Just the other day, I was grocery shopping with my husband and kids when we made an interesting discovery. We were in the baby aisle picking up some diapers for our youngest when my four-year-old picked up a small package and asked me what it was.
“What's this, Mommy?” I picked it up and looked. And looked. And got really confused.
“Ummmm…..pacifier wipes?” According to the packaging, they were food-grade pacifier wipes.
“What do you do with them?” she asked.
“I guess you use them to……wipe off a baby's pacifier?”
Yes, disposable pacifier wipes. Because your shirt is no longer good enough. And, neither is a quick rinse in the sink, a clean dish towel, or a Kleenex. That's what people used to use when my kids were babies, after all, in the olden days of 2009 to 2011. And apparently, we were all doing it wrong.
Of course, I'm totally kidding. Nobody needed pacifier wipes back in 2009, nor do they need them now. Yet, when it comes to new baby products, I am no longer surprised by their absurdity. When I was pregnant, there were all kinds of crazy baby products and contraptions on the market. And, even though that was only a few short years ago, I believe it's gotten worse. It's commonly reported that it costs over $240,000, on average, to raise a child in the United States. And, with so many unnecessary products on the market, I have to wonder if that number is higher than it needs to be. Sure, you can buy things like pacifier wipes, but do you need to? Oh, and by the way, the pacifier wipes came in a package of 100 for $9.99. Ten bucks!!!
What do babies really need?
Babies do need some things. It's true. They need food, shelter, and love. They need clothing, blankets, and diapers. Almost everything else is entirely optional. But, when you're pregnant, it sure doesn't feel that way, does it? Sometimes pregnancy can make you think and do crazy things. (If you don't believe me, ask my husband.)
When I was pregnant, I had bouncy seats in all shapes and sizes, swings that went sideways and forward, toys that were shockingly elaborate and complex, and amazing gadgets that turned out to be almost worthless. And, if I had it to do over again, I would take it all back to Babies R' Us and trade it for diapers. Once my kids transitioned out of the baby stage, I came to realize just how much money we wasted on stuff we could've easily lived without. So, with that being said, here are some things that babies just don't need:
- Baby Bedding Set- Baby bedding sets are adorable. It's true. I dragged my husband all over this town to find a bedding set that was pink and brown with flowers. (I had a dream about it!) Ever since then, the unusable baby comforter has served as a constant reminder of the ridiculousness of that purchase. It's true that babies do need a bed, a sheet, and some blankets. What they don't need is a comforter that would likely suffocate them, a matching light switch cover, a matching trashcan, and coordinating wall decals.
- Diaper Genie- Whose idea was this? No one needs a garbage bag snake of rotting diapers in their bedroom. Instead of a diaper genie, keep a small trashcan that can be emptied frequently. Or, just walk all of your diapers to your regular ol' trashcan.
- Designer Baby Clothing- Designer baby clothes can be downright irresistible. I'm ashamed to admit that I bought tiny dresses with delicate embroidery, authentic-looking miniature baby loafers, and coordinating outfits with matching shirts, pants, leg warmers, and hats. However, paying $40 or $50 for a pint-sized outfit is rarely a good idea, especially when a similar outfit can be found at a garage sale or on eBay for a fraction of the price. I honestly can't think of anything that depreciates faster than new baby clothes. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that until after the fact.
- Shopping Cart Cover- Yes, I received a beautiful shopping cart cover at my baby shower. Unfortunately, I didn't remember to bring it to the store with me a single time. Not once. Sadly, I sold it for $5 in my garage sale this summer. A shopping cart cover may sound like a good idea but it doesn't work that well if you can never remember to bring it with you. Oh, and by the way, my kid's butts never fell off after sitting in the metal shopping cart for the duration of each trip. Yours won't either.
- Changing Table- A changing table can come in handy if you actually use it. However, most people I know change their baby's diaper on the floor. Actually, I think the floor makes a much better changing table since there's no chance of your baby falling off the side. But since baby furniture manufacturers can't sell you your own floor, they created baby changing tables. Hint: You don't have to buy one.
- A Bigger House- When we bought our current home, we didn't have kids yet. But, since we knew that we wanted kids, we went ahead and bought a larger home to accommodate them. However, what we've found is that our house is much larger than it needs to be. Our kids don't necessarily need a play room dedicated only to housing toys. And, they could probably share a bedroom as well, if needed. If we had it to do over, we would've stayed in our “starter home” for a while longer until we determined how much room we really needed.
The fact that kids are expensive is almost beyond debate. After all, there are so many costs that are unavoidable, like health insurance, reliable childcare, food, and shelter. However, there are ways to whittle that $240,000 figure down to a reasonable level, mostly by only buying and using things that are actually necessary for your child. Instead of buying everything you think you may need, try finding used baby gear on Craigslist or Freecycle. Or, better yet, borrow items from family and friends until you see what works best for your baby and your family. Every baby is different and you may find that your baby hates to swing, won't use a pacifier, or never sleeps in his or her crib in the first place. Waiting to see what works before you buy is a great way to avoid wasteful purchases and save space in your home.
And, no matter what you do, please don't buy wipes whose sole purpose is to wipe off pacifiers. You do not, under any circumstances, need them.
Did you find that some baby items were unnecessary after the fact? What baby gear did you successfully go without?
Author: Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. In addition to serving as contributing editor for The Simple Dollar and writing for publications such as Bankrate, U.S. News and World Report Travel, and Travel Pulse, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.