Why You Get Used Toys for the Holidays

The holidays are expensive. So expensive, in fact, that the average family planned to spend about $816.69, according a 2008 National Retail Federation survey.

So, why not deflect some of that cost by buying used? Not everything, of course. But the big ticket items -- the bicycles, tricycles, play kitchens, video consoles. They are all very expensive and their lifespan is finite.

My children will get dozens of brand-new dolls and trucks and all the various parts that accompany them for the holidays, but during the year when they want something like that, I always look to my moms' lists or Craigslist for such purchases. My 4-year-old already has four American Girl dolls she got brand new. If she wants a specific one, I'm not buying it brand new.

I try to look at it as the "green choice." After all, what is more environmentally friendly than recycling?


Picture this: My kids got a $150 rocking horse from my parents two years ago. It's beautiful and pristine, even now two years later. Why? Because it only gets used every other day for 10 minutes. My kids get bored, they move on, and the toys stay perfect. In a year, that rocking horse would make a great gift for some other kid tied with a little red bow.

Voila! It's new to him, after all, and if we sold it, we would probably do so for about $25. It's a big win for everyone.

We all have these grand visions of Christmas Day or Hanukkah nights -- the unopened box, the excited expressions on their little faces. But kids under 10 probably won't see the difference as long as you wrap it in nice paper and present it well, and older kids can get the message that recycling is a greener and more economic way to shop.

It's also important to remember, as we get so caught up in the consumerism and materialism of this season, that the real "spirit of giving" isn't found in the amount of new toys or boxes a child rips open, but in the thought and the work involved. This is the reason I would so much rather receive something a person made for me than bought for me.

It takes time and effort to find a good used item. It saves money, but it takes more effort than going off to Toys R' Us or the local independent toy store and getting it fresh off the assembly line. So, yes, a used gift means more in a roundabout way.

It might be hard to explain to the kids, but it's true.

Do you buy holiday gifts used?

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