A lot of folks around the blogosphere seem to be having babies and talking about the associated costs. What’s always struck me when reading the posts is that a lot of them do spend quite a bit. I don’t know if it’s just that baby costs have seriously escalated over the years or if some of them are choosing not to be as frugal in this area of their finances. Interesting topic, Kelly! I’d very much like to know from the other parents out there, is there such as thing as being too frugal in this area? I’m sure there is, but not being a parent, I don’t know.
So the question is “Can you be too frugal in this area?”
I think the answer is “It depends.” Kristy is right in that costs are higher now then they were in the past, which is no different for pregnancy and baby stuff than for any other category of goods. But I also think that our (western) culture, which encourages people to ‘buy, buy, buy’, makes us feel like every last doodad or gadget is necessary and we can’t do without it.
But I also think that you can be too frugal when preparing for a new baby, both for financial reasons and psychological reasons. Financially, you are too frugal when you don’t buy enough of something (like pyjamas or diapers) and then have to do lots and lots of laundry, more than you would have to if you had bought enough in the first place. Of course some would argue that you can never be too frugal, that instead, it’s called being cheap and I would have to agree. This was the point raised by other commenters on the frugal pregnancy post, particularly Shevy who said:
It wouldn’t be very frugal to skimp on the vitamins (especially as I believe the folic acid issue is really only critical during the first trimester and immediately prior to conception) and then have to deal with a child who had an exposed spinal cord and might never walk.
I also think that celebrating the arrival of a new baby and the rituals involved in doing so are very important. This is why so many cultures have set up rituals around pregnancy, childbirth and new babies. I think when you don’t do so, you’re being too frugal psychologically.
After having my first two children, I saved a lot of their clothes and baby things, but not everything. When I found out I was pregnant with my third, we knew that there were certain things we were going to need to buy again: diapers, a stroller, a crib. It just so happened that in a period of about three weeks, all in the first trimester of my pregnancy, we were given or found really good deals on everything we needed. I didn’t need to buy anything to prepare for the baby after about the third month. Our daughter moved into her brothers’ room as well, so we didn’t need to prepare a nursery either (which I don’t think that babies necessarily need).
I am really grateful and pleased that we were able to find everything that we needed, either as a gift, as a hand-me-down, or used. But I think that it is important to take the time to prepare for a baby, and that maybe buying stuff, figuratively feathering the nest, is part of that preparation and transition.
What do you think? Can you be too frugal when preparing for the arrival of a new baby or with your children?