More Baby Necessities on a Small Budget

The first installment brought you the big items for the nursery, this installment will deal with the smaller, but no less necessary, items for a nursery.

Stroller: I probably should have talked about a stroller in the first post as strollers can be VERY expensive. I don’t have a whole lot to say about strollers, though, and plenty of other people do. We made a common first-parent mistake and bought a travel system: matching baby bucket and gigantic stroller in one. It was handy to have a stroller that we could pop her bucket on and the sun shade and weather shields (though the sunshade wasn’t strictly necessary at first as the baby bucket had a sunshade attached) are nice but the stroller is SO big and SO heavy and takes up SO much room in the trunk… so we bought a cheap umbrella stroller for $15. And that works well, except it doesn’t have a sunshade or the storage that the large stroller has. And, the umbrella stroller’s handles are too short for me to push comfortably. So, what I wish we’d done was purchased the baby bucket separately instead of in a travel system, and gotten something lightweight and easily folded like this Snap n Go stroller. Of course, that doesn’t solve the dilemma we face now that Sassa’s older and out of her baby bucket: do we go for storage and a comfortable height for me with our HUMONGO stroller, or get something lightweight, small and convenient at the price of no storage and me unable to push comfortably? Not to mention that there’s no reclining seat in the umbrella and so it’s harder for Sassa to nap on the go. We did get a mesh stroller bag (something similar to this) to add some storage to the umbrella stroller, so that’s an option to eliminate at least one of the issues. So I guess I should put this out to my more stroller-savvy readers: is there a reasonably priced, light-weight, compact, easily maneuvered stroller out there with an under-seat storage basket, a reclining seat, a sun hood, adjustable height handles, and (because I’m asking for the moon here) an accessory tray to hold my latte? Or is there something with most, but not all, of those options? A really good, well-planned stroller would be useful for years, so I suppose that this would be something that spending more would be justifiable, but I get a heart attack thinking of spending over $250 for a stroller (hey, this is Baby Necessities on a BUDGET). Oh, never mind about the need for a cupholder as I see that there are tons of options for adding a cupholder for my latte, still, it would be nice…

Swing: There are some babies who don’t like swings. There are some babies who think swings are so-so. And then there are some babies who NEED a swing. Because you don’t know which type of baby you’re going to get, and indeed, because babies can change their views on swings at a whim, I strongly suggest that you get a swing before the baby arrives. And I strongly suggest that you get one used. Some people suggest not getting a swing at first and just taking your child somewhere to try one out before buying it. I think this is a waste of time. The first few times that we put Julia in her swing she greatly disliked it. If we’d been trying it out at a friend’s house, or the store, we would have left without buying. But, because we had it there, out of desperation a few times we put her in the swing and she got used to it. There were times she wanted the swing and times she couldn’t stand the swing – it was worth having the swing in our living room during the times that she couldn’t stand it for the peace it brought when she could. The swing turned out to be something that I would have felt good about paying full price for – because it was so necessary and because Julia was small enough that we used it up to her first birthday – but we didn’t know it would turn out that way at the time, so I’m glad that we got it for free. Definitely get your swing used. Check around, ask people with kids, or people who know people with kids, if any of them have a swing in storage that they can lend you. If that falls through, turn to the ever-handy classifieds. New swings can be expensive, and they’ll often have extra gadgets attached – toy bars, mobiles, lights, noises. These things are nice, but they’re not strictly necessary. Klove and I got our swing (and bouncy seat) for free from a friend, and we were lucky in that they matched our nursery theme, but the swing was missing its toy bar, and the lights and sounds and mobile worked only sporadically if at all. And it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the motion of the swing. It was nice that our swing had the option of swinging back to front or side to side, there were times when Sassa was fussy and all it took was changing the motion, but apart from that… basic is just fine. If you find a used swing that works for a good price, take it even if it doesn’t match your décor. It’s less exciting than getting a new one, but it’ll be better than paying full price for something that doesn’t work for your child.

Bouncy Seat: This is another item like the swing that some babies love and some babies hate. Our baby hated hers. No matter how often we put her in it she would only stay there for a minute or two, tops. And she would NEVER sleep in hers. Other babies are different. Like I said with the swing, we got ours handed down to us, so I don’t resent having it at the time, though I did resent kicking it around when she wouldn’t use it. So, put the bouncy seat in the category of: get it used if you get one at all. If it’s stained you can always throw a receiving blanket over it to make it look sweet and pretty.

