Please welcome the lovely Laurie of The Frugal Farmer. Laurie is an awesome mama, blogger, and debt repayment queen. I’m so happy to have her on the blog today!
(Pssst: Yep, those are my twins on the left! I owe y’all an update! Until then, enjoy Laurie’s expert wisdom!)
As a mother of four kids, I’ve learned a lot about what needs to be spent, and what doesn’t need to be spent, as you’re raising your kids. When your first baby (or, babies :)) is born, it’s easy to fall into a trap of thinking you need to have every available gadget and baby item out there in order to truly give your baby the best life. Truth be told, though, you’ll be doing your baby (and your pocketbook) a huge favor by being choosy about what comes into their lives during that first year.
New vs. Used
I used to be hesitant about buying used things for my babies, and in fact, I’m still a bit on the odd side about buying used for our kids. Yet, I also know there are huge cost savings in buying used. Here are some tips for both buying new and buying used:
If you’re insistent on buying new, plan ahead and hit sales and clearance racks. We often buy our kids’ clothes a year ahead of time, knowing that we can get next year’s winter gear, for instance, at the end of this year, for dirt cheap. I once got our son a Columbia brand winter jacket for $8 by hitting the clearance racks. I probably wouldn’t have paid much less than that at a garage sale. So if going new is the only option for you, shop early and shop often.
Another tip for buying new? Hit garage sales in high-end areas of your city. In the affluent suburb we used to live in, I never ceased to be amazed at the brand-new, tags-still-on items that appeared in garage sales constantly. People often buy new things and never even take them out of their boxes or bags.
If buying used is okay for you, make sure to shop for clean, well-taken care of items. A friend of mine always buys her kids name brand clothes, and somehow, those clothes always remain in good shape. Every spring, she holds an organized garage sale and sells these barely worn name-brand clothes for a fraction of the cost of new, and every year, lots of the same moms come to this sale. Seek out the sales in your area that seem to have kids a year or two older than yours, and ask if they hold sales every year, with the goal of having a list of yearly sales to go to that have the types and condition of items you want. Also, utilize Ebay and other sites for great deals too.
Back to Basics
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that babies and kids don’t need nearly as much stuff as we think they do. They generally play with the same five or six toys, favor the same types of outfits and also favor the same two or three comfort items. Resist the urge to buy your kids every single toy or item, and focus instead on things that will entertain them, yet make your life easier. When our kids were babes, we pretty much bought them every gadget and toy that targeted commercials said would make them happy. In hindsight, however, we would have bought three or so different items, such as an Exersaucer, that would keep them occupied and safe, and skipped the rest. The same goes with outfits and other items. When choosing what to buy, think in terms of items that will make your life and your baby’s life easy and happy, not just in terms of convenience, but also in terms of maintenance (as in, less to clean and care for) and in terms of your pocketbook. A minimalist approach can go a long way in your baby’s first year of life.
The first year of your babies’ lives are a time filled with wonder, joy and a whole host of new things to learn and do. Concentrating on those things, and not worrying so much about what to buy and spend money on, will make that first year much more enjoyable and much less stressful.
What was on your had-to-have list in your baby’s first year?