My sweet sister-in-law who is pregnant with her first baby requested that I write this post some time ago, but I'm just getting around to it now. Sorry Lisa! Hopefully this will still be helpful even though baby Calvin will be here so soon!
Disclaimer #1: For whatever reason, people are really really opinionated about baby products. I have no explanation for this other than the fact that I think we all love our kids and want to do what's best for them. So if you wholeheartedly disagree with what I have to say, that's just fine. We're all entitled to our own opinions. And I think your baby will grow up to be a great person no matter which kind of diaper cream you use. (Though I personally have no opinions on diaper cream and therefore will not be talking about it anymore. So don't get your hopes up.)
Disclaimer #2: I am not endorsing or condemning any of the specific products shown here. These pictures are just meant to be general examples.
Baby stuff. Have you noticed that there is a lot of it? I personally think it's a little malicious the way manufacturers seem to prey on women who probably aren't fully in their right mind (hello, pregnancy) who are facing a huge and scary experience (hello, childbirth), and will soon have a new human being that they have no idea how to take care of. At least that's how I felt when I was pregnant with Olivia. I had never had a child before! How was I supposed to know how to pick out a car seat?
But hopefully you've also noticed this about baby stuff: a lot of it is pure junk and a huge waste of money and precious space in your home.
I of course won't be able to cover (let alone even have an opinion) on every baby item out there, so I'll just touch on the things that I think will be the most helpful for you.
|pack 'n play -- crib|
Buy a Pack n' Play, Not a Crib
In my opinion, they are a complete waste of money. Even a crib bought on Craigslist can cost $100 and up. I personally believe that the only reason cribs are still around is because they are picturesque. The moment you find out you're expecting you get this dreamy picture of a cozy little nursery all ready for baby. And right smack dab in the middle of that fantasy is a big, beautiful crib.
Picturesque, maybe, but not practical. Newborns can't even move on their own and therefore really don't need to be in a big crib. And once your child is big enough to move, you have to disassemble at least part of the crib to move the mattress height down. And if you happen to have a climber, a crib is already that much higher off the ground. And when you're baby's not a baby anymore, that crib is going to be a big piece of furniture to store. Have fun taking out all those screws and then putting it together again for the next one!
As you can tell, I'm not a big fan of cribs. My suggestion for your budget, storage space, and sanity is to buy a Pack 'n Play.
We originally bought a crib (hello, picturesque image floating around in my pregnant head), but Olivia was such a tiny girl that, by the time she was big enough to move around a little, her legs were still so small that she'd get them stuck in between the bars on her crib and just cry. Obviously that got old quick. I brainstormed remedies and figured that the best way to solve the problem would be to rig up some sort of netting around the inside of the crib. But, hello, that's what a Pack n' Play is. So we sold the crib for $100 and bought a Pack 'n Play (brand new) for $50.
Side Note: I don't know how long they'll carry them, but Costco has a great deal right now on a Pack 'n Play that's brown and teal (classier colors, but gender neutral), it comes with the newborn bassinet attachment (also convenient for changing newborn diapers), and it's only $50. We bought one this past summer (we sold our other one when we moved and needed a new one when we got here) and I love it. When we were at Costco last week I saw that they still have them there for the same price. Awesome!
I have two more nice things to say about Pack 'n Plays and then I'm moving on to talk about something else. First, they are so much easier to store. Second, they are great for taking on a trip to Grandma's house. The end.
Take-home message: Pack 'n Plays are cheaper, more versatile, and take up less space than a crib.
|bouncer -- exersaucer|
Borrow Bouncers, Swings, and Other Big Stuff
For the first three years of our marriage (and throughout all of Olivia's baby phases) we lived in a 550 square foot apartment. Space was extremely limited. Despite my crazy pregnant baby buying craze, by the time Olivia was born, the only big baby item we had was a bouncer that somebody gave us. It was great. We used it all the time. I cannot say enough nice things about that bouncer.
And then when Olivia grew out of it, we gave it away.
It's hard to get rid of big stuff, right? Because you never know when you'll need it again and, especially with baby stuff, it's a toss up trying to figure out whether it's better to keep things for the next kid.
But here's what I've discovered about bulky baby items like bouncers, swings, exercausers, and the like: people are always trying to get rid of them. Of course they are! They're big! Nothing cleans out the garage faster than getting rid of bulky baby stuff. Which is why Craigslist and Freecycle will forever be full of bulky baby items. People are dying to get rid of them, especially if they can pass them on to someone who will get some more use out it.
So my advice is to own only one or two of these items at a time. (And I'm using the term "own" very loosely here to mean "have it in your house.") In other words, don't own big, bulky baby items that your baby isn't using at that moment. It's not worth the space. Especially since you can always always always find them free or cheap.
Take-home message: If possible, try to borrow and trade bigger baby items with other moms since you only need one or two of these bigger items at a time.
Okay hoarder moms, try not to cringe, but... we got rid of Olivia's baby clothes when we moved. And you know what? It's okay. A piece of my soul did not die. We kept a gallon size Ziplock bag with a few special things and sold or gave away the rest.
We were given so many nice hand-me-downs and brand new baby clothes for Olivia that she literally could not even wear them all. By the time we moved and had our (many many) yard sales, we still had brand new baby clothes with the tags still on them. It was just too much!