Baby Bath Tub: Choices here will kind of depend on the size of your baby and your own preferences. Sassa was a tiny baby, so when she first came home from the hospital we bathed her in the little tub they sent home with her. Later we moved to the kitchen sink. We had received a baby bath tub at one of our showers. The baby bath tub came with a detachable bath sling similar to this one. We have a very tiny main floor bath, and no master bath, and we found that we were disinclined to drag the baby bathtub out and fill it up only to have to drain it and dry it off and put it back away again after every bath, so we took the bath sling off and found that it worked marvelously in our kitchen sink. And that’s how we bathed Sassa for months. The bathtub just took up space in her nursery. The sling was small, quick drying, and easy to use. If I were to do it again I’d skip buying the whole baby bathtub, and simply get this bath sling. This sling can be used in the kitchen sink OR in a regular tub if your baby is too big to fit in your kitchen sink. Another inexpensive item that might work better for larger babies is this bath cushion though I’ve never tried it, so I can’t be sure.

When your baby is old enough to sit and play in the tub, honestly I’d just throw a towel in the bottom of the tub for traction and cushioning, run only a few inches into the tub, and call it done. As for bath rings, our baby bathtub did transform into a bathing ring, but we found it awkward and Sassa hated to be in it. The baby has to be able to sit in order to use one anyway, so why bother with it? You’re not going to leave that baby’s side while it’s in the tub anyway. I’ve heard of some people using a plastic laundry basket in the tub to help corral their sitter, and that would certainly be cheap and convenient in terms of storage (gotta have laundry basket anyway, right?), so you might consider trying this, too. Or at least googling it to see what other people say.

Crib Set: Over the years when I thought about having a baby, one of the things I spent the most time thinking about (besides the baby itself, oh and name choices) was what kind of crib set I wanted. When I was 20 I nearly shelled out $150 for a Rainbow Fish crib set. It was so cute! Even though I had no plans to get pregnant any time soon, I was too tempted by the cuteness. I’m so glad that I didn’t. By the time Klove and I got serious about having a baby, I looked for the Rainbow Fish set and found that it was no longer being sold. I was heartbroken and so I looked in consignment stores and ebay and scoured the internet looking for the set. And when I found pieces of it I was inevitably disappointed by the quality. So I started looking hard at commercially available crib sets and I couldn’t believe the prices that were being charged for such poor quality items. Now, not all crib sets are poor quality, but they’re all relatively expensive. This is another one of those items, like the crib itself, that has a limited use span. We didn’t want to pay $150-$200 or more for something that was only a decoration and wouldn’t be used for long. So, since my mother is a fantastic quilter, we asked her if she would sew us one as her gift to us. She agreed and one day we went to a fabric store and picked out our pattern, decided what pieces we wanted, and went to look at fabrics. The pattern was on sale for $2.50, the fabrics and notions (including jersey for matching sheets) were less than $30, and there were bumper pad forms for about $25. We chose to have my mom make a dust ruffle, bumpers, a diaper stacker, a cushion for our rocking chair, 2 crib sheets, a crib quilt, and 2 hanging organizers. My mother was able to modify the hanging organizer pattern so that it hung by Velcro along the sides of the dresser we were using as a changing table.

So, here’s what I suggest: if you can sew make it yourself. Or if you have someone in your family or close friend group who likes to sew, I’d approach them and see if they’d be willing to sew your crib set as a gift to you. I say approach them, because they might not think of it on their own; they might think you’ve got a set picked out from a store, or they might never have sewn one before and so it wouldn’t be on their minds and thus they wouldn’t just offer. But it’s easy to do, and I haven’t met a sewer who didn’t think that the project was a fun one. If you’re worried about the cost of the fabric PLUS the cost of the labor would be too much for this particular person, you could offer to supply the fabric and notions if they’ll do the labor. And they can always say no and you’re no worse off than you were before.

If that fails, go back to those handy classifieds. There are some quality sets out there that hold up well to handing down, and I’ve even seen NIP sets for very low prices. Of course, the crib set is so crucial to the overall look of the nursery that I don’t blame you if you’re too choosy to find one used or for sale on the classifieds that’ll suit you. This might be a case where esthetics outweighs budget. If that’s so, start looking early, cruise ebay, comb the internet and do the best you can to get the best deal you can wrangle.

