If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that my approach to spending money on baby stuff is minimal, to say the least. Our son is two and a half now (!) and we’ve still spent very little on gear, supplies, etc. for him. Other than his 529 fund and his health insurance, our expenses have not increased noticeably at all since he was born. We’ve only had two major new purchases: an organic crib mattress bought on sale for $230, and a Britax Marathon car seat for $220 (on a clearance sale, reduced from about $270). We comparison shopped for both items, and bought them when they were on sale, with free shipping. We feel that they were both worth the price, and both will continue to be used for quite some time (the crib mattress fits into a second-hand wooden toddler bed that we found on Craigslist, and we plan to use it until our son no longer fits on it).
Other than those two items, the only stuff we’ve purchased new were a few small things – a very basic $12 potty chair, some baby-proofing supplies, organic diaper rash ointment, etc. All of his clothes have either been hand-me-downs from friends, gifts (my mother in law likes to send clothes for Christmas and his birthday), or purchased used at a thrift store. Same with his toys, books, bedding, high chair, furniture, stroller,Moby Wrap, bike trailer, etc. I don’t have any desire for matching nursery furniture, and in general, we’ve just done without a lot of the stuff that many parents feel is essential for babies. His cloth diapers were homemade (by me and my mother) and the fabric to make them came from recycled flannel sheets, t-shirts and fleece sweatshirts. I breastfed him for two years, and we never bought any formula or jarred/boxed baby food (we had a little food grinder that we used to grind up our food for him until he was old enough to chew, and ever since then he’s just eaten the same stuff we do). Other than the college fund and health insurance, I would estimate that we’ve spent about a thousand dollars on our son in the last two and a half years.
But…. I know that not everyone feels the same way. Not all parents are happy with so many hand-me-downs and thrift store items for their little ones. Or mis-matched nursery furniture and minimal baby gear. And a lot of parents just love to shop for their babies. But very few parents have $10,000 sitting around to spend on baby gear in their baby’s first year (yikes!). That’s where Laura Cowan can help. Laura runs the website 29Diapers, devoted to helping parents use cloth diapers. And she’s written a book called Ecofrugal Baby, How to Save 70% Off Baby’s First Year. I was honored when Laura asked me to review the book, and I was amazed at how much information she packed into it. She has definitely done her homework. This book is perfect for parents who want to have all the latest stuff for their babies but don’t want to pay a fortune for it. Laura scored hundreds of dollars worth of free baby gear just by entering giveaway contests and writing product reviews, and her book is packed full of tips and websites that you can visit to do the same thing yourself. It took me quite a while to read the book because I kept having to divert to the various websites she recommended, so that I could enter contests for kid gear… maybe I’ll win something!
Ecofrugal Baby is 155 pages of great information. No pictures, no filler, just advice and guidance on getting baby gear for way less than retail prices. I love that she frequently reminds readers to make use of the CPSC recall database to make sure that items they are acquiring for their babies have not been recalled for safety issues – definitely good advice. Laura provides excellent tips on using Freecycle and Craigslist (by using those sources to both acquire and get rid of clothes, Laura has spent a total of negative 57 cents on her daughter’s wardrobe!) as well as tons of tips for getting discounts on new items for parents who would rather not buy used. The book is available both as an e-book for $5.99 and as a paperback for $19.96. Or you can win a copy here! One of my readers will win a copy of the e-book, and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. Make sure to include your email address in the space for it in the comment section, and I’ll draw a winner randomly on Friday, October 22nd. Good luck!