Providing for your kids does not have to be expensive

As my wife is getting closer and closer to her due date we are starting to get really excited about meeting our new little guy. We are packing all our hospital bags and making sure everyone knows “the plan” when the day finally arrives. We are also preparing ourselves mentally for the long months with lack of sleep. One thing we are not particularly worried about is the additional costs of having another baby.

In fact I can’t wait to take my two months of paternity leave when my son is born! I will be able to spend time with both of them during the summer months and help my wife with the first 2 months of having our 2 boys under 2.

How are we able to afford a second baby without any worries? It’s because we make boat loads of money of course!

OK, just kidding, I’m guessing you already know that I turn to the income side of the equation only as a last resort. In fact, my wife has only been working part-time since returning from maternity leave after our first son was born, and I took a sizeable pay cut in order to have a job within a shorter commuting distance.

Yet, we bought a new house last year and I took last July and August off to spend with my son. We’ve even managed to somehow increase our total savings over the course of last year. How is that possible?

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ve decided to show you guys what we’ve been able to give my son at little to no cost.

Vintage Glider Chair

Cost: $0
Comparable Retail Cost: $400 – $1,100 (or maybe infinity)

Vintage glider

Vintage glider

Gliders are EXPENSIVE!!! You can really spend a ridiculous amount of money on these.

This baby found its way into our hands through our awesome friends who saw a neighbour throw it out on the curb. It squeaked a bit initially but we WD40’ed it and cleaned the crap out of it, while my mother in-law sewed up those cushion covers. Since she’s retired she loves little projects like this. This glider would command a serious price at a “Vintage” furniture store in a hipster neighbourhood.

Chest

Cost: $0
Comparable Retail Cost: $200 – $1,700 (I’m just googling West Elm <insert item> to get the highest possible price)

Awesome free chest

Awesome free chest

This is where we keep our baby supplies. You can see there is a little work that needs to be done on the bottom drawer to make it look completely respectable, however, I think it has a very nice modern look. We inherited this from my brother in law as we bought our in-laws house and he eventually moved out. Thanks Andrew!

The best part is it has a friend…

Dresser with mirror

Cost: $0
Comparable Retail Cost: $500 – $2000

Free dresser with mirror!

Free dresser with mirror!

These drawers are where we keep the majority of my sons clothes. Again thank you uncle Andrew! This piece is actually in an even better shape than the chest. Score!

Crib

Cost: $100
Comparable Retail Cost: $80 – $1,100

Splurgy Crib

This is the most expensive thing I’m going to list in this post. It was bought for a crazy $100 on sale at IKEA. It wasn’t even the cheapest IKEA crib. Horrors! However, we are going to use it for at least 4 years, and we really wanted to spoil ourselves with a brand new crib. So there!

As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog my philosophy is not to cut costs down to the bone. Sure we could have found a cheaper second hand crib, but we could have also spent $1,100 on some hard-wood Pottery Barn monstrosity. Because, you see, it’s worth the $1,100 because it’s going to last forever and even has storage! Never mind that your kids are not some baby vampires that will stay 2 years old for eternity. Or maybe they are and that’s why this crib even exists?

Toddler Tricycle

Cost: $5 (including delivery to my door!)
Comparable Retail Cost: $60 – $160

wpid-20150603_120838.jpg

One of my sons first words was car. It wasn’t dada or mama or please or thank you. It was CAR!

He absolutely loves anything on wheels that makes a  vroom sound or that he can mount. Leads to some pretty funny scenes when he tries to ride his one-foot long fire truck.

I was biking down to the local Shoppers Drug Mart when I saw this beauty sitting on the curb at a garage sale. I didn’t stop because even if I liked it I couldn’t strap it to my back and bike it home. However, on the way back I stopped and inquired about the price. I immediately liked the home owner, good guy, and after a little banter he answered “Whatever you think is good, we just want it gone”. I told him I can give him $5 but I’ll have to go home and drive over first. “We’re going to be packing up soon. Do you live nearby? My car is right there, would you like me to drop it off at your house?” he inquired. How could I say no? A $5 tricycle with delivery included!

