “One man’s trash is another’s treasure” – couldn’t be more true.
Three months ago, I gave birth to my second child, a baby boy, and this Saturday is my daughter’s 4th birthday party!
Being pregnant for the second time, I felt way more prepared because I knew exactly where to look and started gathering items when I was just weeks pregnant. By the time I was 6 months pregnant, I already had a pretty impressive stash, that included:
- two electric and one manual breast pump,
- postpartum supplies,
- a bathtub,
- 3 big bags of baby toys,
- lots of baby books,
- 2 baby swings,
- 6 large storage bins full of clothes, baby hats (up to size 4t) and shoes
- swaddles, blankets, towels
- diapers – also free! ( build a stockpile even before my baby shower);
I think you get the picture…
Whatever you need, whether for your child, yourself, or your home – you can find it for free or on the cheap. Here are a few tips to help you get started on finding those items:
1) Search Facebook for moms’ groups in your neighborhood and the surrounding areas. Your friends can invite you if they are already in the groups. There are usually a few questions to answer before joining, which are generally read by moms/dads who volunteered to be moderators for the group. I belong to one group for my area, which includes surrounding four neighborhoods in either direction. ( If you are in a Ridgewood/Bushwick are here is the link https://www.facebook.com/groups/bushridgeparents/_)
2) Once you belong to said groups, make an introductory post about yourself, your child(rens’) ages, and what you’re looking for to get out of the groups.
3) Search the Facebook marketplace for items you need for your children before buying on amazon, or adding to a baby registry or taking another unnecessary trip to target, LOL!
4) Don’t Jump on the first post you see, especially if it is for purchase. Let them know you’re interested, but keep looking around. I’ve waited a day or two and found the same item for free!
Make posts when you need items, using the abbreviations ISO (in search of) and get ready for the sheer number of responses from people begging you to come over and get their stuff (and to help them free some space back in their homes).
5) Marie Kondo your life! Go through your closets, basement storage, kids’ toys, and cloths – find what you don’t use and pay it forward by giving away items you don’t need! The way you give is the same way you’ll receive. If you’re stingy with your time and goods, you’ll have a harder time getting things back – just the way the world works!
6) Send sellers/moms or dads private messages and tell them a bit about yourself and why you need the item they are giving away. Make it personal, by showing you are in a genuine need of it ( you don’t want to sound like you are begging for it). I also like to send an appreciation message, especially if the item was for my daughter – I like sending a short video of her enjoying the item and saying, “thank you!”.
7) Get your kids involved! Let them pick items they want to give to a new family.
8) Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Having one kid is costly – when you have two or three, it can seem impossible to keep up with how fast they are growing and how much of everything they need – from clothes and shoes to books and toys.
I don’t think I’ve purchased a single toy for either of my children. This has literally saved my sanity and not to mention my bank account. Motherhood can be very lonely and stressful. At some point, every mom has to get out of her bubble and ask for help. When we build community with other moms, support and help each other, and share resources, we can help genuinely help all those new moms that feel entirely tapped out.
Motherhood, after all, is an endurance sport!