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When  you have a baby, there is a ton of stuff to buy, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money — you can get green baby gear for less if you’re a smart shopper. If you know how to get a really good deal, you can find a way to fit that expensive stroller or co-sleeper into your budget with room to spare. The best part is, the savings keep on giving. We’re using our extra savings to start a college fund for our daughter. It’s just a start, but her college textbooks have already been paid for by money not surrendered to Pampers. Now that’s making your money work hard. Here are some tips to help you find the best baby gear for less.

Giveaways

Inhabitots and other blogs, including my own 29 Diapers, host frequent giveaways for green baby products like cloth diapers and baby carriers. Because these giveaways are targeted at a relatively small audience, the odds of winning are actually fairly good. I won $600 of cloth diapers and baby gear while pregnant, which really got me off to a good start saving money on baby gear. You can follow your favorite mommy blogs to find giveaways, or check an aggregator such as Prizey.net or Online-Sweepstakes.com to find many giveaways in one place, searchable by prize.

Freecycle

Hand-me-downs aren’t what they used to be, and they aren’t acquired in the same way, either. Freecycle groups are local email groups that swap free, used household gear of all kinds, including baby clothes and gear. Baby clothing can cost an average of $1,000 per year, so this is no small resource. I once drove a little out of my way to pick up a lot of Freecycle clothes and discovered four trash bags full of designer pants, shirts, and jackets from 18 months through 5T. That one trip netted me about $1,000 worth of gently used toddler clothes. I’ve also been able to spread the wealth by giving away 15 bags of Freecycle clothing I didn’t need, passing on these hand-me-downs to friends who didn’t have time to join Freecycle. My baby bathtub, bouncer and changing pad also came to me via Freecycle.

Flash Sale Sites

Flash sale sites are websites that put one or two items on sale for 50-90% off for just 24 hours, or until the item sells out. A number of these increasingly popular sites focus on baby and kids’ gear, so you can monitor them for deals when you’re looking for a brand-new item for a steal. This is a great way to get a car seat or a special item of clothing, in particular. Flash sale sites often sell out of each day’s item within minutes, so the best way to monitor these deals is to sign up for their newsletters and check back each day when you’re looking for something specific. BabySteals.com, GreenBabyBargains.com, Kids.Woot!, and Totsy are a few of the most popular, but you can find tons more of these sites by Googling “baby flash sale site” or “kids flash sale site.”

Combined Sales

A good old sale just doesn’t cut it in this Internet age. Did you know that you could save an extra 15-75% off your baby boutique or department store purchase by combining special deals? Here are two scenarios to give you a few ideas:

1. Boutique Sale: My local baby boutique offers clearance sales on occasion, but they also honor mailer coupons and post special coupons and deals for their Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and newsletter subscribers. Sometimes you can combine more than one of these deals for a super sale. Take a clearance item, combine it with a 20% off coupon, and add to that a gift card you bought for 15% off during a special promotion, and you’ve just made that pricey green baby carrier as affordable as the cheapo alternative at Babies R Us.

2. Department Store Sale: Department stores like JCPenney and Macy’s offer coupons via mailers, plus they have clearance deals online that sometimes can be combined with a free shipping deal. But did you know that many mailer coupons, which vary across the country, can be accessed via coupon code aggregators such as RetailMeNot.com and CouponChief.com? Or, if you’re shopping in-store, combine these special deals with an early bird special to create your own super sale. I once returned an out-of-season outfit the day after Christmas during Macy’s after-Christmas sale and combined a baby clothing clearance sale with an early bird special and a mailer coupon to get 5 onesies, 2 shirts, 1 pair of pants, and a matching onesie, bib, and sleeper set. For free. Now that’s a sale.

Guest Post by Laura K. Cowan, the founder of 29Diapers.com, a blog that features tips to make green parenting affordable and giveaways for eco-friendly baby products including cloth diapers, natural skincare products, and green toys and clothing. She is the author of Ecofrugal Baby: How To Save 70% Off Baby’s First Year. Laura lives in Michigan with her husband and baby girl and can be reached at laurakcowan/at/gmail/dot/com.