And by the time she was a year old we had garbage bags full of "favorite" baby clothes. In order to keep them and not be crowded out by them, we were paying $3/ month to keep them in a storage locker in the apartment complex. Now you may think that $3 is a great deal, but not when you think of it as $3/month for having to keep extra junk. Because that's what was in there. If it's stuff you don't need that you're not using, it's junk. At least to you it is.
When I was trying to decide what to do about all the baby clothes, I had a conversation with Anna, my sister-in-law, that really helped. She was in the process of moving too and she told me, "Everybody's always trying to get rid of baby clothes. I'll just get rid of ours and then the next time we have a baby, I'll take someone up on their offer!"
So. True. Right? Anybody who's ever had a baby knows what Anna is talking about.
I took Anna's advice to heart and did just that. We sold all the clothes that Olivia had outgrown and we have been enjoying the extra space ever since. Next time we have a baby I'll either make baby clothes, buy them on sale or from the thrift store, or--more likely--get them for free from someone else who's getting rid of theirs.
Take-home message: Every single piece of your child's clothing is not a special keepsake. Keep a few truly special items. If you plan to have more kids, save the good quality items for later. Get rid of the stuff that's worn out or that you know you won't be using anymore.
|convertible car seat -- infant car seat|
Buy a Convertable Car Seat, Not an Infant Car Seat
Alright, I know I'm in the minority here, but I hate infant car seats. There, I said it. Why you would carry around a big bulky car seat that adds 20-30 extra pounds to your load when you could carry around your sweet tiny baby instead is totally beyond me.
Yes, infant car seats do occasionally provide convenience. I can remember one (literally, one) time when I really wished I had bought an infant car seat instead. I was at the doctor for one of my post delivery check-ups. I was by myself there with tiny baby Olivia and I knew I wasn't going to be able to hold her while they checked me. But you know what? The nurse held her. So the one time I really wanted an infant car seat? Totally not making me feel like I actually needed one.
Let me tell you why I'm such a big fan of plain old convertible car seats.
- They are cheap. You can get a good convertible car seat for around $50.
- It will last your child from newborn stage through toddlerhood. This means that, rather than spending $100+ on an infant carseat and then $50+ on a front-facing car seat, you can just spend $50 once and be done.
- Convertible car seats are skinnier. Infant car seats are really bulky. And while you can definitely buy posh convertible car seats too, the kind I'm promoting here are the really basic plain old convertible car seats. Even in small cars, you can fit three car seats along the back row, whereas infant car seats are much less forgiving.
To those out there who would worry, "but the basic car seats aren't as safe as the big puffy expensive car seats!" I will tell you what my sister told me when I was pregnant and worrying over car seats: All American car seats have to pass basic safety standards. If it wasn't safe for your child, it wouldn't be available.
For anyone curious, Olivia's convertible car seat is Cosco brand. We bought it from ShopKo for (I think) $47. They sell them for around the same price at Wal-Mart too, but we bought ours at ShopKo because I liked the colors better. (Olivia's is bright green and black. The ones at Wal-Mart are usually either super girly and pink or an ugly combination of boy colors.)
Take-home message: A convertible car seat will last your child from newborn-toddler and only costs around $50. Overall, this can save you hundreds of dollars. It also saves you from lugging around a 20 pound car seat. Hold that cute baby instead.
|blue stroller -- pink stroller|
Go Gender Neutral When You Can
I'm not going to go in-depth on other baby items. So much of what's out there is really just up to you to decide if you like it or not. (Or, as the case may be, whether or not your baby likes it.) But I do want to take a minute before I finish to talk about the value of buying things that are gender-neutral.
When Olivia was little she didn't have a lot of hair. And while I never thought I'd be one of those moms who cared that people know she was a girl, it turns out I did care. Of course I wanted people to know my baby girl was a baby girl. So despite my years of tomboyishness, I doused her in pink in hopes that people would get it straight. This is all by way of saying that I'm all for dressing your child according to their gender.
What I'm talking about here is buying bigger items in gender-neutral colors. Because, believe it or not, you are not going to want your stroller forever. Or the diaper bag. Or the Pack 'n Play. Or the bouncer or swing or other things that are so stage-specific. And if you can sell them when you're done with them, all the better.
Re-selling your used baby items that are still in good condition at yard sales or on Craigslist helps provide good quality items to people that wouldn't be able to afford them at full price and it helps you make up the cost of paying for all the loot in the first place. It also, of course, helps recycle a little. And that's something we can all feel good about.
But here's the thing. It's a lot easier to sell baby items that are gender-neutral. If you buy a stroller that's bright pink and then list it on Craigslist when you're done with it, only 50% of the people looking are going to be interested. Whereas if you buy a stroller with attractive, gender-neutral colors, you've just opened up your selling audience by another 50%.
I'd also add that basic boy colors are more likely to re-sell than basic girl colors. For the obvious reason that moms with girls are more likely to buy blue and green and grey than moms with boys are to buy pink and purple. It's just a culture thing.
Take-home message: When it comes to items you know you won't keep forever, buy the gender-neutral color scheme. It makes those items much easier to re-sell later on.
What do you think?
Either way, best wishes in keeping the baby stuff at bay!
Love Living With Less? Check out the entire Living With Less page in the Series section. Happy de-junking!