Sunday, January 28, 2007

Shop Bop A Loo Bop

Dr. B and I have never been monetarily wealthy, at least according to American standards. He's been a student (ad nauseum), and I've taught in parochial school (which, despite the high cost, doesn't exactly reward the teachers well. Most teachers consider the approximately 30% pay cut their tithe to the church. I didn't attend these churches, so I just considered it having a job and eating on a regular basis.) We spent our meager savings (and more) to take a post-doc in France, and we don't regret it one bit. Except, of course, for the fact that we are still not caught up, despite his good post-doc position here in the US. The move, all the little things, and sporadic subbing combined with sick days, hospital visits, and the need for bigger clothing for me really adds up. (And don't even get me started on the student loans...)

So, needless to say, Dr. B has been a bit stressed about money lately. He is a confirmed worrywart anyway, and these concerns really have been getting to him. Being the bargain-hunter I am, I have been scouring the web, searching for deals, doing research, and trying to find ways to prepare for this coming baby without putting us into more debt. I borrowed a book from a friend, Baby Bargains, which has helped a great deal with the research, telling me what you need, what you don't, which are the best, and what to ask a rich relative to buy for you. (Note: check this one out from the library or borrow it--a new, updated version comes out in April.) I read up on cribs, strollers, monitors, maternity clothes, wipe warmers (not suggested), bottle heaters, humidifiers--you name it, they cover it. I had already been shopping for used items, planning for what I wanted and what we really needed, and avoiding falling into the trap of getting or registering for everything under the sun. Yes, there are certain items I will want, but I am a planner, a bargain shopper, and I don't believe I need every new thing just because the commercials on TV tell me I do.

After a few days trapped in the house while waiting for the school district to get my paperwork done (who knew it would take 2 months to get hired to sub?), I was going stir-crazy. I don't do boredom well. The house was clean. The laundry was done, and ironed. A 3-course meal was on the table, with ironed tablecloth and candles, every night. I had Mr. Clean Magic Erased everything in sight. I needed to get out, NOW.

After supper, Dr. B asked what I would like to do. I told him that I would really like to show him some of the baby things I'd looked at, to get his ideas on them. I was proud of my work, and was really looking forward to sharing this experience with him, but I also knew he wasn't much of a shopper, so I planned carefully. I thought he could handle it, if I just explained things to him as we went along. I'd skip Babies'R'Us, because the big box would be horribly overwhelming for him (he'd just shut down.) We'd look at some cribs and strollers at USA Baby, just to get some ideas. Since that was a bit high-end (though the service was great), I wanted to show him the comparison by taking him into Kids-R-Us's baby section (the big baby store was across town, this was just a little part) and Target. He began to understand some of the comparisons I was making, but regardless, he didn't exactly take it well. He saw the things we "needed", the prices, began adding things up in his head (which, despite his PhD in Chemistry, he doesn't always do very well), and he panicked. Angry, yelling, won't-look-at-me panicked.

"We don't need this! Safety schmafety! This is just the American corporation trying to scare you into spending more money. Bull***t! I don't buy it. We'll just get the cheapest crib at IKEA and that's good enough. Who needs a drop side? You can just bend over. Who cares if it looks nice? It doesn't need to be sturdy--it's a baby!!! She's just going to lie there! (Yes, he hasn't been around many young children. Don't worry, he'll learn.) We don't need any of this crap. Babies have been born for millenia and didn't need no stinkin' bouncy seat. Diaper pail that seals up the poopies like a sausage???? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!"

I swear, if it were up to him, he'd dig a hole under the kid's bare butt, give them a rock to play with, and call it a day.

We discussed things in the car.

He said, "you're breast-feeding. Formula is too expensive."

"What if I can't? What if there's no latch? What if I get sore, cracked breasts and it's extremely painful?"

He looked at me in horror. He said, "we are going to use the G diapers. Better for the environment."

"What if they don't work?" I replied. "What if they leak liquid poo all over? What if they take seven flushes to flush and back up our entire septic system? Do you like mopping liquid doody off the bathroom floor?"

He grimaced.

I calmly continued. "We need to have plan B's prepared, is all I'm saying. We need to be informed."

I pulled into Barnes and Noble, ordered him an espresso, and let him loose. He headed toward the science book section (AKA the place where nobody else ever goes--proven: you can die of boredom, and no one would find your body for weeks.) I sat at the café table, reading through the book and browsing through magazines.

Half an hour later he returned, and we sat together, discussed his fears (and the fact that we don't have to buy all of this stuff this month and there may be even a few gifts in the future), and pored over some baby name books. We came up with 3 new contenders for a middle name, and actually agreed on one of them. He smiled again. He would survive this.

