In a move that will surprise exactly no one, I am trying not to spend a fortune on Kate the Chicken. Jason and I just finished teaching Financial Peace University, and we’re trying to be mindful of those lessons as we become new parents. Again.
Baby spending is, in a word, ridiculous, according to this article. The piece features several anecdotes that would make Dave Ramsey furious – parents who buy bigger/newer/”safer” houses or cars, only to discover that now they don’t have money to cover maintenance or gas. Uh, oops?
Those are Big Picture concerns. Today, I want to look at the small picture – in Kate the Chicken’s case, the guest room that we’re using as her nursery. Even this arena is fraught with purchasing pressure – you NEED a theme, you NEED new furniture, you NEED a wipes warmer.
I need some deep breathing exercises. Maybe a Xanax.
Here are a few thoughts that have kept me from going nuts in the nursery.
1. Guess who doesn’t care about your cleverly-crafted nursery theme?
We all want rooms that are breathtakingly beautiful, with innovative use of space and perfectly coordinated accessories. And by “we” I mean “adults.” Your baby doesn’t care how much you spent for that 10-piece on-trend crib bedding set. He or she will gleefully poop all over it. Ideally, you want a nursery that can be hosed out.
2. Beg and borrow (but don’t steal!)
Asking for help isn’t easy. But when you’re trying to have a baby on a budget, it’s a necessity. I kept a probably-more-than-reasonable amount of Tyler’s baby gear, and stowed it in our attic when we moved to the new house – which means that most of it burned up in the house fire. I have been humbled by the generosity of other new-mom friends, who have let us borrow dozens of items (or buy them cheap!). We’ve also found some great deals on Craigslist, like the barely-used crib and mattress we scored.
3. Call it recycling, upcycling, or whatever. Just do it.
Remember when you were getting married, and everything marketed to brides was billed as ABSOLUTELY VITAL TO YOUR HAPPINESS and also marked up 50%? It’s the same with babies, except insert “baby’s” between “your” and “happiness.” Does your baby need a special baby dresser? A wee baby bookcase? A precious baby rug? Nope. Will your existing furniture work just fine? Yup. Kate the Chicken will be using my father’s childhood dresser, a big comfy chair we picked up at an estate sale, and a bookcase I bought at Target right after college. Please see #1 for her anticipated reaction to same.
4. Woah there, tiger.
Kate the Chicken will probably not eat solid food for the first six months of her life – so why would I buy a high chair now? She won’t be walking for about a year – does she even need shoes until then? She won’t be crawling or otherwise mobile for months – do we need to baby-proof the whole house RIGHT THIS INSTANT? You don’t have to buy ALL THE THINGS at once. In fact, I think there’s an argument to be made that totally up-ending your existing life and surroundings “for the baby” contributes to a feeling of lost identity for the parents.
To Sum Up
If you have a big baby budget, by all means spend it on things you love. But be honest about whose happiness is really at stake. And if you have a small baby budget, spend carefully and don’t be sucked in by marketing.
And please don’t think that I’m immune to the parade of beautiful nurseries I see on Pinterest, some of which I have shared in this post. Just yesterday I was investigating wainscoting to see how much it would cost to DIY.
I firmly believe that the most valuable things you can get for your baby are not available at Target. Taking care of your own financial house and laying a firm foundation for your child’s financial future are infinitely more important than the pattern on her curtains. Kate the Chicken may wear hand-me-down clothes and put them in a hand-me-down dresser, but she’ll have a college fund. She may have to endure the horrors of a used minivan, but she’ll never have to endure the stress of financially supporting her parents. (At least, that’s the plan!)