It’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon of lavish birthday parties and mountains of toys, but bringing up bébé Mrs. Frugalwoods’ way teaches self-reliance, creativity, and an understanding of the value of a dollar.
Preparing for Baby the Frugal Way
When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child, we were inundated with warnings of how expensive children are. But we knew we could apply our frugality to child rearing—and we were correct.
We discovered people are thrilled to clear old baby stuff out of their garages and attics. Through hand-me-downs, garage sales, and the Buy Nothing Project, my husband and I prepared our daughter’s nursery for a mere $20.
At just nine months old, my daughter has already cycled through a tremendous amount of stuff: clothing, baby swings, infant swaddles, toys. Babies grow at an astonishing rate; if we tried to buy new for each developmental stage, we’d have spent thousands.
While accepting hand-me-downs and shopping used is crucial, what’s even more important is maintaining our frugal baby-rearing philosophy. We have to stay on board with the idea that used stuff is just fine for kids (not a sentiment all parents share).
Used Is OK
Brands work hard to convince prospective parents that they must buy the newest, greatest, shiniest items for their infant. The first baby is a wholly unknown adventure, and it’s tempting to spend in pursuit of a smoother parenting experience.
While I agree some gadgets facilitate easier parenting—such as a comfortable baby-wearing carrier and a decent stroller—these items don’t need to be brand new. My carrier is an eight-year-old hand-me-down Ergo that works beautifully; my stroller is used, purchased for a fraction of the new price. While neither is stylish, they’re absolutely serviceable. Letting go of the idea that my possessions need to be perfect allows me to enjoy the savings and serendipity of second hand.
There’s also a frequently parroted belief that only brand-new baby items are safe. While manufacturers often update car seats and cribs, that doesn’t discredit previous models. By using our discretion and doing some research, my husband and I found used products that are just as safe.
We also ignored the stigma that used baby items are unsanitary or gross. The beauty of baby products is they’re designed for washing. I found an infant swing on the side of the road and grabbed it: I threw the cover in the laundry, and washed the frame by hand with soap and water. Good as new! The cleanliness concern over used items is often unfounded—it’s so easy to wash everything before your baby ever touches it. As far as stains go, I quickly realized my daughter will find a way to stain just about everything, so I needn’t be concerned when stuff is pre-stained.
Can’t Buy Me Love
Despite what advertisers say, you can’t demonstrate your love with things. Although our daughter is too young to understand we don’t purchase new toys for her, it’s important to us to set this precedent early. We want her earliest memories to be of enjoyable, quality time spent with her family, not material possessions.
Babies are also inventive and naturally creative. Given an empty yogurt container, my daughter instantly creates a toy out of it and is fascinated by the noises it makes when she pounds on its top. Similarly, a large salad bowl provides endless entertainment as she puts toys in, takes them out, then dumps the bowl over. Allowing her creativity to flourish with household objects is a valuable developmental milestone, one we might miss if all her toys were expensive and mechanized.
There’s also a growing trend to host lavish first birthday parties with loads of presents, an adorable theme, and tons of guests. A one-year-old won’t even remember such a fête. Given this fact, it seems these parties are more about the parents’ desire to impress others—which is not a necessary element of raising a happy kid.
It’s Not Deprivation
As parents, it’s easy to spend a lot in the service of keeping our kids happy and safe. But when I reflect on my most important childhood memories, it’s always experiences over things that really mattered.
We also don’t want to spoil our daughter. We provide for her needs and give her a happy start, while also teaching her she can’t have everything she wants. We want to impart the value of delayed gratification, the benefits of thinking beyond her desires. The fact that those lessons lead to frugality is an added bonus.
Parenting frugally is about much more than saving money: It’s teaching our daughter to have a fulfilling, enjoyable life without excessive consumerism. And it’s about instilling in her the importance of saving money and leading a fiscally responsible life.
Grownups, what are your thoughts on frugal parenting?
Mrs. Frugalwoods writes at frugalwoods.com
about her journey to financial independence by age 33
and a homestead in the woods with her husband, daughter,
and greyhound Frugal Hound.
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