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More expensive isn’t necessarily better

by Karen on July 14, 2010

I’ll be 19 weeks pregnant tomorrow. That’s halfway to full term. I’ll also be finding out the sex of the baby if he or she cooperates (fingers crossed). We could be moving to our new place as soon as this Saturday. Which means I’m out of excuses. It’s time to start shopping for baby stuff.

Yes, we have friends and family who will likely want to gift us with various baby items that we’ll need. But the last thing I want to do is exploit anyone’s generosity. Furthermore, our families just aren’t very big, and money is tight for everyone right now. Ultimately, the responsibility to provide for this baby is ours, and we’re trying to do it as frugally as possible.

Over the weekend, I started researching cribs and car seats and various other musts for the baby. I found some pretty incredible deals on cribs at Wal-Mart. This one was particularly compelling, and I really liked this one, too. (No one is paying me to stay that, either.)

I checked out the specifications. Both of these cribs meet safety standards dictated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for cribs. They do not feature drop sides as many of those models have been recalled due to the safety concerns. There’s no reason to believe that these cribs are any less safe than the fancy ones that retail for $500-$600. So why do I feel guilty for considering a basic crib for my baby?

I know that this baby isn’t going to care if the crib has a fancy finish or if it scratches easily. I certainly don’t care about those things. I just want to make sure that the baby has a safe place to sleep, and I want to choose a crib that complies with all of the current safety standards. These cribs do at a fraction of the price of fancier models. And honestly, when it comes to recalls and possible problems, expense doesn’t seem to be an issue. Even the most expensive cribs can be recalled.

Over and over I’ve read about how having a baby doesn’t have to be expensive. And I don’t believe that it does. But as parents, especially first-time parents, we face an overwhelming amount of pressure to spend a lot of money for the baby, and we feel guilt for attempting to cut costs. But why? After all, I don’t believe the baby will be happier in an overpriced crib if it means we have less money to provide other necessities, like a place to live or health insurance.

I’ve realized that shopping for the baby is going to be a intricate balancing act. For things like cribs and car seats, safety is my top priority. If I can’t find a car seat with high safety ratings at a low price, then I’ll have to spend the extra money. But safety is my only concern. If I can find an off-brand item that’s just as safe for a lower price, I’m not going to feel guilty about it.

The consumer culture constantly pushes us to believe that more expensive is better. Sometimes that’s true, but not always. We have to be smart consumers, and we have to learn to balance price with quality. I’m not going to spend twice as much for some unnecessary bells and whistles if I can find a product that will do the same job for half the price.

Of course, as a new mom, that’s easier said than done.

Photo by caseysworld

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{ 8 comments }

1 Cathy July 14, 2010 at 9:12 am

We discovered after having our first child that we are attachment parents http://www.naturalchild.org/articles/attachment_parenting.html
and baby slept with us. We didn’t even bother to put up a crib with the second one. :)

Honestly, there is so little you really need, but I know it is hard to know for sure now what you will need until after the baby comes and the required lists of “necessary” things can be overwhelming. I remember my MIL commenting on how easy it was for us to leave the house because I nursed rather than having to deal with preparing bottles to leave the house. Also, we used a baby bath tub for maybe a week or so and that was it. We could have easily used the sink for that time. After that, baby bathed with one of us. I guess later we did use it as a tiny kid pool. :)

My suggestion would be to start out with the minimum and see what you need later. Our needs are so individual. For us, it was a battery operated swing. Since baby slept with us, the swing was a place I could put him/her to rest while I did some cleaning. Also, a snuggly pack or sling. I couldn’t have survived without either but never realized that before their birth. Lots to figure out!
Cathy´s last blog post ..Spending Time with My Gal!

2 Kacie July 14, 2010 at 10:02 am

It really is overwhelming! I remember having some pretty strong anxiety about choosing a stinkin’ crib, or car seat. Those were the two big stressors for me. Everything else sorta fell into place.

I think paying $500 for a crib is unnecessary. Wasteful, even.

Good luck picking out your options! Let me know if I can help somehow.

3 Mary July 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

What I learned from my kids about baby stuff:

Crib: While you look at cribs, keep in mind that some of them will convert to a toddler bed when you are ready. Keep an eye out for one of those that you like that fits in your price range. When I bought mine, it was just a coincidence that it had that feature. I wasn’t too concerned with something that seemed so far away, but not only was it a nice break to not have to buy a big kid bed, it was an easier transition from crib to bed, since Gawen knew it was still his same bed, just reconfigured for a big boy.

