Baby Bargains

The recession’s made it hip to be thrifty, but some of us were raised that way. S and I both grew up in houses where leaving lights on was a capital crime, dressing for school meant selecting from a small rotation of outfits, and eating at one of those fancy restaurants with more than one fork was an annual event. To this day, we’re not big shoppers. In fact, unless we’re in the right mood or really need something, we see shopping as a chore. But having a baby requires getting a lot of stuff.

We want our child to have the best and safest products available, but price is a factor. The money I bring in from tutoring is variable, and goes right back out to cover my tuition, so we’re making do on one salary. But so far, things have been working out just fine.

Partly we have our friend Miss Cheapist to thank for that. She turned us on to neighborhood parenting listservs. I’m sure a lot of cities have these. We live near Park Slope, Brooklyn’s (in)famous baby stroller strip, and the Park Slope Parents listserv is a bonanza of cheap and free items. Yesterday, I picked up over a dozen bottles with accoutrements and cleaning supplies, a beat-up but fine baby bathtub (the exact one we wanted no less), and never-used crib biting guards, all for forty bucks. I’m estimating we saved at least sixty dollars. The secret to finding a bargain on the listserv is speed, staying on top of your email so you can be the first responder. (And don’t get the daily digest – by the time that comes out everything’s been spoken for.)
We’ve also been fortunate to have generous friends. Our neighbor, who was pregnant about six months before S was, lent and gave her all sorts of maternity wear (some of which she inherited from pregnant buddies). S’s hardly needed to buy a thing. Friends who have older kids have given us baby stuff now that they’re done with it. Second hand stuff keeps both the economic and the environmental impact of having a baby low, and it has a good vibe to it too, knowing that some other tot used and enjoyed what our kid will have. We’ve found that many parents, as soon as they hear we’re having a child, want to offer us things or try to think of friends who can help us. I’m sure it helps them empty out their closets too, so it’s a good deal all around.

I always thought and feared that it would be super expensive to have a baby – it was part of the host of factors that made me think becoming a father was going to ruin my life. But keeping the little guy on budget and extending our cheapism to include another member of the family has been fun. Money, like every problem I thought was a deal breaker, has turned out to be manageable.


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