Today I was playing with Ben in our playroom (our converted garage) and he was sitting on an Elmo car. This Elmo car was purchased by Jon and I for Madeline for her first birthday. She is now five, so this car has seen a lot of love. It is a little dirty and doesn't work as well as it did when it was first purchased. But does Ben care? Not a bit.
In our house we love our hand me downs. I learned the value of these was Madeline was born and the girl clothes that my older niece had outgrown came flooding in, along with the outgrown clothes of the little girl I babysat for a time. We were new to one income and adjusting to my new part time income, as well as the cost associated with a new baby. The clothes were amazing. I did purchase clothes for Madeline, some I wanted for her and others I needed for her, but even then many of those clothes were second hand.
My kids don't care if they have hand me downs. They don't notice that a toy has been loved before. In fact some of Madeline's favorite dolls are the ones I played with as a child. Ben loves playing with Owen's toys. And Owen doesn't care that his last two winter coats have come from tag sales and second hand stores.
We know the difference between wants and needs in this house, to live on one income we have to. A need is winter coats and boots, in Massachusetts you can't make it through winter without these supplies. However, brand new coats and boots are a want. The coats we bought last year at our favorite second hand store looked brand new. And if we are find enough of our needed clothes at tag sales, and utilize hand me downs, there is more room in the budget for the wanted items (a second pair of boots for when the first is wet).
No one looks at my kids and knows off hand what is new and what is second hand. And even if they did, I honestly don't care. I brag about my tag sale finds. When I got Owen's fall coat for $2 at a tag sale, it was Gap corduroy and in almost new condition, I told everyone about it! I was excited and proud. New that coat would have cost...well I don't know what it would have cost because I don't buy Gap clothes new, they are not in our budget. Kids outgrow things very quickly. And I won't even mention how quickly my kids can ruin perfectly good clothes without meaning to. There is not a need to pay exorbitant prices for clothes simply for the name brand.
Living on one income means budgeting. My kids need clothes and they get them. Then there are clothes that they want and we try to find things they will like. But this can still be done without buying everything new. Owen loves toy story and I found a buzz lightyear shirt for $1, he was thrilled! Madeline's new obsession is Hello Kitty. Every time we head into Target she asks to look at the Hello Kitty clothes. Each time I check the prices, but $10 for a shirt is way too much. I found one for $3 second hand. Madeline told me I was the best mom ever. Ben can't talk, but he kept stealing his brother's and sister's Nalgene bottles so we bought him one using reward points that Jon earned through REI (this was not a second hand product, don't worry!).
All three kids have used the same stroller and the same car seat. (Ben will be the last to use the car seat as it will be too old if we have a fourth baby.) All three kids used the same baby saucer and baby swing. Our double jogger stroller, purchased when Owen was 1 for $25, is more popular with both Jon and I as well as with the kids than our sit and stand purchased brand new when Owen was a baby. There is nothing wrong with these items. There isn't a need for new items for each child. We chose gender neutral things because we knew we would use them for more than one child. And we planned ahead and saved the items we would need for other children.
Living on one income with three kids is not impossible. You don't need to go into debt to do it. It just takes creativity and planning. And storage space in your house (or the basement of a friendly relative) is helpful as well.