By Fiona Doyle
Whilst pregnant I remember visiting a large department store for a browse, only to be swooped on by a bright-eyed sales assistant keen to wrestle my hard-earned cash out of my swollen pregnancy hands. “Did you know we offer a nursery advice service? You can set up a gift list so your family and friends can buy you all the essentials! It’s such a good idea!” This bemused me no end. A gift list? So I was supposed to pick out a range of lovely clothes, toys and equipment and send this instruction out to my nearest and dearest in the expectation that they would provide? Were they to lay these gifts at my feet as I sat, serene and Buddha-like (Buddha-sized, certainly) in some sort of baby shower ceremony? I’d never heard of such a thing. Having had no close pregnant friends before becoming pregnant myself, I had no idea if this was now acceptable practice. Had the wedding list evolved and mutated to include a further financial expectation on everyone when you got yourself up the duff too? I backed away slowly as the sales assistant’s bared teeth glinted menacingly in the fluorescent lighting of the store.
Gift lists aside there are, I discovered, two main ways in which to equip yourself with all the baby gear in a way that doesn’t break the bank: the internet and NCT sales.
The web is brilliant for sourcing second hand bits and pieces. There are literally millions of mums out there who having bought everything new, now need their floor space back! Profit from this, my friends. Take their equipment off their grateful hands for a fraction of the price that you would have spent. Join ‘buy and sell’ forums for local bargains – many people offer things for free, they’re that desperate to see the back of it. Much of what you will want and need comes in the form of wipe-down plastic so is perfectly reusable. Much of it will have never even been used. You will save yourself a fortune and when your turn comes to get that flipping Jumparoo out of the house, you can pay it forward and help another mother out.
The second way is through NCT sales, or indeed any local second-hand sales. I mention NCT specifically as a volunteer for the charity, in the spirit of full disclosure. If you have a local NCT branch, chances are they hold regular Nearly New sales and these are perfect opportunities to acquire larger pieces of equipment with plenty of life left in them. Having volunteered at many a sale, I’ve seen some amazing bargains had by some delighted parents and parents-to-be. Buggies are frequently on offer – both the first stage high-tech multi-way all-singing all-dancing types, and the second stage strollers when you realise that all you need is for your kid to be strapped into something so you can make it around Tesco without having a breakdown. I’ve seen top brand buggies go for a third or less of their original value.
Sentimental value can often get in the way of rational thinking when buying for a baby. By all means, carefully hand-pick certain items that you feel will be important to you in years to come. I myself bought a beautiful pure white (horribly expensive) sleepsuit for my child to make her debut into the world. Of course, I hadn’t reckoned on the fact that I would be huffing out a placenta at the same time she would need to be dressed and that my mum would put her in a supermarket brand spare I’d packed as a back-up. Nor did I care, actually. And when I did take another look at that sleepsuit when we got home from the hospital, I realised that it buttoned up at the BACK. Now, I don’t know who designed it but lying a new born baby on its face to get it dressed is simply not an option. I’ve still got the sleepsuit, mind you. It means something to me.
But there are plenty of other things you won’t feel attached to that you can pick up at sales – baby baths, slings, potties, sleeping bags, high chairs, building blocks, scooters, buggy boards, travel cots, changing mats…the list is seemingly endless. The clothes are brilliant, too. Some people may be wary of buying clothing online as you can’t be sure of the quality but at the sales you can sift through rails and rails of tiny items and for a mere few pence can walk away with a whole new wardrobe’s worth for your baby to vomit and poo on. The strangest item of clothing I’ve ever seen at a Nearly New Sale was a pair of baby swimming trunks with a picture of David Cameron’s face on them… I assume some sort of gag gift that hadn’t made it into the hallowed realms of ‘items to keep and look back fondly on in years to come’.
The moral of the tale is, don’t feel pressured to spend a fortune on baby stuff. That’s all it is – stuff. It gets in the way and clogs up your house. You’ll resent having been tricked by the soft-focus pictures on packaging; you too will be a slim, gently-smiling, manicured mother with a curiously smug-looking baby cradled against her chest, if only you invest a month’s salary in this ultimately useless product. The social and peer pressures of having to buy nice new things can get to you at a time when things are already stressful enough. When you look back you won’t remember or care where the new things came from but chances are you’ll still be pleased about the bargains you picked up at that sale or second-hand site.
For more info on NCT Nearly New Sales visit https://www.nct.org.uk/branches/events/nearly-new-sales