Thrifty mums seek children's bargains online
Cash-strapped mums are taking to online swap-shops to buy toys and clothes for their children.
Buy, sell and swap Facebook groups are popping up all over the country, with membership well into the thousands.
New mum and active user Joanna Keane said she simply cannot afford to spend money on new toys and clothes for her baby, especially with the cut to maternity benefit coming in January.
Parents are buying and selling next-to-new toys and "clothes bundles" online, but you need to be an accepted member first as the groups are strictly monitored.
Ms Keane has done two deals so far, and she and her friends are finding it "addictive".
She bought a "still-in-the-box" playpen at a reduced rate of 70pc and met the seller in a church car park in Shankill. For another purchase, she called to the seller's house.
Safety-wise, she has no fears, as all members must have a profile picture.
How it works is that members upload a photo and set a price, and the first person to comment gets first refusal.
If a higher bidder comes in afterwards, they cannot outbid the buyer who got there first. Once a deal has been struck, it moves to private message status where numbers and addresses are swapped.
Ms Keane said it is like eBay and DoneDeal, but community-based, so users will not have far to go to collect items.
Karen Graham, who also uses the sites, said it was remarkable the Government was cutting benefits during both a baby boom and a recession.
She wants her daughter to have lots of stimulation, but like Ms Keane she cannot afford to buy new toys.
Clothes bundles are particularly popular swaps: a member puts up a wardrobe for a newborn and exchanges it with a mum-to-be who has a set of clothes for an older child.
The swap-shops are not only for baby clothes – high-end shoes, accessories and garments for women as well as books and services such as christening cakes are also offered.
Ms Keane, who plans to have a second baby, said the swap-shops will be her first port of call for all the new equipment she will need
She said she would not consider buying anything new if she can get it next-to-new and cheaper online.