A mum-of-three has decided to do her bit to tackle both the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis by having a pre-loved Christmas.
Ruby Blaken, aged 32, from Wiltshire, has been slowly introducing more environmentally and purse friendly elements in to her Christmas celebrations for the last few years, but in 2022 she has decided to try and get everything she needs for the festive season without buying anything brand new.
Ruby, who is also the owner of a pre-loved children’s clothing company, said the reason behind her new approach to finding second-hand goods to spread seasonal joy is simple - “It’s great for the planet, it can save you money and it’s sustainable. Plus, you can get amazing bargains,” she said.
She joined the pre-loved community a few years ago after the birth of her second child - and then when her third child arrived she decided to turn her passion in to a business. Second Snuggle was born around 20 months ago, at around the same time as her youngest son. The aim of the business is to help busy parents and carers find a new home for clothing their children no longer wear. All they have to do is send the goods to Ruby and she takes care of finding it a new home.
Ruby said: “By the time my third child was born I had my kids stuff that was taking over my house and I wanted to try and sell it on so I decided to launch my business. My plan was to create an online shop for all children’s and maternity clothes, as well as other related items, while also creating a marketplace for quality, beautiful, outgrown items that mums and dads couldn’t bare to see thrown out, with the added bonus on getting some money back at the same time too. Since I’ve done that I’ve been more immersed in the pre-loved community and it’s a passion of mine now.”
Re-gift, reuse and recycle
To achieve her environmentally and budget friendly Christmas, Ruby will be re-gifting some presents, the gifts that she does buy will be pre-loved and she’ll be recycling all the same festive decorations she used last year. Ruby’s family; husband Michael, age 35, and their three children - seven-year-old Isaac, four-year-old Florence and 18-month old Archer - all support her decision for a not new Christmas.
She said: “I’m not buying new at all this year, and everyone is okay with that. Last year, we made some of our own gifts and were more careful of what we were buying, but this is the first year we’ve done it properly and had a fully pre-loved Christmas. My kids know what I do, and we talk a lot about when we’re done with something we give it a new home. When I sell one of their old toys on Facebook Marketplace, for example, I try to get them to go to the door to give it to the next person so they see it going on to its next home.”
She added that, along with passing on some of their old toys, her children are also happy to receive toys that other youngsters no longer use.
“When they get a pe-loved gift they are as happy with it as if it’s new out of the box.”
Ruby’s main motivation behind her second-hand Christmas is sustainability rather than saving money - but she said the latter is often a happy coincidence when it comes to looking after the planet.
She said: “I don’t always go straight for a bargain because it can be hard to tell the quality of things sometimes online. I’m happy to spend more, I’m even happy to pay the sale price for items if they are of good quality. It’s more about knowing that I’ve helped something be used again rather than just automatically going for brand new. I do this because it’s great for the planet and it’s sustainable, but it can save you money too and you can definitely get amazing bargains.”
When it comes to finding the goods she wants, savvy Ruby has lots of different places she can look to find just what she’s after.
“I look for local places and people who are selling what I want first so then I don’t have to pay postage, but then I move on to websites like eBay and Vinted and visit charity shops. If I’m struggling to find something I post on our local mums group to say I’m looking for this, and people will often say they have something but they just haven’t got round to posting it for sale. If you just ask, you will find people may have things in the back of a cupboard that they will give to you.
“I was worried about finding pre-loved presents for my eldest child because he likes Nintendo Switch games, but I’ve been surprised that I’ve found quite a lot of them on different websites. You never know what you might find if you have a look around.”
“It’s more acceptable to buy pre-loved now than ever before”
Ruby believes that people’s perceptions of pre-loved goods are changing, thanks to popular culture and celebrities promoting the concept.
“It’s more acceptable to buy pre-loved now than it has ever been. Things are more widely and easily available now and it’s been seen a lot more. Love Island do pre-loved with their partnership with eBay and you even see vintage items on the red carpet now, so it’s becoming a trend to buy pre-loved.”
She did say, however, that although people seem happy to buy second hand for themselves, there still seems to be a stigma attached to buying a pre-loved item for someone else.
“I did a poll on my website recently about this; 53% said they would definitely buy pre-loved as gift, 5% said they would not do pre-loved at all, but 41% would only buy pre-loved if the item was new with tags on. I think people are worried about offending someone else, but I’ve found people are happy with it. I’m not going to stop anyone buying brand new items as presents for my children, of course, but I’ve let everyone know that I’m fine with pre-loved and people seem okay with that.
“Last year, my Sister-in-law bought my daughter a doll’s house for Christmas as she knew she wanted one and she managed to find a second hand one locally to her. That was lovely because there was a lot of thought behind it. It’s not that no thought goes in to buying new, but you have to look around a bit more for pre-loved and that means something.
“If anyone is worried about pre-loved gifting, I would say that they just need to ask if someone is okay with it. If you ask and they say no then that’s fine, of course, but if you ask the question then you know for sure.
“You would be surprised by how many items that are classed as pre-loved have never been worn or used. I just got a box full of pre-loved children’s clothes for Second Snuggle and I’d say 30% is new with tags. Any parent will know that sometimes kids just won’t put on what you want them to wear. I’ve bought things before for my daughter that I think are really pretty and then she’ll say to me ‘I’m nor wearing that mummy’, so if they won’t wear it then what’s the point of it being sat in a wardrobe? If you are worried about pre-loved gifting then try getting something new with tags - it’s a great way to join the community as there are plenty of ‘as new’ items waiting to be re-loved.”
“It’s silly not to re-gift”
It’s not just reusing and recycling that Ruby believes in, but also re-gifting too. That’s why, this Christmas, little Archer is getting a balance bike that older sister Florence used to play with, but has since grown out of.
Ruby said “Archer is going to be 2 in February and he’s interested in that kind of thing now. I’d put Florence’s away when she grew out of it and he can have it now. I’ve realised that I don’t need to buy more things for Archer just because it’s Christmas when there’s something already in our house that he will enjoy, it’s silly. It’s still new to him after all.”
The topic of re-gifting is often a divisive issue, with some believing it’s not proper present giving etiquette - but Ruby doesn’t see a problem with it.
“If we’ve had something given to us that is really not what we need then I try to give them to someone else who would like them, it’s silly not to. Again, I think you just need to ask the question and see what people’s opinions are on regifting so then at least you know.”
But, If the idea makes you feel uncomfortable then Ruby advises that the best way to avoid getting gifts you or your family won’t like or don’t need is to make sure people know what you do and don’t have.
“I’m open with people about what we already have and what the kids need. Now, when it comes to Christmas I get asked ‘what do they need?’ so people can be sure the present they buy is going to be useful.”