Sunday, September 9, 2012

Baby by the Numbers

When dear husband and I first started talking about kids, the planner in me wanted to know how much it was going to cost and how we were going to pay for it. The non-planner in my husband shrugged his shoulders at me.

Of course I went to work trying to figure these things out so that I could report back to him while he stared blankly at me, and then make what I thought was the soundest choice. What I discovered is it’s really hard to figure out how much your kid is going to cost based on how much other people spend on their kids. Spoiler Alert: everyone is different.

For instance, are you both going to keep working? Will you need to pay for daycare? A nanny? A nanny share? Do you have a fairy godmother in your life more than happy to watch little Junior simply for the pleasure of getting to do so? How much do kids eat? When do they even start eating? Will we breastfeed? How much does it cost just to give birth to this little blood milk sucker in the first place?

After hyperventilating a little, I decided to be much more zen-like about the whole thing than is typical of me. I decided to live by the quote, “If you wait for the perfect time to have kids, you’ll never have kids.” After all, teenagers make it work on MTV. We could do it too, right?

Now at almost 9 months pregnant I’ve learned something very important – the amount you spend on your child will most likely follow the philosophy of the other spending in your life. If you tend to buy the latest and greatest with a credit card, you’ll probably spend a lot of money getting a nursery ready for your bundle of joy. If you regularly peruse Craigslist and eBay for almost everything you buy, and perhaps compost like you’re single-handedly saving the world, you’re probably also willing to buy used cloth diapers for your baby.

This is a break down by the numbers of what it took us to get ready for baby number one:

First, we needed a crib. For awhile I stalked the free list on Craigslist, but eventually gave up on being the first e-mail respondent. It’s like trying to win the lottery! I did learn one thing, though – a lot of recalled cribs will show up on the free list, but many of these will also have repair kits available for free from the manufacturer to make the recalled item into an approved and safe item for your baby. People tend to give these away rather than trying to sell them. If you can get in there first, you can walk away with a stellar freebie. Also, if someone is trying to sell something with their give away, offer to buy it! Odds are you can sell it for the same price and keep the freebie you were really after. (Lesson learned the hard way.)

Ultimately, we ended up with an almost brand new cherry crib and mattress for $75. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. It’s not a sleigh crib, and it doesn’t convert into a queen sized bed to last your infant to their first home purchase, but it’s a solid crib that won’t make a racket or fall apart when our toddler decides to jump up and down in it, and it doesn’t have any issues or recalls.
Next, I purchased an Ikea Poang chair with Ottoman. I liked the look better than the expensive traditional rockers, and with a little bit of bounce to it, I figured it would be just as soothing as a rocking chair. Actually, I bought two for $100, and then sold one for $60. Total cost to us: $40. At the same time, I picked up a nursing pillow, baby carrier, and baby monitor for another $30 when I discovered the nice couple selling the chairs was selling all of their belongings to move overseas.

The changing table and dresser ended up being free. I already had a dresser from my own childhood, and when friends at an organization I volunteer with found out I was pregnant they banded together and bought me a changing pad with a beautiful cover that perfectly fit the top of the dresser. The dresser is a little tall, but for free I decided to make it work. Don’t have a dresser lying around at your disposal? This is a great one to find either in the free section of Craigslist or really cheap, and a banged up dresser can look like a million bucks with a coat of paint and new knobs. Changing pads can also be found for around $20 (I was even offered one for free with a different Craigslist purchase), or for double that you can find entire changing stations if you’re looking for a little extra storage. I saw a ton of these at a local baby consignment store, so if you don’t find it on the used sites, check out used stores around you.

I found a very well reviewed baby swing on Craigslist for $40. I can’t speak to its usefulness yet, but this is one of the things that other moms told me was essential, and at a quarter of what the price plus tax would have been new, I was very happy with this deal. The swing bedding even came already washed for me! The only minor defect is that one of the eight songs it plays doesn’t work perfectly, but as my husband pointed out, everything we have for the baby seems to play music, does it even matter which speakers it’s coming from? I personally plan to snag the Jemima Puddle Duck wind up music box from my mom’s house, and place it near the swing rather than playing the mechanical sounding music.

We also decided to take the plunge and give cloth diapering a try. Everyone likes to look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them this, so I made sure to buy everything used at good prices so that I could resell it and recoup my money if this turns out to be a big failure as everyone predicts. But, truth be told, I’m committed. After hearing about the 12 diaper changes a day my close friends are currently going through with their newborn, and witnessing them use two disposables in just two minutes, I’m determined to make cloth diapering work for us. I purchased enough diapers to last us 3 days without washing so that we don’t go crazy, and also invested in a sprayer attachment for the bathroom to get rid of most of the grossness before they even go in the wash pile. I went mostly with pocket diapers and all-in-ones since that’s what the daycares around me will accept. My assortment includes Fuzzibunz, Happy Heinys, BumGenius all-in-ones, some brand new Grovias, Thirsties duo wraps – you name it, I probably have it. I spent $305 total, including $80 at a garage sale for 9 diapers, $75 on Craigslist for 12 diapers, and $150 for a lot which included 40 diapers ranging from the very used to the brand spanking new, and included the toilet sprayer. I plan to sell some, see what works for us, and then continue to sell to fund the purchase of bigger sizes or our favorite brands. Considering that the average child tends to use about $66 worth of disposables a month, I think this will be a sound investment.

The décor in the room cost me almost nothing. I purchased three 12x12 canvases and painted animals on them for a total cost of about $15. I also scavenged the décor my sisters-in-law put up at my shower including a baby name banner now above the crib and some poofs hanging over the change station. My husband’s old baby blanket is hanging on another wall. The truth is, with some minor talent (or talented friends and family) decorating the nursery can be done very cheaply. Get creative. Get on Pinterest.

I also purchased a cream-of-the-crop nursing pump for $80, and will spend about $15 to $20 purchasing new tubing and shields for sanitary reasons. I also exchanged a maternity shirt from my mother-in-law for two nursing bras, and paid the difference of $10.95.

The rest of what I have for baby (and oh, boy is there a lot of it) I all came by free through the generosity of family and friends. I was completely overwhelmed by gifts at my baby shower. I think the key is that I registered for things that were relatively inexpensive – prices I myself would be willing to pay – so people tended to buy me multiple gifts. I received sheets, blankets, a crib mobile, tons of onesies, toys and stuffed animals. My sister-in-law also gave me all her old bottles, and offered us her high chair. My grandmother and mom chipped in and purchased me a very nice stroller, and my dad purchased the car seat. I would have purchased both of these items used if I was buying them myself. If I’d had to, I could have spent another $400 or so in total. Things like onesises are practically given away barely used (baby will grow out of them quickly) and infant toys that are very expensive in posh stores are then sold in 50 cent piles at garage sales.

All in all, I spent $610 spread out over the course of 9 months, and have about $200 in gift cards to cover future purchases. Of course everyone is different, and some of the items I’d be willing to buy used you might not be, but based on my experience you can go from zero baby gear to fully outfitted for about a thousand dollars without receiving any gifts. Of course, you might be more frugal than me, and see some of my purchases as unnecessary. Or you might think that a used nursing pump is unacceptable and a humidifier might be essential in your climate.

Most people will also find that friends and family are very generous when a new baby is involved, and many people have stored their baby gear waiting for this very opportunity to shower it on you. A friend of mine worked at a coffee shop while pregnant, and had customers offering her their gently used items!

So far, getting ready for baby hasn’t broken our bank, but only time will tell how much it will cost to get us from birth through college and beyond, where we’ll be able to pinch pennies, and where we won’t be able to.

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