Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pregnant shopping

Shopping and hormones. Potentially a very messy combination with the capacity to leave unexplained chasms in your current account. When I was pregnant with Ginger (referred to as Spud back then) two books saved us a fortune, and later on, our sanity: The "Which?" Guide to Baby Products (does what it says on the tin) and Baby Secrets: How to know your baby's needs (an all-round life-saver for clueless first-timers like us, including a super-sensible shopping section).

As we prepared our home to welcome Spud we were seriously skint - Not-naturally-thrifty Husband had just quit his job to focus on exam revision (or was he just chasing the dream - a student lifestyle complete with lie-ins, daytime TV and happy hours?!). We needed all the help we could get in sorting the fluff from the essential kit.

So when I wasn't addressing my comedy pregnancy symptoms (eyebrow dandruff - was that just me?) I calmed my financial nerves with a spot of list making (Beg, Borrow or - last resort - Buy).

Top tactics included:

  • Save the big buys for sale time. Once you're over the denial you've probably got 4-5 months of shopping time left and with any luck, at least one sale season. Friends who were parenting pros recommended a pushchair where your tiny baby could lie and face you as you walked. We made the investment in a Mama's & Papa's Pliko Pramette then got lucky with a donation from friends of a compatible car seat. M&P's is not a natural match for thrifty parents (I wanted to get a 2nd hand one on eBay but NNT Husband couldn't cope with the concept of 2nd hand baby sick - he's over that now!) but we loved this pram so much and it lasted until Ginger's 2nd birthday. You'd be amazed how many people spend £100's on some high spec baby chariot only to abandon it for a more practical runaround after 6 months...
  • Borrow anything you can. It may be a little late for you to consider this strategy but I highly recommend delaying your child-rearing until at least two or three of your close friends have been there first. Thanks to my great friends Corporate Mum, Army Mum and Escaped-to-the-country Mum I acquired a selection of maternity clothes on loan that put my regular wardrobe to shame. And with any luck there will be several Moses baskets on offer, to save you shelling out on something your baby may only sleep in for 6 short weeks.
  • Stock up at the Supermarket. You'll be inundated with cute little outfits for your newborn so let your friends and family do the fun but pricey baby clothes shopping and stockpile basic babygrows instead (we could get through 6 a day in the earliest/ messiest days). The likes of Tesco and Co-op did packs that came in significantly cheaper than the basic ranges at more obvious sources like Mothercare and John Lewis. And if you're lucky your baby's bottom will be a good match for the supermarket own-brand nappies. Buy just a few packs in advance from your most convenient supermarket and see if they suit - you'll save a fortune if they do.
  • Spend a little on yourself. By the time I'd survived the free antenatal classes at our local hospital (how can it be helpful to pass around a pillowcase packed with ominous medical instruments and guess how they might be used on you during labour?) I was dangerously well informed about the joys of childbirth. The antidote turned out to be a course of Pregnancy Yoga classes at the rather right-on Active Birth Centre. By this stage I needed to hear that my body was built for this and to learn how to roar through the pain (sorry, work with the pain). The mental preparation saved me from a threatened Cesarean at the end of a 36 hour labour, and the bit at the end of each class, where we snoozed under blankets and then compared symptoms and plans over herbal tea and biscuits, was just bliss.
  • Buy regular furniture for your baby's room. They see you coming a mile off if you're shopping for 'nursery furniture'. Of course you need a cot, but a 'changing table' and matching wardrobe will cost you a fortune whilst a simple chest of drawers of the right height (we use the 4-drawer Malm from IKEA) can store endless baby clothes and bedding, then fits a changing mat on top to work perfectly for nappy changes. Did I mention we are raising Ginger in a one bedroom flat? He sleeps in our living room, so not filling it with too much obvious baby clutter has added appeal!
  • Smaller things that were worth spending on... A towling bath support to lay tiny babies in the bath (giving nervous novices at least one free hand to wash their baby with); a boomerang shaped pillow (for bump-support during those uncomfortable nights, breast feeding and propping up babies); a 'Slumber Bear' (don't ask! Actually a motion- and sound-activated 'settler' that plays soothing sounds from the womb to lull a newborn baby back to sleep).

I'll stop now. There is no fool-proof baby product shopping list - your own thrifty solution to preparing for a new arrival will be uniquely matched to your circumstances... After all, one woman's brilliant bed-side bottle warmer is another mum's waste of space, but comparing notes with fellow travelers can only help.