Preparing For Baby Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive

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Everyone tells you that having children is expensive. Long-term, that absolutely makes sense when you consider food, clothing, shelter, college–but what are some short-term ways you can save? I am just about 38 weeks pregnant and have only spent $115.00 on a baby I should be giving birth to in the next two weeks. And I waited almost nine months to spend any money at all–specifically until the week of Black Friday. Everything I have purchased so far has been on sale or was discounted in some other way. It took some serious self-restraint–but it was also kind of a fun challenge once I had made up my mind.

Two things factored into my decision to hold out on baby related purchases: I knew I’d be having a shower and that two weeks later would be the biggest sale weekend of the year. I was very generously blessed at my shower and by my parents which covered almost all of my needs. Note I said needs. I didn’t go overboard with my registry–adding every cute thing I wanted–or any decor items, clothes, toys, etc. I tried to be as minimalist as possible, selecting items I thought I’d use in the beginning, knowing that I could reevaluate when I had a better idea of what I was doing and what my baby was like. I also chose things that I thought would work for the baby through the toddler stage so that I wouldn’t have to purchase new gear every year.

The other really great tactic I found was in creating a nursery fund. Similar to my purse fund–I created an envelope of money that was strictly to be used for items that would go in the baby’s room. The money came from selling a large bookshelf that was in the space previously and made it possible for us to buy any crafts, wall decor or little touches we may want for the room without feeling like we were needlessly spending. Some practical nursery items we didn’t receive at the shower like a laundry basket and crib sheets (RH Baby & Child outlet score $69 marked down to 16.99!!) were also purchased using this money rather than “our own”. The big comfy chair I snagged last year from another Restoration Hardware outlet remains and I didn’t change the curtains or shelving (which I made myself!). Using what you already have saves. Baby won’t know. I found a huge free pegboard from a Craigslist post that my neighborhood art store advertised. I went and snagged it, slapped some paint on there to match the curtains and made myself a cute little changing station/wall set up–saving a lot of money in the process! Pegboards are surprisingly expensive.

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Here are how my money saving purchases went down: The week of Black Friday, Amazon already started their wave of Cyber Monday sales, so I closely monitored them to ensure I wasn’t missing anything I had planned on buying. The place where I registered sent out an email to inform people of the best baby websites having sales that week–which also proved incredibly helpful! I had never been to a Buy Buy Baby before because they aren’t in the city. I waited until I was home for Thanksgiving where there is one close to my parent’s house and went on Black Friday. There were no special sales, but they carry absolutely everything you could dream up and take limitless 20% off coupons the same way Bed, Bath and Beyond does (same company). I also learned they do price matching, which is a pretty sweet deal when you factor in the coupons. I had a few gift cards from my shower, returned some unnecessary items and used cash rewards from our Discover card to purchase everything I didn’t get from Black Friday sales. Using these tactics, I accomplished things like spending .38 cents on my Ergo baby carrier–and $16 on a Graco rocker which was also 35% off on Cyber Monday. Everything you see listed below is not the whole of what I have purchased–it’s just what wasn’t free. All other items were either gifted to me, came out of the nursery fund, or paid for by one of the various methods previously mentioned. And you know what? I could have trimmed the list down even more if I had really wanted to. I don’t need a sunshade for the car yet–I don’t need pacifiers or baby bottles in the beginning. But since I don’t live near a Buy Buy Baby, I was trying to avoid the hour drive it would take to get to the nearest location around here later on.

$29.45 Puj bathtub 50% off

$7.19 sunshade 20% off

$39.99 ear thermometer 20% off

$4.79 nail clipper 20% off

$.38 Ergo carrier gift card

$16.02 Graco rocker 35% off and rewards credit

$4.19 pacifier 20% off

$9.79 bottle 20% off

$3.49 mittens 20% off

= $115.29 total spent on baby so far

As I mentioned last week, my husband and I have still held out on Amazon Prime despite being very tempted to renew it. I’ve found that in November and December, things have arrived in two days despite not being members because of the Christmas rush. And it hasn’t been hard to find more than $35 worth of things to purchase at a time in order to be eligible for free shipping. I didn’t officially register for my baby shower at Amazon, but I privately made a registry so I could get the 10% off after the shower date had passed. Only three of the items on my list were eligible and the total savings was something like $4 because all three things were very cheap. The purchases were covered by a gift card, but I didn’t find that tool to be super helpful. Many will tell you that getting that, coupled with Amazon Mom (free with Prime and adds a 5% bump to registry discount) is well worth it–but I didn’t find that to be the case. And you have a month to use your registry discount, so if you don’t have Prime and are considering it–you can hold out like I did to see if it would be worth investing in for the 15% off.

