Today’s post is from guest blogger Rebecca Z. Essenpreis! She really knows her stuff. Hope it’s helpful for all the future parents out there.
Don’t fall prey to Big Baby — the industry that expects you to go into debt just because you’re expecting. Follow these twelve tips to save money and the environment without sacrificing doing what is best for you and your infant.
1. Know where to look
Shop for used items at yard sales, thrift stores, and baby consignment shops as well as on Craigslist, Freecycle and eBay.
2. Learn how to play the game
At Salvation Army, most items are marked to 50% off after one week. At Goodwill, items tagged with a specific color price tag are marked down each week. Many smaller thrift stores offer “bag sales” where you can fill an entire grocery bag for a set price, which is especially economical if you’re buying tiny items like baby clothes, bibs and blankets.
Baby consignment stores tend to be more expensive than thrift stores, but the quality of the items is usually better. Search for “baby consignment” on Yelp for options near you. If your town isn’t lucky enough to have baby or children focused thrift stores that are open on an ongoing basis, find out if there’s a place that holds annual or seasonal consignment events. Here in Los Angeles, L.A. Kids Consignment is open only twice a year at each of their three locations.
3. Develop “The Eye”
Since there is no maternity section at most thrift stores, learn how to scan thrift shop racks for pants and shorts with the highly identifiable stretchy waist band and shirts with an empire waist, which cinches right below the bust. (These shirts are usually nice and flowy over the belly, whether they are made for maternity reasons or not.) Knowing the popular maternity brands can help you identify a shirt that looks like a regular t-shirt but has extra fabric to give you that much needed belly coverage. Look out for A Pea in the Pod, Duo (JC Penny’s maternity brand) and Liz Lange (Target’s maternity label).
4. Do your research
Turn to sites like Amazon for product reviews so you’re aware of products’ weaknesses as well as complementary products that you might find useful — like what brand of covers will fit the diaper changing pad you want. Check out Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association or recalls.gov for safety tips and recalls.
Crowd source. Ask your friends what they’ve used and loved. More importantly, find out what they bought and never used. The most common registry regrets I’ve seen are wipes warmers and Diaper Genies.
5. Buy by the bundle
When an individual is selling baby gear, it usually means they aren’t expecting more kids, so ask if they have maternity clothes to sell, too. See if they’re willing to take off a few bucks from their asking price if you buy multiple things.
6. Don’t get roped in by extra items in a multi-item listing
Getting a discount for bundling multiple items sounds great, but sometimes you’re tempted to buy something you don’t need. Don’t do it! A multi-item listing I responded to had the playpen and swing I wanted, but also mentioned a wonderfully-priced activity table. Once I checked out the online reviews I saw that it was prone to breaking and that babies were eating parts that came off easily. Eep!
7. Consider the lifetime of the item
Babies grow quickly! When deciding whether to get a tiny bassinet or a larger one with a more snug insert, try to go for the one that has a longer useful life. Many parents find that a crib that converts to a toddler bed gives them a better bang for their buck.
8. Don’t over buy
Tip #7 applies to clothing as well as baby gear. Babies outgrow each size of clothing in one to three months. Before you buy that great 6-9 month sized winter coat for baby, figure out if your baby is likely to fall into that size range in the middle of summer.
Most women only wear maternity clothes for four to five months. When you try on maternity clothes, pull on the belly a bit to see if it’ll last your full pregnancy or if you’ll outgrow it in a month. Heck, ball up a towel and shove it under your shirt. You’re in the dressing room. No one’s looking!
9. Repurpose items
You may not need a bag that is marketed as a diaper bag when a large purse will do. Make your own burp cloths and receiving blankets by cutting up a large flannel sheet from a thrift store. Buy a short chest of drawers and top it with a changing pad instead of buying a piece of furniture specifically marketed as a changing table. Use a pillow case as a hamper for soiled baby items. Think back to what our parents or grandparents might have used before there were hundreds of products made for every specialized perceived need.
Before you go on the hunt for an expensive baby carrier, check with your friends who may be between babies and willing to lend you theirs. Libraries have large selections of audio books on parenting and music CDs and DVDs to keep baby entertained, too.
11. Put it back on the market
After your baby has outgrown something, keep it out of the landfill by posting it to Craigslist or donating it to a thrift store.
12. Some things can’t be pre-used
Many people will tell you that the only item you have to buy brand new is a car seat. Like a bicycle helmet, a car seat is made of plastic, which degrades over time. It also can’t be reused after an accident. If you choose to purchase a secondhand car seat you should obtain the instruction manual (which can sometimes be found online), ensure all parts are present by referencing the manual, verify that it has never been in an accident, and make sure the model has not been recalled. A thorough checklist for used car seat safety has been created by the website CPSafety.
With all this secondhand baby shopping you’re doing, your family and friends might be a little depressed that they can’t shower you with gifts from a baby registry. Let them. Fill your registry with items that have to be purchased new, like baby wash, baby shampoo, baby wipes, diaper rash cream, breast pads and cream, teething ointment and gas relief drops. You may feel that used pacifiers, bottles and nipples are fine once they’re sterilized. If you don’t, stick those on your registry.
Doing what’s best for baby
Remember that by reusing existing products and reducing the need for the manufacture of new ones, you’re giving your baby the best gift in the world: a better planet for tomorrow.