At about four months B.C. (Before Child), I told my wife I didn’t want to buy anything new for Baby, except diapers. It’s not so much that I’m exceedingly cheap or viscerally dreaded an outing to Baby Gap, I just couldn’t justify it. We learned a baby is born roughly every seven seconds, and the first thought that popped in my mind was…Well, what’s going to become of all those onesies? Is there some sort of fikey effigy of which I’m not aware? Not to mention blankets and swings and cribs and car seats and strollers? Where does it all go?
The baby market represents a pretty unique one, when you think about it. In what other arena do you get such a shoddy return on your investment? Most clothing items have an average lifespan of 3 months, and when you divide that into the total number of said items, that’s not too many applications per item. We still find clothes for Baby that he’s never worn, or, more frustrating, clothes he never wore and no longer fit! The same applies to toys. He likes what he likes, ergo how many stuffed animals, crackly books and teething toys hit the reject pile, virtually drool-free? Somebody gave us some giant plastic keys as a toy, and I remember thinking what a ridiculous idea for a toy, let alone a gift! Yeah, it’s been his favorite for months.
The first step is to budget parenting is to establish and agree on what you consider an acceptable second-hand item. One of the first things I bought was my wife’s breast pump—not everyone’s style, I know. But I couldn’t justify $300 for a new one when fifty bucks on Craig’s List got us a well-loved Medela with brand new cups, hoses, attachments and carrying case. We personally draw the line at fikeys. I realized this when I was in a parking lot at maybe one month B.C. and saw one lying on the pavement. It was a Cookie Monster, and he looked so sad, so abandoned. I knew I could take him home and sterilize him and Cookie would be good as new. But ultimately, it just seemed like a lot of work. To each his own, but it’s nice to have options.
Speaking of options, you have several at your budget-hunting fingertips. Try these for starters:
Friends, family and others
It’s actually a biological fact that grandparents love to buy things for grandchildren. Hit up your friends (or friends of friends) with kids—they’ll likely be relieved to unload some of the stuff! But we’ve also gotten so many things from so many unexpected sources, including an entire box of baby swag from someone in California we have yet to identify. The thank-you card was a little awkward.
Yes, CL can be very hit-or-miss, but you can find stuff locally, and all the sellers are moms, which cuts down on the weirdo factor. It’s good if you know exactly what you’re looking for and some people prefer to meet the source of their wares.
If you have the patience to browse, there are tons of goodies to be found here from kindly neighborhood donors.
Community list serves
Ask at your local church, synagogue, mosque, etc. if they have an internal posting community, then put up an ad with your wants and see what comes your way. Or, they might even have the old-school bulletin board option.
Again, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re looking for and what it’s worth, and mind the shipping charges. But there are some bargains to be had—and there’s always the competitive spirit of the auction to embrace.
Or you can totally disregard all this and head over to Babies R Us. I understand the allure of the shiny and new, as well as the baby fashionista point of view. And do what’s right for you; I personally take comfort in the fact that Baby is neither cognizant nor will remember any of this. I can also report from personal experience that we landed two car seats, a stroller, a bassinet, a crib, two swings, a pack-n-play and countless toys, clothes and accessories without even utilizing all five options. And I’m looking forward to paying it forward someday to another set of happy newbies.