Please welcome back to the Thrifty and Nifty series, Anne-Marie from Greenish Monkeys who shares some tips for raising baby inexpensively and “green”(and I’m not referring to the contents of their diapers. Too far?).
Congratulations! A wee one on the way… and you want to reduce your environmental impact while avoiding breaking the bank. A noble, and not at all impossible goal. Here are a few suggestions from my experience of trying to go green on the cheap with my most recent little guy.
The internet is full of lists of things that you MUST buy for your new baby. What do you really need? Trying to go as minimalist as possible is good for both your budget and the planet. A good way to start is to make a list and begin to tailor it to your particular family situation. What can you borrow from family or close friends? What can you buy used? What do you think you might like, but aren’t sure about?
For example, my eldest child hated baby swings with a passion. She would scream if she went near one. Had I spent money on a new (or used!) swing, it would have been money poorly spent. Waiting to see what her needs were before buying was definitely the way to go for us. To start with, you don’t need much: diapers, a safe place to sleep, a carseat. A few outfits and blankets, but your mother-in-law may well have that covered.
Shopping secondhand can be a way to save a lot of money across the entire span of childhood. The time of infancy is so short that equipment and clothing often don’t take much of a beating (now, corduroy pants belonging to six-year old boys are a different story). Scope out resale shops in your area and learn how they work. Can you put your name on a list for specific items? (For example, I wanted a jogging stroller, and I was put on a wait list where I was called whenever one came in). Are there regular markdowns and sales? Some areas have large, indoor-yard sale type of items for babies and young children that can be a great place to source gear. Shopping secondhand can help you to afford better quality items that may last longer—for example, a good quality carrier, which is something I consider essential.
What do you not want to buy used? Assess for safety: I wouldn’t buy a used carseat (unless I was buying it from a friend) because I want to be sure a seat has never been in an accident. Check for dates of expiration, recalls, and safety concerns such as spacing of crib bars and drop-side mechanisms. Do your research. Many stores will hold an item for 24-48 hours, which gives you time to look it up and check on any potential concerns.
Another way to reduce your baby’s impact on the environment is to use cloth diapers. They work well. Most of the time, the washing isn’t a big deal. These can be purchased new or used, and which you do depends on your needs. I won’t re-invent the wheel (there is a lot of info out there!), but I think that if you want to use one-size diapers and think you may have another child, buying new makes sense. For a tiny baby, using prefolds and covers, purchased new or used, makes a lot of sense—these items can be handed down or sold, and you won’t have to worry about the fact that one-size diapers often don’t fit a newborn right away. In terms of deciding what diapers to use, I usually recommend that folks try a variety. Some stores have sampler or rental packages that help you do this; you can also buy good quality used diapers in order to try a style and see how you like it and how it fits on your baby.
In short, assess your needs carefully. Ask friends and families if you can borrow from them. Look secondhand if it’s feasible. Wait to see what your baby’s needs are. Waiting can pay off financially (says she who activated the warranty on a breast pump eleven months after buying it) and in terms of how much stuff you accumulate. Less stuff is better for the planet, and for your budget, too.
Anne-Marie Miller is the mom to three children (1, 7, and 10) in central Maine. She is a social worker by trade, but is currently at home with the kids most of the time. She enjoys reading, gardening, and hiking, and would rather cook something than clean the kitchen. She blogs about her family’s efforts to live more sustainably and simply at Greenish Monkeys. You can read her first guest post on The Budget Maven here.