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Baby Shopping – The Temptation to Spend

by Ryan Guina

As I have mentioned a few times already, my wife and I are expecting our first child. We recently started looking at baby items like baby furniture, strollers, car seats, Pack N’ Plays, etc. It’s amazing how little babies need so much stuff!

But the more we talked to other parents and looked through baby stores, the more we realized that we don’t need the majority of the baby items companies want you to believe you need. But the temptation to spend remains. We are excited about bringing new life into the world and I think companies play on that excitement to entice people into spending more money. Not just new parents, but their family and friends as well.

My wife and I are taking things slowly. We are still researching what we will need and won’t need, and so far, we have eliminated dozens of items from “the essential baby item list” that was probably put out by some marketing company. So far, our plan has been to go through the list line by line and decide whether or not we need the item, when we will need it if we do, and whether or not it is something we can get cheaper at a consignment store – yes for a bouncer, no for a car seat (safety reasons).

Necessity vs. practicality. My wife and I have the money to purchase the items we need to have a happy and healthy baby, but we are limited in other areas, such as space and time. Our house is not large and eventually we will need to upgrade to a larger home. The limited space in our house means we can’t go all out with a full suite of baby furniture. And the more I look into it, the more I realize that it isn’t necessary for a newborn. A place to sleep – yes. But a multi-piece furniture set complete with crib, changing table, dresser, toy chest, etc. is overkill for our needs. We want to ensure that what we buy is both necessary and practical for our situation.

Quality vs. cheap. My wife and I are more interested in buying quality items instead of just saving money. If that means spending more money to buy an item we think will last longer, then we will do it. The last thing we want to do is have to replace something after a few months.

Our car and house will need upgraded – but not yet. We live in a relatively small 2 bedroom town house that is more vertical than horizontal. We have enough space for a child, but the layout doesn’t leave much room for the baby to walk or run, which babies like to do. We also plan on having more than one child, so eventually we will need to buy a larger home. But our baby won’t reach the walking stage for well over a year from now, so we have time before we need to upgrade. The same thing goes for our cars. I drive a 4 door compact car, and my wife drives a 2 door Honda Accord. Obviously, the Accord won’t be a good fit for a newborn, so my wife and I plan on trading cars until we absolutely need something larger, or it makes sense to buy. Right now both of our cars are paid off, and not adding a car payment is much more attractive to us than having a slightly larger car.

The temptation will only get worse. My wife and I still have a few months before our baby is due, and we only recently started looking at baby items. I have a strong feeling that the temptation to spend money will only get worse as we get closer to D-Day. It’s a good thing we already started planning. A well-planned list will certainly save us money.


Published or updated April 7, 2009.
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Four Pillars

Sounds like you guys are taking the right approach. It really is hard to avoid spending – you want to provide the best for your child and most baby items are very “cute”.

My advice is stay out of the stores – the temptation is just too hard to resist.

I think a lot of new parents make the mistake of trying to get everything bought and ‘ready’ before the baby arrives which might even include a new house or car. The reality is that you will have time to get things you need later and most items won’t get used until the baby is much older anyway. The first month or two – you need almost nothing.

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2 jennifer

Read the book ‘Baby Bargains’. It rates everything based on price and safety–offering charts to scan at the end of chapters. No advertisers made any money off the book–the info came from moms. They also have a website babybargains.com which offers a forum for moms and dads to be.
examples of things I have learned:

All cribs have to comply with federal guidelines, so a $100 crib is going to be just as safe as a $1000 crib.
Bumpers are not necessary and actually frowned upon in Canada (safety concerns)
IKEA offers some of the best, inexpensive baby furniture.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it has been extremely helpful!

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3 Kristen

I’m right there with you Ryan. Fortunately my best friend just had a baby, so I’m learning from her as we plan for our arrival. One thing that everyone I know got a lot of use out of was a Pack ‘N Play. They have really basic models and really fancy models. They seem to be particularly helpful if your baby will ever spend a night away from home because you can fold it up and use it like a travel crib.

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4 FFB

Man, we were at Babies R Us this past weekend. So hard to not want to buy up everything. You see all the great toys, clothes, and gadgets for your child and you want to see him/her in them all. Deep down though it’s all for your own pleasure to see this not the child’s. In reality the child just wants to sit in a big diaper box (cost free with diapers).

We didn’t even look for a crib until our little guy was about three months old. He stayed in a bassinet until then. We were fortunate to get some gifts from our baby shower that we ended up not needing that we returned for gift cards. We used that and other gift cards to buy the crib.

Lesson: take your time!

Also, reach out to any friends and family that have kids. They may be more than happy to part with their stuff that’s sitting around. Many things lucks excersaucers will only be used for a few months so they are relatively new.

And I totally agree on getting quality provided you don’t go too crazy. We spent some money on our current umbrella type stroller but we wish we went with the slightly better model as the wheels are wearing out already. On the other hand we didn’t want to drop $500-$1000 on a fancy stroller either.

Check out forums for their reviews! I also love checking out Amazon to see what people say about a product.

Oh, last thing – When you feel the urge to buy something for your baby remember that it has to go somewhere! It’s very easy to turn your house into a big cluttered mess full of baby toys and gadgets that aren’t all used.

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5 Kyle

From experience you never really know what you will and won’t need/want. You could get the fancy bottles only to find out your child only wants the $1 bottles, or vice versa. Some people recommend a wipe warmer, that was the biggest waste of money ever from our stash of worthless baby stuff. We are expecting our second child and I know I am going to be right back in the thick of trying to decide whether or not we really need this or that.

