Three days before I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, in an example of worst-timing-ever, I quit my job. I had intended to slide straight into another position. But now nine months of being pregnant, broke, and bored loomed ahead. After the first (but not last) major panic attack was over, we realized we would have to become money-saving ninjas, embracing the second hand, the cheap and the wonky, and we would cope.
My husband kept some vague figures, and estimates that we spent about £300 buying everything we needed to get ready for our newborn. Our second is on the way, and we will probably spend a lot less than that, as we already have most of the stuff we need, and a good idea of what we don’t need.
For us, it’s about more than saving money. It was important for us to bring our child into a home where we are content with what we have. In addition, buying a lot less stuff meant we were still happy in our small, pre-baby flat. So now I’m in my second pregnancy, I’d like to share how we managed to keep down the costs of preparing for a newborn…
Everyone has a story in their family of that one baby who was born so big that dad had to go back to the shop and swap all the baby clothes for stuff one size up. Which proves that it isn’t necessary to stock up on anything before the birth. Otherwise it’s like trying to buy gifts for someone you’ve never met and don’t know anything about. You could take the route of simply buying everything, which the ladies who work at your local baby emporium will be very happy to help you with, or you could wait and see what you really need.
The baby books tell you not to leave things so late, because you will have to drag your very pregnant self through sweaty shops with no convenient loos, but that, fellow Savings Ninjas, is what the internet is for.
2. Don’t be the first in your group of friends
This one might be difficult to control, but if you do have friends that have a baby, say, a year older than yours, you will be able to cadge a fortune’s worth of hand-me-downs. Push chairs, prams, cots, changing tables; what was a necessity in the first months or years of baby’s life can become an expensive waste of space overnight.
If your friends have not been so obliging, try charity shops and answering local small ads, as Freecycle, Craigslist, newsagent’s windows and your local Buy/Sell are full of offers for practically new baby stuff at knock-down prices to anyone willing to take them away. We made a policy of checking such sites every time before we bought anything new, and saved a fortune that way.
3. Be open to everything
I let it be known that I was willing to accept anything baby-related — no matter how weird it may have seemed to the giver. People were a little embarrassed at first, giving me opened packs of nappies, slightly broken toys and push chair umbrellas with no push chair attached… But when I reacted positively, the gifts of second-hand-but-still-really-useful stuff began to flow. And soon I had nearly everything we needed without spending a penny!
4. Go off-brand
From pregnancy vitamins to nappies and sippy cups, your baby’s first months are dominated by big brands. Sadly, it probably won’t get any better as your baby becomes a child, but it will never again be as easy to reject marketing in favour of common sense. My gynaecologist prescribed me pregnancy vitamins which cost one pound a day. Funnily enough, it was the same brand which sponsored her notepad, her calculator, and her pen. I took a look at the active ingredients, and bought a no-name generic brand. I checked with her, and she had to admit that they were just as good. The same goes for when your baby is born. I was lucky enough to give birth to a baby with the skin sensitivity of a rhinoceros, but the one cream that really upset her was the incredibly expensive famous name brand.
5. Have a black-ops birth
The money we could have wasted publicising Rose’s birth probably totaled what it would have cost to hire a PR firm for the event. I couldn’t believe that the photographers were at my bedside with their special deals before any of my friends and family made it to the hospital. The local newspaper were in on the act too; slipping their request for our credit card details in with the birth certificate. In the end we made our own cards to send to friends and relatives, which sounds like a craft extravaganza, but was actually just a plain red piece of card folded over with a picture of the little one inside. Simple.
6. Look to the future
One area where I regret trying to save money is rejecting cloth nappies in favour of disposables. The up-front investment just seemed too huge, but of course, it would have saved me a fortune in the long run, as well as being kinder to the planet. Likewise, pint-sized pink wardrobes might be a steal at your local furniture behemoth, but they are going to be a total embarrassment to your gothic teenage daughter.
That was what we did the first time round, but I’ve still so much to learn for baby number two. I’d love to hear what other Offbeat Homies have to say!