9.75 MB | 24:19 Min
Liz Pulliam Weston is a personal finance columnist for MSN Money and author of the question-and-answer column “Money Talk,” which appears in newspapers throughout the country. She is the author of several books, including Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life, Deal with Your Debt and Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Protect and Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future. Liz has much more fantastic financial information for you at her website AskLizWeston.com.
Katina Z. Jones is the author of several Everything books, including The Everything Get Ready For Baby Book.
Hilary Ward owns SoftBabies.com, an online store featuring natural and eco-friendly baby gear.
Welcome to your Pea in the Podcast. I’m Bonnie Petrie with everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life in your journey to becoming a mommy.
This week, we’re buying baby gear. We’ll tell you what you need…
“Carseats obviously are essential; a good stroller is an essential.”
We’ll tell you what you don’t need, and no, you don’t need every single thing in the baby store…
“For thousands of years people have given birth to children in a field and lived without all of these things.”
And we’ll help you do it without going into bankruptcy…
“It’s amazing how expensive some of this stuff can be.”
We’ll talk to a MSN money expert, a mommy who makes some of her own baby gear and the woman who wrote The Everything Get Ready For Baby Book, in this Pea in the Podcast: Baby Gear.
It’s time to start buying all the stuff you need for your baby and it’s overwhelming, isn’t it? How do you get it all? How do you afford it? Baby gear can run you around $6,000.
“It’s amazing how expensive some of this stuff can be. I remember going into a boutique shop on Ventura Boulevard near where I lived in Los Angeles, and they were charging just amazing prices for basic furniture. $800 for a bureau that was not very well constructed just because it had ‘baby’, so it seemed like they could add an extra zero to the price of everything.”
So MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston, who is a mommy, and who wrote the books Deal with Your Debt and Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Protect and Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future, says the first thing you need to do is some research, and then find a guide.
“The book I recommend is called Baby Bargains. It’s updated every few years and it’s, the subtitle is ‘The Secret of Saving 20 to 50% on Baby Furniture, Equipment, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More.’ It’s the perfect title because that’s exactly what it does. It lays out what you really need and what’s optional.”
So let’s start there, what do you really need?
“Carseats, obviously, are essential. A good stroller is an essential. Those are the kind of things you probably don’t want to buy used. The carseat because it could have been in an accident. The stroller because strollers just get beaten to death. I have yet to see a used stroller that just didn’t look bad. So you can get a reasonably priced one just about any Wal-Mart, Target, any of those stores will have a decent price on them. Maternity clothes, that’s something you’re going to need. Not for the baby, but for yourself. At some point you’re going to need a crib. You probably won’t need it right away because a lot of us do co-sleep or at least have a bassinet in the bedroom to start. So that’s something you can get a little further down the line if you want to wait. Then basic clothes for the child, onesies, blankets to wrap them in, stuff like that.”
And for many, a baby monitor has become a required buy. There are basically three kinds out there. Your standard audio monitor will run you around between $20 and $50. You’ll set up one unit where the baby is sleeping and another where you are. Many come with two handsets that you can set up in different rooms. Or, if you’re me, you can set up one in the room you’re usually in and then put batteries in the other one so you can take it with you all around the house. The second option is a video monitor. Those cost about $150 and they will let you watch baby sleep from another room. The third is a motion-detector monitor, which doubles as an audio monitor. I had one of these; I loved it. With the motion-detector monitor there’s a pad that slides under your baby’s mattress and it detects when they move, even when they breathe. If no movement at all is detected for 20 seconds, the alarm goes off so you can go and check on your baby. Mine also had two parent units to place around the house. So that’s some of what you can’t do without.
Well what can you do without? Liz Pulliam Weston has some ideas.
“Changing table is one of them. There are a lot of changing table designs out there and you just assume it’s something that you have to have in your nursery. Well, you can get a little thing that sits on top of the dresser and use that because the important thing is getting the baby up high enough so you’re not bending over. Half the time you’ll be changing on the floor or in the back of the car or somewhere else. So changing table isn’t necessary. Baby furniture, in general, other than a crib, isn’t really necessary. You should be buying things that can transition to when he or she is older. Something else I never found a use for — diaper stackers. I mean, some moms swear by them, I never used it.”
