I skipped my baby shower: how to save money when you’re buying your own baby supplies

Guest post by Andrea Karim


There could be any number of reasons why someone wouldn’t have a traditional baby shower — not living close to friends and family is a good one. Logistics may be another; pregnancy is tiring, and finding the time or energy to host a party can be impossible. Then there’s my personal reason for avoiding a baby shower: I just can’t stand the idea.

I’m practically allergic to the idea of hosting a party where people are forced to bring me gifts. I didn’t have a shower for my wedding, and now that I am gestating, I feel the same way about baby showers. The entire idea of obligational giving simply gives me hives; not that I terribly mind attending other people’s showers, just that I can’t fathom having one of my own.
I’m also incredibly, occasionally cripplingly shy, and hate being the center of attention. I ignore my own birthday every year, because I can’t fathom celebrating the day that I was born (yes, this might make me a very unpopular parent later if I carry the same sentiment into my child’s life).

A friend of mine (one who really dislikes children, mind you) offered to host an offbeat baby shower for me. A shower that, as she put it, “doesn’t suck.” But I’ve actually never heard anyone get excited about a baby shower. I’m not saying that it’s never happened, just that it’s never happened in my circle of friends or family. Whenever people talking about attending baby showers, I only hear the talk of resentment and dread; from the gifts, to the gift-opening, to the games.

I did briefly consider hosting a gift-free shower, and then realized that I would essentially be hosting a BBQ, not a shower, and to be honest, I’m too tired to organize anything right now. Cletus the Fetus (that’s what I’m calling my baby girl for now) is due at the end of October, and it’s pretty much all I can do right now to drag myself to and from work every day, and make some perfunctory attempts at laundry in the evenings or over the weekend. So no baby shower for me! This does leave a slight quandary, though — how to acquire everything that the baby needs when you can’t stand the idea of a regular baby shower? Well, there are ways, and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Here’s how I got started:

  • Hand-me-downs: Jump on Facebook and ask if friends and family have old baby stuff that they don’t mind handing down to you. No need to feel bad about asking for free stuff — just explain that you want to be eco-conscious and re-use anything that can be re-used. My boss simply showed up one day at work with a Pack-n-Play for me. She explained that thrift stores won’t take them, and she had no use for it now that her kids were in school. Score!
  • Craigslist: There are a couple of required infant items that I won’t buy used (car seat and stroller, mostly because I want to be able to return them should they be recalled). But other things, like a changing table? Yeah, if I can get that for $20 on Craigslist and paint it myself, then why not?
  • eBay: I’ve already pretty much acquired the first six months of baby’s wardrobe for about $50 on eBay. I saved additional money by buying entire lots of used infant clothing for boys — I’m perfectly content with my baby girl being dressed in blue and green overalls with trucks on them. Infant boys’ clothing seems to sell at lower prices than infant girls’ clothing.
  • Consignment shops: Baby consignment shops are a good place to score furniture and other accouterments at lower-than-retail prices. I have found that consignment shops outside of city centers have much better deals.
  • Thrift stores: You can often find both new and used baby stuff at Goodwill and other thrift stores. You might need to make several trips, but if you don’t mind the treasure-hunt, then you might strike gold.
  • Garage sales: This is such an obvious option that I hesitate to even mention it, but if you’re not already an avid garage sale shopper, be warned: baby stuff sells out first, so get up early to snag stuff.

OK, so let’s say that the idea of a baby shower doesn’t make you shudder, but you can’t tolerate a traditional shower format. Well, you can host an offbeat shower! Make it clear to attendees that you don’t want them to spend oodles of money on adorable gifts, but that you want to include them in your baby’s life in a meaningful way.

Comments on I skipped my baby shower: how to save money when you’re buying your own baby supplies

  1. I also really don’t like showers. We got around this by having a big baby welcoming party for our kids shortly after they were born. No one expected to be sitting around opening presents, because everyone wanted to see the baby. I also wasn’t the center of attention because, again, baby was there. So I guess I’m just saying that there are ways to end up with baby stuff that don’t involve having a shower, if that is the route that you want to take.

    • be careful with this though b/c this means having it at your house… and after baby is here, you will be really tired and cranky and may not feel like cleaning or having people over… you may also not want a bunch of people touching your newborn and giving them germs… just a thought

      • If you have a friend who would “normally” throw you a shower (especially if one offered!) they might be a close enough friend to host at their house for you. But OTOH you might appreciate being able to relax in your own personal spot on the couch.

