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Money Failure…

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Through careful Craigslist shopping, my husband and I have been able to purchase almost all the items we need to furnish the baby’s room. I went out to the garage, saw the neat stack of used furniture, and broke into tears. Rather than see brand new furniture boxes with happy baby photos on the front as I had always imagined, I saw “someone else’s stuff.”

I felt like I had failed all my picket fence dreams.

Several of my friends are having babies and they share their stories of shopping for furniture at pricey stores and picking out themes. Meanwhile, my ‘theme’ is – buy study wood furniture that matches… sort of. Don’t get me wrong, it will look great and I’ll spend 90% less than my friends, but I couldn’t help but feel a little ashamed that I spend my weekends at garage sales and traipsing through people’s homes asking for deals.

Yesterday morning, the head of HR stopped to chat. He and his wife are expecting their third… and ‘very, very, unexpectedly, accidental’ child. They have to start over on purchasing baby goods and he mentioned the ‘killer deal’ he got on a crib from Craigslist.

I choked on my caffeine-free tea. ‘What?!?’ I gasped, trying to take a breath.

Keep in mind, this guy makes well over 100K a year.

“Yeah, it’s great. Why should I take the hit on retail? Let some other sucker pay it” he said with a huge grin. He saw the shock register on my face, grabbed my arm, and said, “Oh my gosh Rebekah. Please don’t tell me you bought something new right? It’s such a rip off!” he said.

“No. The room is furnished thanks to Craigslist and garage sales” I said.

“Thank goodness! I knew you were smarter than that” and he continued to chat away.

Do you even know what a relief it was to hear that – especially from someone who can afford nice things? I was flying high finally thinking I hadn’t failed, I’d simply been smart about my finances… for once.

All the furniture is paid for with cash. I guess I do have a theme…

Financial Responsibility.


26 Comments

  • Reply Lizzie |

    Totally with you on this. I could afford to buy new but such a waste. I prefer to use my money for the financial security of my kids not on paying top wack for stuff. Just a waste.
    Lizzie

  • Reply ib |

    I’m totally with you on this. I made it known to everyone I knew that we would gladly accept any used baby items/clothes. I have no problem about second hand. I had saved aside a set amount of money for “setting up for baby”, whatever didn’t get used went toward their education funds.

    Please just don’t buy used car seats. It is too dangerous. That is the one thing I insisted on new.
    If the car seat was given to you by someone you know really well, that may be ok.

  • Reply Terry Lange |

    We are expecting our second child – a girl (we already have a 5 yr old boy). My wife saved literally everything (toys, clothing, etc) so we are going to use what we can (gender neutral – clothing) and then sell the rest to Once Upon a Child (2nd hand store here in MN-where we buy most of my son’s clothes)

    My inlaws just bought a house in FL for the winter and they furnished it entirely via craigslist.

    So do not feel bad that you did not pay full retail, there are a lot of other people who are doing exactly the same thing!

  • Reply Caroline |

    Financial Responsibility.

    Your children will thank you for it when they are grown!

  • Reply Melissa |

    Well, I can tell you that I DID buy everything new when I had my baby. I didn’t go overboard and the “theme” was matching solid colors and we spent way too much time afterward paying off the credit card bills. SO STUPID!

  • Reply jolie |

    You absolutely did the right thing. My niece bought all her baby furniture off Craigslist at a fraction of retail price. As my mom says, the baby will not remember the furniture in his/her babyroom. The decoration is for the mama. Paint it a colour that appeals to your senses, fill it with warm blankets and tender touches. The love you share in that room is what will begin to shape the new person you created.

  • Reply Nancy |

    I LOVE your Financial Responsibility Theme : ) With my first child, I was a momzilla and it HAD to be a certain theme and everything including furniture HAD TO match. Now that I look back, it was very dumb of me to think and want that. Since discovering Craig’s a while back, I’ve found some great deals here & there for my second child who is now 3 1/2 years old. Kuddos to you & your family : ) You all will certainly reap financial rewards from the decisions you make NOW!!! -Nancy

  • Reply Lauren |

    For my 2nd child (a boy) we received a new crib as gift. When I found out we were expecting our 3rd(another boy) I bought a solid wood dresser & toddler bed off craigslist.

    I stripped and stained them to all match & you can’t tell they are second-hand.

  • Reply Abby B |

    It can be really hard to avoid keeping up with the Joneses especially when it comes to babies I would imagine. Just remember that babies don’t need a ton of new matching stuff, they need love, care, food,etc. They only learn to want stuff when they see it in our culture and daily lives.

  • Reply Katie |

    Money Success! Great job. You were already doing great providing for your new person by not spending more than you need to, but it’s great that you got some validation from talking to your co-worker! I think sometimes it’s easy to only see the people that are buying whatever they want, instead of the ones that are making more measured decisions about what to spend like you are.

