Monday, June 29, 2009

Preparing for Baby the Frugally Green Way

A friend of mine once said, "When the blog is silent life is not." We sure didn't intend for the months of May and June to pass by without a single new post to Frugally Green. But when I stop to consider what that means I'm glad that we have decided to live real life instead of spending unnecessary hours on the computer. Don't get me wrong, I know Celina, Kristal and I enjoy sharing and learning frugal and green tips here. It's just that real life always trumps blogging.

In my case, May and June were occupied with getting through my first trimester of my third pregnancy. Some friends of mine have been asking me to register for baby shower gifts. But my main thought is, "It's my third child...I don't really need anything." And that thought led me to recall the ridiculous message our culture sends to first time moms--babies need a lot of stuff. That is simply not true, my friends.

And so here are some tips on how to get everything you need for baby's first year without spending a ton of cash and filling your home with useless plastic junk.

1. Reevaluate your needs. The "must haves" lists that places like Babies R Us and Target give to new parents are greatly exaggerated. You really don't need a diaper wipes warmer or a musical light up vibrating teething ring. Go down those lists with critical eyes and ask yourself, "Will I really need that item to take care of my baby?" Babies need a place to sleep, a way to eat, diapers, temperature control (clothes, blankets, etc.) , and a safe mode of transportation (a car seat if you will be driving, a sling/carrier or stroller for walking). Everything else is extra.

2. Borrow from friends who already have kids. You probably have friends who have children who have outgrown their crib, high-chair, swing, exersaucer, etc. But they're hanging on to all that stuff in case they have another child. Here's the thing, excepting the crib and high-chair, all those other things are only in use for a few months at a time. Most parents I know would be glad to lend baby gear to a friend so it will get more use and so that they can have some storage space back for at least a few months. So don't be afraid to ask if anyone has a baby bath tub or bumbo that you can use for a little while. Your wallet will thank you. And so will your garage shelves.

3. Buy used. Craigslist, ebay, thrift stores, consignment shops, and garage sales are great resources for used baby gear. Things like exersaucers and bouncy seats are used for such a short time that most are in like new condition. The only item you really need to purchase new is a car seat. For safety reasons, the peace of mind that you know the car seat has never been in an accident is priceless. Also, some car seats "expire" after 4 to 6 years because the plastic breaks down making them unsafe in the event an accident.

4. Make your own. If you have some simple sewing skills you can make your own baby blankets, bibs, burp cloths, nursery decor, clothes, even diapers and baby carriers. Or if you aren't crafty, let people know you are interested in handmade items. Lots of people enjoy making baby gifts. is great resource for purchasing handmade items, as well. Also in this category, make your own baby food. It's easy, doesn't take a lot of time and will save you so much money. And, as if it needs to be said, breastfeed your baby. At least try--there are so many benefits to breastfeeding including the fact that is free!

5. Be open to hand me downs. With each of my pregnancies I have had several people ask if I needed clothes, crib bedding, gear, etc. Just like with the borrowing thing, experienced parents and those who are "done" having kids are more than willing to clean out their garages and attics and pass all that stuff on to new parents. My advice is to say "yes" to those offers, especially if the givers don't want the stuff back. Then you can simply sort through the clothes and things, pick the items you like and will use, and pass the rest on to someone else or donate to charity.

6. Buy simple. Don't be suckered into buying an expensive highchair just because it has 87 seat back positions and comes with 3 trays and you can purchase additional toys that attach to the arms. Because you will probably only use two of those seat positions and hate the extra trays and overstimulating toys. Not to mention all the nooks and crannies in those types of highchairs that will inevitably become filled with food and be impossible to clean out. Go for simple designs that will be easy to assemble and clean. This applies to cribs, car seats, strollers, exersaucers, play mats, swings, etc. As my husband says, "If it needs batteries, don't bother."

So, there are a few general ideas for you. In the next few days I'm going to post links to my favorite specific baby items that offer a lot of value for their cost. In the meantime, if you have any other frugally green ideas on how to obtain the needed items for a new baby without spending a ton of money feel free leave them in the comments section. Thanks for reading!