I took on the thousand dollar baby budget challenge as posed by my husband last year. How did this happen? Well, My husband and I found out last year that I was pregnant with out first child. At the time I was teaching high school, but my entire life I have known that I wanted to stay home with my kids. Coupled with losing a paycheck, we are an eco-conscious family which means my husband declared one day when I was 4 months pregnant that were not to spend more than $1,000 on the baby. At first this seemed like a daunting ultimatum. Then, I realized it is more than achievable even in today’s society! It began to excite me that I could have less of an environmental impact and that it would be kind to our bank account. And then recently I realized that this is a goal I can set for every year. It’s not just about babies, but about families!
There are lists and lists of “must have” baby items and they range from baby swings with flashing lights to toys hanging from infant car seats. Our modern society is fueled by consumerism and big businesses trying to sell us the latest and greatest, when in reality we need few of the items on the market today. So where did we go wrong? When did we decide that it was acceptable to buy into marketing instead of investing into parenthood? Over the past year I made it my mission to invest time into my child instead of money and to appreciate everything about her… her smiles, but also her tears…her happiness, but also her fears. There is no magic product for every parenting difficulty, but there are years of experience in friends and family and there is time and patience invested as parents.
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How does one accomplish the Thousand Dollar Baby Budget Challenge?
Plain and simple: only buy the necessities. This means you buy what you need and nothing else.
Learn the power of asking
One of the best tools of all is one we feel very uncomfortable using — asking. Send out an email or Facebook status asking if anyone has a certain item for free or for a set price. You would be surprised how many times I have foundpeople willing to give me something just because I asked. They didn’t want or need it, and I did and they were happy to pass it along.
Consider the phrase “It takes a village”
Take it literally. It DOES take a village to raise a child. This goes hand-in-hand with learning the power of asking. It’s ok if you need help. No one knows everything and no one can handle the enormous job of parenting on the first day …or the 5th… or the 365th.
Instead of trying to buy something to solve your baby’s crying, elicit help from parents and grand parents. We all have someone in our family that’s just great with all babies. Unsolicited advice can be annoying, but it can also be the answer. Villages like to share more than advice, they like to share clothes, toys, and more. They usually have children of their own that can entertain a crying baby better than any adult ever could. They are more than willing to let you get out for a few hours without asking for compensation. They are also willing to share. So you can make purchases as a group. (Think about how quickly children go through clothes or grow out of newborn cloth diapers).
I have traded a steam cleaner for toys, sheets for shoes, and home school curriculum for cloth diapers. Get creative and remember to not forget to ask. You never know what you have that someone else would love to trade for something they do not use anymore. I did a guest blog post for a pair of wool longies and have even done straight trades for toys that were more age appropriate.
Return to your roots
Follow your instincts. If it feels right to sleep next to your baby, then that’s what you should do. For centuries and millennia, women have slept next to their children. There was never a need to exile them in another room. They were perfectly safe and happy sleeping (and eating) in their mothers’ arms all night long.
Breastfeed. Research suggests that only 4% of women legitimately can’t breastfeed. So for me, regardless of the 12 weeks of pain and struggles, I gave myself no other option. And if you legitimately can’t breastfeed, find some donors! There are several women in my area that exclusively feed donor breast milk that they received for free from donor moms with over supply.
Forget Modern diapers. Buy cloth diapers or even learn to read the cues of your baby and try elimination communication. We have done both. I have purchased 99% of my cloth diapers used making it cheaper and even better for the environment. As she got a bit older, we ventured more into the world of EC because that was just too daunting for our family to do from the start.
Babywear. You can get a lot done and your baby will be happy to spend so much time cuddling next to you. It also means that you can purchase one car seat and means you don’t need a stroller. No need to lug around an infant car seat when you can buy one that is suitable for both the tiniest of babies and the largest of toddlers. And while we do have a stroller, I have used it once. This saves both money and resources. Babywearing also tends to eliminate “colic” in babies as well as the need for tummy time.
Baby Led Weaning/Homemade Baby Food. Let’s get this straight. Food before one is just for fun. Babies don’t need to eat a bunch of food and in reality they usually don’t care much before they are around 10 months or better. You do not need to stretch your food budget for such a tiny little person. They can eat off of your plate even. Not comfortable with that? Blend up some of the food you’re eating. Still no more money spent and probably healthier too.
Accept gifts, buy secondhand, and be thoughtful
You can accept generous gifts from others, use gift cards, and share with friends. But what it boils down to is that you are thoughtful in every purchase! Learning to frequent thrift stores on their best days and finding online swap sites are just a couple of ways that you can buy more responsibly and frugally. Just learn to be more sustainable overall.
Part of having a thousand dollar baby budget doesn’t necessarily mean you still want all the stuff and want it given to you, it also means you can choose to be minimalistic. We like to reduce our clutter as well, therefore we ask for no gifts many times. And if you’re completely happy with being minimalist, it’s ok to ask for no gifts too!
Sell what you do not need & sell to fund
That’s right, sell your “stuff”. In fact sell the baby stuff that doesn’t really benefit you. For instance, I bought certain items for my child that I learned I had no use for or that she didn’t like. So I sold it and re-invested that money into something that was useful. There have even been times that I have found a really great deal at a garage sale or thrift store that I purchased with the sole intention of selling it to buy something else I needed.
So how did we do in the first year?
My daughter turned one last month and I added up our expenses. I will say that we spent $1,045 after adding up what we purchased vs what we sold. AND in my defense, I purchased well over $100 in items for the future. (Like larger clothes, toys for later in her development, and more). I plan on making this $1,000 challenge something we do each year and for each child.
So are you ready to take the thousand dollar baby budget challenge?
Can you spend just $1,000 on your child this year?
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!