Using baby gear from friends and relatives can ease the strain on your wallet. Consider these to avoid strain on your relationships:
"Can I just ask someone for her old stuff?" If you don't feel close enough to, try asking what she did with clothes and toys after her child outgrew them. This way, you signal your interest without being pushy -- and you give her an easy out. "Surprisingly, many people want to give away things but are afraid of insulting new moms by offering used items," says Vicky Burgess, Ph.D., coauthor of The Etiquette of Parenting and a mom of five.
"What should I plan to give back?" Most people don't expect things like clothes and toys to be returned, unless they're favorites. However, many moms do want big-ticket items like cribs and strollers, especially if they're planning on having another child, so it's always best to ask before you borrow. If such an item took a beating, fess up and offer to replace it.
"Is there anything I shouldn't take?" You should always buy underclothes and shoes new. And check the safety record: Car seats, toys, and other gear are often recalled (you can visit our recall archive to find out about specific items). Also, examine them for loose parts that can be choking hazards.
"How can I turn something down?" Just say Thanks, but I have more than I can handle right now! ¿ You could suggest another mom who might find the item useful -- that is, if you know anyone who wouldn't mind your sister-in-law's ugly diaper bag!