  2. I had two showers, and while they were pretty fun, the only really useful gift was money. Lots of the other stuff was frivilous, something I could have bought myself, or just useless. i got all the bigger items second hand. People will practically beg you to take all that crap off their hands. ha!

    • depending on where it came from and whether there’s a gift receipt (some stores are forgiving even without a receipt of any kind), a lot of those frivolous items can be returned for things you actually think you’ll use. most of the brand-new items we were given was well-intentioned but not something we thought we really needed, so we did a major exchange one day and were able to stock up with the refund instead.

  3. I didn’t have a shower simply because I didn’t have the time for it. I found out I was pregnant at 24 weeks (yes I was one of “those women” who had no idea even that far along, but I was 40 when pregnant so I thought it was perimenopause)and gave birth at 30 weeks (express pregnancy anyone). Almost one year later the idea of a shower just to ooh and aaah over someone who is having a baby and be expected to give them stuff just because they are having said baby upsets me mainly because I didn’t get anything like that from anyone, friends, family, co-workers… not even when I came back to work from leave or when me and the little guy came home from the hospital 11 weeks after his birth… *shrug* that’s just me. YMMV. We do just fine with stuff for him by shopping sales, keeping it simple and “needs” based. Plus I suppose the fact that his dad and I both work for an early childhood educational supplier is a plus as well 🙂

  4. My mom planned a baby shower for me, and I had a lot of fun – there was paella, lots of good company, and it was a beautiful day. There were no games (at my request), but looking back I wish I had also thought to request no public present opening! I got some beautiful gifts, but my most vivid memory from my shower is watching some of my guests wilt with boredom as I tore through yet another shade of pastel colored paper. The gifts were great, but I would have rather opened them in private and had more time to just hang out.

    We did get a few of our most expensive items knocked off (the Amazon registry helped us get almost everything we needed and very little that we didn’t want). In the end, cloth diapers were the only item that no one gifted. This seemed strange given the usual diaper cakes, trees, etc. etc. etc. that show up at many conventional showers! Aside from the money we forked over for flats and some covers, our friends and family gifted us items that would have otherwise been incredibly difficult for us to buy.

    For the crafty among us, DIY baby stuff is another great way to save money. We saved quite a lot just by making our own toy tripod, mobiles, sleeping pad, and wipes. There is a tutorial online for pretty much anything you can think of! So if you have the time and a bare minimum of skills (I am no Martha), you can save tons and have bragging rights in spades 🙂

  5. I also did not want to have a baby shower (too exhausted, I get the awkward feeling too about expecting gifts) so we held an Open House when Felix was 6 weeks old. It was a good opportunity for everyone to meet him. Since it was an outdoor bbq I was hoping people didn’t feel obligated to bring gifts. Well almost everyone still did but in the end I felt very thankful that we had so many great people thinking of us. Even people who weren’t at our Open House that came to visit still brought gifts. People are very generous when you welcome a child into your life. I thank everyone for their help (although less small baby clothes would’ve been good since giant Felix outgrows his clothes like crazy).

  6. I was thrown a “surprise” traditional, game-playing, present-ogling shower, and it was awful. The well-intentioned hostess had no idea how agonizing I would find it to be, and she more or less tricked me into showing up, which certainly didn’t help matters.

    I did, however, have a number of friends who were either out of state or couldn’t make it to that shower, but who wanted to celebrate this new stage of my life in some way. Easy solution: we had a party. Not a baby shower, not even a party “for” me, just a get-together where we all exchanged second-hand stuff that we a) needed to get rid of for space/logistical reasons and b) thought someone else would actually enjoy/use. It was a blast, and totally gave me an excuse to offload a TON of books, old clothes, and a few weird pieces of furniture to make room for all the baby hand-me-downs that I would otherwise have felt a little odd being given as a “gift.” (Plus we made awesome potluck food, and watched sketch comedy. Maybe I should do this again even with no pending baby…)

  7. You also have the option of buying stuff as you go. Showers are meant to amass a huge amount of stuff ahead of the birth – I got stuff at my shower that I didn’t use until the baby was walking, about a year after my shower date. In reality you need certain items and sizes in waves, and at the same time you’re getting rid of other stuff. This usually about happens every 6 months or so.

    Swaps for parents are GREAT for this: invite parents with kids of various ages, bring stuff you no longer need (or never found a use for – my baby didn’t like his swing, we maybe used it once) and trade for stuff you do. This is also really great if you can’t stand hoarding stuff. People are always shocked that I get rid of my son’s clothes & baby stuff regularly. They always say “what if you have another baby?” We’re not sure if we do, and it seems pretty silly to hold on to such a large volume of clothes and gear “just in case”.

