It’s no joke that babies are expensive (to the tune of $9,000–$15,000 or higher per year, according to a USDA report). Don’t spend thousands of dollars on stuff babies outgrow in a matter of weeks—even days. Gather girlfriends (fellow moms) for a thrifty get-together and start trading.
STEP ONE: INVITE SWAPPERS
When planning the guest list, choose 10–15 friends who have children close in age and size but with a few months in between. Doing this ensures that each guest takes home something that fits her child now and for the weeks ahead.
Send invitations two weeks in advance of your party date. Two weeks’ notice gives moms ample time to sift through closets and launder the items they want to exchange. In the invitation, include suggestions of what gets swapped and what does not. Guests should bring freshly cleaned and gently used items—nothing with stains, holes or other damage.
Request clothes suitable for the season. Or to narrow the field, create a theme for the party: swimwear, accessories, shoes … you get the idea.
Set limits on the number of items each guest should bring—10 is a good starting point. You don’t want to overwhelm swappers with mountains of clothes, nor do you want anyone to get stuck hauling a load of rejects to the thrift store.
Lastly, address the menu. Serve your guests potluck-style, or let a caterer do all the work and supply your swap with fancy finger foods.
STEP TWO: BUILD A SWAP STATION
Designate a series of bins, boxes, baskets, tables, drawers, or even chairs as receptacles for all the goods up for trade.
Before guests arrive, label each container according to size, or get pickier and separate by style, season, gender or color.
As guests arrive, have them sort their swappables into the appropriate piles. All your labeling efforts will help speed this process along so there will be less stalling and more swapping.
STEP THREE: START SWAPPING
First, set rules to govern the swap. One option is to assign numbers at random—each mom draws a number from a hat, and swapping ensues in the randomly designated order. Guests can either take turns picking one must-have item for a few rounds, or they can pick up to three must-haves in one round. After each mom has had the opportunity to grab at least one of her favorites, the free-for-all swap can begin.
Another option is to assign color-coded clothespins to the swappers. Then draw a color from a hat, and the matching mom gets to pin up to five items. If one item has multiple pins from multiple swappers, the moms can hash it out over cucumber sandwiches and sparkling lemonade.
If guests have kids with a wide range of ages and sizes, it may work best to pair up moms that have babies in similar age brackets and do one-for-one swapping within each group.
Or throw the rules out the window and give swappers the green light. Set a timer for 30-45 minutes so everyone gets plenty of time to sort through the loot and make her selections.
The general rule of thumb is that every guest goes home with the same number of items she brought. But if you’re not one for rules, let group dynamics determine the pace. As long as moms can munch and mingle to their heart’s content and leave with a bag of “new” outfits, you’ve done your job.
ONLINE SWAP GROUPS
No time to party? There are loads of online groups that host swaps exclusively for baby goods and kids stuff. Trade or claim the items you like from the convenience of your desk or smartphone. Search for the following groups on Facebook or get connected at your local community center or moms group.