Over a decade ago, I met a young woman in Ukraine literally due at any minute with her first baby. Her parents and husband bubbled over with enthusiasm for the forthcoming child. She asked if I wanted to see ‘the room,’ so I followed her up the stairs, where she showed me a small bassinet next to the bed, alongside a shelf holding a tiny pile of clothes and diapers. A miniature bottle of baby powder stood proudly next to the pile.
That was it.
Her face lit up and she exclaimed, ‘We’re all ready for the baby’s arrival!’
And they were ready. They had the essentials. That family lived on far less, out of necessity and the lack of availability. But I suspect their baby received no shortage of love.
I don’t think that gal had any idea of the lesson she taught me that day. I’m here to share with you a little secret I learned on the other side of the world:
You do not need most of the junk geared towards babies.
Let’s face it; babies are a racket in America. So. Much. Stuff. And it’s expensive. Babies may be small, but they can cost a fortune.
Don’t panic though. They don’t have to eat away at your budget. Here’s how you can save, especially when baby arrives:
Forego the nursery. (Cue collective gasp from readers…)
Now, I totally get that lots of moms love to decorate a nursery. I really do. Believe me, there were days when I envied the moms who had beautiful rooms where they rocked their baby to sleep, while I two-stepped between the bookshelf, the computer and the Pack ‘n Play to actually get to my screaming son.
Practically though, we needed our spare room and office space more than we needed a decked out nursery. Babies generally sleep next to their moms for the first few months in any case, whether you’re bed-sharing, or you have a bassinet right next to your bed.
You do not need a crib, toddler bed, or generally any other bed marketed towards small people.
Babies are tiny. They can sleep in small spaces (safely, of course.) Finland gives out gift boxes full of useful items for new moms. Often babies sleep in the actual box. Laundry baskets also work, so do large dresser drawers. Babies also grow fast. When they get bigger, any low surface bed works or even a mattress on the floor. Think outside of the box for your baby’s bed. Or in this case, maybe in the box.
You do not need a diaper bag.
Okay, you probably need a diaper bag, but you don’t need a ‘diaper’ bag. You just need a bag. Any bag. I found a Kipling bag on sale at Ross (much cheaper than your average baby carryall). It worked great, and it’s still cute enough to use as a non-diaper bag. Win-win.
Buy items that have multiple uses.
Our Pack ‘n Play also served as a changing table — as did the floor. (Want to get back in shape after having a baby? Squat low to change those diapers.) We also purchased a convertible car seat right from the start, forgoing the expense of a bucket seat.
Beg, Borrow or Steal (a deal, that is…)
People can’t resist babies and they often want to get you something. I am pretty anti-registry, but enough people bugged me about creating one, that I made two. In the end I only got ONE thing off of those registries, but it was the item that mattered most to me: a fantastic stroller.
Cash in birthday money, holiday wish lists, coupons or points. Our Pack ‘n Play cost $20 because we cashed in points on a credit card. Did I get the exact pattern I wanted? No. But it was neutral. And let’s face it, my kid didn’t sleep in there a whole lot in any case.
Find families who have littles close to the same age and size as yours. When your baby outgrows something, pass it on. Even if you want to keep an item for a future baby, you can still lend out items. When kids are older, swap toys and books with friends for a few months at a time.
If begging and borrowing doesn’t work, it’s time to steal a deal. I’m a huge fan of thrift stores. They don’t always have the generous selection that consignment sales do, but you can still score some seriously cheap bargains, plus stores are open year round.
If you’d rather hunt for new brand name items at a fraction of the cost, browse places like TJMaxx, Marshalls, Ross and Burlington. While their selections may be smaller than what you’d find in a dedicated baby store, they still have a ton of stuff. I found an Ergo carrier for half off at one store.
However, beware of items you THINK you’ll need. I bought a cheap travel bed and got excited about where I’d take the Peanut. We went lots of places, but the only place that bassinet went was to a friend.
Finally, it’s not too late to change.
If you’re overwhelmed with the amount of stuff you’ve already accumulated, have no fear. There is no shortage of consignment sales in the greater Chattanooga area where you can sell your items for some extra cash. There are also numerous local buy, sell and trade groups on Facebook. Find a church that needs items for their nursery, befriend a pregnant lady, or just donate your stuff to a thrift store (that last one is tax deductible!)