Toddler Wagon

Cost: $0
Comparable Retail Cost: $70- $200

Toddler Wagon

Toddler Wagon

I take my son everywhere in this thing. I think it’s his second favourite form of transportation after my coupe. It makes getting to all 4 neighbourhood playgrounds a breeze without having to worry about him falling out, and it gives me some exercise in the process. Who needs a gym membership?

Yes, I actually walk to the playgrounds, I was shocked to discover this is not the normal thing to do around here. People I spoke with were apparently equally shocked that I actually walked the 5 minute walk rather than take out my car to get there.  One conversation went like this:

Them – “You took the wagon here?”
Me – “Yes, he loves riding in it!”
Them – “So you must live near the playground?”
Me – “Yes, not too far away, on street abc, where do you live?”
Them in an awkward tone – “I live on cba street” – which happens to be closer than my house
Me – “Ahh I see”

More awkwardness and eye contact avoidance happens later when they take their kids into their gigantic SUV to drive them home.

OK sorry about the rant. Where was I again? Oh right, the wagon came to us courtesy of my wonderful frugal parents who overheard a neighbour saying they wanted to throw it out.

Playroom full of toys

Cost: $0
Comparable Retail Cost: ????

Playroom full of toys

Playroom full of toys

Nothing you see in the screenshot above cost us any money. Some of these toys are old toys that my wife and my brother in-law used to play with as kids. Other toys are gifts from family and friends, and often things that their own kids have grown out of. There is one particular item that deserves extra special mention though.

Matthews Playhouse

Cost: $0
Comparable Retail Cost: $150 – $400

matthews clubhouse

This piece of art is truly magnificent! It is the brain child of my extremely talented sister and my ridiculously frugal dad. The whole thing is made of discarded cardboard boxes which means its light and therefore very safe. My boy loves to run in and out of it and I can’t count how many times he has smacked his head right on the top of the door way. Thank goodness its cardboard!

I’m lucky because my sister is an amazing artist which you can see through the attention to detail and level of personalization of this play house. It is not something everyone can do but it is something that we are taking full advantage off.

Thank you Ciocia Sylvia and Dziadek Janusz!

Note: If you have any art or graphic design work you need done don’t hesitate to contact sylviat.design@gmail.com for a quote!

What does this all add up to?

Let’s do some quick math here, this is after all a personal finance blog.

Our total cost for all 7 items: $100
Comparable retail cost – Low end: $1,460
Comparable retail cost – High end: $6,600

Overall savings: $1,360 to $6,500

My personal feeling is that most people fit somewhere in the middle of the above range. They buy some things high end, some low end and most mid-range. This means we saved approx. $2,500 over the average family on just these 7 items! 

If we invest this $2,500 into the stock market at the average 10% total return for 25 years we will have $27,000 more in our retirement account for virtually nothing!

Obviously these items are not all the costs associated with having a child. The post would be much too long if I tried to list everything we saved money on. It’s the right mental approach when making purchasing choices across the board that makes the big difference.

The thing is we are not even actively trying to be frugal. We are not going out of our way to clip coupons or scour garage sales or check every flyer for a sale. You could do much better than us if you did! All we do is take advantage of all the opportunities that fate provides us with instead of passing them up for silly superficial reasons.

You can say were lucky to have awesome friends to pick up the glider for us, to have a brother in-law who decided to leave his furniture behind, or to have such a talented sister. I agree completely! Yes, we’re lucky, but we try to take advantage of all the opportunities we are presented with. Have you grabbed a hold of and taken advantage of all the opportunities you’ve been presented with? 

Look around you and try not to get tunnel vision as to what is you need to get. When it comes to chance there are the things you can control and the things you can’t. You cannot control what opportunities will present themselves. What exact brand or type of item will become available to you free or at a ridiculous discount.  I could have easily decided that my brother-in-laws furniture wasn’t quite the right color or style and purchased an entire new baby room furniture set. What you can control is whether you take advantage of the opportunities that do present themselves to you.

Focusing on the part that you can control, rather than worrying about what you can’t, applies equally well to savings money on kids items as it does to everything else in life.


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