  8. If your area has a freecycle group, that can be a great way to acquire things. Also don’t forget that babies don’t need nearly as much as our culture tends to think. Diapers, clothes, car seat and a place to sleep will at least get you started!

  9. I don’t want a baby shower when I have my first, but I do want to get my friends drunk and have them decorate onsies. I love crafting parties and buying $20 worth of blank onsies in a few sizes then decorayinh them with felt shaped, fabric paint, anjust sounds great. Then later on they become that quilt of crazy art from ur aunts”

    • I had a party for which I printed a bunch of shapes on card stock — mostly mandalas of varying sizes, dragonflies and butterflies — and invited people to color them as a gift for my then-impending wee one. That worked SO WELL. And one friend brought onesies and went to town on them with fabric paints.

      I also had curtains I wanted to have people decorate with fabric paints, but that mostly didn’t happen. The mandalas are amazing, though. Now to have the time to mount them all and hang them up… you know, before N’s first birthday.

  10. first, I dont think you should host your own baby shower

    second, your friend is offering a huge gift by offering to host it for you… this is so sweet and I would take her up on it

    third, I know it may make you uncomfortable, but it will help out the people who want to celebrate with you and give you gifts – it would be unfair to take that away from them (blech, I hate that wording, but you know what Im talking about, right?)

    Just go for it… if nothing else, have a diaper shower (cloth or disposable) and it will save you a ton of money and make your friends happy to celebrate with you!

    (I say all this as an adoptive mom who didnt get a shower b/c my son wasnt my “natural born” son… it hurt, so take advantage for all of us who cant) 🙂

  11. I hosted a “virtual shower” for a friend who had recently moved to a new town and didn’t know anyone. I asked her to be brutally honest and make a registry as a Goggle doc. that I shared with all of the guests. We each updated it re: what we were buying/mailing. Her registry included things like thrifted infant clothing in green and yellow to a fancy stroller. People pooled money for the bigger items and the rest of us filled in the gaps. We mailed/ordered the gifts individually but made sure she received them before a certain date. She then posted pictures of the baby’s dresser full of awesome clothes, the jogger parked in the garage, the car seat installed in the car, etc. when it was convenient for her and her partner. She later thanked me b/c she wanted people to be involved but hated being the center of attention. This way she felt the celebration was practical and wasn’t all about the guests entertainment; we truely wanted to celebrate their baby and support them. Might not work for everyone but it was a decent solution for this situation.

  12. Don’t forget to check if your area has a resale site on Facebook. I just found one for Ventura County, where I live, and it’s specifically for parents selling child stuff. It’s really great because your helping other families make a little money and getting things for crazy cheap. Plus, it’s always great to be reusing what’s already out there! 🙂

  13. I second what was said above about not traditionally hosting your own shower (because it is seen as asking for gifts).

    If I had to do it all over, I would pretty much not have bought anything new. You can get everything cheaper used. I have items that have been recalled that I bought used. I just checked the manufacturer’s website for the item, found it had a recall, and sent in for the free fix. You didn’t have to have a receipt. In the MD/DC area, we have tons of kids consignment sales, usually a spring and a fall. Great place to get items.

  14. I understand completely this sentiment: “I’m practically allergic to the idea of hosting a party where people are forced to bring me gifts.”
    Whenever I have been at the center of such a party (e.g., wedding shower, baby’s first birthday) I have simply explicitly asked that people don’t bring gifts. It has always worked out well, especially when the guests are actual friends of mine that understand I really don’t want them to bring gifts. If someone does bring a gift, I don’t open it until after the party and immediately follow-up with a thank you call and note.
    This worked out really well for my baby’s first birthday. On the invitation, we wrote something like: “Instead of traditional gifts, please bring a short letter for Baby P. We will collect these letters each year and reread them all on P’s 18th birthday.” Then a few days before the party, I reminded everyone of our request, told them that I would have notecards at the house during the party (especially important for our friends with babies of their own and little free time to write a note), and told them that a very short note was what we were looking for. It was a great success!

