Monkey and I live in one of the most expensive cities on Earth. In 2008, it was #1. That, paired with a flagging economy, paired with me not working, could mean trouble. ESPECIALLY as we are new parents, and don’t have the luxury of handing down clothes from one kid to another, etc. So, how do we make it work? I’ll tell ya – it doesn’t hurt that Monkey and I are both skint as all get out. 😉
I want you to answer this question before you go any further: What was the series number of the stroller your mum used? Can you remember what your nursery looked like (from memory, not photos)? What was your first designer label? I don’t know any of these answers, and I bet you don’t either. You didn’t care if your duvet matched your crib runner as a baby, why the hell do you think your baby cares now? Your kid cares that he is warm, fed, and loved. That’s IT. Everything else is your projections – what you want people to think about you. I look like Hell, but my kid is happy and healthy. That’s *all* that matters.
This is the Golden List of Austere Parenting
1. Freecycle/Donations first
2. Buy from friends/Ebay/forums/charity shops
3. Baby Club/bulk/DIY
4. Is it on Sale?
5. Some things you don’t scrimp on
1. Freecycle: Easy. Sign up for free, when you see something, ANYTHING for a baby, snarf it up. If you get it and it’s not exactly what you need, freecycle it on! And when you are done with your stuff, freecycle it away. Share the freebie love! We got 3 great TotsBots cover from freecycle, that saved me £15! If someone wants to donate old clothes/toys/bedding, ACCEPT IT GRATEFULLY. Every single thing we got from buddies I use and love. Also, your kid will probably get prezzies from excited friends and family – ask for multipacks of sleeper suits/onsies in various sizes. Yes, that super cute frilly outfit is more fun for them to purchase, but your kid will spit up all over it, whether it cost £5 or £50. If you are sick of plain white sleepers, you can tie die them (cheap and easy) for a burst of color without a punch of cost.
2. We all have friends. I am willing to bet some of those friends have had children or know someone who has. Ask if they have any crap they would like to sell off. When kids outgrow stuff, parents tend to pack it away in case they may need it again. If they decide they don’t want more kids, are going to go with another model next time, etc, they will love selling you their old stuff. They know it’s going to a good home, and they get a little money out of the deal – win win! Charity shops are a fantastic find for toys (clean thoroughly), clothes (they grow like weeds!), and sheets/blankies (dear Lord do they ever stop spitting up?!?!)
3. Sign up for any and all baby clubs. I created a separate web addy for just baby club listings, so I’m not spammed by them in my regular email addy. I check the inbox once a week or so for any good coupons/deals, and forget the rest. You can get some great coupons and deals through Pharmacy chains like Boots, or Mum and Me clubs with your big box stores. Speaking of Big Box, check out when your local Costco/BJ’s is having a ‘public day’, and STOCK UP. If you know you are going to disposable diaper, you could literally purchase your whole years’ worth of different sized diapers (of course, you need to have storage space). Are you handy? DIY baby crafts are everywhere, from knitting booties and hats to making no-sew blankies. Whatever your skill set, you can make things cheap and easy.
4. My rule is, if I can’t get the item I want using steps 1 -3, it better be on sale. Most stores have customer lists where you can sign up for coupons. On special months you can get up to 30% off your total purchase, and sometimes that is on top of the sale price! If I don’t see a sale sticker, I don’t even bother picking it up.
5. There are a few things you will want to purchase new: Mattresses for Moses basket and cribs, and teething rings/binkies (it can be very hard to get bacteria out of the micro tears in the material), and if you are really worried, bottles and sterilizing equipment (we have some new, some bottles from a friend). Other than that, go cheap. 🙂
We live in a one bedroom flat in London proper, which means NO ROOM. So, we got £15 plain wood open shelves from Ikea and created a sort of barrier down the middle of the living room to create the nursery. Bonus? No need for baby monitor, as I am always 20 feet away from my child no matter where in the flat I am, and I usually have visual at all times! And speaking of nursery, you don’t need ridiculous wallpaper borders and theme matching bedding – we decorated the area around his bed with laminated educational posters from a teacher store. Much cheaper, pulls up with bluestick, is just as bright as that expensive decoration, and he might actually learn something!
Furniture, pushchairs, and other big ticket items: There are certain things you should never scrimp on, and where your baby sleeps should be one of them. But, no one wants to pay full price for a cot/moses basket/crib that the kid will only use for a few months or so. So, we put the call out for anyone and everyone who was once a parent to unload their stuff on us. From one of Monkey’s old friends we got a £140 Mothercare crib for £40, a £250 Maclaren pushchair (birth to age 3!) for £80, a Moses basket (normally £20) for a fiver, and a gazillion other bits and bobs for pennies on the dollar. I do only recommend this if you know the people involved – you can rest assured they took care of the stuff, versus some random person on Ebay. Again, buy BRAND NEW mattresses, for safety’s sake.
Diapers/wipes/soap (the stuff you always go through): Call me crunchy, but we cloth diaper. Not only do we feel all Earth friendly, we have saved a boat load of cash! The tough part (financially) about cloth diapering is the initial outlay of cash – in the UK, you can spend up to £400 on a birth to potty diapering system. It doesn’t have to be that steep though. Check on Ebay or google ‘Cloth diaper resellers’. There are whole forums dedicated to people selling old cloth diapers. (Editor’s note: I have yet to buy used ones online or in person, so I cannot speak for the quality you receive, but the forums are very popular, so I am forced to believe everyone is treating each other well). You can also purchase new lots of different types of diapers for whatever your needs are – we use cheap (15 for £45) prefolds around the house, and more expensive fitteds (£15 apiece) for night time and when we go out. I know the thought of spending £15 on ONE diaper seems ridiculous, till you do the math. My whole cloth diapering system cost me about £100. Right now on Amazon, a 108 pack of Huggies Newborns is costing £18. Your newborn will go through about 8 – 12 diapers a DAY. That £18 pack will only last you about a week in a half. You will have spent £100 on diapers before your kid turns 7 weeks old! The average girl potty trains at the age of 2, the average boy and 2.5 years of age. Do you really want to do the math to find out how much you are going to spend on diapers for the rest of their time? I know I don’t. Even if I have to replace some diapers from wear and tear, it will never hit how much you will have to spend. Cleaning is actually quite easy, and has only slightly raised our water bill. And let’s face it, these are SO MUCH CUTER than a pair of Pampers. For wipes I cut up squares of flannel (about £5 a meter), and use the wipe solution found earlier in the blog to clean up Alex. Cheap, safe, easy, happy.
Feeding: If you can breastfeed, not only does your kid get super yummy immunity and antibodies, it’s also FREE. But, if you have to formula feed, once you find a formula you like, check online to see if you can buy them in bulk for a discount. Also, check your local moms group (in the UK, check with the NCT) for their next ‘Nearly New’ sale – you can get bottles and pump for cheap. Just boil the hell out of them, you should be fine.
Entertainment: You are dealing with a creature who is entertained by his own hands. You don’t need fancy toys. A teething giraffe, some stuff to hang on the crib when he is old enough (hello, £2 mobile!), and he is set. Also, check for local children’s centers (hurry now before the Tories close all of them) for free classes. Alex and I go to baby massage for free every Monday – we get a fun activity, and I get to talk to other new mums – yay for getting out of the house!
And finally, remember the most important thing – if your kid is happy, that’s all that matters. Forget the sticker shock now, save your cash for when your kid can understand commercials and starts screaming for every single toy on television.