Does the media have you feeling like you need to spend excessively on your little one? Learn to overcome the urge that quantity is better than quality and discover the fine art of parenting on a budget.
What do babies and weddings have in common? The answer is not a punch line, but rather both events are the center of major marketing campaigns designed to exploit the high emotions of newlyweds and parents-to-be, effectively convincing them that these joyous occasions cannot be successful without costing a small fortune. It’s not surprising that our culture of consumerism causes a lot of unnecessary pressure during what should otherwise be a peaceful time of preparation.
Commercials and magazines tell us that electronic toys, musical mobiles, vibrating rockers, and flash cards are essential for a baby’s mental stimulation. You’d think it’s a miracle that anyone who lived before the technological age had any imagination and intelligence at all! We often forget that simple, loving interactions between babies and parents, such as feeding, reading, singing, or playing together, stimulate babies’ brains in authentic and meaningful ways.
If you feel pressure to be the perfect parent or find yourself doubtfully comparing your baby budget to others’, try these suggestions to combat buying more than you need:
Make a realistic list of essential items
Before you race out on a wild shopping spree, consult BabyZone’s Checklist Library for shopping checklists as well as like-minded friends for tips and ideas of what exactly you need before Baby arrives. Do your research thoroughly. The Nappy Bag Book, by Nappy Bag Publishing is an excellent starting point and will tell you exactly what is essential and what items, although nice to have, are just a luxury. Talk to other parents to find out what is useful and what is superfluous.
Start accumulating baby items as soon as possible
Fortunately, human gestation provides nine months to prepare for the expenses of parenthood. You need
“The best tip I could give is to buy diapers in advance,” says Anne Morcombe, 25, mother of two. “When doing your grocery shopping, check the price of disposable diapers. If they’re on sale, buy a box or two.”
Distance yourself from emotionally charged purchases
Undeniably, there’s something exciting about looking at nursery decorations and tiny outfits while expecting, but it is precisely this activity that can lead to unnecessary purchases.
Kaz Cooke relates a similar experience in her book, Up the Duff, “Some of the baby clothes have Paris couture prices, and although I am careful I end up spending $150 on small hats, singlets, cotton jumpsuity things, and a couple of expensive cute things … I think it is better if I stay out of babies’ and children’s wear departments.”
Borrow from friends and family or purchase secondhand
Some friends and family members may have finished having children or are enjoying a hiatus, and will most likely have nursery items to lend. Borrowing secondhand baby items doesn’t mean you love your child less. As long as used items are in good condition and conform to safety standards they are an excellent alternative to spending your hard-earned cash on a plethora of new furniture and clothing.
Tania Ranson, mother to 18-month-old Faith and seven months pregnant with her second child, says she relies on Internet markets such as eBay for bargain buys. “My husband and I know that our second child is going to be a boy, which makes preparing for his arrival a lot easier,” says Ranson. “Buying bundles of boys’ clothing from other mothers is so convenient and economical.”
Organize a baby shower
Baby showers are a fun celebration of new life and family, and a helpful way of acquiring immediate necessities. When limited income means that even consumable baby products are a financial burden, ask the host to tell guests to bring nursery supplies such as diapers, wipes, and layette basics as gifts.
Don’t feel guilty for opting to less-expensive products
Advertisements employ persuasive techniques to appeal to parents’ values (such as motherhood, safety, and education) and create desires (to be the best parent, have the smartest child, or own the latest technology). If you buy the cheaper formula rather than the more expensive variety that claims to boost brain development and improve eyesight, don’t feel like a bad parent. Packaging is an illusion that reflects price more than quality (and all formulas marketed in the United States must meet minimum nutrient requirements).
Keep sale prices in perspective
While finding baby items that you genuinely need on sale is great, avoid buying products simply because they’re on sale. A shop plastered with discount posters and overflowing with sale-crazed consumers encourages shoppers to join the fray in fear of missing out on amazing bargains. Think logically despite the hype or you may regret buying two breast pumps and three-dozen cloth diapers before you even reach home.
Join a toy library
Many local councils and community groups establish toy libraries for area residents. Generally, toy libraries require parents to pay a small annual membership fee in exchange for the right to borrow toys weekly or bimonthly. A few volunteer hours at the center may also be required.
“It’s brilliant,” says Dianna Stewart, mother of two. “When your child has mastered a puzzle or becomes bored of a game, just return it to the toy library and swap your item for another. Not only do you save money but you also avoid storage issues associated with bulky toys such as ride-on bikes.”
Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with spending money on your new arrival; children are an expensive endeavor. Yet if you allow advertising to appeal to your fears about parenting, you are likely to succumb to more pressure and anxiety than you should feel during such an exciting time in your life.