This article (in Hebrew) was great food for thought for me; it's a fantastic example of why people expect to spend lots and lots of money in a baby's first year - and usually live up to that expectation. For my visitors who don't speak Hebrew - it's basically a record of "average" baby costs. It's written from the ridiculous assumption that a baby needs a vast set of brand-new equipment.
I know most of my readers don't read or speak Hebrew, but I'm sure all of us, no matter in which language, had the chance to come across lists of items we "need" to buy for our babies - or else.
You know what, we still have a long way to go in the realm of frugality, but my husband and I seem like a pair of penny-pinching geniuses when you compare our so far very modest baby expenses to the "average" described in the article. The author somehow reached an astronomical sum of around 15,000$ - in the first year alone.
There is a reluctant disclaimer in the bottom saying that costs can be reduced by using second-hand, but it is mentioned in such an off-handed manner that it makes me wonder if baby product manufacturers pay independent authors to promote extravagant new arrival expenses.
Of course, childcare constitutes a major part of that ridiculously inflated sum. Obviously, mothers who stay at home with their babies don't need to pay for childcare. This is the way things have been for mothers of small children since the beginning of time, but somehow today this isn't even mentioned as an option. Some upper-class women have high-paying careers they are passionate about, but for many more women, work is boring drudgery and much of their paycheck passes straight into the hands of their childcare provider. Is this the sort of progress and liberation we are supposed to praise?
A great thing about baby equipment: it takes much more than one turn to wear it out. It's true about furniture, clothes, toys and more. Shira's newborn clothes, which are already packed away, will be almost as good as new next time they are used. And how many of them did we actually buy? That's right, none. They are all gifts or hand-me-downs. Many people turn up their noses at used baby items, but they are often in like-new condition, and using them can save so much money. All you need to do is ask around - and many times, people offered us baby things even without being asked. We have a used bed, stroller, and more than enough clothes for Shira, and I think those "old" items can still easily serve several babies after she is done with them. There's also the option of buying used, at the fraction of the cost you'd pay for a new item. If you have a lot of money and can't wait to get rid of it, buy brand-new baby equipment and clothes. Otherwise, what's the point?
There are also the many items which are usually listed as must-haves, but which we don't actually need. For example, we got a used stroller (in excellent condition) for free, but if we didn't, we probably wouldn't buy it. Changing table? We could get one for free, but didn't want to take up the space. Changing can be just as easily done on the bed. Speaking of beds, why does the baby's bed need a matching drawer, when any suitable-sized drawer can be used?
And don't even get me going about "developmental activities for infants". I'm very sorry, but a baby doesn't need yoga. Mine, at least, is wonderfully entertained simply by watching Mom do housework. Us talking to her is enough to produce the most adorable coos and smiles.
The most basic need of a baby is to be with his mother. To be fed, held, and loved. How, and when, and why did we let someone convince us that this need can be replaced by a great number of expensive gadgets?