Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pregnancy on a Budget

Maternity clothes are expensive when they're brand new, there's no way around that. I have managed to find a way around some full-priced things and save myself some money.


1) Bras - If you're like me and had to buy new ones almost every month, don't even look at the maternity or nursing bras, head straight to the sale rack at Target or Wal Mart. I got several bras for $5-$7 each in varying sizes so that I'll have room to "grow" ;) Also, I was well-endowed to begin with, so going larger meant sacrificing the pretty bras, they simply don't make them after a certain point. The other thing I found is that bras with little-to-no padding will last me longer and be more comfortable. My problem is that it's winter time and I don't need to broadcast to my whole school that I'm chilly. Solution: I took the small pads out of my bathing suit top (since I won't be using it until summer anyway) and use them with my current bra as I need them. I imagine nursing pads may do the same thing though I don't own any of those yet. I did score a nursing bra from the sale rack and it's been my sleeping bra, I like having it so I know what to expect when I actually have to start wearing them all the time.

2) Sleepwear - I do not own a single piece of maternity sleepwear. The idea is kind of ridiculous to me. I generally sleep in big shirts and comfy lounge pants and at 23 weeks (or 6 months) pregnant, I'm still doing that very comfortably. As long as your shirts are a size or two bigger than what you normally wear and your pants have an elastic waist, you'll be fine. I've seen some big sleep-shirt-nightgown things (that are non-maternity) and those probably work just as well too. I will also resort to stealing my husbands clothes if it comes down to that, though he's offered his clothes to me several times already. If you don't have a husband/boyfriend, typically men's clothes can be cheaper than women's clothes anyway. Again, check Target or Wal Mart.

3) Underwear - Now there could be a very good reason for maternity underwear, I don't have any so I can't really say one way or the other. I can tell you that at 23 weeks, I have not felt so completely uncomfortable in regular underwear that I've been tempted into heading to Motherhood and buying maternity underwear. I generally wear the "bikini" cut or "hip-huggers" and so far those have been perfectly fine. The only pairs that I haven't been 100% comfortable in were the pairs that were a bit on the small side anyway, but that's just an excuse to remember to throw out old underwear.

4) Pants - My first trimester was interesting. I couldn't tell if I started showing early or was just self-conscious about my stomach. Either way, I definitely wasn't fitting into my pre-pregnancy pants anymore. I went and bought a BeBand from Target for $17 and it was one of the best investments I've made during this pregnancy. There are other brands out there (BellaBand is a popular one but more expensive) for around the same price, Target's is on the lower side of the spectrum. What these elastic bands let you do is wear your pre-pregnancy pants unbuttoned and the band will flatten the button/button-hole against your body and keep your pants up all at the same time. Dress pants (my dress code at work) are expensive regardless of whether they're maternity or not, so I expanded my options to include how I could keep wearing the pants I already had since I had only slightly out-grown them. That was where the BeBand came into play. I wore that up to around 19 weeks which coincided with Christmas break, when I got maternity dress pants for Christmas, and have currently retired my BeBand since I have several pairs of maternity pants that actually fit now.

5) Thrift/Consignment Stores/Sale Racks - These should be your first stop when shopping for clothes. Our thrift store only has a teeny maternity section, but my mom managed to find me 3 pairs of pants (all that fit!) and a couple of shirts for much less than even Motherhood's sale rack. Consignment shops are more for kids stuff, but it's good to scope those out ahead of time so that when you do need to start buying clothes you already know where they are in your area. Sale racks are probably my favorite place in any store, maternity or otherwise. Old Navy has a tiny maternity section behind their kids section and when their stuff goes on sale, it's a good sale. I got an awesome pair of jeans from them for $15 (normal price is $30) and they're not "mom jeans", from the waist down, they look just like my pre-pregnancy jeans. I can continue wearing my style of jeans and be just as comfortable for half the price. I also recommend picking up a couple of tank tops when they're on sale. I use mine for sleeping or as an undershirt (one of the maternity shirts I was given is really low cut, but looks cute with a tank under it) and will definitely be picking up more when I see them on sale.

Non-Clothing-Related Savings:

6) Nursery Decorations - The reasons I know about maternity on a budget is because, well, mine's not huge. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE all those cute nursery sets where everything matches including the rug, but for us they simply aren't practical to get. See my post in my other blog for Decorating a Nursery For $15. Cute decorations can be done on a budget and I tend to think that when you're limited in one way, it forces you to be creative and end up with something you'll love even more.

