First-time moms need practical advice

The arrival of a new bundle of joy brings with it merriment and deep love. Adding children to our family changed me forever in ways I’ll never be able to describe.

Bringing home a baby also births myriad household expenses you never even knew possible. Whether you use cloth or disposable diapers, breast-feed or formula feed, there are costs no one ever pens in those baby books.

Nearly 14 years ago, when we discovered we were pregnant with the Princess Eldest, my husband and I stood in the aisles of the closest baby superstore, mouths agape. Did you really need all of this stuff to raise a healthy and happy kid? Honestly, it was a rookie mistake. We should have never darkened the doors or rolled down pathway after pathway filled with gear and adorable clothes alone.

Every new mom (and even some of us who are more, ahem, seasoned), needs a mentor, someone who has walked the same road and can help you avoid the pitfalls and potholes both when it comes to physical parenting and when it comes to financial parenting.

Register with a pro

A first-time parent with one of those price-scanning guns can be hazardous. Every adorable onesie, ever ridiculously overpriced high chair, every gadget, gizmo, book and DVD guaranteed to generate a baby genius is right before your very eyes.

If you’ve never had an infant in your home before, do yourself a favor. Take a seasoned veteran who you trust (think: someone’s parenting whom you admire) to help you with the process of registering. You’ll soon learn what you really need — practical items — and what you can do without (yes, I totally registered for that wipe warmer and it dried them out every single time).

Register for primarily practical items

Listen, I get it. I’m the woman who registered for insanely expensive burp cloths to match the nursery and then NEVER used them because I didn’t want to ruin them. Technically now they function as blankets for the Princess Youngest’s dolls, so it wasn’t a total waste, right? On the flip side, I also registered for items such as baby shampoo (we didn’t have to buy any for close to three years), diapers and wipes, too. Think day-to-day basics over the adorable clothes. Pick one or two fun items because you know that baby’s grandparents will want to spoil it rotten, but then focus in on practical. Just promise me you’ll actually use the burp cloths, OK?

Keep toys to a minimum.

If I were sitting across the table from 26-year-old Cherie right now, I would whisper gently and firmly, don’t buy toys for your children. Listen, I’m not a cruel killjoy. I love giving my children good gifts. But the toys? Somehow they mate and multiply like rabbits in the middle of the night. And don’t even get me started on alphabet toys. A minimum of 26 stinking pieces each time — do you even know what kind of torture that is for your feet in the middle of the night?

I am certain that your child will be well loved even without a ride-on scooter and a library of educational DVDs. He or she will grow up to be a productive member of society. But to save both money and your sanity, keep things minimal and be sure you truly love whatever it is you bring into your home. As a side note, I would also tell 26-year-old Cherie to invest in a little startup called YouTube in four years.

Make your own baby food.

I’m far from being a granola mama, but one decision I’ll never regret is choosing to make all of our baby food with the Princess Youngest. The process was much easier than I thought it would be, and the savings were crazy. You can easily slow cook fruits and veggies all day long, blend them up (I had a $4 food processor that did the trick just fine), and freeze in ice cube trays. The process is painless and totally worth it. Certainly you can pick up a jar or two to keep on hand for outings; however, making your own baby food allows you to introduce the tastes of your household early in a child’s life and saves you money, too.

Parenting can be daunting. You need someone’s voice to help you find your way when you’re confused and overwhelmed. The average cost of raising a child from birth to adulthood costs approximately $250,000 (gulp, good thing it’s spread over 18 years, right?). You’re anything but average though.

With some wise planning and counsel, you can raise an amazing human being without going bankrupt in the process.