I'm buying my kids used toys for Christmas this year—and so should you

Giving a second-hand gift was once considered tacky, cheap or just plain weird. But to fight climate change and personal debt, those days should be over.

I'm buying my kids used toys for Christmas this year—and so should you

Photo: iStockphoto

Christmas might be the season of giving, and for many folks that means trips to the mall or filling their online shopping carts in order to score the best deal on the hottest items of the year. But for a growing number of families—mine included—it also means opting for less extravagant gift giving traditions this year.

After making it through the biggest phase of our never-ending basement renovation, not only is my bank account telling me that our holiday gift-giving will need to be a little more modest this year, my conscience is also feeling like maybe all the paper, plastic and other waste that comes with holiday gift-giving is a bit too much. Which is why this year, we’re opting for giving pre-loved gifts to those on our list.

Our kids have plenty of toys as it is, and they’re hard on them. Their toys will look used within minutes of coming out of the box anyways, so there’s really no big deal giving them something that’s already seen a little action. And they’ve never batted an eye when we’ve picked up something during the year that’s been used already, so Christmas morning shouldn't be any different.

While it once might have been considered tacky, cheap or just plain weird to give a used gift, with growing concerns about the environment, and the increasing ease with which parents can find new or very gently used second hand toys, the idea of re-gifting or giving something slightly used is becoming more and more palatable.

Not only does this practice help families to avoid going into debt—the National Retail Federation predicts consumers will spend almost $1,048 on average during the 2019 holiday season, up 4 percent from last year—but it can help keep excess packaging and plastics out of the landfill.

Zero Waste Canada finds that Canadians produce about 25 percent more waste during the holiday season—an extra 50 kg per person!—with all the extra wrapping paper, foil and packaging from presents being one of the biggest culprits. All you have to do is take a look outside on the first garbage day post-Christmas to see how much extra waste comes with the gift-giving extravaganza. Most Canadian cities cannot recycle wrapping paper, gift tags or bags, which means all these items end up in a landfill.

I’ve given pre-loved gifts for birthdays and other special occasions before, but Christmas always felt like the one holiday where my kids and family should get something new. But this year, I’m putting my money where my eco-friendly-spouting mouth is and picking up presents from my neighbourhood Facebook buy-and-sell groups, Kijiji and local consignment shops, and by checking in with other parents at school to see if they’re looking to make space by getting rid of anything. I’ll also be reusing the stack of gift bags in my holiday box, rather than wrapping everything in fresh paper.

Remembering that Christmas is about the traditions and spending time with family, not the stuff, is already making this holiday season less stressful than years prior. By making time together a priority and shopping mindfully, our family is enjoying saving a few dollars and diverting excess waste from the landfill by opting for a second-hand Christmas this year.


Already I’ve scored a gorgeous vintage purse for my sister from a local consignment shop, some unique frames for photo gifts for the grandparents and a few activity books to use as stocking stuffers for my nephews and sons. I’m still on the hunt for a Paw Patrol Mighty Pups Lookout Tower and a Bakugan set though, so if anyone’s holding, hit me up!

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