~by Andra Baehr, Shopping on a Shoestring with Kids in Velcro Shoes
Preparing for a baby is an exciting time in a new parent’s life, but it comes with a lot of big decisions, and can also be a little overwhelming. There are so many things to research, adjustments to be made to your home, huge financial changes and lots of purchases to consider.
A baby shower is one of the few occasions when it’s acceptable to suggest what gifts you’d like your guests to purchase for you by creating a registry. This concept was a little uncomfortable for me at first, but the fact of the matter is that when you have a baby shower, people will buy you gifts, and you may as well steer them in the right direction. Choosing what you add to your registry carefully can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Now that I’ve had a few years to reflect upon my own registry and pre-baby purchases, I’ve spent a lot of time wishing I’d done this-or-that. I’ve had items that turned out to be a complete waste of money and things that surprised me with how much use I got out of them. I have thought of a lot of things that I would’ve done differently with my registry and with the gifts I received. Hindsight is 20/20, and I couldn’t have really predicted the worthiness or longevity of all of my purchases, as every baby and household is unique. However, by thinking things through a little more thoroughly and doing some more in-depth research, I definitely could have made a few (actually many) wiser decisions when it came to my registry. Creating a registry gives you the very rare opportunity to choose your gifts… choose wisely.
I’ve kicked myself more than once (maybe a little too hard) while packing up a barely used baby item that I never really needed to begin with. I have a hard time forgiving myself when I realize that my money was not well spent, so this might be therapeutic for me!
A few general tips:
- Talk to other moms. Find out what things became a daily necessity and which things collected dust in a corner.
- Keep stuff in its packaging and resist the urge to remove tags from new clothing! I know this is hard, but there will likely be things you won’t ever use. Opening a box or snipping the tags transitions the item from being “brand new” to “used” even if you don’t end up using it. You will be thankful if you can return it or sell it. You will get more of your money back for things in their original packaging. Fight your urge to take the tags off of any clothing larger than size 3 months. Babies grow so quickly and sometimes skip sizes all together, so it’d best to wait to open an item until it’s actually time to use it.
- Once you’re committed to using an item, save the packaging. Even used items will resell for more if you have the original box and instructions. If you plan on saving larger items for future children, you will thank yourself over and over for the ease of storing things that are disassembled neatly in their boxes.
- Select gender-neutral colors and patterns. Of course you’ll want some pretty pink dresses for your daughter or you may want a sports themed nursery for your son, but consider neutral colors for things like car seats, high chairs, pack and plays, and other large items. Those items can add up to an astronomical amount of money, and if you plan on having more children, passing them along to friend, or selling them later on, your options will be more abundant with neutral colors.
- Don’t select items based solely on appearance. The fact that it matches your nursery or that you love the pattern doesn’t necessarily make it a wise purchase. Instead, do some research and make these choices based on safety ratings, longevity of use, and the space you’ll need in your home or car to accommodate it. Be sure to consider weight and height limitations, dimensions, age restrictions, and any other features you strongly prefer.
There are certainly things you can buy gently used, or accept hand-me-downs of, but some items are better purchased new. I think a good general rule of thumb here is that if your child’s safety depends on it, buy it brand new. Car seats, cribs, and crib mattresses are things you should be the first and only owner of. Make sure you fill out your registration cards so that you can be notified of recalls.
Things to add to your registry:
In addition to adding all of the obvious necessities to your baby shower registry, there are a few things that may be forgotten if you don’t make a point to direct your guests toward them. There’s something very important to remember here- regardless of what you register for, people love cute baby stuff, and they want to buy you a ton of it. People will certainly gift you lots of adorable newborn-sized clothing, tiny shoes, itty-bitty diapers, and cuddly-soft blankets. They will, I promise. Don’t register for them. You will likely have more of those types of items than you know what to do with. Realistically, your baby will probably wear pajamas for the first few weeks and certainly wont be doing any walking before they outgrow those tiny shoes. You can remind your guests about practical gifts by placing them on your registry.
- Anything disposable- Single use items that you will need to continue purchasing throughout your child’s first year are definitely worthy of your registry. Request multiples of each because sometimes if you only register for one, people will see it as “fulfilled” on your registry and skip over it. Things like nursing pads, breast milk storage bags, diapers, diaper disposal system refills (if you register for one), baby soap, laundry detergent, and bottle brushes are great things to stock up on since you’ll go through a lot of them. Remember to register for lots and lots of wipes, and for mostly larger sized diapers since your child will grow out of the smaller sizes more rapidly.
- Infant medicines- Infant gas relief, Tylenol, teething gel, and a really good thermometer are things you’ll definitely want to have on hand. However, remember that items like this have expiration dates so don’t register for toddler medicines or there’s a good chance you’ll throw them out before you ever need them.
- Toddler items- Sippy cups, bowls, utensils, child locks, an umbrella stroller, a potty seat, and any other toddler necessities you can think of are all good items to include on your registry. Any toddler items you foresee yourself needing in the future can be included on your registry, as long as it doesn’t expire. Don’t add a car seat that you won’t be using immediately to your registry since they expire and you want to get as much use as possible out of it.
Throughout your years of parenting, you’ll inevitably make some financial decisions that you’ll look back on later and realize weren’t the wisest choices. Parents are human, and we all have to learn from our own experiences. You’ll have a lifetime of deciding on the best ways to spend your hard-earned cash to benefit your child. Your baby shower is just the beginning! Start off on the right foot by making realistic and informed decisions, and you’ll be well on your way!
Andra Baehr lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. She is mom who recognizes the truth in the old saying “a penny saved is a penny earned.” You can also find her working at Baehr Family Financial.