Budgeting for Baby: Being frugal doesn’t always mean buying the cheapest gear

Uppababy vistaSee that stroller? Ain’t she a beaut? As of yesterday we are the proud owners of an UPPAbaby Vista, and I couldn’t be happier with the decision. You see, since we found out we’re expecting I’ve been researching baby gear extensively. Strollers are no exception, and I had my mind made up that THIS was the stroller we wanted. It works for an infant through toddler at 50lbs, has an amazing detachable bassinet with a mattress safe for overnight sleeping, rear or forward facing seat, turns and swivels like a champ, and has a huge storage basket underneath perfect for grocery shopping. From everything I’ve read, people love this stroller. The problem? Like any expecting parents, we’re trying to save and budget where we can. Quite frankly a stroller that retails for over $700 may not fit the bill. Or does it?

Today I’m going to share with you my best baby budgeting tips. Everyone has their own opinions on the best products and has different needs. I get that. But if you’re like us and want the safest, longest lasting, highest end products and don’t want to pay retail price or completely blow your savings, read on. Maybe this will get the wheels turning and show you that being frugal doesn’t always mean buying cheap stuff. Without further adieu, here are my top tips for buying for baby:

1. Stretch your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. Pregnant mamas- your body is going to change. Do you need to say goodbye to your skinny jeans forever? No. In fact, I haven’t purchase any maternity jeans yet, and I highly doubt I will. You will need a few maternity pieces in your wardrobe, mainly tees and tanks for layering. Old Navy has a great selection of LONG shirts- this is key. Nobody wants to see that baby midriff waddling around. Speaking of bellies- Belly bands are your friend. I proudly rock my regular jeans and wear a belly band over them so no one can tell they’re unbuttoned. The belly band holds my pants up and looks like a layered tank. For cuter tops to go out to dinner in head to Destination Maternity, Motherhood Maternity, or A Pea in the Pod. They have awesome sale racks. Work with your current wardrobe and get creative- if you have a shirt you used to button up- wear it undone with a t-shirt underneath. And if it’s spring or summer… The maxi skirt is a lifesaver.

2. Find items that grow with your child. One obvious place to do this: the crib. Spend a little bit more and get a crib that coverts into a toddler bed. You can splurge and get a super fancy one, or head over to Ikea and pick up their Gulliver Crib for $99. It got great reviews from parents, ranks high on safety rating scales and has a clean, modern look. The same goes for strollers. Get one that accommodates a newborn and grows with the child as it gets older. Ditto on the car seat. If you aren’t planning on snapping an infant seat into your stroller, get a convertible car seat to use from the beginning. We chose a Britax convertible seat because of its high safety rating. By the way… The car seat is one those items you should NOT try to save a buck on. Buy a good car seat please, and buy it new.

3. Always save coupons and look for deals. The moment you sign up for a baby magazine, registry, or baby website expect to get a million emails and offers from everyone under the sun. Save every coupon that you get- you never know if you can use it. For instance, I got a coupon for $2 off a Burt’s Bees baby product at Walgreens. We don’t have a Walgreens that’s convenient to get to, but since Buy Buy Baby honors any competitor coupons, I used it there. Buy Buy Baby also accepts Bed Bath and Beyond coupons (which are in abundance everywhere and very easy to find) and they price match any competitor including Amazon. If you see something you want in the store, take a minute to check the online price and see if you can find it cheaper somewhere else. They should honor that price.

4. Buy throughout your pregnancy, but save receipts. This helps you from feeling overwhelmed near the end when you don’t have anything and you freak out. If you see an adorable outfit for your baby and it’s on the clearance rack… Buy it! Getting a little bit at a time is more digestible than making one very large purchase near the end. We printed this Newborn Essentials Checklist and are crossing items off as we go. Organize your receipts so you can return anything that’s also gifted to you or you realize you don’t need.

5. Buy used. This is one I’ll admit we could do more of. We could shop for all of our baby’s clothes on consignment and we don’t. There are a few big ticket items you should definitely shop around for used, though. Let’s revisit that UPPAbaby Vista. I fell in love with some of the high-end strollers, but knew I’d  have trouble justifying the cost. To be fair, after doing my research I actually do believe this stroller is worth it, even when you buy it new. In our case, however, we got a great deal. I found a woman selling one on Craigslist because her family was moving, and she was only charging $275 for it. It came with all the accessories (plus many she purchased separately) and she had never even used the bassinet- it was still in the box. Before you splurge be sure to check craigslist, recrib.com, ebay, or at least print yourself a coupon before you buy something full price at a retailer. 

6. Don’t buy double. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s go back to that stroller yet again. Its detachable bassinet can be used around the house or overnight with a newborn. You can even purchase UPPAbaby’s bassinet stand that later turns into a laundry hamper. We didn’t plan on separately purchasing a bassinet for our baby, but a lot of people do. Now that we have one, I admit it’ll be nice to have a safe place to tuck our little baby away during the day while I’m doing housework downstairs.

7. Buy gender neutral items. We decided to wait to find out the sex of our baby, so we had to do this. Even if you do find out, buy everything you can in a boy and girl friendly color scheme. You can reuse these items if you have another child, or if you don’t… At least you’ll be able to loan your gear out to your friend who is expecting or sell it on craigslist to anyone. No, your little girl doesn’t have to refrain from wearing cute dresses her whole life, but do yourself a favor and don’t buy a pink car seat.

So.. To recap: don’t automatically purchase the cheapest items in the stores. Consider how long the items will last and if they’ll grow with your baby.  Always look for coupons, ask about store policies with price matching, shop around for used items, and buy a little bit at a time. And no… Contrary to what everyone says, you don’t need every single item those registries tell you to buy. Stick to the basics and talk to other experienced moms who can offer their insights.

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