7) 3D Ultrasounds - Here's the deal: these ultrasounds are elective which means that your insurance probably won't cover them at all. My insurance has a huge deductible and I end up paying full price for everything anyway, including the diagnostic ultrasounds that most insurance carriers only make you pay a co-pay. Diagnostic ultrasounds cost way more at full price than 3D ultrasounds for a very good reason: they are examining your baby looking for potential problems and eventually your report will be sent to your doctor to be looked over again. I went to an elective ultrasound place (That's My Baby in Bowie, MD) for their Gender Monday special. The special was $40 for a 2D ultrasound and gender validation/determination. You can read the full details in my blog entry about it, but the short version is we also were given a peek at the baby in 3D and let me tell you, I'm glad we only paid for the 2D. I'm not sure what exactly the deal was with our 3D not being as clear as other 3D ultrasounds that I've seen, could have been the fluid around the baby, could have been he was a bit small, or it could be that 3D ultrasounds can be hit or miss when it comes to clarity. I had been toying with the idea of asking for one of That's My Baby's 3D packages for my birthday, but after seeing the fuzzy, blobby image that day, I'm switching my birthday request to a maternity photo shoot.

8) Baby Gear - We're in the process of looking for a house. At first we had found one and the inspection came back and there was no way we could take it (too much damage for a stater house with a baby on the way), so now we're unsure if we'll be moving at all before the baby's born. With space in mind, I started looking at Pack 'N Plays or Play Yards instead of a traditional wooden crib. I like Babies 'R Us for one thing: the store is family/pregnancy-friendly for set up. Their cribs, strollers, and car seats are all eye level or lower. Wal Mart and Target have a tendency to put their cribs and strollers up on a shelf where you can only look at them from the side. You don't get an idea of how high the crib sides are or if the stroller will accommodate your height. I don't like Babies 'R Us because it's a collection of name-brand gear/clothing at name-brand prices. So, I do my research there (I'm told they will let you borrow demo car seats to see what actually fits in your car, I will be trying this soon), then compare prices between Wal Mart, Target, and Amazon. Currently Wal Mart has the best prices on brands like Graco, but their in-store selection is wimpy. When it comes to choosing between Wal Mart and Target, it seems you'll have to weigh the price difference with the shipping cost unless you can get really, really lucky and find the exact item you want in-store. Me? I'm not picky. I don't care if my car seat, stroller, and crib match or not, I really don't. If I save myself a couple hundred dollars and the gear is mismatched, I'm a happy camper.

9) Baby Clothes - Since I told my family that I was pregnant, they have not stopped buying outfits. The outfits changed to gender-based once we found out I was having a boy, but every other week it seems I'm being handed another adorable outfit. Dan and I have only actually bought maybe 3 articles of clothing (technically 6 because one was a set of 3, but w/e) and that's a mere fraction of what we've accumulated so far. I read an article that suggested not even registering for baby clothes because those are the things people love to buy for baby showers. Even though I haven't had any showers yet, I can tell you that theory holds up just based off my family. When Dan and I walked into Babies 'R Us (with gift cards mind you) after finding out we're having a boy, we looked around at the various racks of boy clothes. I picked up a simply adorable zip-up hoodie with a pirate skull and crossbones on it. It was maybe a 6-9mo size and the price tag: $20. I put it back. It was not cute enough to blow an entire gift card on one hoodie that he'll only be wearing for a few months (if that many, by the time he'll need hoodies he would have outgrown that one). The sale rack was much more promising. Things were between $5 and $10 and between the two of us picking things out, we only used one gift card instead of both for several things (including a tuxedo t-shirt onezie, score!). Bottom line: don't register for baby clothes, you'll probably end up being given more than you'll need and when you do need to start buying clothes hit up those consignment shops we talked about. The consignment shops only put out the gently-used clothes, unless you have a really shady shop, the used-and-abused clothing doesn't come out at all. Like thrift stores, you can find name-brand stuff for a mere fraction of the original price, sometimes with tags still on it!

10) Toys - Last but not least. Toys are another thing that I have not actually paid for but somehow accumulated over the last couple of months. This is another thing that people will just give you. I put some cute things on my registry, but not a whole lot. We're especially not going crazy at Christmas because the kid is going to be playing in the boxes of whatever we get him anyway. I told my parents they can buy what they want, I'm wrapping empty boxes the first year or two ;) I still have a bunch of stuffed animals from my high school years and I will probably be re-gifting those to the baby for as long as I can get away with it. Also, if there are toys you've been given but aren't terribly fond of (my sister claims she's getting me all noisy toys), re-gift them at another baby shower. It's done all the time and saves you the money of having to buy a gift. Seriously, if it's something you really aren't fond of or can't use at all, don't feel obligated to open it just because it's a gift. Either re-gift it or donate it but don't let it take up space collecting dust (space is another thing we're currently short on).