Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mum Abroad 8: The Urge to Splurge

Tiny shoes, tiny pajamas, tiny sweaters, tiny pairs of jeans - baby things are cute, and we haven't even gotten to the books, toys and paraphernalia for sale, not to mention the guilt-tripping advertising techniques - You need these CDs or your baby will never appreciate art! You must get this brand of bottle sterilizer or the baby will get leprosy! If you don't buy this special soft toy, the baby will feel neglected and won't be able to bond properly!

Like any specialty marketing (flashback to the wedding!), sellers take advantage of perceived need, the buyer's lack of knowledge and experience with the products, and the fairly short timeline, jacking up prices (why do tiny socks and sweaters cost the same as adult socks and jackets, or sometimes more? Pretty sure elves and fairies didn't make them, so what's with the premium?). It can get so expensive so fast, and it's just not necessary. I want our pre-baby time to be positive, filled with fun planning for baby, not worrying about the bill. I'd rather have extra cash to travel and do things when Baby is here.

On the other hand, babies do need some special, specific things. I want to be prepared, and of course it's fun to shop for Baby, so the trick is finding the Baby Bear Balance - not too much, not too little, but just right. And just how are we doing that? By making smart decisions. Here are my top five tips for spreading your euro/dollar/dough/ the farthest: 

Make a List, Check it Twice

First of all, I made a list of baby things - dream items, necessary items, and things I didn't know too much about. Then I read a bunch of mom blogs and parenting books (here's my favourite list, a little extreme, but it does prove a point) and went through my list again, taking off things we don't need at all and prioritizing what we do want to get with a timeline of when we need it. We did get a crib ahead of time, although Baby will be sleeping next to us at first, to avoid the hassle of picking it up and putting it together later on (we don't want to be those people who make Baby suffer through a three hour trip to Ikea). We're holding off on a high chair and umbrella stroller until we need them, and we're not getting a toddler-sized bed at all, since we already have a single bed that will work perfectly after Baby outgrows the bassinet and crib. In fact, it's in Baby's room right now, a place to crash during particularly fussy nights. 

tall guy's bassinet, recovered. i can't believe he used to fit in here!

Sentimental Value

My mom gave me a few special receiving blankets, outfits, books, and toys from when I was a baby. While it's nice to have new things, it's nice to have a few things that were special to me in the past to share with my own baby. We also have some of Tall Guy's special toys and clothes. It's nice to be able to pass on some memories.

Just don't feel pressured to use older things - an old crib might not meet today's safety standards, or maybe there's an outfit you really don't like. That's okay - it's your baby.

some of my childhood toys for baby

Go for Seconds

With the ongoing economic crisis, Spaniards are becoming more open to second-hand shopping. Still, there are not a lot of shops around, so the best bet is to check online (sites such as segundamando.es are good). There are several Facebook groups of mums in Madrid that focus on baby and child items, and I've managed to get a lot of things second-hand through them. Easy on the pocketbook and the environment, as well as more practical, since many things will only be used a few times! It has also been a great way to connect with other mums in the city – I have met some truly lovely women. My Facebook groups are:

  • Mama Trato Madrid - a Spanish group dedicated to buying, selling, trading and sometimes just giving away baby and childhood items in the Madrid area
  • Mom and Baby Madrid - buying/selling, but also classes, meetups and other special events, mainly for foreigners living in the city
  • Girl Gone International Madrid - a group for foreign women living in Madrid, not focused on babies or parenthood but still some buying/selling, mostly furniture, and special events

Renew and Reuse

Hand in hand with sentimental value and second-hand shopping, updating and reusing things is a great way to cut down on costs. Older, second-hand items don't have to look dated or conflict with your taste. We had Tall Guy's bassinet recovered in a fabric we both like, and we had matching cushions made for his Grandmother's rocking chair. The fabric was on sale for 4 euro a meter (Madrid people, check out Calle Pontejos near Plaza del Sol and Plaza Mayor for great fabric and notions shops) and updating both items cost way less than purchasing new. We also didn't even see any new rocking chairs that a) we liked or b) had backs high enough for our heads, so this was the best as well as most sentimental way to go.

a new crib and bookshelf, an old rocking chair and blanket

Do the Research

Tall Guy loves technology, and a good baby monitor was important to him. He compared brands and researched price points for quite some time before we finally made the purchase (we went with a D-link DCS 942L, not specific for babies, but it has all the features Tall Guy deemed important, including remote monitoring from a mobile device and voice command).

This is true for all of our big purchases - we looked around a lot, read heaps of reviews (sometimes frustrating, because it's easy to get sucked in to wanting things "right now!") and made sure to get the products that suited us best at the best price we could find, taking into account warranties and delivery fees (as always, the cheapest advertised price is not necessarily the best deal). The bigger the ticket on the item, the more research we did. 

The best example of research paying off is our stroller. My mom suggested starting early (we went in October!), and we soon realized we had a problem - Tall Guy and I are, well, tall, and many strollers are too short for us! On the first day of looking, we came across the stroller with, supposedly, the tallest push bar on the market. We checked out a lot of models, brands, and reviews, and it's true! Even within the brand (Jane), our model is the tallest. It's cute, good quality, Spanish-made, and we won't ruin our backs or trip over the axles while using it. Who would ever have guessed that a Spanish stroller would have the tallest push bar? Research. Do it!

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