  15. So apparently baby showers are not done by Jews (or at least, the Eastern European ones that my family knows). Old superstition, but you don’t have a party to celebrate a baby you don’t *have* yet. It can draw the evil eye and jinx things. However, there is a bris or naming ceremony on the baby’s eighth day where every one comes and meets the baby and often brings gifts then. It’s a lot like the “baby welcoming party” mentioned in the first comment. Noone expects you to open gifts there, because the party isn’t about the gifts. And no one feels obligated to bring gifts because, well, its not about gifts 😛 But for someone who WANTS to give you a gift, it’s gives them an opportunity.

    We had hand me downs that covered everything we needed, so we didn’t miss having a shower. What we had instead though, was a nursery building day where we had friends come by and help us paint walls, and build shelves, and the like. We got less done than I wanted (be sure to account for the time it takes paint to dry and the need for multiple coats), but more than we would have gotten otherwise. As the tired, paint-fume-avoidant pregnant woman, I mostly played ring master and hung out with whoever didn’t have a job at the moment. And some people still brought gifts, which was nice.

    • We have a whole raft of things that need to be done at our place in preparation for the baby – so I might steal this idea…
      Ask people to come around and help us get things ready as their gift to us! Yay! Means I can get the blokes involved too 🙂 So going to have to talk to hubby about this when he gets home tomorrow night.
      (plus, its also an easy time for the already-parents to bring any hand-me-downs they want, as we dont want our friends buying us expensive new things)

  16. I attempted to sand and re-paint a really nice wood changing table while I was pregnant, and it was waaaaay more trouble than it was worth. It was a very difficult project and didn’t even turn out that nicely. I suggest skipping this DIY project altogether.

    Pay an extra $10 for a changing table that isn’t so fancy but is in good shape and looks decent.

  17. I could have written this myself. I agree, word for word. Another factor for me was that I knew exactly what I wanted, and it was easier to get it myself. On the other hand, if I got something second hand, it felt easier to compromise because it was cheap/free and I can pass it on quickly if I want to. Things flowed quickly from friends and craigslist, onto other friends and back onto craigslist. Never did we have a bunch of stuff we didn’t want.
    When my friends have showers, or babies, I try to think of something we have that we are ready to pass on, that will be helpful to them. Like, I look at people’s amazon wishlists to see if we already have any of these things to give them. I worry a little that it won’t seem adequately generous to them, but it’s usually high quality stuff, and I don’t want to compromise my morals about consumerism.

  18. This was the same position we were in! As soon as a couple of my friends *demanded* that I have a shower I quickly refused, they persisted so I took to just politely smiling and nodding at them. we did have a BBQ, it rained.
    When it came to getting all the gear, family and frinds proved invaluable, my mum got us a cot, my partner’s Mum retried a moses basket from his cousins and his Dad brought over two bin bags FULL of clothes, most still in original packaging that his girlfriend had left over from her child. One friend workes at a big box toy store and bought us a matress at 60% discount, on a “pay it when you can” loan 🙂
    for other equipment I wholeheartedly recommend the NCT nearly new sales (for UK mamas), we got a bunch of stuff for under £30.

    Don’t forget, even if you don’t have a shower, a lot of people will still give you gifts, mostly clothes. At this rate we won’t have to buy our son clothes for the first year! 😀

  19. i haaaaaaaaate showers, for a lot of the same reasons you mentioned. i *especially* hate the whole “sit around and watch me open gifts!” aspect of it. ugh. just the thought gives me the willies and makes me want to hide.

    i’m 23 weeks pregnant, live in a brand new city where we know / are friends with exactly 2 people (and don’t really enjoy the whole “work shower” business) and our families live a bazillion miles away. (ok, just a plane ride, but still.) i got some kickass hand-me-downs from some recently-pregnant friends and a sister-in-law who is now done after 3 kids of her own, and that’s about all we expect. a lot of these tips are very practical and we will be employing them ourselves. 🙂

  20. Our first child is just over 3 weeks old.

    We were never interested in having a baby shower. Even if we had been, noone offered to host one 😛 I did, however, really want to have some kind of one-off celebration that differed from our usual parties. At around 34-36 weeks (I can’t actually remember now), we had a baby themed party. Invited our friends as usual, ordered pizza etc. but also did a few things differently. I made a food rainbow out of brightly coloured snack foods (including adorable cookie monster cupcakes that my sister and I made) and we had a few games/activities. I tried to make sure they’d be things people would actually enjoy, so we did “pin the sperm on the egg”, my sister painted bellies (mine and those of a few male friends), we had people try to guess what we’d name the baby, and we had people bring along their own baby photos for people to try to figure out whose was whose.

