Monday, March 24, 2014

How to Spend your Money: Part 1

There will come a time when, as a new parent, you will decide what to buy for that little crying sack of half your DNA. Usually the time to start thinking about this is when someone announces they are going to throw you a baby shower and you need to select the items other people are going to purchase for you. Hurray! But then you go to Target with that little scanner and walk the aisles trying to decide what is Important. Or you look online at your favorite baby store and see all the things that you MUST get for your baby or you are basically depriving them of a future at an Ivy League University. How could you?
It's a bit overwhelming.
Or perhaps you are a friend of these rapidly procreating baby-factories who keeps getting invited to shower after shower and you want to get something actually useful, and not more baby powder (ps no one wants baby powder. No one uses baby powder. They actually recommend that  you don't use baby powder on babies, so just say no.). Here is my ever important guide on how to spend your money. You definitely don't need to take my word on it, but I have had two kids, seven nieces and nephew (only one nephew so far), and loads of friends with kids. We all have different ideas of what is most important to us, but the same themes run through what is very important to survival with children.

UnofficialBailey's Guide on How to Spend Your Money: Kid Edition

What to Splurge On
1. Ok there are few very romantic things about a new baby, or the whole getting-the-baby-out thing. They are messy and goofy looking. They poop and puke and sleep and cry. Don't believe me? Wait til you have one of these creatures. One of the most important things you can buy- a solid diaper changing table. I am NOT even joking. Most kids are not potty trained until they are 3 or older. So that's 3 plus years of shlepping a child on and off the table. We bought a very nice model that was used at a garage sale. It was, let's say, shabby chic. But it is a very sturdy wood table with many drawers. So useful. My sister bought a cute jungle-themed table and it was not sturdy. The table part broke, and she thought she would soon be done with diapers so she spent a year, a year!!, changing her son on the floor. That is just dedication I do not have. Get a good changing table.
2. Invest in a very solid stroller. This will be your chance to escape the confines of your house. Seriously. If you live in a wintery climate, make sure the stroller is rugged enough to handle going over snow and ice. Because after months of cabin fever you will go out in almost any type of weather. Make sure it can fit through a standard doorway. Many come equipped for jogging, etc if you feel that will be beneficial for you. I don't believe in running, but I still chose the running-type model. The wheels tend to hold up better to abuse and are good for off-road. We got a bumbleride indie and then with the birth of our second, a bumbleride indie twin. I get stopped all the time to give moms and grandmas info about what type of stroller it is. They are good looking and incredibly rugged. You can usually get last year's model for a reduced rate at a local retailer, like we did, and the resale value is incredibly high. My sister got a graco and the wheels were such crap that it was like pushing a heavy brick. I personally like the side by side, but others prefer the front and back style double strollers. My bumbleride folds down and doesn't need to be unassembled and reassembled to fit in my car. Godsend. Ain't nobody got time to assemble each time they get out of the car, especially with young kids.
3. A good highchair and carseat. These are kind of duh, but they really do make the most sense. The carseat will house your small child for years if you get the right model. We went with small removable carseats when the boys were infants, and as soon as they outgrew those we bought Britax adjustable models, the ones that grow with them up to 70 pounds. We got the style with side head foam for extra analretentive protection. High chairs are likewise important because that kid will be sitting and slobbering and pooping all over it for a few years. Most likely at least two. We got our highchair from my parents who bought it at a garage sale, but it was a great brand. It folded down flat (not that we ever did that) and was super easy to clean. These aspects are very important. Whatever you get, make sure it's easy to clean. Kids are messy. And after one bout of any type of gastro flu, you will appreciate the ability to clean.

What to Save On
1. Clothing. For the first six months all your baby is going to do is try to soil their clothes in as many ways as humanly possible. Do not buy anything white or off white unless they will be in it for less than an hour. Even that time frame is a little sketchy. If you have garage sales in your area, stock up. If you have mom-to-mom sales, stock up. You can get onesies for a quarter or a dollar, as opposed to $7+, which is just unreasonable. Also your kid is going to grow like a bean sprout so that outfit will probably get worn three times before they outgrow it.
2. Educational Toys. Your kid comes out like a blind mole rat. All these DVDs to teach them appreciation for the arts, etc are great in concept, but seriously. You will be nursing or feeding them while you chow down on whatever is close enough to prevent you from getting up watching whatever you want. They will be paying no attention. Enjoy this brief window to watch your shows and movies, because soon enough you will be watching enough Dora or Dinosaur Train that you want to drink your way to bedtime. Babies can make do with cloth blocks and whatever rattles, etc that you can get at garage sales or handed down from friends. Most toys don't get a lot of attention until much later, and the toys that you think will be popular with your kids often aren't.

What to Wait On
1. Bottles and pacifiers. You do your research and find a certain brand is the BEST omg how could any parent not buy them. Well guess what? Little fussbucket could care less how it was rated by Organic Snob Magazine. Your baby will choose what style of bottle or sippy they prefer, what type of pacifier they will accept. They are the master of their own mouth domain and you are a mere servant. Don't go crazy stocking up until you try out a few styles and find one that works for you.
2. Cloth Diapers. Oh yes, I was that mom. I was going to cloth diaper my sweet little bundles. Well crap hit the fan and it is a lot of work and pretty smelly work to cloth diaper. And I spent a small fortune buying every size of diaper for my brood. The good thing is most cloth diapers have a pretty good resale, especially Bumgenius (my brand of choice). It isn't worth it to blow a small fortune and never use them, and then feel the guilt of the diapers calling to you from the closet. If you feel you want to cloth diaper, buy one or two styles and give it a go for a week. See if it is a realistic goal for you. It may be. I knew people who cloth diapered for years very successfully. I was not one of them. And many of those people bought many and ended up switching styles. It just happens.
3. A pump. Many moms put a pump on their registry. They are crazy expensive. I borrowed my sister's because I am cheap. They say absolutely do not share pumps. Whatever. I believe it's a lot of hype. Do you know who you are getting it from? You should so you know it's clean. The motor can house moisture and bacteria or some such, so take it apart and check it out. And buy new tubes and cups. Obviously. But that sets you back a lot less than a new pump. Plus, there is a good chance that nursing may not happen for you. I've known too many moms that beat themselves up over their inability to nurse successfully. I nursed for AGES, slightly less than 4 years total, and I could not pump to save my life. So even if you do nurse successfully, pumping may not happen for you. If you plan on returning to work soon after then I can see needing a pump, but still I would look into borrowing one from a friend and trying it out before you make the big financial commitment.

And the most important thing to consider:
Parenting is hard work. There are really no instructions for your child. Many people will tell you how to do it this way or how to do it that way. No child will conform perfectly to one style. Don't stress out if things don't go as planned. I had a different labor and delivery than I expected. My first child was a lot different than I was expecting. Survival needs to happen. So what if you can't cloth diaper and homemake all of your own organic food and nurse exclusively for 2 years while making all their clothing from fair trade local cloth. Do what you can. Enjoy the child. Sleep when you can. The rest is just details that won't matter ten years from now. Give yourself some room for grace.

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