So, I went back to my original plans. I accepted the offers of clothes and assorted items as hand-me-downs from my SIL, cousin and a friend in town with a 5-month old girl. Grandma promised a special baby dresser my grandfather built 60 years ago. An oak rocker I had found at a garage sale this summer would be a great spot for rocking our little one. My sister's fiancé works for Manhattan Toy and is a great source for lots of educational and colorful toys purchased at cost, I collaborated with an overseas friend, and I scoured Craig's List (Madison). (Garage sales will have to wait--this is Wisconsin in January.) And I found some bargains. My proven Craig's List method of asking a question immediately when I am interested in something (to get dibs) paid off, and I was able to make a couple of new scores.

Last night, Dr. B took a look at the things I had found. A Graco Pack-N-Play play yard (playpen for us 70's babes) with bassinet and changing table, a Baby Bjorn carrier, and a Peg Perego Pliko stroller, that once I had cleaned it up with some upholstery cleaner and Formula 409, looked pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

"You got all of this for less than the cost of the stroller new?"

"Yes. A lot less." A self-satisfied smirk appeared on my face.

"And all these things are top-rated by the book?"

"Uh-huh." I couldn't resist. A grin began to spread.

"Huh. Wow. You're good."

"Dad may hunt big game, but I got that gene, too. I hunt big bargains."

"Well," he sighed, "I suppose that means..."

"Yep. A good crib."


MagE said...

so... Dr. B - did he give himself a couple more grey hairs? tell him those fall out faster... on second thought - don't. That will just cause a downward spiral.
indeed... I do believe there will be several lovely gifts on the horizon... just like when you get married - you can't really count on them - but then you are overwhelmed with stuff. things have a way of working themselves out. RIght?

PutYourFlareOn said...

Yay! I love your stories! This one was a good one. Your bargin shopping sense is excellent, Ronica!

Anonymous said...

Have you tried "Once Upon a Child"? Sometimes they have some great used baby stuff. BOth Jenn and Kristi put together their nurseries in much the same way....repainted old furniture...painted the rooms...made the curtains...used or borrowed swings etc. Speaking of swing a can be a lifesaver!! Even when Jean and I had our babies a swing was a must.....only now you don't have to crank by hand....progress! The girls borrowed clothes from friends and also shopped Target and Penny's for on sale items. They hated to invest a lot on maternity....Good stroller, good car seat and crib are a must. Sturdy crib for when the baby is older too. Mattie (K's youngest) is 18 mos and out of crib. Jenn's youngest (15 mos) is still in crib. Jenn and Jai just returned from a wk in Puerto Vallarta and loved seeing the boys Jenn says when you are used to being with them 24/7 it is weird to be without them. She did read 2 books....she was thrilled! take it have lots of time yet...Auntie B

ViVi said...

Oh I'm glad you got the stroller! Yay! You're doing an awesome job keeping everything together - you're an inspiration! :)

Doc said...

I remember these conversations all too well. It's great that you're able to find things outside of your regular shopping malls. The prices for baby stuff are outrageous (and be glad you're back stateside--here it's even worse), especially considering how long the thing in question is going to be useful.
About the crib, if you don't mind me tossin' in my nickle's worth of free advice--I insisted on having one with the one side that lowers and the three different levels for the mattress. For us, it turned out to be a waste. When baby's tiny, the mattress is up at the top, so you don't need to put the side down, and as the mattress lowers, baby's abilities increase. By the time the mattress is down at the bottom where the lowering side would help, the kid's standing up anyway. I never lowered the side of the crib for either baby 1 or 2.
Of course, baby 3 will probably screw that whole thing up...
And the Graco pack-n-play--that thing is a LIFESAVER! Ours has been used daily as bed/bassinet/playpen/prison for the past almost three years (and it's a hand-me-down) and I am god-smacked that the thing is still standing, given how the two monkeys abuse the crap out of it. But it is, and still works as if it were new.

La Rêveuse said...

Thanks, Doc! Had heard that about the cribs, and want one of the ones that has the different positions. Also would love a convertible one (turns into a double bed headboard).

B--Once Upon a Child Rocks! I've been, and will be back. Amazing.

The things we will be buying best quality and brand new will be a crib, car seat, and a good baby monitor.

Sarita said...

Bare with me here:

You are going to be great at breastfeeding! The barriers to breastfeeding are almost all psychological. Very very very few people can breastfeed because of a physical problem. You have to believe you can do it and find an experienced friend/someone to help you out the first couple of days. You are going to be great! I know it, trust me!

Ok, I am finished.

Great bargain hunting. We bought very few things new for Felix. They grow so fast, we had outfits given to us that he never wore. I am totally a fan of used items. And right-on with the g-diapers Dr.D! I wish we had that option but ecologically it wouldn't be great to use the fossile fuels to have them shipped over here. We use something by a German company, MOLTEX OKO. They are biodegradable. Expensive but good!

