Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parenting's kind of only as expensive as you want it to be.

Now that I'm back into the swing of parenting a newborn, I've noticed a bunch of articles, blog posts, or whatever on "Baby Cost Calculators!", "Can You Afford A Baby?", or any variation on "What to Buy for Babies!"

I realize from experience that when you're first expecting, you have an urge to buy new stuff, and possibly roll around in the floor all over the cute tiny infant outfits. Those $1000 bedroom sets sell like hotcakes. I'm vaguely aware of some phenomenon known as a "diaper cake" that gets presented at baby showers.

But honestly? Unless you live in the woods and no one likes you because you smell, people will buy you things, and hand you bags of clothes. And even if people buy you nothing, you can get SO MUCH secondhand for a fraction of the new cost. Nathan's crib was $35 on Craigslist, and his dresser is a hand-me-down (but his big-boy dresser was also on Craigslist for $30). I prefer the antique, beat-up, not matchy look anyway. Consignment shops have a litany of outfits, shoes, strollers, and assorted baby gear. Of course, the one caveat is to be careful to make sure you don't get something that's been recalled - or talk to the shop owner to see if you can return the item if you get home and look it up and find out it is recalled.

I even got car seats and bases from a trusted friend - sure, you could buy those on Craigslist, and I even gave an extra away on Freecycle, but I'm the kind of mom who won't take the very, very minute risk that they've been in an accident or thrown across a room or expired or otherwise unsafe for my pwecious cargo. And the big convertible car seats that come after the babybuckets? The Cosco Scenera is something like $60-80 on Amazon, it's well-rated, and also one of the slimmest carseats on the market.

And then there's cloth diapering. I've dropped maybe $300 on diapers for the two kids, and an additional $50 or so on disposables for emergencies, vacations, etc. It's work, and the extra water for another 2 washes a week isn't free, but diapers for a kid from infanthood through potty-training can be thousands of dollars. And then double that for the second kid. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but it's not especially hard - and I'd rather put an emergency load in the washer than run out to a store during a snowstorm for disposables. It really wasn't too much of a burden even when I was in school full-time. And I do all the washing.

Of course, pontificating about how cheap it *can* be ignores the whole childcare issue, and some people can't breastfeed and pump at work easily - adding thousands more in formula costs. I know that's the dealbreaker for a lot of people because it's horribly expensive, and I'm lucky for not having to go that route. We will once I graduate and go back to the work force. I'd worked out a schedule with my former employer where Mike and I would each be able to take days off to care for Nathan, but that plan blew up when I got laid off instead. I assume that when I work, I'll be going back full time and Mike will only be part-time, but there's no use planning for the unplannable at this point.

Anyway, Craigslist is your friend. So are consignment shops. Save that cash for your kid's college fund. Or for a vacation for yourself once your kids are old enough.


  1. I tried that diaper cake thing once and frankly, I really don't know why people keep serving it.

  2. the gel expands in your stomach and keeps you full all day, though!

  3. You guys crack me up!

    I've realized I buy the nicest clothes for my nieces-first or second-hand- cause I know they're coming down to my lil one eventually.

    We've really spent very little on her, and a good portion of that has been craigslist/consignment. So, good article! :)

  4. I'd like to think that we're the segment powering that later-on Craigslist treasure trove. So, uh, you're welcome. (Actually, of all our friends, we were the first to have a kid, so lots of our friends with kids now have our hand-downs.)