This week's Thursday Thoughts is written by a guest blogger, Dan Griffin, of SavvyDollar.org. Dan and I have worked on many projects together in the last few years and he has agreed to share some of his frugal and financial wisdom with us over the next few months. Read how he and his wife found some great ways to be more frugal with all the purchases required for their first baby, born in 2010. To visit Dan's frugal forum, SavvyDollar.org, click here. Thanks, Dan!
Frugal Baby 101
2010 was quite a year for us. We began telling people we were pregnant in December of 2009, and by early 2010 we were in full-blown baby mode. This was our first, so like most new parents-to-be, we were a bit overwhelmed by the “what you'll need to buy for baby” lists. Luckily, we've learned a few things as we've navigated our way to now having a 5-month old.
Lesson 1: Talk to experienced parents and find out what you'll REALLY need
There's nothing I hate more than feeling like I've wasted money. So our first instinct after reading those “what to buy lists” was to talk to some experienced parents. Did we really need the diaper genie, the bottle sanitizer, or the white noise machine? After talking with some friends with multiple kids, our list shrank by at least half.
Lesson 2: Buy it used
One of our favorite discoveries last year was consignment sales. We are fortunate to have several really good ones in the Triangle (Try googling KidsExchange, Kids Everywear, Twice as Nice, etc.). Essentially a consignment sale is a huge garage sale under one roof with hundreds or even thousands of sellers. You will be amazed at the variety as well as the low prices. Consignment sellers split their revenues with the consignment organizer – so the prices are typically higher than garage sales, but we were perfectly willing to pay an extra dollar for the convenience of having so many thousands of items to choose from. Consignment sales typically have 50%-75% off sales on the last day, so we've learned to go the first day for the best selection and circle back on the last day to find the bargain basement prices. Don't forget to also check craigslist if you are looking for something in particular.
Lesson 3: Try cloth diapers – they're better than you think
This one surprised me. My wife had some friends who swore by cloth diapers. After getting lots of info from those friends and finding the Diapering Doula in Morrisville we decided to give it a try. Keep in mind, cloth diapers are not the “plastic pants” that my parents apparently used on me in the 70's. These are very comfortable, very absorbent, and much to my mom's surprise, require no pins. (Apparently safety pins went out years ago.) After trying a few, we decided to make a $500 investment in enough cloth diapers to last our current baby until she is out of diapers. The nice thing is that they will last through multiple children, so after the initial investment, we are home free. I can't really say with a straight face that I have done much in the diaper department, but my wife really likes the Fuzzy Bunz brand.
Lesson 4: Never pay retail
Ok...so you've shopped used, cut the buying list by half – but still you have a few things you need to buy new. For example, we decided for safety reasons that we would purchase a new car seat and a new crib. We found our crib (which I love) at a place you may never have even heard of – Burlington Coat Factory's “Baby Depot.” I never would have thought of shopping at Burlington Coat Factory for baby items, but we found a fantastic deal on a super nice crib. Even better, the lady working that section told me about a 20% off coupon in their monthly flyer! For our car seat, we ended up purchasing at Buy Buy Baby. The key point to learn here is that Buy Buy Baby is owned by the same parent company as Bed Bath & Beyond – and they accept Bed Bath & Beyond coupons. Bed Bath & Beyond has 20% coupons all over the place, so it was really easy to get an additional 20% off of our car seat.
There's a lot to learn about being a parent – and I'm fully aware that my wife and I have only scratched the tip of the iceberg. However, I hope that some of the lessons we've learned will help some of you who are embarking on the parenting journey.
Post contributed by Dan Griffin
Dan is the founder of Savvydollar.org a North Carolina focused savings forum. He has an MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill and while not currently working in the financial industry recently passed the national Certified Financial Planner exam. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.