Monday, January 13, 2014

Baby on a Budget

I'm back to work.

Thank God.  Because having a baby is not cheap.

But I'm cheap.

That's all there is to it.  But much to my surprise, the two CAN go together!

When we found out we were having a baby, one of my first thoughts was "cha-ching."  I could hear the bank account getting sucked dry!  We knew babies were "expensive," but on top of that, my job is strictly commission.  Until I'm sitting at the closing table, I don't get paid...and in real estate, the average lag time from activity to paycheck is 45-60 days.  We knew to budget for a maternity leave of at least 6 weeks.  Thanks to an emergency c-section, that leave turned into 8 weeks.  Thus, we were automatically looking at a minimum of 4 months without me bringing home any income.  Let me tell ya, that definitely made the "cha-ching" only grow louder!

In order to soften the blow once we learned of the pregnancy, we started socking away what money we could--but we also tried to cut as many corners as possible.  Fortunately, no pain came with being cheap...the only pain came when we had to face expenses that just couldn't be found at a reduced rate elsewhere (ie the crazy hospital bills).

I know not all of you are mamas or daddies, so this might not apply.  But if you know someone who's is expanding their family, maybe some of these tips will help them?!  Who knows...but I thought I'd pass some of it on...

CONSIGNMENT SALES.  We bought things like bouncers, burp rags, bibs, basic onesies, play mats, stroller, you name it at our local semi-annual kid consignment sale.  Just the other day, we literally cut a onesie off of Akinya when she had a record setting blowout--considering we paid just pennies for the onesie, we weren't out anything.  You wouldn't want to buy everything there, but we managed to pay about 1/3 of the retail cost (including tax) for everything.  Uh-mazing!

MATERNITY CLOTHES.  A lot of women borrow maternity clothes, but honestly, my ridiculous inseam made that nearly impossible.  So, I hit up eBay for gently used high-quality clothes...and I also stalked GAP, Old Navy and Pea In The Pod until they had sales.  Surprisingly enough, their sale prices were cheaper than Target & Motherhood Maternity, and the items always laundered without developing holes, etc.  Plus, the designs were "normal" enough that people thought I was still wearing my "regular" clothes while I was pregnant and I'm still wearing some of it as I wait for my pooch to disappear!

WAIT IT OUT. We obviously bought some things ahead of time--bouncers, a swing, etc--but I wouldn't go crazy buying every little thing out there.  With the advent of and their overnight delivery, I would recommend waiting out some things to see what you truly need once the baby is here.  I always heard a white noise machine is "a must."  Turns out, Akinya could sleep through a freight train running through the backyard.  We never bought a white noise machine and at this rate, I doubt we'll need to.  There's a lot of stuff out there that you COULD buy for a baby, but how much of it do you really need???

WELLNESS INCENTIVES. Check with your health insurance provider to see if they have any prenatal wellness programs.  Our company offered one and if we went to just half of our prenatal appointments and called when the baby was born, they would give us a $250 Visa gift card.  You know how many diapers that will buy?! 

DON'T RELY ON YOUR REGISTRY.  My sister-in-law gave me this heads up and it was SO true.  While we certainly received much needed items from our registry, the seasoned moms in attendance usually gifted me items that I never would have thought of registering for--and now I find myself using those items all the time.  But, when it came to the leftover registry items that we wanted/needed, Amazon and Target offered post-baby-shower-date discounts for the items we took care of ourselves.  Discounts were from 10-15% so not huge, but every bit helps!

GOODWILL.  Maybe it's the transient nature of our community, but I have found super cute, name brand baby clothes at our local Goodwill.  There were times that I'd be in Goodwill and there were entire sections of baby clothes that still had the tags on them!  Hello, $35 Baby GAP sweater for just $2!  It's also a great option for basic sweats, onesies etc that are great during those first few weeks when you're pretty much home 24/7...or, those days when you go through 3-4 outfits!  

SECOND-HAND FURNITURE.  We scored well-loved "real" furniture on Craigslist that we had refinished.  It wasn't as cheap as buying the fiberboard alternatives, BUT, the stuff will last much, much longer--and it cost a fraction of what it would have cost to buy the items new at a furniture store. 

POST-DELIVERY MEALS.  Several months prior to my due date, I started buying items when they'd go on sale and when I would make one dish, I'd make enough to freeze for another meal.  I even did this with basic items such as taco and sloppy joe meat, sauteed diced chicken, etc.  Two and a half months into life with a baby, we're STILL digging into our stash of food.  We only order out once every blue moon as we always have something to eat and usually it's quicker to defrost taco meat than it is to wait on the pizza guy!  

However, if you do find that you are ordering out, pick up gift cards from your local Kroger/Dillon's for the restaurant.  It won't save you money on the cost of the food, but you get crazy gas points for buying the gift certificates at the grocery store.  Also, the holidays is a great time to snag deals on the cost of the gift cards.  For example, several weeks ago, Hy-Vee was offering $100 worth of gift cards for just $80 bucks.  

CREDIT CARD REWARD POINTS.  We have a credit card that we use for gas, groceries, etc...We discovered we had enough reward points to purchase a new crib and changing table and pay only $40 out of pocket.  Had we waited several more months, we wouldn't have had to pay anything, but it was more important to us that the items arrive while I was still able to help put them together.  Every month, we pay the balance on our card, so I love earning money when purchasing items that we already have to buy!

THANK YOU NOTES.  Go to Target and buy their bulk Thank-You cards.  You get 50 cards for about $8.  They are super cute and the quality is excellent.  And if you have any manners, you will write a LOT of thank-you notes once you have a baby.  At last count, we're at 120+ cards!  I definitely feel like we're doing our part to keep the Postal Service in business!  

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