We talk a lot about frugality and controlling spending in the personal finance community. After all, it's one of the cornerstones of financial health. But there are some things in life that make sense to spend extra money on.
This post is an example of one of those things.
We introduced little Max to independent bicycling at the young age of 4. At the time I was concerned about building up her confidence to ride comfortably around our neighborhood and wanted her to have an enjoyable experience with riding in general.
My motivation was a bit selfish since I've personally loved to go on bike rides for as long as I can remember, and since we often use our bikes to get around our neighborhood on weekends. We wanted her to embrace biking, and hopefully develop a love for it at an early age.
We actually didn't waste much time with respect to getting little Max assimilated into her new family. Even before she was able to get on a bicycle, we had her two-wheeling around town.
As soon as she turned 1 year old, I started researching bike trailers that could be hitched to my bike. I narrowed my search down to one of the best bike trailers on the market for little kids.
The Burley Solo Bike Trailer. Here's a picture of the exact one I purchased back in early 2011 for little Max's 1st birthday.
Unfortunately this bike trailer retailed for over $500 brand new.
As nice as it was, at the time, I couldn't justify spending that kind of money on a high end bike trailer. But I still wanted it. So rather than compromise on getting a lower quality trailer, I started searching for a used one online.
After a couple of months of looking around and exercising some patience, I found the exact trailer I was looking for on Craigslist. It was a 2008 model, so only about 3 years old, and was in great condition.
I negotiated the price down to $120 cash and picked up the best trailer on the market for kids, for a fraction of the original cost.
We ended up using that trailer for 3 years trouble free, and little Max loved riding in it!
Burley still makes the trailer, and it continues to get great reviews. I highly recommend it.
Because it was a great quality trailer, I ended up selling it online for $200 cash. There were no other used trailers on the market in my area, so I was aggressive with my pricing. This meant it actually cost us nothing to use the trailer for 3 years, and we even made $80 from it!
The First Bike
In keeping with what's turned into a tradition. When little Max turned 4 years old, it was time for her to get her very own bicycle.
Once again, I spent time researching the best bike on the market for her age range. At that time, the Specialized Hotrock 16″ wheel bicycle was getting the best reviews from parents. It was designed to last from the age of 4-8, starting out with removable training wheels.
If you haven't researched biking for kids, it's important to pay attention to bike geometry and design. Most bikes on the market for kids are designed to sell based on appearance. They're not designed to help kids learn to bike.
The result is a poor biking experience for the kids, and much longer on the training wheels than necessary.
The Specialized bike was one of the best bikes at the time, and it was designed to help kids learn how to ride quicker. Unfortunately it was also one of the most expensive bikes available, retailing at close to $250 brand new.
Since this was little Max's first bike, I expected some decent wear and tear. I was reluctant to buy such a nice bike brand new since I knew it would likely take a beating. But I still wanted the best one out there!
True to nature, I started scouring the used market for that specific bike and within a few weeks found one locally online. I picked it up for a mere $100 cash just in time for little Max's 4th birthday.
I took the $80 I made on the sale of the trailer and put it towards the bike, so in reality my net cost was only $20!
She loved “sparkles” for the next 4 years and had a blast riding her. Unfortunately this particular bike model is now discontinued. If you're looking for a fantastic bike in this age range, read on.
By the way, I sold the bike online for $85 so after 7 years of two-wheeling, I was actually up $65!
The Longer Rides
Since we had gotten used to taking long rides in the trailer, the transition to an actual bike was rough for the adults. We found our range dramatically reduced since we couldn't ride along with little Max at such a young age.
The solution was to get a tandem bike trailer which can attach to the back of one of our adult bikes for the longer rides. I picked a used one up online for only $100.
Whenever we wanted to go on long rides little Max would jump on the back of my bike using the tandem trailer and we would pedal around together. It was like having a little helper motor in the back when I got tired of pedaling.
This is a great way to bridge the period between early biking and more independent biking at an older age.
In fact Burley now makes a great one with a better designed hitch than the one we bought.
I also ended up selling this trailer online for the same price I bought it for, and it lasted us 4 years.
The Best Bicycle for Kids
Little Max is not so little any more. She turned 8 years old this year. And in keeping with our tradition, it was time to upgrade to the next size bike for her birthday.
Luckily, there have been some great improvements over the past few years in bike designs for kids. In fact there are now a handful of companies who specialize solely in bicycles designed and built for kids.
It's no surprise that many of those companies are european given how widely embraced bike culture is in Europe. I was thrilled to discover that one of those companies recently expanded to the US.
The Woom Bike has won numerous design awards and received accolades from parents and kids alike from around the world.
It comes in 6 different sizes to accommodate kids from as little as 1.5 years old up to 14 years old.
I picked up a Woom 5 bike for little Max, which should last her for at least the next 3 years.
Her favorite color is blue, so that's what we ended up getting. She named the bike “sky”…
This is by far the nicest kids bike I've ever seen. The quality is extremely good, it's very light weight and the components are all high end compared to a normal kids bike. It comes with hand brakes designed for kids, an easy to use knob shifter on the handlebar, and little Max's favorite accessory, a cool custom bell.
It shipped from Austin, TX where they have their US base, and was very easy to assemble.
I wish this company had been around when little Max was younger. There's no doubt I would have started her out with their bikes. Especially since they have an awesome “up-cycling” program which allows you to trade in an old bike for a new one once your kid outgrows it. The membership costs $59, and you get 40% back of the original purchase price every time you trade up.
So up to this point I've been able to get the best possible two-wheel transportation device at almost no cost. I accomplished this by buying very high quality products used, and then reselling them at the end.
I was able to take advantage of this process since all the products were available for at least 3-4 years before I started looking for them online used. This meant that the chances of finding one were high, and the price point attractive.
In the case of the Woom 5 bike, I was at a disadvantage. The company has only been around for a few years in the US, and they're producing the bikes in low numbers to ensure quality is high.
Consequently, there were no used bikes on the market. My only option was to buy new if I wanted this particular model. At a price of close to $500 that's a pretty big splurge.
Even if I factor in the $65 I had saved using my own “up-cycling” strategy, I would still be spending a big chunk of money.
The fact I had saved hundreds of dollars over the past 7 years by buying used products for our cycling needs made the decision easier.
In the end Mrs. Max and I agreed that this was the best bicycle for little Max. Since this would be her first bike riding autonomously, it was important that she felt comfortable, and was safe riding it. We also wanted our family rides to be fun and confidence building for her.
Ultimately, I pulled the trigger and purchased the bike. I have no problem paying more for something if I feel I'm getting the right value out of it. I have no doubt that I will be able to easily sell it in 4 years, and will likely recoup at least half of what I paid for it.
Besides, my emergency fund interest will offset the entire cost in the first year 😉
Watching her take her first ride on the bike is what parenting is all about, she was grinning from ear to ear!
Readers, do you focus on cost or value when making purchasing decisions? for those of you with kids or if you had kids, would you splurge on a new bike like this one? Do you look for used versions of products you want online, or do you exclusively buy brand new? Share your thoughts and comments below! – Max