Monday, September 27, 2010

Affording Our Baby.

3 weeks old

You may be thinking to yourself, "Doesn't Ashley work at a Catholic school? And isn't her husband working on his PhD? Then how the heck can they afford to have a baby??"

And you would be right. Between the two of us, we make less than many college-educated people make with ONE income, let alone two. And, yet, we just had a baby. Which many people will tell you is a little money-sucker. I'm sure you've heard the numbers - "in your baby's first year, you can easily spend $9,000-11,000!" 

But I wanted to share how we're making this whole having-a-baby thing way cheaper. In addition to all the other ways we try to save money (note: That post is old. I have no longer 'cut the caffeine habit,' happily.), we've done lots of other things that work for us and our baby.

First, we've (mostly) banned disposables. Like everything else in our life - we avoid things that you throw away after using just once, as they tend to be far more expensive in the long run. Which means we use cloth diapers and flannel wipes. (We do have some disposables for when we're out and about, when he weighed less than 8 lbs, and when all our cloth diapers are dirty.) They are super easy (seriously!), good for the environment, good for our wallets, and waaaay more comfortable on Gabe's little tush. Specifics? We have ten diapers for now - seven one-size and three small. We use mostly Fuzzibunz and a few Gro Baby diapers that were super cheap on I made the wipes myself from flannel fabric I had, but will be making more out of the billions of flannel receiving blankets that we have.

A couple of flannel wipes.

A few people have asked me to write a post about cloth diapers, so that's all I'm going to say for now. But, yay! Cloth diapers!

Papa time.
The cutest cloth diapered booty around. (Adorable husband not for sale.)

Second, we told everyone we knew that 1) we would love second-hand gifts (our baby shower invites even said this) and 2) we would love any baby things they were no longer using.

When people buy you second-hand gifts, they are cheaper, so they can get you more things. Woo! (The breast pump my Grandma got me secondhand - sterilized, don't worry - was a quarter of the price is it new.) Plus! Second-hand is better for the environment, and babies don't tend to wear out most things since they are tiny and not too mobile. Some of our diapers were gifts my aunts got from Craigslist and are in great shape, they hardly looked used. *Gasp!* Used diapers!

He loves baths!
Taking a bath in his second-hand bath tub. 

Things we got second-hand from others include: cloth diapers, a crib (well, it was actually new since it had been recalled and Mike's brother got a voucher for a new one), a baby swing, a Pack n Play, lots of clothes, infant car seat carrier system (less that 3 years old and was never in a car accident), baby gates, a breast pump, a baby tub, a glider, and a diaper pail. Plus, plenty of disposable diapers that my cousin (who is five weeks older than Gabe. Yes, he is my cousin.) grew out of.

Gabriel in his infant seat.

Third, we simplified and bought second-hand ourselves.

In the process of creating our registry, I came across some great advice from Amalah about not getting too much before the baby comes and not putting too much on the registry. I got what I really wanted (like cloth diapers, a sound machine, and swaddles) by not putting tons of things on my registry. Baby registries are just like wedding registries in the sense that the stores want you to think you desperately need and CANNOT SURVIVE without tons of crap that, oh hey! how convenient! you can buy at their store. Unlike a wedding registry, though, you don't really know what will work best or what you'll end up needing for your baby - so it's best to wait to buy lots of things until after the baby comes.

Then you'll probably get gift cards, which is great because 1) you get to leave the house and spend money that isn't yours and 2) you get what you really need after the baby comes (ooooor, you buy snacks for the hospital like we did with a Target gift card that my sister bought us.)

And, after the baby comes, you realize, hey! we really should get some more of those swaddle blankets! Or maybe we should get a bouncy seat because this kid adores being bounced. And because you didn't buy tons of things before the baby came, you can afford it! Bonus points if you buy second-hand, like we did with his bouncy seat (which was less than half the price it is new from Once Upon a Child).

Scrawny baby chicken legs not for sale.

We also kept things simple by not really having a 'nursery theme'  (aside from a painting we did ourselves, a cute lamp, a crib canopy, and a few frames we filled with photos we printed off the internet, we spent nothing on his room) and opted not to register for things that are completely unnecessary but totally adorable, like a 12-piece bedding set. Again, Amalah did a great piece on the pressure to have a cutesy nursery (my favorite line: "My guess? DOLLAH BILLZ. Also: pregnant women like MATCHY!!1!").

(Also, we're tacky and returned some gifts we didn't need in order to have money to spend at Babies R Us on the things off our registry that we didn't get but really needed - bottles and a Moby wrap. You don't have to do this. But you can and I won't judge you.)

Fourth, I breastfeed.

Okay, so I'm not really nursing him in this picture, but it sort of looks like it. Let's pretend.

Simple enough - but we're going to save hundreds of dollars by not feeding him formula. That stuff is expensive, yo! Breastfeeding was definitely challenging and far more difficult than I expected it to be  for the first few weeks- but my biggest motivation to stick with it and not give up is that it is FREE. (Uh...I mean, that it's good for my baby. That, too.)

And that's how we can afford Gabriel. (Of course, the actual giving birth in a hospital is an expense, too! One which I just saw the bill for, and whooo boy. I didn't have an epidural and left after one night and it was still way, way expensive. Good thing our insurance will cover 80%.)

If you have lots of spare money and want all the trappings of baby-world, more power to you! I am definitely not judging people who decide their baby needs everything new, a fancy nursery, and a new car to hold their $1,000 car seats - I just wanted to share how we're doing it. And if you want to have a baby, but think it isn't the right time, maybe you'll be encouraged that your baby doesn't need $11,000 worth of contraptions to survive. I promise he'll be okay.
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