Of course these items don’t cover maternity needs–like any special care you may want to give yourself to add comfort to your situation, specialty bras or clothes. I did spend money on myself in that capacity–but I don’t consider those items purchases for the baby. And even in doing so, I was careful to watch sales and be smart about what was truly a necessity versus a want. For example, I bought one of those Snoogle pillows women rave about on Craigslist for $15 (it retails for $60-70 depending where you get it) and then bought a new cover on Amazon with credit card rewards points (the covers run around $30). So I saved $75 on the pillow all together. And even after doing so, I am still not convinced it was a need–though others will swear by it. I also kept my clothes shopping to a minimum–even though this is a definite need. I am not the kind of person who minds repeating outfits, in fact I prefer it, so it wasn’t an issue to rotate through the same dozen or so maternity shirts.

The one very obvious and very helpful tool that I haven’t used but you should if you are comfortable with–is borrowing from those who’ve had a baby before you. I know many people who got most of their kid’s wardrobe or gear that way. I am personally not a borrower, even though that probably is in violation of my frugal nature. I like the freedom of knowing I can destroy or lose something and not feel bad about it. Plus you can resell almost everything once you are done having children and that seems like a pretty good way to go.

Lastly, we have really great health insurance. I know this is a choice most people don’t get to control themselves–but I have to say, if you can find a good plan before you start having a family–it is worth it! My husband’s company completely covers labor and delivery so we have a $0 co-pay for the birth and hospital stay. We also get a free breast pump (I believe all carriers are supposed to offer this under the new health care laws), which can retail from $200-$300, if not more.

Obviously this lack of spending is about to change given that the baby will arrive in the next few weeks and new needs will be popping up (like diapering!). But in terms of preparing for the child in this exciting time, you can still be frugal and patient in your search. After all, you will probably be spending money on them for the rest of your life in one way or another–why start earlier than you have to? I highly recommend selling things to not only make room for baby, but to accumulate a nursery fund so you can avoid spending on that. You can also find just about any baby gear used on Craigslist if you keep checking back. And finally, don’t underestimate the generosity of others and the ways they want to provide for you in this time. Haven’t you been to a baby shower by now where you gifted the person of honor? It’s not something to feel bad about assuming you have or would do the same for a friend when her time comes. Imagine how much you could save by implementing a few easy exercises of self-discipline into your nesting expectations. Please share your tactics below!

 

Not All Cash Is Green

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I know those look like ink cartridges, but your eyes are playing tricks on you. That’s actually money. Remember what I said about knowing the value of a dollar? Don’t underestimate the value of this plastic in disguise. Allow me to explain…

Staples allows people to recycle used printer cartridges and will pay you $2 a pop for them. Huh?! It doesn’t even matter if you bought them there. I hang onto my used cartridges for a few months at a time until I have enough to bring in. Last week I took nine in and got $18 in store credit. It took me just under a year to save that many, though that may be a conservative amount compared to some. For fun, let’s say you use ten cartridges a year, which is about what I do. That’s $20 a year of cash back for your purchases. $80 in four years. In my experience, the average lifespan of a printer is right around there. Guess how much my printer cost? Correct! $79.99. This means that barring the cost of the first, you could theoretically go a lifetime without having to pay for another one. Each subsequent purchase would be covered by the cost of the cartridges. And this example assumes you use a fairly small amount per year; imagine all the upgrades you could make with more. That, my friends, is what we call cheating the system.

The thing to know is that you don’t get the money at the time of recycling. Ideally, you would plan ahead (words to live by on this blog!) and make a special trip to drop off the cartridges. A few weeks later, you’ll get the credit via email; which means you have to go back to Staples to use it. That is why it’s important to recognize the value of a dollar. It would be easy to shrug off the $2 incentive as a waste of time because it’s not a ton of cash, but I know you’re smarter than that. Now look at the picture again.

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See? Your perspective has changed already.