On a recent visit to the mall, my children and I walked past the baby section of a department store, finding ourselves drawn in for a closer look by all the shiny accents and bright colours.
“We could have used something like this,” remarked my 10-going-on-20-year-old, pushing a tricked-out baby swing with one hand and gesturing at her younger siblings with the other.
As a matter of fact, we did have a fancy baby swing: one that two of my three kids refused to spend any time in, making it a $150 splurge I regretted for years.
It’s easy when reading all the pregnancy and family magazines, books, blogs and websites, to think that you have to buy all the latest in gear and gadgets for your baby. And, if you’re still working with a little pre-kid disposable income in your bank account, it can seem like buying the best of the best is a worthwhile investment.
So while I don’t want to burst the idyllic bubble around prepping for your newborn’s arrival, I will offer my humble perspective gained from the parenting trenches: it’s a much better strategy to slow down on the splurging and embrace opportunities for savings wherever possible when buying for baby.
After all, becoming a parent delivers you a whole new suite of expenses to account for, and also new reasons to save. From childcare to extracurricular activities to education savings, you’ll want to start practising spending restraint and savvy budgeting as early as possible. For example, setting money aside now for your child’s future education with a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) can help your family prepare for the eventual costs of higher learning.
Ways to save when baby’s on the way
Let’s be honest with ourselves, there is really not one single thing you need to splurge on for a new baby: everything can be found second-hand or on sale, and your baby certainly won’t care if you have the best brands or the bargain versions.
One way to save is to hold off on some purchases until your bundle of joy arrives. Things like nursing bras or baby carriers can wait until you see the size (and personality) of your baby, saving you money, frustration and valuable storage space at the same time.
You can even hold off on staple items like cribs, playpens and strollers for the same reason and instead borrow them for a short period of time, taking your baby with you to test run your own used or new versions.
Here are some other items you can be sure to save on:
- Furniture: The biggest ticket items for the nursery are also your biggest savings opportunities. Be it the crib, a change table or a rocking chair, you can avoid spending hundreds of dollars by buying second-hand. We found a gorgeous, high-end cherry wood crib at a garage sale that had only been used for sleepovers at the grandparents’ house: it was in perfect condition, but we got it for a bargain price.
- Clothes: Babies grow incredibly fast, and their clothes are generally in mint condition — or never even used — by the time they move onto the next size. You can save hundreds upon hundreds of dollars by shopping for kids’ clothes and shoes at a consignment store, and by swapping and sharing clothes with your community of other parents.
- Toys and activity gear: Swings, bouncy chairs, excersaucers and the like are perfect items to save on. Even better, would be borrowing these luxury items, because you don’t know if your baby will like them or act as though they are expensive torture devices (see my own story above as an cautionary tale).
- Safety and baby care accessories: From bathtubs to baby gates, monitors to step stools, these are all baby items that will be gently used the first, second and even third time around, meaning you can get next-to-new, quality gear for a fraction of their price to buy new.
- Feeding gear and gadgets: Until you know your baby will take to the bottle or the breast, or a combination of the two, you can rent top-of-line breast pumps after baby arrives, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars for equipment you may not like or use. We bought a quality nursing pillow second-hand, and even found bibs, baby spoons, glass bottles and sippy cups in great condition at garage sales and our local consignment and thrift stores.
While saving money is important, there are a few key items worth spending a little more on.
- Books: Building a library for your baby and your growing family might be one investment worth every penny. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest having books readily available is key to raising readers, and story time makes for some of the best quality time you can spend with your kids. Whether buying them new or second-hand, books are never something I regret spending money on.
- Strollers: Though I did start out with a lovely used stroller for my firstborn, I eventually invested in a new double stroller that could push all three of my children around. My needs were pretty specific, and considering that we didn’t have a car at the time, that stroller was my main set of wheels. Being able to push it one-handed while porting all three of my kids, my groceries, the diaper bag and my coffee, made that splurge worth every penny.
- Car seat: Did you know car seats and booster seats have expiration dates on them? It’s true! A car seat is an item you may have to buy new because of health and safety laws, but could be worth the splurge in the long run. A good investment would be a convertible car seat that will last through the years, from infancy through to a school-aged booster seat. Finding a used infant bucket-style car seat from a trusted source can also save you money, as your newborn will grow out of it within their first year and you’ll be looking at buying another car seat soon after. Just be sure to check the lifetime use date and that it meets the current safety requirements. Check out these suggestions for second-hand car seat safety.
- Diapers: If you calculate how many diapers you’ll use over two years, you’ll quickly see how much you’ll save with the more environmentally friendly cloth versions, despite the big cost up front. Don’t be discouraged by the extra laundry involved either: you’ll soon be doing so much more laundry than you ever thought possible, a load of diapers here and there won’t matter.
- Help: One of the best splurges are perhaps the ones you can make for yourself once baby arrives: hire a cloth diaper service for the first few weeks, a monthly or bimonthly housekeeping service, and find a good babysitter to give you some down time on a regular basis. These are valuable time and sanity savers that you’ll never regret paying for.
Whatever and whenever you decide to buy for baby is much like parenthood in general: a never-ending set of incredibly personal choices. The good news for all parents-to-be is that there are opportunities to spoil your baby with a few splurges you won’t regret, as well as many ways to save when getting ready to welcome the new addition to your family.