    As for the baby items we wanted, we started collecting things secondhand from very early on. Almost all of our baby clothing came from my sister, who makes reborn dolls and had been given all the clothes my mum found & loved at op shops, but didn’t have any babies to give them to. We then researched what modern cloth nappies, pram, car seat, carrier etc. we wanted and kept an eye out on ebay/gumtree (second hand site)/facebook pages for those items at good prices. We ended up with everything we wanted wonderfully cheap because we put a fair bit of effort into it over about 6 months. We were also then given some lovely things by family friends, and have so far used some of the money we’ve been given to buy things we hadn’t realised we’d need.

  21. While I have had no occasion to have my own baby shower or other such party, I did attend a baby shower that had an easy (for everyone) solution for gifts. The hostess requested that this party be a “fill the library” party where each guest brought a children’s book and wrote a message to the baby inside. It was also requested that we not wrap the books and once at the party they were all displayed on a table instead of the mother-to-be sitting around for hours opening gifts. I thought this was cute, thoughtful, affordable and it was FUN to look at all the different children’s books!

    • That is awesome 🙂
      I’m loving these ideas!
      We have a VERY small house, so are going to have to tell our families that for birthdays we would want clothes or books mainly, as we dont have space to keep things… Fingers crossed it works to reduce plastic cr@p that we never wanted!

  22. I would have only one caution about getting lots of clothes before the baby is born- you don’t know how big your baby will be in what season. I thought I had “tons” of hand me down clothes etc to last my baby through to the winter. Nope. Out comes a 9lb 2 ounce baby who doesn’t fit into her newborn clothes and who was born during a heat wave, so basically the first two months of her life she was in swaddles. Once out of swaddles, we were shocked to find that every two weeks she went up a size! At 3 1/2 months (in the Canadian Autumn) she is fitting into 12 month old clothes. We were scrambling to find clothes that fit her and were seasonally appropriate. So I am glad I didn’t buy heaps of seasonally appropriate clothes for the sizes I thought she would be at different points in her life. Instead we buy things as we need them on kijiji and at second hand stores.

    • I always warn my pregnant friends not to take the tags off and wash everything before the baby arrives. Have a few outfits washed and ready in newborn and 0-3 month size and then wait until you see how big that baby is when they arrive. That way if you get a big one you can return/exchange the stuff that doesn’t fit.

  23. Growing up in the UK I had never heard of a baby shower until I moved to Canada, and I saw it as a way for parents to have some fun times with friends and family before the baby was born and needed a lot of their attention. When I became pregnant I doubted I would have a baby shower – I most certainly wouldn’t organize one. However, my friends and partner did and it was really nice – I felt bad that people thought they had to bring gifts but it turns out that the invite stated that they were not needed unless people wanted to bring them.
    It turned out to be a really fun event; I got to see friends I hadn’t seen in ages, they got to see each other, everyone (other than me) drank, made merry (well I did that too) and we ended up drawing and painting a canvas mural for my son’s bedroom wall together.
    I love your ways to save on baby items but would echo Vivi’s comment – you never know how big your baby will be or how they will grow. Our son was long and skinny when he was born and has remained a slim baby ever since (my partner often has to remind me that the Dr says he is healthy and fine for his age). This means that although he is 19 months old, he still fits into 12 month old trousers – on the waist at least – but his tops are 18-24 months and ideally we would have long-legged 12-month old trousers as it looks like he’s wearing capris, and autumn is here.
    I have found thrift stores to be great places for bargains on clothes, Kijiji and Craigslist have been wonderful for toys and shoes, and we often buy new clothes or shoes in online sales. As for big/expensive items, we try to save them for birthdays/Christmas/other occasions when either we or family can get them.

  24. Several friends hosted a “blessing way” instead of a shower. Sweet way to welcome our little bump into the community. I actually love getting gifts so that part wasn’t a problem. We didn’t open them there and that was nice. I really wish I’d thought of te thank you envelope idea- that’s brilliant! On the invite we reminded people that the point of the event was not a gift but their presence.any attended and wrote beautiful things in the baby book. In the registry there were items in a wide range of prices so as not to insult anyone of lesser means. Also I wrote (in my registry.com you have an intro paragraph) that we were more excited about hand-me-downs than people buying a bunch of new stuff. It worked out well. We purchased most of the big ticket items but likely saved hundreds on clothes and other things. And we had a touching beautiful day filled with music and laughter and friends and great pictures and a book with welcoming words we can share with our little boy when he arrives in a few weeks.

Read more comments

Join the Conversation