Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective

Noah’s Ark for a 1st Birthday Cake!

A great book we found back when we were earnestly baby gear shopping (can’t believe our little one is a year and a half now!) was Baby Bargains. Grab the latest version from the library to save even more! This book has a lot of reviews and recommendations on baby gear. It tells you what you need, what you don’t and which products are worth the money and which you can get on the cheap. Definitely talk to friends as well, to find out what baby gadgets are worth the money and which are not. I found tips from other moms invaluable when buying for baby. It’s amazing how quickly a baby outgrows different toys and items. Some items make your life more manageable (the bouncy seat allowed me to shower for the 1st 8 mos!) and some seem like a waste of money (I bought a little food mill and found that it always jammed. It was easier to either use a fork or get out the food processor).

Yard sales and craigslist are a great way to pick up toys and books on the cheap, typically in great condition. I have purchased a lot of great books at yard sales. Since they were 4/$1 I rounded out her collection of board books for $10! Our daughter can sit and look at her books for what seems like hours (or at least enough time to do some dishes!) I also hit the town yard sale and picked up a lot of summer clothing. Since our daughter was born in the winter we did well with presents for winter/fall clothes, but didn’t have any summer items. I was able to buy shorts, bathing suits, water shoes and t-shirts for under $20 to complete a summer wardrobe. I have also had great luck looking for specific items on craigslist. I wanted to buy the Little People’s Noah’s Ark to use for her first birthday cake. I found out that the all plastic version I wanted was no longer sold. I was able to find one locally on Craigslist. People use baby items for such a short time. There are always bargains to be had in the second hand market. Currently I’m in the market for two items: A push around trike or buggy for walks around the neighborhood and a toddler swing (we are getting the swing set as a hand me down from my sister). MITBeta is looking for a toddler trailer for his bike.

One other frugal tip I found out from a friend is, you should never spend $14 on a pregnancy test. I did not know there was any other option! It turns out that you can obtain very affordable pregnancy tests online for around $1 each! Check out Early Pregnancy Test. You can also pick up tests at the Dollar Tree for a $1 as well. For everyone who has ever spent a fortune on tests this will save you a ton of money! They are also just as accurate as the $14 versions at the drugstore.

Here are some of my top frugal buying tips:

1. Try not to get any “real” clothes for a baby under 3 mos old. You won’t want them in anything but onesies and one piece sleepers anyway. You can save the “real” clothes for when they are older.

2. Since you will be doing laundry so frequently with a new baby you probably won’t need 20 of any one item. As they get older and the laundry stretches out to every 2- 3 days you start to need more (i.e. we need about 5 pairs of spring jammies)

3. Buy things that morph or can be used for longer periods of time: our bouncy seat converts into a toddler rocker that she loves using now.

4. Skip the highchair and just get a travel seat. Our travel seat is always attached to our kitchen chair, but we had it for outings as well. Now she’s big enough for a high chair at restaurants, but the travel seat still works great at home. Space saver as well!

5. Babies/kids don’t need a million toys. Our daughter has entertained herself for days by putting her babies and stuffed animals in a cardboard box and pushing them around. It doesn’t take bells and whistles (and batteries) to entice children.

6. Since you will have the need for some battery operated items, invest in a good charger and rechargeable batteries.

7. Some safety items are not worth the money. We have all the outlets covered, tot locks on the dangerous cabinets and the door to the outside has a knob cover on it, but I found items like a toilet latch, toilet paper cover and table guards are not necessary. I found just teaching her not to touch the toilet lid was enough and since I NEED a shower every day she has spent 95% of my showers hanging out with toys in the bathroom. Some safety items actually attract the child to the hazard. Better if they hadn’t noticed it at all or learn that some things are not toys and should not be played with. Save some money but make sure you are equipped with adequate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and have a quality car seat. Wait and see, you might be surprised what your own child gets into and what they avoid.

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7 Responses to “Frugal Baby Part III: Buying Basics”

  1. Michelle Says:

    Great post!

    Always love ScrapperMom’s guest posts.

