This is a guest post by Felicity Hernandez, Founder of Encore Baby Registry, a free website where expectant parents can create gift registries that include new, secondhand and hand-me-down items on loan or to keep.
The cost of baby gear, even for a minimalist, can add up quickly. These costs are compounded by the fact that babies grow out of gear at a similarly rapid rate. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to reign in costs without forgoing the baby products you want.
10 tricks to Save as Much Money as Possible on Baby Gear…
1. Go Secondhand
Going secondhand is the most important tip for saving money on baby gear. If you remember only one money saving tip from this post, let it be this one. Babies grow physically and developmentally at a much faster rate than their clothes, gadgets, and gear wear out. Great used baby gear can be found at consignment stores, thrift stores, garage sales, Craigslist,Freecycle, at swaps, local parenting message boards (look for local mommy/parent groups on Facebook or on Meetup) , and even for free on the sidewalk (I live in a city and my sidewalk finds have saved me a lot of money). Also remember that “secondhand” doesn’t always mean “used.” Plenty of baby stuff is grown out of before use, given to families in duplicate, or just not the right fit and ends up in the secondhand market without any prior use.
2. Get Your Money Back on Secondhand Purchases
Take secondhand savings a step further and sell your outgrown used baby gear for the same price you paid for it. If you get great deals on your secondhand baby gear, you may even be able to sell it for a bit more than you originally paid. Since you will likely have a mix of purchased and free baby gear, don’t forget to keep track of your sources and make sure to put back into the sharing universe as much as you took out. If everyone on Freecycle or at swapping events took a little more than they gave, the system wouldn’t work.
3. Stock Up On Hand-Me-Downs
Friends and family are a great place to start for hand-me-downs, but don’t limit yourself. There are plenty of people with baby stuff in their garage just waiting for a good home to present itself. Your co-worker, your co-worker’s sister (as suggested by your co-worker), the neighbor you hadn’t officially met until she commented on your baby bump in passing, or even the bank teller (mine told me she had tons of baby gear from her twin boys that she would love to pass on to someone who would use them). Strike up casual conversations about baby gear or ask for suggestions and you’re likely to get offered some great stuff.
4. Don’t Forget the Personal Stuff
Some baby products are fun to shop for, but others like post-partum mommy supplies, while equally important, are not. These products can also become wasteful since you are unlikely to use the exact number of sanitary napkins, witch hazel pads, hemorrhoid wipes, or disposable bed pads that come in a package. Fortunately for me, two of my friends brought up this subject themselves. One started with, “I hope you don’t think I’m weird, but I have extra…” and the other just tossed her leftover post-partum supplies right in with her more “normal” hand-me-downs of baby gear and clothes. Who knew that half-used packs of feminine pads make such great gifts? In all seriousness, though, they aren’t cheap and when was the last time you got excited about shopping for feminine products? I can also tell you that my hand-me-down disposable underwear brought as much joy in the weeks following my C-section as the baby gear that arrived wrapped in pretty paper and bows.
5. Try Before You Buy
One parent's “must have” is another parent's dust collector and your baby is going to have an opinion, too, so it’s a great idea to try out baby gear before you buy it. Borrow your friend’s wrap carrier while taking a walk together (she likely has another option for carrying her baby, like a stroller or another style of baby carrier—and if you like her stroller, give it a push around the block, too). Put your baby in another friend’s bouncer seat during a play date. Ask a co-worker if you can borrow a piece of gear for a couple days. Post a request on Facebook: “Thinking about buying Product X. Does anyone have one we can try out for a day?” In the process of finding one to borrow, you may actually end up being given one that was recently outgrown or sitting in someone’s garage. Also, many children’s consignment stores have return policies that give you a few days to change your mind on purchases. Carefully try out gear at home with the tags still on and then take it back if you or your baby decide it’s not a good fit.
6. Borrow Stuff
Experienced parents squirrel away maternity clothes and baby gear for a variety of reasons: for future children, to give to a sibling, or niece, when they have children. Until saved baby gear is needed for these purposes, many parents are happy to loan it long-term to other family and friends.
7. Look at Baby Gear with a Creative Eye
Some baby gear doesn’t do anything you can’t already do with what you have at home.
Here are some examples:
- $150 all-in-one baby food maker = pot + steamer basket + blender
- Baby food freezer storage system = ice cube tray for freezing + repurposed glass jars for storage
- Diaper bag = bag with a lot of pockets + portable changing pad (if needed, buy a diaper bag insert with compartments for $3-$10 and/or a changing pad for $10)
- Pregnancy and parenting books = library card (if you find a book you love and want to hold on to, buy yourself a used copy)
- No-scratch baby mitts = baby socks
- Breast milk fridge/freezer organizer = rectangular box/bin/Tupperware
- Themed nursery furniture, linens, and accessories = furnishings already in the house, because your baby really couldn’t care less about the look of their nursery (or you could skip the nursery all together)
As previously stated, one parent’s life saver is another’s junk, so if your lifestyle or baby’s temperament makes a specialized baby product especially helpful, go ahead and buy it (secondhand, of course). Just give it a good thinking through before you do to make sure it’s a worthwhile purchase.
8. Make it Yourself
Harness the power of Google and Pinterest to find ways to make some of the baby products on your shopping list. Whether you are a skilled seamstress or carpenter, or the no-sew, duct taping type, there are tutorials out there for everyone. Add words like, “tutorial” and “no-sew” to your search terms to get better fitting results. Another idea is to seek out your crafty friends and commission them to make your crafts. Usually it's a lot cheaper then going through a stranger on Etsy.
9. Choose Items that Multi-Task
Despite the increase in narrowly focused niche baby products, companies are also creating more options that multi-task and will grow with your child. Some breastfeeding pillows are also useful for baby’s tummy time and then helping to stabilize baby as she learns to sit up. The First Years offers an affordably priced 3-in-1 high-chair product that transitions from infant feeding seat to highchair to booster seat. Onya Baby makes a baby carrier that works as a front carrier, back carrier, and portable chair harness infant seat. Consider skipping the infant car seat and going straight to a convertible. Some convertible car seats are two car seats in one, keeping your baby safe in the car from infancy through toddlerhood, while others have the third function of transitioning into a seatbelt positioning booster for older children. If you can find a 3-in-1 car seat you like, you’ve not only saved yourself money, you’ve also saved yourself time, researching only one product instead of three. Beware, some 3-in-1’s will cost you the same as if you bought all the pieces separately, but finding the same product secondhand may bring you back into money-saving territory.
10. Ask for the Gift of Time
One of the precious resources that gets re-allocated after a baby arrives is time. Unfortunately, you can’t buy time at the consignment store, but you can ask for it from friends and family. Asking for the gift of time saves you money when friends take over tasks you might have paid others to do in your new sleep and time deprived state. When people ask how they can help, invite them to bring over a meal, walk your dog, water your garden, or run a nearby errand. Tip: Make a list of these household chores pre-baby so you can easily reference it or just print it out, stick it to the fridge for easy access and when someone asks what you need you can point right to the list.
What are your tricks for saving on baby gear? What items did you buy (or were given) that you thought you would use but didn't?