“The crib sets they sell you with the bumper and cute little quilt and everything and the skirt. Well, the bumper itself can be dangerous with an infant and the rest of it is usually way, way overpriced. If you’re going to get a coordinated crib set, make sure you’re getting one that’s a value. I found one that was 50% off at a consignment store. And it was actually new it just hadn’t sold well wherever it was sold originally. Something else you don’t need is a carseat for every car. They have designs where you just put the base in and then you move the bucket from car to car. That’s a really good thing to start with rather than buying all these infant carseats you’re going to have to swap out for forward facing seats. And jogger strollers, we had one. Everybody in our neighborhood had one and they didn’t get used. So I would see that you’re really going to be out there jogging before you get one.”
Then there are things that are optional. Things like a wipes warmer. Many moms say those are a complete waste of money, things like that. Other moms swear by wipes warmers, in particular. Weston is one of them.
“Yeah, I got one from my husband’s cousin and she swore by them and I thought it was great because the room where we had my daughter tended to be a little cold. We tried to keep it warm, but having those nice warm wipes it really seemed to soothe her and it made me feel better. So for what, 30 bucks, that to me was a worthwhile purchase.”
Katina Jones wrote the The Everything Get Ready For Baby Book, and she says other optional things include toys or things to occupy the baby, like exersaucers.
“Those are the kind that the child can have mobility in all directions and spin around, but it’s still in one place, it’s not moving, it doesn’t have wheels, it’s got the rubber bottom to it. A lot of babies find that highly entertaining.”
So you might want one, but that can wait awhile. Another thing that can wait is a high chair.
“The high chair is something that would be required later on but you don’t need it immediately because the baby is going to most likely be in a baby carrier or some kind of chair that you’ve got or you’ll be holding the baby if you’re breastfeeding. So you won’t really need a high chair until you hit the toddler time and you get into the finger foods.”
How about a swing? Do you need one of those?
“Some babies like them and some babies don’t. So it’s hard to know. It would be really great if you could take one for a test drive, but they don’t do that in stores. So what you can do is, if you have a friend who has one, go to the friend’s house and put the baby in it and see how the baby does. If the baby seems to like it, that’s great.”
Many moms with babies who have reflux — which is more common in formula-fed babies and preemies although any baby can get it — well, they love their swings. They also love baby bouncy seats. I had a particular seat for my reflux baby that didn’t bounce, but was elevated so she could sleep. That, for me, was not optional at all! So when you’re making your list of what you need and what may be optional for you, talk to other moms, find out what they liked and what they didn’t like, what worked for them and what didn’t work and why.
Another optional purchase many moms make is a sling. Hilary Ward makes slings, and she sells other soft baby gear at SoftBabies.com. She used slings for both of her babies and she loves them.
“It’s an easy way to keep a baby asleep. Babies love to sleep right close to mom and it keeps your baby asleep or you can ride a bus as opposed to toting around a stroller or something like that. I think they’re a really handy way to be a lot more portable than with the whole big baby bucket, the stroller and the whole 9 yards.”
Slings are great for high-needs babies who get anxious when they’re put down for too long. You still have to get stuff done, you know, and even if your baby wants to be held all the time — and a lot of them do — Ward suggests you sling them. Then you can hold them but have both hands free to make dinner or do the laundry. She says slings aren’t just for you, mom.
“I had my girlie-looking slings, but the plain black one he would just kind of get the baby to sleep with him in the evening when we had kind of had enough of each other, and it was a new face to have with daddy and it was a good way for them to bond, too.”
For most everyone, diapers are not optional. But disposable may be. Mothering Magazine says there are 18 billion disposable diapers thrown in landfills every year, taking as many as 500 years to decompose. Some moms don’t like that idea, so they’re going cloth – yes, cloth diapers. Hilary Ward knows something about them.
“There are a couple different systems, and I’ve used the prefold system, which is like a flat diaper that you fold and you put a cover over it. I used those when my babies were little, especially because baby diapers are just such a mess that you like the real absorption stuff. Then when my kids got older, I had the pocket diapers, which there’s an outer layer that’s waterproof and then there’s an insert that you put in that’s generally made of hemp, that is really, really absorbent material and you can put more than one if it’s overnight or something like that. Those are really good. I find that these systems that are multiple components actually work better because there are diapers you can buy that are supposed to be equivalent to a disposable diaper, they’re called all-in-one but those take forever to dry, at least in the summer when it’s humid or something like that. So if you can sort of take it apart, it dries a little bit better.”
