Before you purchase or make plans to borrow a single piece of baby gear, you should make a list of the essentials. I considered the following items to be essential:
- changing table pad (to put on top the dresser)
- car seat
- high chair
- baby swing
- pack and play
- bouncy seat
- baby bath tub
My mom and step-dad offered to buy the crib for us, and for each of my siblings when they are expecting their first babies. My husband's family pitched in and purchased the stroller/car seat combo (travel system), and my sisters and aunt purchased a glider for the nursery. That took care of three huge items.
Begging: Hand-Me-Down Gear
If you have friends or family who are done having children, consider asking them for their hand-me-down baby gear. Most likely, they would love to help. Who doesn't like helping out a young couple starting a family? And most people would rather see someone they know use their old stuff than sell it in a garage sale. If someone generously offers hand-me-downs, then take them and enjoy. If it's a friend and you're asking them, then offer to purchase it. Honestly, as soon as we told people we were pregnant, many of our friends and family were offering us their gear. Here are the items we received, gently used: pack and play, 2 high chairs, baby monitor, bassinet, 2 exersaucers, bouncy seat, swing, breast pump, extra car seat bases, and probably something else I'm forgetting.
What you may want to think twice about receiving used:
- Car Seats: Car seats should never be used again if they've been in a significant car accident. According to my insurance adjuster, if a car seat has been through a small fender bender, it's actually OK. Mine was not a small accident (I was broadsided over a year ago), so my insurance company bought a new one for us, and I can't figure out what to do with the old car seat. The only thing it's good for now is the junk yard.
- Cribs and other old furniture: Lead paint IS a big deal, because ingesting it can cause harm to a developing brain and reduce IQ points (and who of us has brain cells to spare?). Think twice about using an older crib. But if it's newer, the only things you need to be concerned about is the spacing of the crib slats and the drop down sides, most of which have now been recalled. But read the recalls with wisdom. I'm sure your baby is still safe in a crib with a drop down side.
- Recalled items: As I said above, read recalls with wisdom. One of our high chairs has been recalled because it has an area for storing the tray. According to the recall, a child could fall and hit the small pegs, causing lacerations. No big deal! But I ordered the kit to adjust it anyway, because why not? Our bassinet has also been recalled for a much more serious reason, but it's only an issue when used as a co-sleeper rather than a bassinet.
If you know that you're going to have one or two kids, consider borrowing some of the items. I know it's nice to have things new, but if you want to save as much money as possible, borrowing might be a good option. Items that are perfect for borrowing are the things that you'll only use for 1-6 months, things like breast pumps, bumbo seat, swing, bassinet, slings (maybe), baby bath tub (if you use it--lots of people bathe their babies in the sink, but I was more comfortable with a baby bath tub and the newborn insert). We opted not to borrow anything, since we received so many things as gifts or as hand-me-downs, and since we knew we wanted a large family. Borrowing a crib to have (Lord willing) four or more children makes little sense!
Shopping for Steals
For starters, avoid shopping for anything. Maybe it's just me, but I'm a sucker for adorable baby items. I generally avoid the baby section at stores because it makes me want stuff that I don't need. When I was pregnant, I didn't purchase a single item until after we'd had all four of our baby showers. It made no sense to buy things when all of our family and friends were so excited about our baby that they were just itching to purchase something for her.
Check garage sales or tell family and friends who are avid garage salers, and they'll probably do the shopping for you. I was probably about 10 weeks pregnant with Isabelle when a friend called me from a garage sale. She'd found gorgeous baby girl bedding for $30. If I wanted it, she'd buy it for me and I could pay her back. The problem was that I didn't know if I was having a girl or boy. I told her to buy it. For $30, I could sell it at a garage sale and make my money back if I didn't like it or need it. But I loved it. It's a beautiful pink and white toile and stripe combo with a matching patchwork quilt, all made by BabyGap. It likely cost at least $200 brand new. Friends also had a garage sale when we were pregnant, so we did some early bird shopping when they were setting up and purchased a number of board books and DVDs for the baby at cheap prices (they offered to give them to us, but we wanted to help out their garage sale).
Be sure to shop at local consignment shops or sales. These can be great places to find deals on larger items. The sales are never as cheap as a garage sale, but at least you don't have to wake up too early in the morning to find a steal.
The Grand Total:
When it was all said and done, we received nearly everything we needed in the form of hand-me-downs and gifts. The only baby gear items we purchased were a dresser (full-sized, not infant-sized) and a crib mattress. Surely, God is a mighty provider.
Next issue on deck: Baby clothes. I've mastered the art of storing hand-me-downs, and I'll share what I've learned through trial and error and through reading The Tightwad Gazette.
To read more in the Babies on a Budget series, click here.