Monday, August 28, 2006

Gearing up for Baby on a Strict Budget

By: Heather Pohlabel

A few years ago. I was warned by a friend of mine that once I sold all of my baby supplies, I would inevitably get pregnant again, most likely when I least expected it. I held on as long as I could to my daughter's belongings, but lack of space, a need for extra cash from time to time, and the fact that my daughter was now in school full time and I hadn't gotten pregnant again led me to finally rid our home of all things baby - even down to the swing set. My thirteen year old was too big for it, and my eight year old had lost interest in it as well. They were growing up and their needs and tastes were changing.

Exactly one month after the last item was gone (that swing set), I found out that I was - you guessed it - pregnant! What kind of dirty trick was this anyway? Was there some karma due me? Had my now former friend jinxed me? I did not look forward to the "I told you so's". Even more, I did not look forward to buying all of that stuff all over again!

I thought about how much money I had invested in my first two children. With the first born, I went crazy buying cute little boy outfits and everything that advertised as a necessity for babies. I had an abundance of diaper rash creams, bottles, onesies, blankets, toys, bath supplies, and several different types of car seats and bouncy seats. I needed options...there were so many to choose from, and they all were perfect in one way or another.

Let's not forget the crib and bedding and all the accessories that go with that - the room decor, the mobile, the extra sheets and matress pads. The stroller, the walker, the swing, the monitor, the high chair, and the playpen; need I go on?

Baby two, a beautiful little girl, came four years later, and in addition to what I had kept from my first baby's baby days, we accumulated an Amelda Marcos worthy stock of baby girl outfits! The first granddaughter is an exciting time for grandparents dying to buy pink and frilly! We also fell prey to all things pink and pretty and overdid it - big time. Our daughter did not even get to wear most of the gorgeous dresses, stockings, headbands, shoes and bonnets that we purchased - some even at full price (because she was WORTH it). Things were everywhere, and things were out of control.

We spoiled our children with every new toy on the market for many years. It wasn't until they were about 10 and 6 that we started to back off on the over the top purchasing. Our son was outgrowing most all toys and was into electronics and money. Our daughter still liked toys, but mostly expensive baby dolls and build a bears or arts and crafts supplies. The years of Fisher Price were long gone, and we were happy!

As the children grew up and their tastes changed, so did our financial situation. Money was tighter than ever, and this was just not us; it was happening to everyone we knew. Even our doctor friends were struggling to make ends meet due to increased insurance requirements, and basically, an increase in everyday living expenses on everything from gas to food. We were not poor, but we didn't have anything to spare. So we sold the crib, the accessories, and the hundreds of beautiful, frilly unworn dresses . We said goodbye to the wagon, the Power Wheels, and the tricycles. We were a baby free house.

We sold ALL of the baby stuff. One by one, they were toted out of our lives for good, to be enjoyed by some other baby in some other house, but not our baby and not in our house. We were done having children.

Until I became pregnant that is. It was time to start shopping again!

This time around, I swore I was going to be much smarter about my purchases - in quantity, quality, and price. I now had three children, mounting household bills, and an increased insurance premium. Money was going to be an issue with this child.

I found out that I was pregnant in November, so it wasn't exactly a good time to start buying the really inexpensive items; garage sales would start in April, and that's when I'd really find my bargains. I did, however, shop some of the clearance racks for some cute outfits and purchased a few bags of diapers when they were on sale, I had a coupon, and a gift card was offered. I knew not to buy too many bags of diapers, as people always give these as gifts. I spent a total of forty dollars on diapers before my baby was born.

I also stocked up on baby wipes, utilizing sales and coupons. This was an everday need, so I made sure I had a good couple of months' supply of these. I spent about thirty dollars on wipes before my baby was born.

I am not a fan of used furniture, but if I HAD to, I would purchase my furniture used. Fortunatley, Wal-Mart sells furniture at or below used prices, and we were able to get a crib, matress, matress pad, sheet and bedding set for around two hundred dollars. This is very affordable, even with a tight budget. The crib is also able to convert to a toddler bed and a day bed, so this is a long term investment that will also offer a reasonable resale price.

We also purchsed our car seat/stroller combo at Wal Mart for one hundred twenty dollars. This is as cheap as they come unless you buy them at a garage sale, which I really wasn't wanting to do. Strollers and car seat get a lot of wear and most safety experts advise against used car seats, so new was fine with me. For about half the price, I could have picked one up at a garage sale, but it would have looked worn and probably would not have held up as well. Also, as I mentioned, used car seats are not recommended by safety experts.

We also were able to purchase a pack and play new at Wal Mart, which, unbelieveably, matched our car seat and stroller. This pack and play was very basic, and only cost fifty dollars. Most used ones that I found at garage sales and resale shops were thirty five. The pack and play is not a necessity, but is becoming more and more popular for families to leave in the family room for the baby to rest or for use as a quick diaper changing table. They also fold up and pack away to take on trips, and they don't take up much trunk space.

I did buy my furniture new, but when it came to clothing, I went used and extremely inexpensive. Downright cheap, actually.

For my onesies, I did NOT buy any new ones. I shopped garage sales for these and didn't allow myself to pay more than seventy five cents for one, and to pay that much, it needed to be pretty! Plain onesies were capped at twenty five cents. Sleepers were also used unless they were given as gifts - i allowed up to a dollar to be spent on these unless they were super cute, and then I'd pay a dollar fifty a piece. I only bought a handfull of each also. I knew I'd be home and doing laundry fairly often. I also knew I'd get some as gifts from friends and family. Being summer when my baby was due, I knew that she would not need to wear anything most of the time - it gets very hot in Ohio.

I did buy the receiving blankets new, but only one package because I had requested these as shower gifts as well. I did NOTbuy baby towels or washcloths; I've learned that babies can use the same ones as everyone else in the house! Baby washcloths are also very flimsy and small and shrink to amazingly small proportions when dried in the drier; they also curl up and are impossible to fold! I bought a pack of twenty regular wash cloths from the dollar store for five dollars, and they served as burp rags as well. I also purchased burp rags from Burlington Coat Factory - the dollar bargain ones (you get four for a dollar), and these have by far been the BEST burp rags that I've ever used. They are slightly like hand towels, have designs on them, and work amazingly well compared to the five dollar pretty pink Gerber brand that just let the spit up slide right down onto your shirt!

I did NOT buy any baby bath products. The baby can't bathe until the cord falls off, and the hospital provides enough for about a month of baths even after your baby can get in the water. It also seems that people who don't know what else to buy for your baby end up buying bath supplies as part of their gifts.

Also, during the course of my pregnancy, I made myself spend only one dollar per week on an item. This forced me to comparison shop and keep my eyes on products, sales, name brands, and my coupon supply. One week I'd get a pacifier for fifty cents; next week, a bottle brush or a bottle. I bought a dozen newborn bottles and requested Playtex Drop-Ins for my shower; I received plenty to get me through the first 3 months.

Even though genetically I am programmed to want the pink frillies for my baby girls, I refrained. I even told my family and friends to buy practical for me. A few frills were fine, but only if they couldn't resist. Most of them were more than happy to oblige, knowing that I would actually be getting use out of what they purchased.

I bought my toys at resale shops and garage sales at about a savings of seventy five percent off of retail, and I will in turn be able to resale them for the same amount that I paid for them unless we destroy them!

Overall, shopping this time around was more challenging, and in that respect, almost more fun. I had to really watch what I was buying and justify each purchase. I started early and kept some self control when it came to purchases - what was left over, I used for pickles and ice cream.

No comments: