SAVING DOLLARS: Alex Spengler, of Goonellabah, has looked for various measures to save money while raising Alex.
SAVING DOLLARS: Alex Spengler, of Goonellabah, has looked for various measures to save money while raising Alex. Marc Stapelberg

Sharing is caring and saves a lot of money on kid costs too

WHAT do rental toys, hand-me-down clothes, and pre-loved prams and cots and car seats have in common?

They are all key ingredients of what we might call the child-rearing "sharing economy".

It may not get the economists frothing because it doesn't show up on our GDP, but the recycling of children's items is a classic cost-cutting habit for frugal-minded mums and dads.

Lismore dad Alex Spengler is one of them.

Mr Spengler and his wife Cristina Massia rarely need to buy new clothes, books and toys for their three-year-old son Arthur.

"Other than underwear, socks, and shoes, everything else is pre-loved," Mr Spengler said.

While he admits he's never sat down and done the maths, the savings are obviously huge.

The family has developed an informal network of families who share items between them which their kids have outgrown.

Mr Spengler said it was even easier than buying from second-hand op-shops, because his social networks already had a good idea about what their friends' children might want or need.

"We had a friend who just had a baby in the US, and Cristina sent a bunch of stuff that belonged to Arthur and a couple of new things," he said.

"The act of sharing itself is a cool thing to do; it shows that you care, that you think about the person.

"Shops are designed to make things much more reachable for kids, especially the toys area - so they want everything.

"If you don't have to drive down to the shop and take the kids and manage your wallet, it actually becomes very handy. It's not just about saving money, but time, so you have more time to do other stuff."

Mr Spengler said most of the stuff in Arthur's playroom was either donated from friends, or on loan from the library.

Facebook is also a fantastic resource locally, with many Northern Rivers and Lismore group pages on Facebook for mothers or general swap and trade pages.

There are also obvious benefits to sharing beyond plain cost-cutting.

Mr Spengler said sharing taught kids to have care and consideration for their things, so another child could one day enjoy them as well.

"You can start to teach them the idea of sharing - the gratitude of receiving and the pleasure of giving," he said.

"In societies of abundance, such as Australia, I think it's a very good thing to learn."


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