  • Reply Kim |

    Rebekah, I too wanted the perfect nursery and I had it once. The crib, the layette, dresser, changing table. I was adamant when my second child was born that I would have it all, and it would be new and perfect. With the first it was a dresser drawer and all used. Then our second daughter lived 17 hours, and my mother and father quickly removed everything from that nursery and took it back. I came home to four bare walls. I would not even buy a sleeper with the third. I actually called a girl friend who had recently had twins and asked her to send a boy and a girl sleeper to the hospital with my husband. New is not important! The baby however is important. I can’t wait until yours is born. We are going to have a great big blogging celebration!

  • Reply Denise |

    There is nothing wrong with used baby furniture. A good deal is a good deal! But please consider spending $50 for a new car seat – there are too many proven studies out there about used car seats being unsafe. Maybe the one your mom used for you 20-some years ago was fine but the studies out for car seats used today say that the plastic components deteriorate fast. Why take the chance? And please be very careful about used crib mattresses, too, as you can be unwillingly exposing your family to bed bugs and/or mold.

  • Reply Adam |

    Ever read The Millionaire next door? The HR boss guy knows what he’s doing. That book talks about how thrifty all the rich people they talked to were. also, i can tell you that the high incomes may not go as far as it seems like they will. after two years of grad school – financed on loans, i make twice as much money but i live a lower standard of living than i did before school. but my student loan lenders are living quite nicely! once all that debt is paid off it will all be worth it!

  • Reply Nichole@40daysof |

    I think it’s awesome that you are bargain shopping. I do hope it’s not a drop side crib. Please check and make sure the crib hasn’t been recalled. The CPSC is recommending that no cribs be made with drop sides any more.

  • Reply Sandy |

    Sweetheart, the baby won’t know the difference and you’re being both frugal AND green. You are recycling and saving the stuff from going to a landfill. Plus, babies only use this stuff for a short time so it’s almost new anyway.

    If you want it to all appear “new to you”, sand everything down and put some good oil on the wood so that they all match (have hubby do this) or use a baby safe, low VOC paint and paint them all the same color. Viola! New stuff.

  • Reply Ryan |

    Tips from a father of three.

    1.) Expensive things and things in general for the first year does not make a baby happy but love does.

    2.) Cheap diapers are good but you will have to change them faster because they do not hold as long as the others.

    3.) For the most part they do not need a bunch of toys for their first christmas or birthday. You’ll wish you could trade some of those for diapers after you spent them money on them.

    4.) The faster they eat ‘table food’ the cheaper food will be in relation to baby food. They only reason you give a new born baby food and formula is because they do not have teeth for chewing.

    5.) The cheaper formula is just as good as the expensive. Start on the cheaper formula otherwise your baby will get accustomed to the other brand’s taste (there is a difference in taste).

    6.) The best deals for kid’s clothes under 5 is craiglist and garage sales. If you buy a new retail seasonal outfit your baby may only get to wear it once and 2 days later they have out grown it.

    7.) Second change of clothes in your purse or diaper bag.

    8.) Always carry baby wipes in your purse or diaper bag (easy and fast for clean up).

    9.) If you’re going to breast feed it is ok to buy a retail electric breast pump (battery and wall plug-in is available) they relieve pressure in the time of need. Your breasts are going to hurt beyond belief for the first couple of days until your baby and yourself figure out the whole breast feeding position/mindset. You will be at work sensing your baby is crying and you will lactate.

    10.) I found the AVENT bottles to work well in cleaning and up keep.

    11.) You control your baby’s taste. We started our with distilled water and formula. We didn’t have distilled water one day and used tap water. Our son didn’t like it that much. We buy distilled for drinking because of the taste (I know, shhhhh).

    12.) Once your baby starts juice you can water it down and they get use to the water down taste. Then you can give them only water and they will also get use to it.

    13.) There is not a need to so much baby proof your house so they do not hurt themselves. It is more a mess proof concept so they do not make more mess than currently possible. If you can’t find a pen they will find it for you but only after you’ve seen their artistic drawings on your walls.

    There is much more but I’m running out of time. Hope these help!

  • Reply Michelle |

    Since you bought good wood, you could do some quick DIY and repaint the items in a single unifying color or stain. That way, it won’t feel like separate items and you still save money!

  • Reply Amy P |

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but car seats actually expire after a certain number of years, so they can’t be used indefinitely.

    Also, crib mattresses are often essentially a disposable item. After several years of toddlers excitedly bouncing on them, the cover starts breaking down, particularly on the bottom. I love crib tents (very good for keeping toddlers from climbing out and falling on their heads or wandering around), but those are even more disposable. We had to get one per child and by the end, they were totally trashed, but it was an excellent safety item.

    You don’t need a dedicated change table. If you have a dresser of the appropriate height, you can buy an inexpensive foam pad that goes on top of the dresser, and then when that phase of your life is over, you can move on and not have to figure out what to do with the change table.