Cloth diapering is more expensive than disposable diapering up front, but in the long run disposable diapering costs more. So with regard to diapering you can go in several different directions. You can diaper with disposables, you can use disposable sometimes and cloth diapers other times or you can completely cloth diaper. If you do cloth diaper, you can either hire a service to do your cloth diaper laundry for you or you can do it yourself. Oh, and by the way, there is a relatively new option out there you may want to investigate — flushable diapers. They have washable cloth covers and snap in plastic liners a lot like what you would see with cloth diapers, then there’s this flushable insert, this core that is absorbent. They may be environmentally friendly and convenient, too, so if you’re interested check them out.
Okay, so now you know some of what you need and some of what’s optional, but how do you pay for it? First things first, Money Expert Liz Pulliam Weston says be careful you aren’t suckered into buying a carseat or a stroller just because it’s a trendy name brand and everybody’s got it.
“You do have to just to take a deep breath. Our whole society is filled with pressures to get us to spend more and show off a label, whatever. You might as well get some practice starting now saying no because heaven knows we’re going to be having those arguments with our kids when they’re older, when they insist they need $400 sneakers.”
So how do you figure out if that $300 carseat is really worth it?
“I really relied on that Baby Bargains book. They do a lot of testing every year, they keep up with all the recalls and their point of view is that you can get a decent carseat for 50 bucks. I let my mother-in-law buy the fancy one for the fancier car for us for the shower. You really can get by with a basic stroller that doesn’t cost a fortune. I think a lot of times people feel pressured into buying the name, kind of showing off like they do feel pressured into buying the best car they can or can’t afford. You really do need to step back and say is it really important that my daughter has an $800 stroller or a $300 carseat. Wouldn’t that money be a lot better spent put it in her college fund so it can grow over time? They’ve got 18 years ahead of them for this money to grow, that’s a significant amount of time and even small amounts tucked away can really build up. So anytime you’re tempted to go for the name, I was say just think about going for the brand name when she goes to college and maybe skimp a little now.”
Everything Get Ready for Baby book author Katina Jones says she’s been on that playground, too, where people spend too much on things because of social pressure. She says it may be hard to stand firm against that pressure, but you can do it.
“Just making sure that you always think in terms of what do I really need and who does this say more about? Is this really for the baby or is this for me to be able to tell other people about it. If you find yourself telling people about something a lot, then it’s probably more so for the benefit of those people and to enhance your mommyhood.”
So don’t spend more money on things than you have to, okay?
And as Liz Pulliam Weston says, accept donations. Your friends are probably dying to get rid of their stuff because it takes up a ton of space.
“It does, and I was really amazed at how eager other parents were to give me stuff until I got to the point where I realized holy cow, now I have all this, I have the slide that she used when she was 18 months old, we had the little car with the handle that she rode around in, all this stuff, the jogging stroller and most of our houses are already filled to bursting and you add a kid to it, it just makes it worse. Other parents are very willing to get rid of some of their stuff.”
So take what’s offered to you if you need it. It can save you a ton.
The next thing to do is hit the consignment stores. Weston says these stores will be packed with new or lightly used gear practically for nothing. So where do you find one?
“Start asking other moms, really. Just go onto a message board and say hey, do you guys know of any stores or just Google ‘baby consignment store’ and see what comes up.”
Then it’s time to hit the garage sales. Yes, you.
“Some people really balk at the idea of putting a used toy in front of their child. My feeling is you got to get over that because you never know what the kid is going to like, and half the time it’s the cheapest toy you’ve gotten them. My daughter is 4 and she’s still happiest with $10 worth of $1 items. The big toys tend not to get played with as much. So what I learned from other moms is with plastic toys, you get those Lysol wipes or you simply spray them down with Lysol spray or you rinse them in the sink with a light bleach solution. Stuffed animals, you just put them in the washer. Honestly, you run them through on gentle, you put them in the dryer on low and bam, you’ve got a clean, practically new-looking toy.”
And of course you’ll get a ton of stuff at your shower, and Weston wants to pass on a little wisdom she acquired the hard way.
“I bought all these onesies and I got even more at my shower and I went out and I washed them all because I was absolutely sure that was the right thing to do, that’s what all the books told me to do. Well, the fact is, she grew so fast that she didn’t even get into half those onesies and I could have returned them if I hadn’t been so diligent in washing them. So that’s something else a new mom should think about.”
