4 Ways to save big money on baby gear
Even people who never plan to have kids know that babies are expensive--it's probably even a major deterrent for many--but if you think smart and are willing to make some compromises you don't have to bust your budget in order to afford gear for your new arrival. Here are for tips to help you save money on big baby gear items like car seats, play yards and cribs:
1. Reconcile with your budget. The first step in saving money is to set a budget and to be realistic about what you can afford within that budget. I knew that I needed to outfit my son's nursery on a shoestring, and I was perfectly okay with that. If you don't have money for all new furniture, it's okay. If you have to sacrifice a cushy high-pile area rug so you can buy an organic mattress, that's okay too. Accept that you may not be able to have everything you love and that you will have to compromise.
2. Know what you want. Try to pick out exact brand and models whenever possible and look for discounts on those specific items. Of course, you also need to know where you're willing to be flexible. I fell in love with a high-end stroller, but wasn't commited to any particular car seat, so I was willing to go with the safest seat in the lower-end of my budget so that I could splurge on the stroller I loved. Once you've figured out exactly what you want, you can be on the lookout for bargains on that item. You might even be able to purchase it for less when the next year's model comes out or during a closeout sale.
3. Shop around. A lot of baby gear including mainstream brands of car seats and play yards are available from a multitude of outlets, from big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target to baby superstores like Babies 'R' Us and Buy Buy Baby. For the most part the prices won't differ by more than a few dollars. The trick is to check for store coupons and sales. I'm not really an avid couponer, but when it comes to baby stuff it can make a huge difference. Sign up for rewards cards when you can, and remember to use them every time you shop--a lot of stores will send you coupons that can be used on items storewide. And don't forget to sign up for flyers alerting you of sales and special events. Of particular interest should be any general sale on brands that you like as well as trade-in events (for instance, you can take in your first child's car seat and trade it in for a hefty discount on a newer model).
4. Buy used. You can find a lot of high-quality gently used baby items at garage sales, consignment shops and on Craigslist. Again, it pays to know the exact brand, model and/or style that you're looking for. Once you know what you want, decide how much you're willing to pay for it second hand and then you can set about tracking it down. Of course, don't forget to negotiate with the seller -- oftentimes you can get the price lowered or even get smaller items thrown in free of charge. Baby stuff is bulky and takes up a lot of stuff -- many people just need to get it out of the way. We scored our favorite crib (barely used) for $50 and got a free swing and bouncy seat that the previous owner just needed to get rid of. Remember to do a thorough inspection for any damage or missing parts and check that the item has not been recalled before shelling out the dough.
Image via triterion/Flickr