When Jenna Brown, of Islip, was looking for a new playset for her son, she turned to Craigslist and purchased a used swing set at a discounted price.  Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Olivia Ulip is on the hunt for a swing set.

The hair stylist from West Babylon is a 29-year-old single mother with daughters ages 4 and 2. She has two nonnegotiable requirements: inexpensive (better yet, free!) and safe.

Ulip has posted on a Facebook page called One Parent to Another where members give items away. After all, as the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If, of course, you can get that treasure home to your castle. It’s not as easy to pick up a swing set as it is to hoist someone’s free chairs into the back of a minivan.

Plenty of families are looking for inexpensive or free options for swing sets as inflation soars and the stock market plummets. Some parents post in Facebook groups asking others for advice on where to find sets that don’t require an investment of thousands of dollars for the type of play sets sold, for instance, at Wood Kingdom in Farmingdale, where sets begin at $1,700.

Nicole and Brett LaFlamme, of Merrick, with their daughters Sophie,...

Nicole and Brett LaFlamme, of Merrick, with their daughters Sophie, almost 3, left, and Hazel, age 18 months, found this swing set on sale at Walmart. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

The average cost for a set for older kids with a tower and slide, three swings and a rock wall is about $3,000, says Steve Katz, manager at the store. And while demand increased the past two years due to the pandemic, it is leveling out according to Katz. However, interest in creating a backyard oasis for kids without having to visit public parks and venues remains.

Ulip had one free fish on the line — but that got away when she found out that the set being given was in secured in cement. “I don’t know how to take it out of cement. I am going to keep looking. I am very determined,” Ulip says. Ulip’s 2-year-old daughter, Lyla, has autism. “She loves to swing on the swings. That’s why I’m looking for a swing set, so I can go right in my backyard and have fun with my kids.”

‘WE GOT REALLY LUCKY’

Ulip is hoping to find someone like Jennifer Coppola, a former Bethpage resident who posted her swing set on Facebook Marketplace after she moved to Florida with her children — Coppola was happy to give it away for free instead of throwing it away, she says.

Erin Gaffney, 58, of Huntington, who works in real estate, also is looking to pass on her family’s swing set — it was a gift from her mother-in-law when her daughters were small. Her children are in their 20s now, and even her neighbor’s children, who subsequently came over to use it, have outgrown it. “It really serves no purpose,” she says. She’d like to see it get new life. “It just brings so much happiness to kids. I’d like to move it along and let other kids have fun with it.”

Richard and Jenna Brown with their son, Cody, 2, enjoying...

Richard and Jenna Brown with their son, Cody, 2, enjoying time on the backyard swing set which they bought for $200 from a homeowner who preferred to have the space back in their yard. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

The Brown family of Islip also benefited from a homeowner who preferred to have the space back in their yard. The Browns scored a set on Craigslist for $200, says Jenna Brown, 35, a registered dietitian, after striking out several times on Facebook Marketplace, beat out by others.

“Someone had just posted a couple of hours prior,” Jenna says. The set was in the next town, and Jenna and her husband, Richard, 35, drove their pickup truck over, disassembled the set and then reassembled it at their own home for their son, Cody, 2. They also have a daughter, Abigail, 14.

“My husband is an iron worker. He is super-duper strong. I could not have done this without him,” Jenna says. “I power washed it. It’s perfect. There are zero things wrong with it, and my son loves it. We got really lucky. Brand-new wouldn’t have been an option for us.”

‘FINISHING TOUCH' TO BACKYARD

Nicole LaFlamme, 34, of Merrick also balked at dropping thousands for a set for her daughters, Hazel, aged 18 months, and Sophie, almost 3. Buying used didn’t work out for her either. “It just wasn’t realistic to pay money, and then disassemble and reassemble in our yard,” she says.

That's often the case says Luis Herrera Carreno, owner of Swing Set Assemblers of Baldwin. He's been putting sets together for Long Islanders for 26 years, primarily new ones, he says. "You see on Facebook Marketplace thousands of ads saying 'Take this swing set for free,'" Herrera says. But wood may be rotten, hardware may be rusted, parts may be missing. "Taking apart a whole swing set is a big challenge depending on the condition of it," he says. 

Instead, watching for sales is what eventually paid off for LaFlamme. “One day I came across an ad on Walmart, $899 slashed to $449,” she says. “My husband and I put it together ourselves. It took about 10 hours. We did it during naptime and when our daughters were sleeping.” She and Brett, 35, both of whom work in media, spent a bit more to purchase and attach a Little Tikes bucket swing for the girls.

“They love going on the swings every single day now that it’s nice out,” LaFlamme says. “It is the finishing touch to our backyard.”

Andrea Rocha-Gaitan, 30, a consultant from West Babylon, was able to pay even less than LaFlamme — she purchased a wooden set with slide, canopy and rock wall marked down from $399 to $269, also from Walmart, in May, she says.

The family used to have a swing set in the backyard of their former house in Copiague that they had paid $800 for five years earlier. When they moved to West Babylon, Rocha-Gaitan’s older daughter, now 7, had wanted to bring it with them. “The cost to disassemble, transport it and reassemble was over $500 which made no sense,” Rocha-Gaitan says. The new set has been a great solution, she says. “I feel it’s great quality and my kids have enjoyed it with their neighbors who are a few years older than them.”