Monday, January 26, 2009

The cost of a new baby...


I ended up spending $140.00 this weekend for the handyman, and $40.00 for paint and supplies. Basically all he did was disassemble my monstrous desk and bring it downstairs and reassemble it. That WAS a big job and took two hours, maybe three. Then he taped up the nursery and painted the corners and around the edges, while I rolled the main part of the walls.

Just that took 7 hours of his time. I kind of felt a bit ripped off. I suppose doing the corners and edges and all the taping does take the most time. But I was done with the walls in an hour.

Anyway, today on MSN I found an article quite by accident about the expenses of having a baby. They quote $11,000.00 per year as being average in one section, but daycare alone around here is $12,000.00 per year, not including diapers, cribs, car seats, clothes, Dr.'s appts, etc.

Since with international adoption, we PAPs are also paying exorbitantly for the adoption process itself, this figure leaves me a little anxious. Luckily, the article does give clue on how to save a little. For one, I will probably not be buying a matching set for the nursery now :-( although i was kind of looking forward to that. Nor will I buy furniture at Babies R' Us... I used to paint furniture as a hobby and I can still do that. It's much cheaper to find second hand or unfinished items. Here's the article:

Save a bundle on your new baby
Many excited expectant parents waste thousands of dollars on baby items they don't need. Here's how to wise up early and find just the essentials for less.
By Liz Pulliam Weston

Before I tell you how to save bundles of money while preparing for a baby, I must make a confession.

We've spent more than we planned in the months leading up to the birth of our first child. Way more.

Part of our problem was that we succumbed to the "as long as we're at it" syndrome of home improvements. What started as a fairly straightforward project -- converting a spare bedroom into a nursery -- turned into a six-month-long around-the-house orgy of stripping wallpaper, repainting rooms, laying new carpet and refinishing hardwood floors.

The other part is that I wasn't quite as immune to the siren song of the $4-billion baby products industry as I'd anticipated. While I was able to avoid some of the more obvious excesses -- $800 crib bumpers, anyone? -- I (and my doting hubby) still probably bought too much stuff.

The good news is that we didn't go into debt for any of this, and we'll still be able to fund our baby's college savings plan. (The expense means we won't be flying to Paris anytime soon, of course, but that was pretty much a given.)

The other good news is that my experience may help you avoid some stumbling blocks, although you're bound to discover new ones of your own.

So here's the result of my research and hard-won experience on corralling the buying needed to get ready for a wee one.

Get a great guidebook You'll need something fairly comprehensive that can tell you what you really do and don't need to prepare for the new arrival.
My sister-in-law gave me a copy of Denise and Alan Fields' terrific "
Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Equipment, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More!" Immensely readable, loaded with checklists and full of hard-nosed product reviews, this book quickly became my shopping bible -- and the first thing I bought for a couple of friends who got pregnant after I did.

Know what's optional If you let the kindly women at the baby specialty stores guide you, you'll spend more getting ready for this child than you would on a brand-new sports car. Here are just a handful of things you might NOT need:

A changing table. You can put a special tray on top of a dresser, or buy a dresser specifically outfitted for changing.

Baby store furniture, other than cribs. We found the dressers especially to be of exceptionally poor quality, even at the high-end shops. For less than $400, we were able to buy and paint a well-made ash dresser from a nude-furniture store. You can find used stuff for even less at consignment and used-furniture stores. Just make sure, for safety's sake, that the drawers can't be pulled all the way out, bonking a curious toddler on the head.

Diaper stackers. This is a bag to store diapers that hangs off a changing table. A plain willow basket tucked in a drawer can work just fine -- if you need anything at all.

Coordinated linen or crib sets. Some of the pieces in these sets, such as pillows and quilts, can't be used with an infant. Others, like crib bumpers, are controversial among safety experts. (If you get them, make sure they tie at both top and bottom in several places.) If you must have coordinated sheets and dust ruffles -- and yes, ultimately, I did -- you usually can buy those separately for less.

A car seat for each car. Most infant car seats come with detachable, adjustable bases. Just get one seat and a base for each car.

Jogger strollers. We occasionally see these sporty-looking, three-wheeled all-terrain vehicles in our neighborhood -- usually pushed by dads ambling to the corner coffee bar. We know a lot more couples who parked theirs permanently in the garage. Some runners and hikers swear by them, but you've got time to decide to get one later, since you're generally not supposed to use them with kids less than a year old anyway.

