Mistakes for New Parents to Avoid

by Mike Holman

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The post is part of the Baby Expenses Series. See the entire series here.

So you’re having a baby! Congratulations, as a father of a one year old boy I can tell you that it’s a very exciting, fun, stressful and difficult time but it’s definitely worth it.

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Having a baby will most definitely make a difference to your family budget, but you can reduce the impact by being organized, knowing what items you need and when you need them and by obtaining used items instead of new.

One of the first things that a lot of couples do when they find out they are having a baby is they start setting up a baby room and buying clothes, toys etc. This could involve cleaning out an office or storage room, painting etc. It also means making a list of items that will be necessary for the baby and then going out and buying them.

Some of the mistakes that people make are as follows:

1. Buy too many items – If you go shopping at a large retailer or baby store you might notice that along with the standard crib and high chair that your parents probably raised you with, you can spend thousands of dollars on additional items that may or may not be of good value.This is something that is hard to avoid because a lot of couples – especially the mother-to-be want to do everything they can to be ready when the baby comes.The problem is that if they spend too much time thinking about baby stuff then they will end up buying way too much junk because they are afraid to leave anything out.Best advice here is – stay out of the damn baby stores!I don’t care how frugal you are or if your heart is made of steel, you won’t be able to resist the lure of buying a funky outfit, a cute hat, cool shoes, t-shirts with funny sayings or logos of your favourite hockey team, “educational toys”, kids books, sunglasses, diaper wipes warmer (yes, there is such a thing!).Going into those stores is like flirting with the Borg – resistance is futile!

2. Buy everything new – This is definitely a big mistake. We were fortunate enough to be able to get most of our clothes and a few bigger items from various friends who had older children. If you can get hand-me-downs for free or buy items used, you will save a lot of money.If you don’t like the idea of your child wearing someone else’s used clothes then get over it – once you see what your child does to those clothes and how it all washes out then you won’t worry about it.I would estimate that you can buy everything you need second hand for probably 10-20% of retail value which is a huge savings.And if you can get some of the items for free, then you will save even more.

3. Buy things in a hurry – Even if you decide to buy everything new, you can still find bargains if you take your time and don’t do one hurried shopping spree the day after the child is born. If you want to buy used items or get them from friends or relatives then you need to take the time to do this properly. There are a lot of items that you’ll need for the baby’s first year that you won’t need when the baby is first born so take the time to figure out what you need in the beginning and go from there.

4. Don’t make good use of goodwill – One thing you’ll probably notice is that friends/co-workers/neighbours and especially relatives will want to help out. This could come in the form of items they don’t need anymore so get the word out! Also – these requests often come towards the end of the pregnancy so if you are going to buy retail – don’t buy it too early. Keep a list of what you need/want – that way you can make the best use of things like showers and grandparents who want to help. If there is a shower for you and you don’t give any guidance as to what to buy then you will end up with a whole bunch of cute dress up outfits complete with tap dancing shoes which might never get worn.

5. Spend too much time & money renovating the baby room -If the new baby room has old paint of a colour you don’t like and the floor is a bit worn then go ahead and fix them if you want – however keep in mind that the best place for a newborn baby is in the parent’s room but not in the bed.Different parents will do this differently but we had our son in a basket on the floor beside our bed for about three months.Then we set up the crib beside our bed and he slept there for about two months after which we moved him to his own room.The only time we went into his room during the first five months was to get his clothes.Even once he started sleeping there, neither of us spent much time in the room with him unless we were trying to get him asleep.It’s definitely not a waste of time to paint/fix up the baby’s room but if time is an issue then don’t bother with it.Your baby won’t care and it won’t affect your parenting.

In the next few posts I’ll go through all the items that I think are essential as well as the nice-to-have items.

Next Baby Expense post.

Previous Baby Expense post.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TKOWKD1

God bless your heart for writing this. The timing of the ‘baby’ topic couldn’t be better, as we’re expecting our first baby in January 08. Is it just us or is everybody in Canada pregnant or/and with a newborn? For this I blame Justin Timberlake and his No 1 song ‘Sexy Back’ ;-)
I thank you Four Pillars and all the meaningful contributors for the advice you dispense.
Cheers to the health of your children.

2 FourPillars

Thanks TKOWDK1 – that’s quite a compliment.

And, yes…pregnancy (and trying) is a nation epidemic at the moment… :)

Mike

3 TheFinancialBlogger

FP,
I would also add that new parents absolutely need to revise (or to have) their will. Most people do not think about all the problems caused by passing away without a will (or an updated one). As an example, if you pass away without a will, a part of your estate will go directly to your children. This means your spouse would not be able to sell the house without the consent of a family counsel.

4 FourPillars

Excellent point FB – that’s coming up later in the series.

Mike

5 MillionDollarJourney

Phenomenal article Mike. One of the best articles I’ve read this week in the blog world.

6 sohotosoho

This is turning into a great series.

7 moneygardener

Great post Mike…

8 FourPillars

MDJ, SOHO, MG – thanks a lot for the compliments!

Mike

9 Brip Blap

I’ll second everyone else’s opinions – a great read. Definitely don’t buy too much in the way of clothes – we have too many items that were outgrown or went out of season (too warm, too cool) quickly. Now we buy very few toys or clothes, since we get hand-me-downs and gifts to meet those needs.

I definitely wouldn’t spend as much time fixing up the baby room as many of my friends have – the baby won’t notice and you’ll probably want to change it soon if you make it too “babyish”.

I would also add the ‘practical’ tip of making sure that you have adequate life insurance. This was particularly important for us since my wife no longer works. It didn’t take long and it’s a critical part of good financial planning.

10 FourPillars

Thanks BB.

Good point about the seasons – don’t buy snowsuits in advance!

Insurance will be mentioned next week.

Mike

11 Mrs. Micah

It’s so true! Babies are babies…they just don’t care about a lot of stuff. If the clothes are clean and warm, they don’t have to be new. They don’t even have to be numerous as long as you can keep them clean. Shoot–babies don’t sweat much and can wear something two days between washings if they don’t spit up on it (yeah, like that would happen) or soil it somehow.

12 Four Pillars

Very true Mrs. Micah.

It’s unfortunate how much money gets wasted on cute little newborn “fancy clothes” that never get worn – not even once.

Mike

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