Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Why aren't secondhand gifts acceptable?

I want to have a birthday party for Emmy. I want people to buy her gifts. This is because gifts make her happy, and because giving gifts to a crazy, happy four-year-old makes my friends happy. I'm not going to be one of those people who puts, "No gifts please!" on an invitation, making everyone waffle between the two awkward choices. Either you will obey the invitation, arrive, and find that everyone else brought a gift, or you will disregard the invitation, arrive, and find that no one else bought a gift and look like the show-off. It is lose-lose. Maybe not with an adult's birthday party, since no gifts is pretty standard. But definitely with a kid's party. I hate "No gifts please!" It looks generous, but it just creates too much awkwardness. I have enough awkwardness of my own making, so I don't need anyone to pack it in an envelope and mail it to my house for me.

I want to start a movement of secondhand gift-giving. Why is this not acceptable? Really. Think about it. How stupid is it that everything must be new? Especially for children. They outgrow, destroy, or just plain aren't interested in so many things. Why spend $30 on that plastic, obnoxiously green toy that is also available for $5 at the consignment store because some other kid got it for her birthday and never played with it? Am I just cheap, or does this seem insane to anyone else?

As for me, I have a pretty slim budget for gifts. We're not broke, but I will be uptight about spending until we get rid of The Unsellable House (whose furnace just broke, Merry Christmas to us!). I can buy one decent toy new on my budget, or I can buy a really cool toy/many toys in like-new condition. Do you see how everybody wins, givers and recipients alike?

I also think it's fun to look for things in thrift and consignment stores. Granted, I have the luxury of time that many other people don't, but it really satisfies my hunting and gathering instinct. I hate sifting through clothes at these places, but finding other cool stuff almost makes me giddy. Sometimes, when I come home, I hoist my find in the air and shriek excitedly. Unless it's heavy or fragile. Then I put it down as soon as possible.

So where did this expectation to buy only brand new gifts come from? It makes no sense. If the item is in good condition and isn't the sort of thing that is automatically befouled by its having been pre-owned (underwear, socks, toast), then what? Why? Everyone is poorer (well, except for Target, which does employ many, many people) when we feel compelled to buy things new for no other reason than social convention.

In conclusion! If you are my friend in real life, am I starting a new thing. If you buy me or my kid a gift, feel free to buy it secondhand. I will be very happy with you. More money for you, more stuff for me, let's have cake.


  1. I definitely buy my own kids used stuff for birthdays and Christmas, and I've been criticized for it. But, well, for instance, I wanted to get my 5-year-old a Playmobil zoo set for Christmas. But it costs $90. I found one on Ebay for just under $50. Okay, it was missing a few non-crucial parts, but it did have the giraffes that were so important to her. :) But it definitely is the convention that gifts should be new, and I think you're right that sometimes it would be much better if it weren't!

    1. You've been criticized for it? Seriously? That's really stupid. Your kid doesn't care if it's new or not. I'm sure she's much happier having an awesome toy set than she is having something less appealing but new!

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  3. I love your idea! I have done so for friends or close family. For a baby shower once I even (with previous permission) got a really nice double jogger for a friend on Craigslist. I would have NEVER had enough money to buy it new, but I was able to get an awesome gift for her since she was fine with gently used. This also really satisfies my earth-friendly side. Less trash in packaging and less future garbage.