Monday, 29 April 2013

Frugal baby shopping - NCT Nearly New Sales

You've probably guessed by now that when it comes to spending money, I like to get good value! Shopping for Bobble's arrival, was one of my biggest challenges to date. It's so easy to spend £100s, if not £1000s on baby equipment without even trying. In my book, money spent unnecessarily on baby stuff is money that could be put towards holidays!

There are plenty of ways that you can save money when it comes to baby shopping, but in this post I'm going to focus on one of my favourites - NCT Nearly New Sales. If you're not familiar with them, the National Childbirth Trust is a great charity. They're the UK's largest charity for parents. Many people choose to take one of their antenatal courses, but aside from this, they also campaign as the voice for parents on the issues they care about. Find out more on the NCT website.

This is how the NCT describe their nearly new sales:
"The cost of kitting out your child for the first five years can run into thousands of pounds. NCT Nearly New Sales are the perfect solution, offering affordable essentials and accessories for you and your family, while fundraising to support other parents in the UK. You'll also be helping the environment by recycling your family's old belongings or buying pre-loved items."
Before I give my tips on how to get the best out of these sales, here are some quick Q&As about NCT nearly new sales...

Q. When do they take place?
A. Usually twice a year, once in the Spring (March-May) and once in the Autumn (September-November).

Q. Where do they take place?
A. NCT have branches all over the country. Visit the NCT website to find out when the next sale is on near to you.

Q. Do I have to be a member to gain entry to the sale?
A. No, but it  does help - I'll explain why in my tips.

Q. Do I have to pay an entry fee?
A. This varies from branch to branch. Usually there's an entry fee of around £1, but sometimes members get in for free.

Q. What sort of things can I buy at a sale?
A. So many things! Clothes, toys, shoes, furniture, highchairs, weaning equipment, maternity clothes, books, slings and carriers, pushchairs... The only things that you won't be able to buy are car seats, mattresses and electrical items (not including battery powered toys).

Need to know - my top tips for getting the most out of an NCT nearly new sale

Planning your visit
  1. Become an NCT member. Members get early entry (usually around 10-15 minutes before everyone else) to the sale. Once the masses come in, it's a complete free for all. The good stuff goes really quickly. You will more than get your membership money back if you're buying bigger ticket items like cots and pushchairs.
  2. Know exactly what you're looking for, so that you can prioritise your time. If you're looking for a highchair for example, there will only be a small number and the best ones will usually get snapped up within the first 10 minutes, so look at these first.
  3. Make fast decisions. If you want it, buy it then and there. If you change your mind later on, you can always re-sell it.
  4. You can usually pay by card or cash.
  5. Depending on where you live in the country, you might live near several sales. It's worth going to a few different sales as the stock can vary enormously. I once went to two in the same day!
  6. Go with your partner or a friend - then you can split up and grab bargains from different sections!
  7. If you're taking your baby, put them in a sling to keep both your hands free.
 Buying clothes
  1. With clothes shopping, my approach is to grab everything I like the look of, then sift through it in a quiet corner and put back anything that isn't right. 
  2. Check clothes over carefully. Some seller's opinions of what counts as 'nearly new' condition might be vastly different from your own.
  3. The best bargains will usually be for children aged 12 months and under. I've found it to be fairly slim pickings for 12 months+ - probably because parents are wiser about how much they need and because they are worn for longer, wear and tear is higher. You might still be able to pick up some ok clothes for your child to wear to nursery.
  4. A small number of clothes will still have tags attached - these are the best bargains.
  5. As well as maternity clothes, I picked up a few nursing tops after Bobble was born.
Buying toys and books
  1. Books can be a great purchase. Provided that they're not actually ripped, a well used book can still give great amounts of pleasure.
  2. Check toys over carefully. I've bought a few toys at sales, but wouldn't describe any as nearly new - most are well used. Decide what can be cleaned up, and what is tatty and past its best.
  3. Wooden jigsaw puzzles can be a good purchase as they last well - check all the pieces are there.
  4. In addition to storybooks, you can also pick up childcare and weaning recipe books.
  5. Toys are usually sorted by age (pre-school and older) - think ahead and look for toys that your little one might be into in 6 months time.
Buying big ticket items like cots, highchairs and pushchairs
  1. If you're looking for a pushchair that sells for more than £500 new, you're better off looking at ebay, I haven't ever seen any of the Bugaboo/iCandy/Stokke branded pushchairs at a nearly new sale.
  2. There will be NCT volunteers on hand to show you how the item works - if you need help, ask as they will almost certainly be a mum (or even a dad) too.

How much will things cost?

I'm basing this entirely on my own experience, so there's definitely a disclaimer here that prices will vary from sale to sale! In the past, I have bought the following items from nearly new sales.

Wooden cot: £25
Moses basket: £15
Bumbo seat: £7:50
Sling (brand new baby bjorn): £15
Clothes: From 50p - £4 (t shirts, shorts, dungarees, coat, trousers, jumpers, swimwear)
Toys: £1 and upwards
Books: £1 and upwards

A few of my past sale purchases!

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