In honor of FRA Baby #3 arriving on Tuesday (or perhaps sooner?) This is the inaugural Frugalish Wins, Baby Edition. After having had two other kids, I think we’ve learned a few things about not spending too much on a new baby, including a little hack that saved us thousands of dollars with less than an hour of work. So without any further ado…
The great thing about having another girl is that we already have ALL the stuff (you should have seen our attic and closets).
…well, everything except the changing table...
We stored our first two changing tables (actually dressers) on Craigslist, so it was time to find a new one. Much has changed in the intervening three years. Facebook marketplace seems to have become a better place to find furniture (at least in this Florida college town.) After two months of searching we finally found a table for $20. The previous owners had painted it (but not as well as they could have), but it’s solid wood and we’ll sell it for more than we bought it. Win.
Note: we were actually looking for a regular dresser, at least 33 inches high and no more than $50, but the changing table came up and we couldn’t pass up the price. It wasn’t as wide as we wanted, but it’s great. Flexibility is the key, and not getting hung up on fashion. However, if you’re going to use a dresser as a changing table, make sure the dresser is high enough. Too low and you’ll be uncomfortable changing diapers, and THAT is something you don’t want to be flexible about.
Also, side note for painting furniture: use Cabinet Coat, available at Benjamin Moore stores. It adheres to just about everything as long as you scuff the surface first, and it goes on almost as smooth as oil paint if you have a good brush and some paint extender. It’s water based and cleans up easily. Talk to your local Ben Moore specialist. We refinished our entire bedroom set with it, and we also repainted our oil-painted trim, and have been very happy with the results.
And now the Car Seat…
Now is a good time for a reminder about the difference between frugal and cheap.
FRUGAL is borrowing the great condition car seat that your in laws have been using for the past year. CHEAP is using the car seat you bought for your first kid, even though that car set is 7 years old (and you’re supposed to not use it after five or six years). Plastic weakens over time, and you can’t see the weaknesses. It is not worth risking your child’s life by being CHEAP. And DON’T buy from people you don’t know – you need to verify that the car seat was not in a wreck.
So yes, we are borrowing a Graco car seat and base from my in laws, but with two cars, we needed another base and also a stroller that we can put the car seat into for easy transitions.
Luckily someone we know was selling their car seat, base, and stroller for $40. We offered $35, and they bit. We won’t use the carseat, but the extra base will go in Mr FRA’s Rav4, and the stroller will ride in the minivan. A base and stroller, new, would have been over $100 (maybe less if we had found a Black Friday deal). Once we sell the stroller after #3 has grown out of it, net cost will be approximate zero, which is better than $100.
Our biggest win
Our biggest win did not come from Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or trundling through garage sales (although I’ve been happy with our deals we have found there). This little hack did take less than an hour of research and online paperwork.
Indeed, our biggest win came during open enrollment at work. LAST YEAR.
As a State of Florida employee I have multiple health plans available to me, but I ignore the high-deductible plans and choose a regular HMO or regular PPO. The monthly out of pocket cost is the same for each ($180/mo for a family – yes, we’re fortunate, as the state covers the other $15,000+), and the coverages are not much different. However, there is one difference that is important to know: For the HMO, the total out of pocket cost for ANY hospitalization, including giving birth, is $250. With the PPO, there are out of pocket costs and percentages, and that means well over $250. Including the OB/GYN visits during the pregnancy, that brings our total cost for having a kid to $400. And did I mention that this will be a C-section?
I know many folks with great insurance (and our PPO is great insurance – I’m switching back to it next year to save on specialist visits and to ensure coverage if I am out of state) who pay a boat load more than we will for delivery. It pays to look over your options, and talk to your HR benefits specialist. If you know you are going to have a child in the relatively near future, or if you are going to have surgery of any kind, figure out which of you insurances offers the best prices. And plan in advance to switch to the right plan during open enrollment.
Oh, and don’t forget – add the little one to your insurances just as soon as you can after they are born. We forgot FRA child #2 on dental insurance, during two prior open enrollments.
Another way to start off with a big win…
Don’t buy baby clothes (or baby anything). Ask your friends if they have any clothes and any other baby stuff they want to get rid off. Trust me, your friends will come through in fine style. Many folks just want to get stuff out of their house. You’ll get:
- Clothes (of all sizes AND SEASONS! – sort and keep them in space saver bags)
- Cribs (make sure it’s not been recalled!)
- Half boxes of diapers
- Crib sheets
- Toys with batteries (and if you’re lucky, ones that don’t require them)
- Nursing chairs
- High chairs
- Crap that people got but really didn’t need (wipe warmer, anyone, especially in FL?)
Maybe they’ll ask a nominal amount for some things. If that’s so, throw them a few dollars. You’ll still starting out far ahead.
But what if we didn’t get everything we need?
You probably did (“need” is such a strong word…), but let’s assume that you truly aaaaaaare missing something important. Check the mommy groups on Facebook, and check out your local thrift store – even better if you have a store that specializes in selling used kids stuff. We are always low on nightgowns for some reason, so we are there every couple of months getting the next set, and we’re usually in for five bucks or so.
These are provided at no additional cost by most insurance companies – contact yours today to verify find out their procedures. The free ones are not the fanciest ones, but you can usually pay the delta to get the bells and whistles, if that’s the way you like to roll. Ours still works from our first pregnancy. We may get another to donate to a battered woman shelter.
Pay it forward
After you’re all done having more kids, give the unneeded stuff away to friends (or give it back to friends if they want it back! Ask them). Yeah, you could have a massive garage sale (you are probably going to have a lot more clothes than you ever imagined) and you could make a couple of bucks. Some extra Jacksons are never a bad thing.
But think about all the people who gave you free stuff (and yeah, I know you bought a couple of cute dresses or shirts for your kids – all of us did). Pay it forward anyway. Help someone else save a couple of ducats. Maybe they’re on the path to FI, and maybe they’re not. Either way, you’re going to make a difference to your friend who is overwhelmed with thinking about buying all this stuff. Or maybe you give it away to a battered women’s shelter. Or to a group that distributes clothes to homeless families. Do what’s right to you.
Now one last thing…
If you’re on your last kid, and you’re a guy, and you’re going to get that old snip snip, and you are thinking “March Madness is a good time to recuperate”, you’re not alone – schedule as far in advance as you can. Urologists are busy around that time…
BESIDES that, make sure that you get the snip snip as part of an OFFICE visit. Now you’ll have to check with your insurance company, but with mine I will just pay my office visit copay and be done. And switching to the PPO from the HMO, that will be – $25 (plus the cost of a couple of bags of frozen peas). I’ll take that as a win.
It’s ridiculously easy to save money on baby stuff. Friends and relatives are giving this stuff away to make space in their closets and basements and attics. I can wait for it all to go. So to recap: ask your friends and acquaintances if they have any baby stuff they want to get rid of. Buy the stuff that you can’t get for free on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. If you’re planning in advance (and you are planning, right?), switch insurance plans if you need to. And have that vasectomy in the doctor’s OFFICE, so you only pay for an OFFICE VISIT.
Anyway, I Hope to have another post out before baby. If not, we’ll have moved from man to zone defense. Wish us luck!
What frugal and frugalish baby wins have you had? Any great ideas for getting what you need at a low cost, and ideally low time capture? Are there other good places to be looking for cheap items besides Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace?