An unexpected third child puts her skills to the test
My Story: An Experienced Mom Preparing for Baby
contributed by Deidra R.
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New is always nice, but gently-used furniture, clothing, and baby gear can really ease the strain on your pocketbook when you are expecting. With my first baby, everything had to be new, and perfect. Yes, I was that first time mom! If it was made for newborns, I absolutely had to have it! I spent way more than I ever intended on preparing for my first son's arrival. I learned a lot very quickly, as I saw firsthand how quickly he outgrew or lost interest in things. We thankfully received a lot as gifts, but I still spent a good amount personally on what my husband calls "my baby impulse buys," which was usually a nursery decor items or an outfit that he just had to have.
My second son's arrival finally made the money spent on pregnancy #1 worthwhile. It was like a light bulb went off in my head, and I suddenly realized that I could save so much on my second son's needs. I was getting two kids' usage for the price of one, and I knew I could do more!
I did really well on my savings plan, and my son was flourishing and developing as great as my first, but without all the money spent on our end. As soon as my littlest outgrew the toddler clothes and items, I got rid of everything! I sold some items, and others I gave away. I felt like I needed to pay it "forward" in a sense, and help some other new mom meet their new baby's needs.
Then, the unexpected happened with the surprise of round three! This was an unplanned surprise that came nearly eight years later, and it was a girl! After the shock of pregnancy settled, the realization that I didn't have anything hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no clothes, no furniture, no baby gear, no car seat, no stroller. Nothing! I was determined to not break the bank this time around and saving became my obsession! We had to start from scratch, and there was so much to get! Things had changed so much in eight years and it almost made me wonder how I ever raised two children without these items. I fought the temptation to buy everything cute and girly, and I am so happy with what I was able to achieve. I want to share how you can prepare for baby on a budget, while not sacrificing any of the cuteness you desire!
Ask, Ask, Ask!
Hand-me-downs are the way to go! Talk to friends and family who recently had babies to see if they want to get rid of anything. When mentioning the new arrival and the need for nursery items, a co-worker offered an adorable changing table. If any of the things they have are a bit dated, or you aren't sure that they meet current safety regulations, you can take part in the Babies R Us Great Trade In events that are held a few times a year. Through the event, you can trade in the items that you aren't sure about for new baby gear items and get 25% off! The boy's drop side crib didn't meet safety regulations and although the manufacturer offered a part to lock the drop side, I chose to take advantage of the Great Trade In event and scored a crib for $160!
Besides baby gear, clothing can be another costly area. When you think about it, babies grow so much in their first year, and only wear outfits for a few months at a time. I learned my lesson with my first two sons, and didn't go crazy stocking my baby girl's closet with oh-so-cute garments. I instead asked friends with toddler girls for their gently-used items. I picked out the items that weren't faded or stained and gave them new life for my little angel!
I even planned ahead for toys. We received some through the baby showers, but I was able to get even more through garage sales, friends, and Craigslist. I didn't get certain things like teething toys, breastfeeding pump attachments, potties, or even baby baths for sanitary reasons.
Some things you know that you will always need are diapers, diapers and more diapers! For my two baby showers, I offered free show tickets (found online) to everyone who brought a pack of diapers. During my pregnancy, I also became quite the coupon clipper/user and was able to create a diaper stockpile for a fraction of the original cost. This coupled with the shower diapers I received meant that I didn't need to buy diapers until my daughter was seven months old! If you are brave and have the time, cloth diapers may be an option for you a well.
I also found that I could save money by making my own baby food. By starting while I was pregnant (towards the end), I was able to take advantage of produce sales and promotions at my local grocer. After running through my food processor, I loaded the freezer with nutritious meals for baby.
Obviously breastfeeding is another fantastic cost savings, but it isn't something that everyone is able to or wants to do. Other than the cost for a decent pump and storage bags/bottles, the savings off of traditional formula can be astounding! I breastfed all of my kids, but due to medical reasons had to stop around seven months with my third. For a period of time, I was spending upwards of $80/ month on formula! If you already know that you won't be breastfeeding, you can prepare to save now. Formula is another one of those costly items that you can stock up on ahead of time. Coupons on certain formulas like Similac aren't offered frequently so when you see them, snatch them up!
Join the swapping revolution! WhatToExpect.com offers a swap where you can list the items that you have to trade and what you would like in exchange. I've traded baby items for gift cards that I used towards baby supplies. As your little one grows, you can swap little by little and keep him/her in adorable clothing through ThredUp.com and SwapMamas.com.
Wait for Clearances
I have always done this with my boys, and have recently started this with the baby as well. I shop at the end of the season, just as stores are putting the current merchandise on clearance and putting out the new season's clothing. An example of what I do is shop for spring/summer clothing at the end of summer. Stores are changing over the merchandise to feature the fall/winter clothing and move all of the lighter-weight items to clearance. I buy these clearance items in bigger sizes for $1, $2 and $3 for next year!
For my daughter's room, I decided to do everything homemade to save on nursery decor costs. Other than $160 for the crib and a hand-me-down changing table (which I painted) and hand-me-down shelves, there was nothing in the room. With $75 and a day of DIY work (gallon of paint, bead board, chair rail and crown moulding), it started to look like a little girl's room. I made a trip to a dollar store for frames, printed images on my color printer, and used coordinating ribbon for some cute wall art. Lastly, I cut vinyl adhesive lettering for her name. She had a cute, one-of-a-kind nursery for less than $250, including furniture!
I have even turned my DIY hobby to baby's clothes and accessories. I have added bling, new buttons, and appliques to give hand-me-downs new life. I've also gotten a bag of alligator clips and adhered silk flowers and handmade bows to create fun hair clips.
Statistics from an article in the "New York Times" say that the average cost to raise a child to age 18 is over $220,000 (not including college). With three kids, I am determined to fall below this estimate! You don't have to let the scary costs associated with child rearing freak you out. Start little by little, making small changes, and before you know it, it will become a way of life. If I can do it, so can you!
Deidra R. is a wife and work-from-home mother of three, dedicated to finding ways stretch her family's dollar.
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to MyStory@Stretcher.com.
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