A word about diaper stackers: they’re not always a standard piece included in a crib set. Some people (like us) love them and use them constantly (right now that’s the only piece of Sassa’s crib set, aside from the quilt, that we’re still using) Other people never use them at all. Klove and I buy our diapers in bulk and so we like to keep the big box out of the way and refill the stacker; my brother and sister in law bought diapers in smaller bags from the grocery store and just had the bag lying around. Think about how you think you’re going to diaper. Disposable bulk? Disposable small purchases? Cloth? Does it bother you to have commercial packaging lying around? Do you want something portable to hold your diapers? If you’re buying a commercially prepared crib set you might have to purchase the diaper stacker separately. In that case, you might not find it worth it to buy one. If you’re making your own, or having someone else make it for you, it won’t cost that much extra to make one, so I say get one and see.

Also, sheets: Sassa wasn’t much of a vomiter. She spat up a lot, but it was reflux, and we got into the habit of laying her on a cloth diaper or burp rag. So, for us, 2 crib sheets turned out to be fine. My mother made us two sheets to match the crib set and we just alternated them. I’d start with two pretty sheets, and get a couple of plain white cotton ones as back ups and that should be all you need.

Decorations: Exploit the talents of others. Look around your family and friend sets. Do you have people who are artistic or crafty? Someone who likes to draw or paint? Exploit them! Talk to them about painting a mural for the nursery walls as a gift. Or, take a page from HD’s book and get a number of people to each paint a tiny canvas with a picture that relates to your nursery theme. Such a project could even be a shower activity. Is there someone who likes needlework? Ask them for a wall hanging, or a pillow for the rocking chair.

Look to the talents and hobbies of the people who love you, chances are they’ll love a chance to give you something more personal and meaningful as a gift for the baby, and you’ll end up with a nursery that is unique and reflective of your life and family. You don’t even need wildly creative and skilled people for this… you could decorate your nursery wall with the handprints and signatures of your family and friends. Got someone who loves photography? Ask them for copies of some of your favorite pictures that they’ve done, or see if they’ll accept an assignment from you to match your theme. Heck, even if you don’t have a photographer in your family you can do this yourself. Take enough pictures on a digital camera and a few, at least, are bound to be good (just look at my flickr set if you’re in doubt, any of the good pictures I’ve taken are entirely by accident) and even a mediocre shot can be made interesting with some creative cropping. And they’re bound to look better and be cheaper than many commercially-available, mass-produced nursery wall hangings.

Ok. That’s long enough for now. I’ve covered most of the major purchases, I think, that you’d need in the first six months or so. One more post talking about feeding supplies, infant toys, clothing, hygiene and pharmacy items and I should be done. Anything I’ve forgotten so far?

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4 thoughts on “More Baby Necessities on a Small Budget

  1. Wearing the baby while tiny and then getting a lighter stroller appropriate for a bigger baby/toddler is a budget option to consider. We got a nice umbrella stroller (MacLaren Triumph, $150: tall (but not adjustable) handles, lightweight, reclines, some storage, no cup holder) and used it once our daughter was more stable (about 3-4 months) but wore her when she was really little. I should say though that we don’t drive (we’re in a big city) so carseat compatibility wasn’t an issue for us, though I do know drivers who used the same strategy, and just left the seat in the car. Buckets are pretty heavy anyway and a transfer to a sling isn’t really that hard.

  2. and looking for this stuff on craig’s is always an option!!! that where we got our stroller and i am sure we’ll be buying stuff off of craig’s list for years to come!

  3. The MaClaren Techno XT has all of the features (except the latte tray) you want. It also has the $250 price tag. For $100, (at certain times of the year, much less, like $60) you can get the Volo, which doesn’t recline and has a little less storage space. I love the Volo because it only weighs 8 lbs, so I can carry it and the baby if I have to. Both are very sturdy, manuverable and easy on the eyes. Just if you buy a used one, try it and make sure it works well, don’t buy it from someone who’s going to send it in the mail.

  4. Over here from familyo, where they were singing the praises of your Baby Stuff lists.

    The Graco Metrolite is the stroller you’re looking for.
    It has every feature you mentioned, and goes for $100-150 (the one with the basket that opens for easy access is $150 unless you get the special model that is only available online from Toys R Us for $100).
    It is awesome.
    We love it so much that when we saw it used on Craigslist for $35 we immediately emailed Lo and Co, and so now they have it too.

    We always laugh at people with their expensive strollers because ours is flawless and yet so cheap.

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