Why I Bought My Baby Stuff Used

I had my first baby last June, and I probably bought one or two small purchases new. The rest was all second hand. I’ll also let you in on a secret, but please, don’t tell anyone I know. I returned about 90% of my baby gifts and bought stuff for our new home instead. I know; it is a bit shameful. However, I did tell everyone I know that we didn’t need anything for the baby, and that resulted in getting about six sets of baby washcloths and several newborn clothing sets.

Now that my baby is almost a year old, I can say that I am very happy that I bought my baby stuff used. Here’s why:

I Made a Profit on My Used Goods:

Get this, not only did I save a ton of money from buying used baby items, but I also made a profit on majority of it. I bought all of my daughter’s clothing from newborn to six months and majority of my equipment from a wealthier mom of two daughters. She was also very sweet and threw in a ton of free items because I was buying so much from her. For all of the clothes, I paid $110. There was about 200 pieces, if not more. So far, I have sold 80% of the clothing and have made much more than $110.

Many other items I have sold for what I bought them for. Basically, I was able to use the baby items for free.

I Don’t Feel Bad About Stains:

ABought my Baby Stuff Useds I said above, I bought a lot of clothes from the wealthy mom. There were some very nice outfits in them, and I received a lot of compliments on how I dressed my daughter. However, I am not very good at laundering or keeping messes contained. A lot of pieces were stained once my baby girl started eating solid foods. Not only that, but my dogs chewed up several pieces of her clothing too. Now, if I had spent more even $5 a piece for each outfit (which is fairly cheap in baby world), I would have been devastated at how many pieces were ruined. However, since most of the clothing was free (after adding in the money I made back), it was easier to just let it go. I instead used the pieces as baby wipes to further save money.

I Don’t Have to Store Anything:

I don’t know how many more babies are in my future, but I do know one thing. I don’t want to store several baby items to use for the next baby. If I had bought everything at full price, I would have the guilt to save everything so that I wouldn’t lose my money. However, since I bought everything at 60-90% of the original price, I am able to sell the item for most of the cost. I also know that when the next baby comes around, I will be able to find the same used baby equipment for the same prices.

Don’t forget that every square inch of your home that is devoted to storing stuff is costing you money in some way or another. Plus, who doesn’t love having a cleaner, clutter-free home?

I Don’t Have Buyer’s Guilt:

Buyer’s guilt can happen to a lot of new parents. You buy that awesome looking Bumbo seat for your baby only to find out that they don’t like it or that it only keeps your baby happy for one month. For example, I bought a Prince Lionheart bebePOD Flex Baby Seat used for $8. On Amazon.com, it is $34. My baby used it for two months. So basically, my weekly cost to use this seat was $1 (though, this does not include the fact that I will sell the seat for profit or cost). If I had bought it at full price and used it for two months, it would be like paying $4.25 a week. I would rather treat myself to a Starbucks latte once a week with the money saved.

One more example; I was set on breastfeeding and pumping for the baby. However, for many reasons, it didn’t work out for us. I would have felt even worse knowing I spent $260 on the breast pump. Instead, I paid $120 and sold it for $70. My cost was $50 for six weeks of pumping, or $8.33 a week. Considering it costs about $15 a week to rent a pump, I think I made out on top.

I am very passionate about buying used items, especially for my baby. Baby items are so pricey, so I loved having top of the line items that were still in our budget. Also, let me just quickly mention how much better used items are for baby’s health and the environment. Used items don’t give off that new chemical smell and used clothes have already been worn and washed a few times and contain less harmful chemicals and toxins too. Think twice the next time you shop for your baby.

Are We Doing Personal Finance Wrong?

As you can probably imagine, as a personal finance writer, I think about personal finance quite a bit.  Often enough that I write several articles a week on the subject.  I don’t consider myself an expert, but I do think that I know a great deal about it.  And I’m beginning to wonder if we aren’t going about it in the wrong way.

The problem with Personal Finance

We rail on the Joneses constantly.  That, by itself, isn’t really a problem.  The Joneses just aren’t very smart with their money.  But, for all that we rail on them, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find ways that we can go about having things that are similar to what they have for less money.  And that is the problem. The Joneses have the fancy cable television package?  Try Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime!  The Joneses have a fancy new car?  Try a newer off-lease car!  The payments are half what they pay, and the car is almost as nice!  The Joneses have a fancy house?  Try making it affordable by DIY, gardening, and renting out a few of the rooms!

We aren’t the Joneses.  We know that.  We know that we really don’t want to be the Joneses.  But, some part of our natural tendencies somehow pulls us back to them, time and again.  We strain hard to become less like them, and find ourselves back where they are.  That is the problem with personal finance.

Are we doing personal finance wrong?

Doing Personal Finance WrongMaybe the issue isn’t the Joneses.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s us.  I alluded a little to this recently (The Joneses and Jealousy), when I suggested that our tribal human history pulls us towards the leaders of our “tribe”, and that we should be looking for a new “tribe” that espouses the same values that we do.  I think that we all end up returning to our Joneses because we haven’t fully made that switch yet.  Because we’re afraid of what the rest of our tribe might think.  What our families might think.  Heck, what our spouses might think.  And, maybe all this frugality and saving aren’t really what we’re looking for.  After all, where does that lead us?  A cheaper version of the Joneses lifestyle?  Isn’t that what we’re pushing away from?

