I am finding that preparing for a baby is like planning a wedding, with a smaller guest list at the big event. The planning and expense are what you make of them and all the books and magazines say pretty much the same stuff. On top of that, adding the word “baby” in front of any given product, just like adding the word “wedding” in the same place, triples the price of that product.
Our wedding flowers were a mix of all my favorite blooms, came from the grocery store, and were gorgeously arranged by my aunt the day before our wedding. Our wedding cakes doubled as centerpieces on the tables, I made the invitations and programs myself, and my red patent leather wedding shoes were on clearance at TJ Maxx and have since been worn to work, other weddings, and various dressy events.
The husband and I didn’t fall for the “average American wedding budget” of $25,000 and we’re not about to fall for the”average birth-to-one-year budget” of $7,000-$12,000.
A little creativity goes a long, long way in planning things like babies and weddings and I find that creativity and thinking about what suits YOU instead of The Way You’re Supposed To Do It makes all the difference.
This past week I was reading through a book called Baby Bargains. The book is a detailed but very readable 600 pages of baby products and maternity items on which the authors tell readers how to save 20% to 50% off retail.
Sounds great, right? Until one considers that 20% off, say, the average cost of a crib ($400, with plenty of wiggle room in either direction) still puts you upwards of $300 for what really is an optional item.
As I continued reading, something just wasn’t sitting right and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Part of it was that nowhere in this book of bargains did the authors suggest craigslist or garage sales. Ok, maybe they mentioned them at the beginning, but the rest of the book is standard stores and standard prices with detailed reviews of standard baby items. Snore. If you really want a bargain, let’s get creative, people!
And then I got to the section on maternity clothes and with this line, I knew why I wasn’t getting along with the authors:
“Okay, I admit that I don’t normally shop at K-Mart or Target for my clothes. But I was surprised to discover these chains (and even department stores like Sears) carry casual maternity clothes in 100% cotton at very affordable prices. Let’s repeat that–they have 100% cotton t-shirts, shorts, pants, and more at prices you won’t believe.” (Baby Bargains, 8th Edition, p.235)
After I laughed out loud and read the passage to the husband, I reread it for my own amusement. I would bet $10 (which can go a long way at “a chain like Target”) that 4 out of 5 average American women use Target as a go-to for clothing, not a pathetic last resort. Anyone who is going to tell me how to save big bucks on having a baby and in the same breath is “surprised to discover” quality merchandise at an old standard like Target gets the boot. Thanks for trying.
Flipping through a few baby magazines at the doctor’s office the other week, I noticed that, like beauty magazines, the tips are generally common sense and I suspect that, like beauty magazines, they are recycled every four years with changes in safety standards accounted for. “45 ways to save for baby” could also be printed as “How to tuck away an extra $3,000 and not miss it” or “Small ways to save big in the New Year.” The only thing that would change is the graphic accompanying the article. The mommy hand tucking coins into a baby piggy bank seems to be the stock photo for these baby-specific common sense articles.
Redwhiteandnew, you ramble. What’s your point?
My point is the “average cost” of big things like babies and weddings is grotesquely high across the board and I believe it’s because people tend to allow others, including billion-dollar industries, to think for them.
The husband and I are Dave Ramsey fans and follow his financial advice with moderate dedication. Even if we had $7,000 to spend on a baby, we wouldn’t. Why? Because there simply is not $7,000 worth of stuff a child needs before it can even sit up and ask for it. There’s not even $7,000 worth of stuff the husband and I need.
Only in America can we look at an “average baby cost” of $7,000 and swallow that number whole. Only here do we have the luxury of considering a number like that. Don’t get me wrong, if you have the money and you want to spend it on a new baby, rock out! It’s your money (until the government realizes you have it and decides it’s actually their money) and yours to spend how you please. But don’t try to tell me there’s no way I’m getting out of spending that much because I promise you this, dear reader, there’s no way I’m spending that much.
So how much do you plan to spend, redwhiteandnew?
I’m glad you asked. As my preliminary baby-prep research has picked up steam and I have lost respect for the standard Way Of Doing Things while also considering that the husband and I keep a lean, semi-minimalist household already, I am more and more confident that there is a) no reason to change our ways because we’re having a baby and b) every reason to keep on the financial straight-and-narrow because we’re having a baby.
Other average cost numbers only include what the new parents spend out-of-pocket; gifts, hand-me-downs, borrowed items, etc. are not included in the bottom line. So many friends and family have already blessed us and the little oyster with gifts of precious, handmade toys or cute little outfits that work for boys and girls. A friend even gave *me* a shirt that she thought would be “adorable with a little bump underneath.”
I know there will be other gifts, and we are already so grateful for them. I bet I will have a shower along the way, which will help us immensely. We will create a registry of things we think we need, and I know that parents with more experience will add little items that we didn’t know to ask for. For all of these things, I am thankful in advance. These things will help us meet our goal.
Our goal of spending far less than average to prepare for and have the little oyster isn’t meant to make anyone else feel bad or guilty about how much or how little they choose to spend on their own little shavers. The husband and I are in the habit of making financial decisions that make sense for us, and as a result we simply spend less money than a lot of people because our specific goals are somewhat long-term.
And so with all disclaimers in place and my research pointing me strongly toward a number, keeping in mind that we live in a wealthy area with kick-butt garage sales and a craigslist for-sale section longer than the Potomac, I would like to answer a question the other middle sister asked me a few weeks ago when I first mentioned a smaller dollar figure for baby prep:
Yes, I would like to bet on that.
The bet is that we can come in at or under my self-imposed dollar amount, without sacrificing safety or comfort of baby or parents, when calculating everything spent by us on the little oyster from conception to the first birthday. This includes all furniture, baby and maternity clothes, toys, vitamins and toiletries, and equipment, everything included in the “average” budget. This excludes insurance costs when the baby is added to the policy and the cost of the food I eat if nursing, which are also not included in the “average” budget. I will save receipts, round to the nearest dollar, and keep a running total on the blog.
The amount to meet or beat is $2,700.
Let the games begin!