So keep receipts for everything, you never know what you’re going to use and what you aren’t, and it will probably surprise you, as a matter of fact. Oh, and another thing! Even if you misplace the receipts, many stores will accept baby items for exchange. We got some diapers at our shower that were so big, my daughter will be potty trained before she would be big enough to wear them. We didn’t have the receipt but the store did exchange them for a smaller size, no questions asked.
Weston says there are a couple of things you’re going to need that aren’t going to be on the gift registry list at Baby’s R’ Us. You may want to hire a postpartum doula or a mother’s helper for after the baby is born.
“In the old days we had extended families that could give us a break, watch our kids, whatever. Today a lot of us are living far from our families and just having a few hours to yourself can be a huge, huge sanity restorer. So if you possibly can set aside some money so you can get a couple hours a week of just alone time, if nothing else but go take a bath, use the bathroom, whatever, go out and do a little shopping, whatever it takes. You really do need that time and you need somebody you trust to look after the baby.”
A lactation consultant, someone who will help you through any problems you may have while nursing your baby. It’s a great investment.
“It’s another thing that people think is going to come naturally and man, it does not for most of us. We need a lot of help, and I went to the breastfeeding stuff beforehand, I went to seminars, I went to La Leche meetings and I still needed to hire a lactation consultant to help me out and it worked great because I was able to nurse for 14 months, which I think was terrific and women do it for even longer, but it’s hard to get started and it’s good to have that extra help.”
If you spend money on a lactation consultant early, you may be able to nurse longer, therefore saving money in the long run on formula.
Weston says although she wants you to make a baby gear budget and stick to it, she does hope you will build in a few luxuries.
“Try to think about putting some money aside for some massages, for some dinners out with just you and your husband. If this is your first child, this really is the last time for a long time you won’t need a babysitter. A lot of people even do kind of a Babymoon, which is a little vacation or even a longer vacation where they enjoy their duo status for the last time. If these things are important to you, definitely put aside some money for that.”
Now, you just heard Weston say not to use a credit card, and she means don’t use a credit card for any of this stuff.
“No, no, no only if you’re the type of person that charges and pays off in full, if you’re only going for the rewards then go ahead and use the credit cards. Otherwise use cash, I mean it’s kind of an old fashioned notion but you really don’t want to be paying for this stuff when your kid is in college. You want to try to keep a limit on it so you can feel good about the fact that you’ve done this, you’ve been creative, you did it on a budget and you still have money leftover to pay for everything else that’s coming down the pipe.”
So how do you buy everything you need without plastic? Everything Get Ready for Baby book author Katina Jones says before you allow yourself to become overwhelmed by that thought, think about this…
“Honestly, you’ve got 9 months. This is why, I think, God gives us 9 months to prepare for having babies because probably in the infinite wisdom he has realized that it takes a while to amass the things that you need and to get ready for the idea of even having a baby. So not only is your body getting ready for delivering this child, but your environment, you have to change a lot of things about your home and the way you live, so as you’re doing that over a period of time, you can do this, you can get one piece at a time, one piece per month that you need that are the big pieces, like one month you buy the crib, maybe another month you buy the changing table if you want, another month you buy the carseat if that’s the way you want to do it. If that’s the way you prefer.”
And if you can’t get every single thing on the optional list, it doesn’t make you a bad mom. It’s okay.
“The baby isn’t going to remember any of these things when they get older and what they’re going to remember most of all is the time and love and care you spent with them. That’s the most critical piece and people don’t see that as part of the equation often enough. But I do think it’s the most important and critical thing.”
And Weston says any moment you spend stressing out about buying baby gear is a moment wasted.
“Just enjoy the ride, I mean, it’s easy to get uptight about money. It’s easy to start worrying about how good a mom you’re going to be or whether you can afford all of this. Just relax and enjoy it, it is going to be the best ride of your life.”
The best ride of your life, with a carseat in the back.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Pea in the Podcast: Baby Gear. Please visit our website, peainthepodcast.com, for more information about our experts, to find links and transcripts, and to register to receive tailored week-by-week shows for each week and stage of your pregnancy. It is everything you need to know about your body, your baby and the big changes ahead in your life in your journey to becoming a mommy. For Pea in the Podcast, I’m Bonnie Petrie. Thanks for listening.