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6 PT Money

Congrats again on the little one on the way. I definitely agree with your approach. You won’t really know what you need till you need it sometimes. And then it’s too late to bargain shop..you just need the darn thing. So, be ready to give up a little of the control in that regard.

Oh, and people are going to give you a ton of stuff. Especially nice clothes. We only needed to buy the basic outfits which aren’t expensive.

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7 Ryan

Thanks for the tips, everyone. :)

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8 Craig

Clearly I can’t speak from experience on this one so really can’t offer any real advice, just stuff from listening to my mom. Sounds like quality on certain things, like a crib for example or worth it, especially if you plan on having more kids. Most of the stuff you buy you will reuse throughout the years if you have more kids. Also, if you have some type of baby shower, you may get a lot of the stuff from their given as presents. Maybe even wait till that time to see exactly what you still need to buy.

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9 Kacie

I took a minimalist approach with buying stuff for my baby (now 3.5 months old). Turns out, we need even less than I thought.

I know you’re being hit with baby-related advice from all sorts of people (it happens to all of us!) so I just want to say that it sounds like you’re doing the right thing in buying only the absolute necessities — car seat, diapers — and getting other things as you decide you need them.

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10 Adam @ Checkbook Diaries

We are in the same boat as our baby is due in June. We are very frugal with ourselves, but are also very giving people and I’m sure will want the best for our baby. We’ll just need to remember that “the best” means love, not things.

Good luck with your little one!

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11 Dan

Don’t go cheap on the car seat – the most critical baby item.

Make sure you do buy plenty of crib mattress covers, burp cloths, and other absorbent/cleaning fabrics for the vomit-filled nights.

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12 Mrs. Micah

If you have a girl, it’ll be a lost cause because you’ll want to dress her up in everything! Not that I have a baby girl, but I know a few and even though I’m not their mom I want to buy them stuff *sigh*

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13 DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad

Don’t spend until after the baby shower– you will probably get more than you need, but you can fill in on the missing then.

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14 plonkee

You’ve lived in the UK, right? This means that you must have learnt from us Brits that you don’t need all that much space with small kids (where else could you have picked it up ;) ). For a family with 1 or 2 kids, your car situation would be typical over here, and I think many people that can upgrade to a larger house would wait a couple of years until the children are closer to school age.

‘Tis a fundamental truth that the larger your space, the more stuff you will have. I think being in a smaller place while the baby is little is going to save you a fortune. Of course, as Mrs. Micah rightly points out, this is moot if you have a girl, because the clothes are so cute (and fairly unnecessary). Even for a boy, I’ve seen some amazing things (tiny denim jackets are surprisingly common). Good luck with resisting that.

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15 discount code

You can’t exactly know what you need for your baby until the baby has arrived. There may be some items that your baby may be comfortable with, while some do not make him/her feel pretty good at all. Also you should look for items with good quality especially the baby’s safety car seat. Look for vendors which have a wide range of knowledge and expertise which provides a lot of great details of the products they are selling.

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16 Emily

Ryan, we’re going through the same thing. After 5 years of trying to get pregnant (after our son), wee assumed it wasn’t happening and sold off everything. Guess what? :) So we’re starting from the ground up as well. I’ve been shopping craigslist, and that will probably intensify once we find out what flavor we’re having. The only thing I insist on buying from a store is a carseat. Not only do you not know if a used one has been in an accident, but a used one will likely not have a warranty card to send in so the manufacturer can notify you in case of recall. Also, let all your friends know you’re expecting (if you’re past that 12 week mark). Most likely a few of them have baby stuff taking up space that they’d love for you to borrow, if they don’t give it to you outright.

Best wishes to you and your wife!

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17 Ryan

Congrats, Emily! We have been shopping at thrift shops and plan on checking out Cragslist when we have a better idea of what we need. :)

We also plan on buying a new car seat – there is no way we would go used for that. Best wishes to you and your family as well!

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18 Ben

Congrats on the kiddo! Two words – garage sales

We got big items that have safety considerations (stroller, car seat) with money from baby showers. My wife did splurge on the crib but we’ll use it for all of our kids so that was bearable for me.

For toys and clothes we buy the majority at garage sales. You can buy stuff for cents on the dollar, hit the well to do neighborhoods this summer.

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19 Ryan

Thanks, Ben, and good tips. My wife and I have already discussed shopping for baby clothes at consignment stores. Maybe not as inexpensive as yard sales, but a little more convenient. We’ll definitely check out the yard sales though!

We’re going to buy high quality for the safety items as well. That’s the only way to do it!

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20 Casper

I remmember when planning all this when my daughter was about to arrive. It is amazing what some companies claims you need. Best thing is to make more than one list: One list with essentials, with all the things you know you must have, like a bed and so on, and then a list with good to have stuff and so on. You can always adjust some of the lists as time goes by and you learn more about you child, and what is actually good and whats not good to have.

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21 Ryan

Casper: That’s the plan so far. So far we have an essentials list, a list of nice to have items, and another that is a “wait and see” list. We plan on waiting until after the baby shower before we do much shopping.

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22 Michael

From experience, it is largely trial and error in terms of what you will actually make good use of. Every parent you talk to will be very passionate about recommending what worked well for them – and if you listen to them all you will end up buying everything!

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