Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The $30,000 Baby

First comes love, then comes the $20,000 marriage, then comes the $30,000 baby in a baby carriage.

Sheesh! If the Wedding Industrial Complex wasn't enough to make you feel sick to your stomach, now there's the Baby Industrial Complex trying to convince us that we need to spend $600 on a changing table.

Henry is not a $30,000 baby. I change him on a towel folded nicely on the bathroom counter (it's nice to have access to running water!). But the top of a second-hand dresser would also work.

Those of us who don't have $600 for a changing table or don't want to spend that kind of money on such a thing shouldn't feel any sense of inferiority or insecurity. That's the real problem with all these message about what you should do to have a real wedding or to be a real mother.

(Thanks for sharing the link, Sebrina!)

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Ashley said...

My favorite part is at the very bottom: "New car to accommodate baby gear: $10,000-$40,000" Whaaaaaaaaaat?!

Ellie said...

When my husband and I sat down to talk about how much money we would feel like we need to have in savings, we definitely put money for a new car on the list - right now we have a single corolla between us, which will accommodate one child in a car seat, but I have heard from several friends that once you get to two, you do need to buy a bigger car, especially with how long kids need to be in carseats for these days. I don't think it's an unreasonable thing to budget for or contemplate - as the article says, you don't have to spend that money, but you should think about it. Even couples with two reliable, reasonably sized cars should probably make sure they have enough in savings to handle repairs or breakdowns, if they happen.

What I really appreciated about the article was the breakdown of the cost of maternity leave. I can almost guarantee you that all I will get anywhere I work is six weeks of unpaid leave. I think that is something that not a lot of people think about, especially if they are going to stop working for a period of time - Sara, you say that Henry isn't a 30,000 baby because you change him on a towel, but you also gave up your day job to be his primary caretaker (and would have paid for daycare otherwise) which may not have cost you $30,000, but those are the main expenses they are talking about, not the changing table.

I actually think this article is pretty good - it starts out by pointing out that you may not want/need to buy All The Things, but it does point out that babies are expensive, whether it's in stuff you buy them or just in health insurance. I appreciate that it breaks down the costs to consider, because I can look at the supplies column and say, "I think we'll only spend $1000, because we will get a lot used and as hand me downs, but there is no way to get around health insurance and ours will actually cost more than that per month."

Sara E. Cotner said...

I respect your opinion, Ellie, and am thankful that you shared it. I do agree that the article has some merits (such as getting folks to think more comprehensively about expenses, like you mentioned).

I should have been more specific about what bugs me about the article. I'm frustrated by the underlying assumption that you should buy everything NEW. New products take a serious toll on our wallets and the environment, and the article doesn't even attempt to help anyone save money by mentioning that you can buy baby products used (even though it has "ways to save" at the end of each section). Here's an example:

"The out-of-pocket expense can vary dramatically based on the cost of living in your area, your health insurance plan, the amount of gear received as gifts, whether or not your MIL is up for babysitting, and so on."

This would have been the perfect place to mention the option of shopping second-hand. You can significantly reduce your costs by buying gently-used baby products (since babies grow so fast and it's difficult to use anything for very long).

In the food section, the assumption is that you will buy baby food in jars, which, again takes a toll on the environment and the wallet. They don't even mention the option of making your own baby food (which is not very difficult or time-consuming), even in the "ways to save" category.

In the nursery section, they fail to mention that each of us should take a long, hard look at The List of required nursery items and cross of the things we don't really need (for example, you can throw a pad on top of a dresser and have a "changing table.") Their "way to save" is to spend more on certain items and less on other items. They don't even mention the possibility of eliminating certain items altogether.

In the baby gear section, they missed a prime opportunity to explain to parents-to-be that there are tons of gently-used baby products available through consignment shops, garage sales, Craigslist, and local "moms groups."

In the diaper category, they mention that you can save with cloth diapers but they don't include that strategy in the "ways to save" section.

$1,000 on clothes for a baby that wears something for two minutes at a time before a) spitting up on it and requiring a change or b) outgrows it? Again, used baby clothes save a ton of money, and they are better for the environment. Why would buying used not be mentioned in a whole section about "ways to save"?

And why would this article not mention any of this? It's probably partly due to the advertisers in the sidebar. They all benefit if they convince us that we should buy everything brand-new in order to provide the very best for our children.

I don't mean to say any of this in a "holier than thou" way. Henry has plenty of new stuff, primarily because most of his "gear" was purchased as gifts from our registry. And although I try to be as budget- and eco-friendly as possible, I sometimes deviate from those values.

I just have higher expectations for an article that purports to be offering myriad options and trying to help families save money.

Maureen said...

By the time you figure in childcare, baby cost us far more than $30,000! Although I also dislike that they didn't mention things like making your own babyfood, the savings of cloth diapers, or getting a lot of clothes and gear used, this budget actually seems pretty realistic to me! Then again I opted for spending more on things that would take Lily far beyond her first year - our high chair, stroller, car seat, floor bed were all at the upper end of the price ranges but she will use them until she is at least 4 or 5. While I don't like the message that you have to get all this stuff to be a "real mother", I do think its important (especially for young couples) to understand what you are getting into financially before they decide to have a baby. Some of this stuff you really do need (like childcare if you work, diapers, and baby clothes) and there is no cheap way around it. After all, financial preparedness is one of the important aspects of being ready to become parents! The "BIC" missed the mark on the message with this article, but there is some truth there.

Anonymous said...

Children nowadays! It's so sad to see how much money parents fork out for their children. I grew up with parents who did things simple... they owned a home and could only afford to buy us little things for Christmas. I turned out just fine! I remember wanting a cabbage patch doll for Christmas when I was little. My parents bought my sister and I that for Christmas. Back in those days cabbage patch dolls were like $60. For my parents, that was an expensive gift. That was all they could afford to give my sister and I. To this day, I still have my doll. I appreciate the gift they gave me because I know how hard they worked to get. Kids nowadays, get all these $100.00 Christmas gifts and more! It's out outrageous! When my fiance and I do have children, were keeping it simple. Our children will not be the $30,000 baby! No way!

-Jodi :)

Molly said...

Just a quick ditto to Elle's main comment, which Sara didn't address but also "paid" - some of the biggest costs of having a baby are lost wages for mama.

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