Car seat: You’ll have a winter baby, so my advice is this: Get one of the car seats that has seat with handle that separates from a base that gets strapped into the car. When Cadence was born, those were still a little more expensive than the cheaper, and just as safe models, though I’d guess that isn’t true anymore. With the 2 piece seats, you can just drop the seat into the base, and as long as it clips solidly (easy to tell) you can close the door and maintain the warmth in the car for baby. When you have to struggle with getting the seat strapped in properly, often having to peel back the blanket over the baby to do so, neither you or the baby is as comfy and warm as you both are when you can tuck baby in, nice and snug in the warmth of your living room, then open the door, and drop the seat into place.

Premium baby expenses: With Cadence, I had a very inexpensive swing that stopped working before I was finished using it. With Gawen, I made sure I had a better swing, and it was worth every penny. Battery power meant I didn’t have to wake the baby by winding the noisy crank every fifteen minutes, not only that but the battery mechanism was whisper quiet, where the windup model made the most ridiculous racket. Also, the seat in the nicer swing was soft and cozy, where the liner of the less expensive swing was a stiff vinyl. I guess my point is this: you are absolutely right that you don’t have to sacrifice safety to purchase lower priced baby gear. Just keep in mind that while safety is the most important thing, there are concerns for your comfort and baby’s that should figure in to the balancing act. Good luck, and have fun! I know it is a pain to make all of these decisions, but baby shopping is exciting! Enjoy it : )

4 eastTXmom July 14, 2010 at 11:11 am

I need to let you in on a secret. . . . .those overwhelming feelings of pressure to spend $$$ regarding your baby actually never go away even after the child is older :). My kids are 10 and 7, and even now the pressure to have them involved in certain activities, wearing certain brand clothes, and acquiring certain gadgets for them to play with (like a 10 year old needs a cell phone) are always there. But you have a ways to go before all that funs happens :)

You’re doing a great job of not buying anything impulsively and giving a lot of thought to each purchase, but like Mary wrote, baby shopping is exciting so enjoy it!!

5 Andrea July 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I’m due on December 10 – which I think is very close to your due date! We only have one income (mine), so we are also being very frugal for baby items – as anyone should be.

This book is an amazing resource: http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Bargains-Furniture-Equipment-Maternity/dp/1889392332

Check out Baby Bargains as soon as you can :) It tells you what gear you need, what gear you don’t and also their picks based on price/safety/reliability, etc. They grade each model/manufacturer of cribs, car seats, high chairs, etc. They’ve done all of the research for you. There is no telling how much the $12 you spend on the book will help you save in the long run!

6 Anne July 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I think that baby needs are based individually. How you decide to diaper, feed, clothe, etc. will all be individual to you. My best advice is to give ‘baby lists’ a quick glance as they do contain some things that can/could be considered a need (i.e.: first aide kits, etc.) but don’t feel the need to purchase everything on those lists. I know with my first, I definitely felt that I would be very ill prepared if I didn’t have everything on those lists that stores like Babies R Us provides. I never purchased everything and we honestly had the bare minimals and we did just fine! We honestly could have done fine with even less than what we had.

As for cribs, my best advice other than safety is to consider what you intend for your sleeping arrangements to be. If you plan on baby starting immediately out in a crib, then yes, definitely make the plan to have a crib for when baby comes. But if you are considering co-sleeping or a bassinet or any other alternative, you can honestly wait a few months after baby is born before making that purchase, big price tag or small. We didn’t purchase a crib until 3 months after my first was born and that was when she started sleeping in the crib. My second didn’t start until 6 months.

7 margot July 15, 2010 at 5:32 pm

So much better for the parents and the child if you get over the guilt now. Friends, family and society in general (or, perhaps rather it’s the marketing that we see everywhere) will find endless reasons for you to be guilty about all the ways your parenting doesn’t meet some ideal, the countless things you don’t buy your child…all the way to college and beyond. And if you give into the guilt, you’ll be broke and have spoiled children. Babies can sleep in a basket lined with a blanket. Pediatricians tell parents who stay in hotels with babies to put them to sleep in a dresser drawer that’s been placed on the floor with a blanket or towel in it. The desire for fancy stuff is entirely the creation of marketing. Keep remembering that when your child asks for every toy on the toy store, the latest technology, funds to go to the fanciest school in town, etc :)

8 elena July 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm

my first “baby” is 32 years old now, i still remember the excitement of discovering motherhood and raising a baby. we moved to a 2 bedroom cottage from a 1 bedroom cottage just to have a nursery space, but then the crib was too big for the nursery and it ended up in the living room. So, we put our bed in the living room too. That lasted about 9 months, then we moved again, back to a one-bedroom cottage! We received way too much stuff for a new born with 3 baby showers (co-workers, friends, church… everyone we knew wanted to give us a baby shower!) and got tons of things that were duplicated and I didn’t know what to do with. So, don’t worry about anything, it will all show up at the right time.

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