    A few notes from me…

    #1 - Baby Bargains is the BEST book you will buy when you are expecting… even better than the what’s going on with your body, what’s going on with the baby, etc. books. It was invaluable to us and we recommend it to EVERYONE who is expecting their first. However, I have to say just one thing about the library thing… please do go buy this book! It says right in the beginning of the book that the authors do not take bribes or samples or anything from any companies so as not to skew their comments and reviews of the items. The only way for them to make money is through the purchase of the book.

    #2. Hand-me-downs - I cannot even begin to express how much the hand-me-downs have meant to us. We have received clothes from family and friends, our fortune in this area has been phenonmenal. In over 6 years we have NEVER had to purchase anything for our children to wear with the exception of underwear and socks. With the hand-me-downs (some even being mailed to us from the south,) and the more extravagant purchases (special occasion dresses, coats, bathing suits, etc.) being gifted to us by grandparents, aunts, uncles and Godparents, we have never had to purchase anything! And in turn, we have passed every single piece of clothing we have been able to on to family and friends!

    #3. I have been meaning to ask ScrapperMom personally, but will ask her here now instead, to share with me (us) her strategy for meal planning. I have gotten a hint in the past that she has some kind of way of doing it. I read both of her Saving on Food series posts, and really enjoyed the tips and ideas. But I’m looking for even more… what meals work for your family? How often do you go shopping? When do you prepare meals, (all at once in one long cooking session, then freeze; some other way?)

  2. ScrapperMom Says:

    1- True enough about the library bypassing their profits, but in an attempt to emphasize the resources at your local library I included that. I had forgot all about the public library until a few years ago. A gold mine of information at your fingertips for free!

    2- That is awesome that you had such a great experience with hand me downs!

    3- We definitely have a dozen or so staple meals that I make all the time and I’m trying to add to this list. There are a lot of great blogs with menu ideas.

    Here’s a few:

    It’s great to see what everyone else is eating. Some things you never consider, but are easy to add to your own repertoire.

    Menu items: Some things that are always on the menu around here week to week are fajitas, quesidillas, homemade macaroni and cheese, baked ziti, cheese burgers, enchiladas, salmon, to name a few. I’m finding old favorites that I need to add as well like spaghetti and meatballs, hot dogs and beans, baked chicken breast, chicken cacciatore.

    Shopping Trips: I go to the store once a week on Monday. Since I use the grocery game, which usually comes out on Sunday, I use that and the flyers from the week to make a menu for the week. I have a sheet of paper that has all the weeks meals on it and make a grocery list based on that.

    Make ahead: I have to admit I’ve been bad about make ahead meals. It does depend on the meal. I do tend to cook everyday. Doing prep work as I can while our daughter is entertaining herself with a book to make things shorter in the evening. If I’m making something like lasagna or baked ziti I will make two, especially since the full recipes makes too much for the 3 of us (I will use 2 8×8 pans instead). I will frequently make pasta for a casserole meal in the morning during breakfast. I’m in the kitchen anyway and it gets it done before things heat up outside in the summer. I’ll also make extra when I make enchilladas. I also like to reuse items. For example meatballs will be subs one day and spaghetti and meatballs the next. And I will freeze any extra.

    Hope that helps! Happy eating/cooking/freezing!

  3. Michelle Says:

    Hey… what’s the grocery game?

  4. ScrapperMom Says:

    You can check out their website:

    They basically have lists for most of the local stores (Shaws, Stop and Shop, CVS, etc) and match up the sale prices with the coupons (possibly from weeks earlier) to show you the rock bottom prices. So they essentially tell you when things are at a good price. I like it, but since I don’t consistently get the paper (and coupon inserts) it’s hard to really make it worthwhile these days. I’ll let you know how things go in the next few weeks with it. I may abandon it now that I have a good idea of what things cost and when things are “really” on sale. I try not to buy a ton of processed food either so I can’t really take full advantage, although they do have produce and meats on the list as well. You can do a 4 week trial for only $1 as well and see how you like it.

  5. Okulu Says:

    I would like to start my own blog one day. This was a really nice blog that you made here. Keep up the success :P


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