Having a baby in America apparently comes a mandatory event called the baby shower. It would be cool if it was an actual miniature shower for a baby, but apparently that’s not what it means. I found out the meaning long before we had our first child via a number of baby showers that my significant other felt obligated to attend over the years we’ve been together. Her endless visits to stores that sell baby stuff even had a special rubric in our expense tracking spreadsheet. Some expectant mothers even organized co-ed events to make sure that husbands and boyfriends would not miss a chance to participate in the festivities. To all the guys out there… the trick is to get buzzed before the eventual gift opening arrives towards the 3rd quarter, so that you no longer feel slightly embarrassed by what you feel is an inferior present being publicly compared to all the other high-rollers. (This also works at subsequent birthday parties as well).
A whole industry has been built up around an event that is an American-style baby-shower. Invitations, decorations, pastry, thank you notes, presents… I have a strong suspicion that corporations are laughing all the way to the bank when excited parents claim their laser shooting scan guns and set out to add half of the store contents to their baby registries. It’s only natural to not care as much about the price of an item when someone else is paying for it. From the marketing perspective, what can be better than not having to compete with other places on price by making everyone shop at the same store? You know that you can get that baby monitor for half the price on eBay? Too bad, you need to buy from this list right here in our store! Your average person also won’t think as hard about item’s true necessity when they feel like someone else is paying for it.
The world is drowning in all the baby gear that has been produced up to this point. Most of it will eventually find it’s way into the landfill. Baby showers certainly don’t help this situation one bit because every one of them adds hundreds of items to the list. Same items that can be bought, re-sold and re-used many times on Craigslist, for example, end up being purchased new over and over again. Do you really need a new Diaper Genie or can you buy a used one for a third of the original price and sanitize it? (Better yet, find another way to manage your disposable diapers if you are using them, but that’s another topic). Or how about that high chair? Baby carrier? Bouncer? Baby gate? Baby bath tub? Take a look on your local Craigslist and see how many are available right now without having to create a demand for a company to manufacture them in China over and over again.
Most showers generate way too much waste and unnecessary spending, sort of like Christmas that can happen any weekend of the year. The main reason for this event – the birth of a baby – is sure to get lost in all the materialism that quickly becomes the main theme. It’s highly unlikely that baby showers will disappear any time soon but there are certainly things that could be done better. Anyone organizing this event could benefit in several ways by following the advice below.
Research the items that will be really necessary after the baby is born. Don’t look at the glossy store brochures and decide what you think is necessary based on that or some other marketing you’ve seen. Talk to someone who had a baby recently. Maybe someone with a couple of kids that are now 1-5 years old. Ask that parent and take some notes. If you can find frugal parents and get their ideas it would be even better. Also check out online forums where you can find feedback from real parents.
Compile the list of must have and nice to have items, in that order.
Get the prices at the brick-and-mortar store but don’t forget to check out places online as well. You can easily register on Amazon or other sites where you might find better prices, at the same time providing an alternative and convenient way to shop for your guests.
Now that you have your list decide which items you’d be comfortable getting used instead of new. Organize the list so that the most expensive must have items are on top and look for them on Craigslist, yard sales, thrift shops or any other second hand market including your friends and relatives. If those items are readily available, scratch them off your list and buy/get them yourself later.
Do the same with the nice to have “fun” stuff that you’ve added but try to minimize the percentage of such items as much as you can.
- Put whatever you can’t or don’t want to buy second hand on your registry.
The end result is that you save money, reduce waste and help someone else by giving them money for something they can no longer use while getting the stuff you will actually enjoy using for your baby.
My wife really wanted a baby shower and I can’t blame her since she’s been to so many herself and now it was “her turn”. The approach above is the one that we took and it worked out really well. I only wish that we had a similar thought process years ago when we were let loose at the store with our very own wedding registry. A chocolate fondue set anyone?