Make a budget Your numbers will necessarily be squishy for awhile, since you won't know exactly what you'll get in shower gifts and hand-me-downs. But between maternity clothes, strollers, car seats, clothes and nursery d├ęcor, the Fields estimate the average cost of baby preparation to be around $6,000 -- and that's not including hospital bills, day care or all the expenses that come later.

You can definitely spend less -- a lot less, with creativity and help from family and friends. But there will always be stuff you need to buy, and you should set aside enough money to cover the basics so you don't go into debt. Splurges make sense only when you've got the cash; otherwise, reduce the stress of your baby's arrival by not adding huge debt to your worries.

Accept donations: I knew I was in a foreign land when a baby store saleswoman cooed at me that of course, I'd want to get "all new" things for my first baby. She obviously didn't know I drive an old car, recycle outfits from my husband's closet and take great pride in pointing out the furniture we didn't have to pay for because it was given to us by someone in the family. "All new," indeed.

Chances are your friends and relatives would be happy to load you up with their outgrown baby items and clothes if only you'd say the word. Once you get it in your house, you'll see why: This stuff eats up space like a Humvee on a one-lane road, and their houses are already jammed with the next generation of kid stuff.

So accept, sort, clean and pass along whatever you can't use (with the original donor's permission, of course). You'll make your friends and family happy, you'll save money and you'll put a little less pressure on our already overstressed environment.

Find consignment stores: As I mentioned, I live in a place where fashionably dressed women pay $2,500 for a foreign-made stroller, $800 for crib sets with silk dust ruffles and $149 for a newborn's sleeper. But Los Angeles and other major cities have neighborhood consignment shops that sell both luxury goods and a wide range of more reasonably priced baby gear. At an outing to one, we found gorgeous velvet dresses for toddlers, seemingly unworn, for $5.
You can find name-brand strollers, toys and other baby gear for a fraction of the new price (although many safety experts advise buying car seats and cribs new if at all possible).

If you don't have consignment stores in your town, you might check out regular thrift stores and garage sales. I've collected plastic toys from yard sales since my friends first started having babies, so the little ones would have something to play with when they came to our house. A few of the more-finicky mothers blanch when I tell them where I picked up this or that bargain, but just about anything plastic can be sterilized in a weak bleach solution, then rinsed and sun-dried. Electronic toys and games can be blasted with disinfectant spray, and stuffed animals can easily be machine washed and dried, particularly if you put them in a nylon bag first.

Given what your kid will do to them in short order, it may be the last time they look so good.
Keep receipts, and don't wash new items right away In a nesting frenzy, I did what I thought you were supposed to do, which is launder everything that might come in contact with baby's skin. More experienced mothers later told me it's smart to wash only a few of your newborn items, since the baby is likely to quickly outgrow them and you can take the still-packaged ones back to the store for a refund.

Oops. I did the same thing by laundering the crib bedding, only to completely change my mind on the color and style I wanted for the linens and dust ruffle. I claim temporary hormonal madness, but the crib really does look cute now.

Expect a few splurges On a related note, it's not just the mother-to-be who can wreak havoc on a budget. The daddy-in-training can also lose his mind occasionally, as mine did one fine autumn day when we were visiting New Mexico. He slipped away from me for a few hours with a credit card, and about a week later a packing crate -- yes, a crate -- laden with stuffed toys arrived at our home.

We did build some parental splurges into our budget -- including a few more dinners and movies out, in anticipation of the confinement ahead, and pregnancy massages, which I'm convinced made the aches of my expanding body more bearable. If these luxuries aren't within reach, at least make sure you make some nice dinners for each other at home, and learn a few massage techniques before the baby arrives. We've heard the latter come in quite handy in the labor room -- and beyond."


J-momma said...

mostly i agree. buying brand new furniture for a room that your kid will outgrow quickly seems pointless to me. but i have to disagree with two items on the list. i love my jogging stroller. and no, i don't jog with it. but it's so comfortable to push (and seemingly sit in). i have a smaller one i use for malls and such, but it's nice to have the jogger for long walks because it's all-terrain which means your not getting stuck on every pebble. i also use it for amusement parks, fairs, or any other long day spent outside. and the two car seat thing. it's so convenient not to have to worry about who has the car seat and when to switch and everything. plus, if plans change last minute, and we need to switch who picks up from daycare/babysitter or whatever, it's much easier to manage. just my two cents. :)

Michelle J said...

If I lived close by, I would have helped you paint and the only payment I would want would be a thai dinner :)

Adopting1Soon said...

Oh Michelle, I SO would have taken you up on that! SEVERAL Thai dinners would have been yours!