Good luck!

jennifer said...

Hey Guys, Wish I knew you were looking for things...have some things I want to sell. Let me know if you are looking for other things...Good luck with all the rest. We got our crib through JCPenneys and we love it. Side lowers and mattress moves down so they can't climb out when they get to that age. It is fun shopping! Jenn

The Bold Soul said...

People often feel the need to completely outfit themselves with everything brand new for the first baby: new crib, dresser, clothing, stroller, etc. But you know what? That little tiny baby won't know the difference if you bought out the local high-end baby store or your local church thrift shop. Sure, there will be some things you'll want to get new, but you can save a fortune buying at thrift shops and consignment shops. In our little town in NJ there was a consignment shop 100% dedicated to baby and kid gear: they had rows of strollers and carseats and plastic Fisher Price toys all over the place. And don't forget, when they're newborns you end up mostly putting them in onesies and they outgrow the newborn sizes practically overnight, AND they spit up and leak through their diapers daily - so stock up on that stuff second hand if you can. Borrow or take donations from friends who are cleaning out their own stock of baby clothes. As long as it's clean and in decent condition, wouldn't it be better to be able to put some money in a college fund than to buy the baby a lot of designer stuff the baby won't even understand? Good for you for bargain shopping!

The Bold Soul said...

A few more ideas for bargain hunting: yard sales are usually loaded with used baby/child stuff (although it's the wrong time of year for that now in Wisconsin, but spring isn't far off and everyone will be cleaning out their closets).

And there's also which is regional and a place where people literally GIVE things away to a good home. I've got friends who rave about it, although I haven't tried it myself.

MJ said...

You'll love the pliko. It was my favorite. I only wish I'd had one for my oldest.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth...I know it sounds awful but I bought our crib at a very nice consignment shop. (Yes, I measured the bars to make sure they weren't too far apart.) I bought the mattress new. Never regretted it, it was very nice and solid.

I work for a fairly large company in Madison that has a busy electronic bulletin board where employees sell stuff like this all the time. If you want, I can keep an eye open for specific items for you...

finance girl said...

Hi there Mrs. B, hey just a thought...Dr. B may feel less anxious with a financial plan. Doesn't have to be anything beyond the 2 of you sitting down and discussing your dreams (e.g. house, college plans, retirement funds, new car) and which are important and putting together a roadmap.

You don't need a professional to do this, this is just the 2 of you talking very clearly as a team about the future, and how financially to underwrite it.

Then, with that, future purchases are in the context of the larger picture and he likely won't feel overwhelmed/frustrated with purchases.

Having a clear financial roadmap, regardless of where you start, relieves stress and anxiety around purchases.

If you ever want to brainstorm about ideas on that, just let me know :-)

afoos said...

We are in the same situation, being teachers ourselves and not being able to cough up a fortune for everything. For the clothes, you can count on the first year in gifts and after that, I went to brocantes and still do. For the other stuff, we decided to buy the carseat new to be able to use with all three children because we figured buying it once would be the same as buying three used ones if they didn't last. As for the crib, as a proud user of the IKEA 'cheap' model, it is very sturdy and is still doing great for Louise after Gab used it for the first 2 years of his life. I also took every hand me down possible and Gab still wears the winter coat Irene gave us last year. My advice for toddlers (when you get there), buy the size they'll be wearing next winter because you can always roll the pants and sleeves up and that way it will last 2 winters instead of one. If you have any questions over baby material (if you thought I found it useful), let me know- there's so much stuff out there you don't need. Etienne had much of the same reaction as Dr. B but don't worry, they come around after they see that the Baby Bjorn is very helpful, etc... Oh and btw, everyone in the US has a swing but both Gab and Louise never had one and we survived.

afoos said...

oh and another comment about the breastfeeding (I had forgotten to add this).

It DOES save you money, formula is expensive and both Etienne and I recognized this. BUT the one thing we also recognized was my psychological health and the family's, which we noticed had GREATLY improved after I switched to formula and we were ready to pay a little more for that comfort. Of course nursing couldn't be better for the baby, but my wanting to throw a knife at someone because baby is screaming because he can't latch on and I have zero patience can't be too good!

Do what feels natural, and sometimes the most 'natural' things turn out not to be.

Nikki said...

If you buy a used car seat from a consignment store, I will drive to Madison & steal the baby! (Having a friend sell/give you a <3 year old one is different - nothing that you don't know the history of)

I loved Jayden's convertible crib - it was a gift from all sets of parents - and totally worth it.

Jeff will do fine.

And BF will come naturally - my dh was more into me doing it than I was - and I went 11 months!

Take care!

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