Changing personal finance

I think what we are really looking for, and what we are really jealous of the Joneses for is financial freedom.  It may only be perceived in the case of the Joneses, but it’s still there.  Freedom, financially, to be able to do the things we want to do, go the places we want to go, and have the things we want to have.  We emulate those who have those things without giving much thought to how they got there.  Maybe the Joneses did it through a boat load of debt.  We rail against debt.  Which only gets us so far.  So many of us struggle with even that part of it.  I know I have, and sometimes still do.  But, I can tell you with certainty, that had my perception of debt not changed drastically from where it was when I began this journey, I would be in a far worse place than I am now.  But, even that is only one small change in the way I think about personal finance.  Our entire perception has to change.

What’s the personal finance endgame?

What is it that we are really looking for.  We decide we want to change how we handle our finances, abandon the way of the Joneses, and make our way to a better life.  But, what is that better life?  If you’re thinking that a secure retirement is it, I think you’re wrong.  I think there’s a better way.  There has to be.  HAS TO BE.  There has to be a better way that doesn’t involve working for 40+ years, pinching every penny, saving every dime, only to end up at 65 or 70 with enough money to make sure you can pay for the medical bills your advanced age brings with it without having to live on welfare.  That can’t be all there is to personal finance, is it?  My word.  What if you retire at 65, and die at 66? I submit to you, that what we are really looking for is personal finance independence.  We don’t want to have to count on a job. We don’t want to count on a paycheck to (hopefully) cover the bills this month.

What is personal finance independence?

Here’s the tricky part.  I think it’s going to vary based on the individual.  What personal finance independence means to you is likely going to be a bit different from what it means to me.  Take, for example, Jacob.  Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t.  He writes a blog about early retirement.  He wrote a book all about it.  It’s got more scientific content than some of the science books I remember from school.  They guy is crazy smart about the subject.  But, when he says it’s early retirement extreme, he’s dead right.  If going to the measures that he went to in order to retire early is what is required, count me out.  In fact, it seemed for a long time that it was either extreme or not.  Nobody had really talked much about the in-between area.  Enter Mr. Money Mustache.  He, too, retired early.  And, while he has his extremities, it’s not quite the same thing.  It’s different for each and every person.  What one person thinks of as retirement isn’t what someone else will think of.  Heck, most of us have been so pre-conditioned to think that retirement should consist of afternoons golfing followed by bingo down at the VFW that it’s no surprise that we scoff at people like Jacob and MMM.

How do we get there?

Oh.  Well, the truth is, I just don’t know.  I think that, with a little help from the Jacobs and MMMs of the world, and a little trial and error, we can find our own personal finance independence.  I think that we can take what we learn, adapt it to our lives, and make something brilliantly wonderful out of it.  I know we can.  We just have to try.  We just have to change personal finance as we know it, and embrace something better.

Do You Really Need that Stuff? Think Twice Before You Spend

Americans love their stuff.  We can’t get enough of the latest doodad, the latest hot new product on the market.

We love stuff so much, research has been conducted on our behavior.  According to Boston.com, a team of archealogists spent 4 years studying 32 middle class Los Angeles families for their new book, Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century.  What they found was fascinating and depressing.

According to the study, ” The rise of Costco and similar stores has prompted so much stockpiling — you never know when you’ll need 600 Dixie cups or a 50-pound bag of sugar — that three out of four garages are too full to hold cars” (Boston.com).  And it’s not just the parents.  “The study found kids’ stuff everywhere, crowding out their parents’ possessions to such an extent that even home offices and studies (more than half of the 32 households had rooms dedicated to work or schoolwork) were crammed with toys and other child-related objects” (UCLA Magazine).

All the while, many Americans are swimming in credit card debt, which may be a direct result of the need to have more and more stuff, even as the stuff leads to less life satisfaction.  In fact, stuff creates stress for many people.

If you feel the need to buy more stuff, keep these things in mind:

The More Stuff You Have, the Less Satisfaction You Have

Do you really need all that stuff?We often think that if we get the latest and greatest item, we’ll be happier or life will be easier, but that isn’t often the case.  In fact, having less stuff leads to all sort of important changes.  If you have less stuff, you can live in a smaller space.  Live in a smaller space, and you pay less for rent or your mortgage, and utilities are also less expensive.  You may need to work less to afford your lifestyle, and instead have more time to enjoy life, which brings greater happiness.

The New York Times states, ” New studies of consumption and happiness show, for instance, that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects, when they relish what they plan to buy long before they buy it, and when they stop trying to outdo the Joneses.”

Tammy Strobel, the blogger behind Rowdy Kittens, downsized her life, and now she and her spouse live in a tiny house with minimal possessions.  Because of this lifestyle change, she was able to quit her job and support herself and her spouse when he was in school on just $24,000 a year that she made as a freelancer according to The New York Times.

Your Stuff Is Worth Nothing

Besides considering the improved life satisfaction you will have without more stuff, there is another important reason to curb your consumption of stuff.

While stuff can cost you dearly in out of pocket expense, once you have it, making any money off of it, should you choose to downsize your life, is very difficult.  Yes, you can sell your stuff on Craigslist or Ebay or have a garage sale, but in general, you only recoup 10% or less on the original purchase price.  How is that for depressing?

Just visit a garage sale in the summer and see the huge spread of stuff to be sold.  How much money does all of that stuff represent?  That is money that is just gone, never to be recouped.

If you want to improve your life and your financial situation, just stop buying stuff.   You’ll be amazed how much better you feel when you have less stuff in your life to manage.

Source image credit:My Dad’s a Hoarder, By Simon Scarfe, on Flickr