    Strollers are also unfortunately not as sturdy as you might think. I’ve personally worn out/broken three strollers and a fourth had to be repaired by my husband after the wheels wore down pretty far. It took him a while to figure out how to keep the new wheels from popping off, and the repaired version has no brakes (!!!), so it’s not as good as new.

    We rented a hospital breast pump, which was a very good decision. It’s a larger item (it comes in its own little suitcase), but the retail grade pumps are a totally different level of quality and comfort than the hospital pumps. They also work better.

    We bought practically all of our baby stuff new, although I was able to borrow an Exersaucer for a few months, which was fantastic. I also got some hand-me-down clothes from my sister. We’ve lent out a lot of our stuff or given away extra items, but have carefully stored the core items for possible future babies. We have enough still that I was able to start a small babysitting business with no outlays once my kids started school. Looking back, it would have been difficult to get stuff used because not having a car or a lot of friends with young families in those early days, it would have been a lot more difficult than it would be today when we know dozens of other families.

    I don’t think the new equipment purchases were that far out of line (although you only use some of that stuff for a very short time). My son is still sleeping in the crib we bought him six years ago, since we really did take off the side and turn it into a bed (like they say on the box but nobody actually does).

    Where I really went off the rails was baby and kid clothes. In my defense, we didn’t have a washer or dryer for four years and we only did laundry once a week in huge batches, so that caused the clothes to multiply. We have a lot fewer clothes now that I do a load or two every day. I had a huge Baby GAP and Landsend habit, exacerbated by the fact that I was able to walk to Baby GAP and did so a couple times a week. I would stock up on clothes up to a year in advance, so by the time that the child actually got into that size, I would have gotten more clothes as gifts, so we had twice as many clothes as we needed, even with the laundry situation. With toys, there was a similar situation. I’d buy stuff and then we’d get duplicate items from grandmas (I can’t even count how many farms or stacking toys we got). With both toys and clothes, I should have waited to see what kind of hand-me-downs and gifts we were getting, rather than stocking up immediately myself.

    We have an excellent supply of baby stuff now, though, so I can’t really complain that much about my previous self’s shopping habits.

    One last thing. Because we were in rentals, we never did up a nursery the way a lot of homeowners seem to do. However, here I’d point out that little kids turn into bigger kids, so I wouldn’t go for broke with any particular decorating scheme. A baby room is different from a toddler room, which is different from a preschooler room, which is different from a school kid’s room. Over the years, our kids’ rooms and interests have changed radically, so there’s some value in leaving some room for the kid’s tastes to develop. My daughter LOVED Dora as a preschooler, but today thinks that Dora is babyish, so I’m really happy I just bought Dora bedding, rather than Dora everything.

    Good luck!

  • Reply Katie |

    You are so smart to buy used! We did that for both our kids, first due to finances, second due to realizing how fast they go through everything (and often don’t even touch it. We’ve sometimes re-sold the stuff on craigslist for exactly what we’d paid for it, and freecycled or donated the rest.

    I recently went to an expecting friends house and they’d bought EVERYTHING new, including the diaper genie. All I could think was ca-ching. I’d rather put that money in our daughters college funds.

    The item we did buy new for both was convertible cribs. We’ve converted my older daughters into a full-size bed frame now, and it looks great. I honestly think she will have it until she leaves for college. So, I don’t care that we spent $300 for it.

  • Reply Mary |

    I know where you are coming from. All my furniture is Ebay, garage sales or goodwill. It’s all antique oak, sturdy as the day is long, and refinished by my own two hands. I’m actually EXTREMELY PROUD of the fact that I’ve paid less than a grand for a house full of excellent quality vintage & antique furniture. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a new couch or something once in a while??

    OK, so I make good money. But I have a lot of debt – a LOT of debt – from a failed business and several layoffs since 2004. I’ve been back at a full time paying job since Sept of last year and it’s going to take a long time to pay everything back, but I WILL PAY EVERYTHING BACK. I don’t believe in declaring bankruptcy. That said, I am in management at the post office. There are clerks on the floor making more than me – I’m at the bottom of the payscale. But my boss likes to brag about the $7k he just spend on kitchen appliances. Yes, SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Holy s&*t, man! And when that $1500 dishwasher or $4k fridge dies, I’ll be feeling bad for you, but grateful for my $200 fridge from Craigslist that’s workin’ just fine…

    You are doing the right thing, believe me.

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget |

    I don’t know if you’ll see this comment since it’s an old post, but I just found your blog today and can’t stop reading. This is by far one of my favorite blog posts EVER! It is sooo true. I get so ashamed sometimes of my little shack, and all our old furniture, and some stuff is falling apart, but I know we’re saving. We’re getting things done. We’ll be ok…

So, what do you think ?