parent opinion

'I'm a mum of two kids under five, and these are the things I did and didn't spend money on.'

There was a time in my pre-kid life where I declared myself an astute shopper. I’d confidently make purchases with a cost-per-use mentality. I’d shop around for the best price on anything, from a suitcase to a vacuum cleaner, but I also happily splurged on items that deserved it. (Designer handbags, I’m looking at you!) 

But around five years ago, after I welcomed the first of my two baby boys, it dawned on me that there were entire shopping centre sections that I’d never ventured into. Yep, the kiddie stores. And when parenthood came in hot, so did the realisation that I had zero strategy on how to invest in the stuff they needed to, y’know, live. 

Nowadays, with a five-year-old and a three-year-old in my world, I finally have a handle on which small kid items require splurging and where you can look to save.

Watch: We ask our mums what they did that made them feel like they were failing at parenting. Post continues after video.


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But an important caveat here; if you have the means and it brings you joy to go all out for your little one – do not let me stop you! 

However, if you’re keen to know when you should or should not cut budget corners, then here’s a few of my tried and tested suggestions...

'The big three' baby buys.

Once that we’re-having-a-baby excitement has settled in, you’ll soon be up for 'the big three' of baby equipment purchases - the pram, cot and car seat.

And if you were hoping for a simple decision, think again. There are countless brands, models and styles to choose from - all with a wide range of price tags.

Now, we all have budgets to work with. So, bearing that in mind, I’d suggest researching the items available in your price range and try to test the product in person if you can. 

Trust me, you’ll be using 'the big three' A LOT over the next few years, so if one seems a bit more comfortable or works slightly better than a marginally cheaper option - spend up. It’s worth it. 

Alternatively, you can also investigate well-maintained second-hand options or even baby equipment hire to level up your 'big three' items without paying for the full RRP. Just make sure to always thoroughly check out any used goods - particularly kid’s car seats, which should be less than 10 years old and should not have previously been involved in a car accident.

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Disposable nappies.

Confronting the aisle of wall-to-wall disposable nappies is a rite of passage and confusion for every first-time parent. 

My message in this department is simple; you get what you pay for. And by that, I mean the ones that cost more DO hold more liquid and DO have a better last line of defence enclosures in explosive situations! Every accident I’ve experienced involving a budget nappy has left me ruing the day I stung out...

Side note: if you’re after a more cost-effective option and are willing to forgo the convenience of disposables, you should definitely investigate reusable and cloth nappies.

Oh, and one last thing - you don’t really need to bother with that fancy nappy disposal unit either. It’s essentially an overpriced bucket bin.

Everyday clothes.

The one thing no one ever tells you about little kids' clothing is... how bloody difficult it is wrangling their tiny flailing limbs into them! But the one thing you did know about little kids' clothes is... they look so bloody adorable in them!

Like I said before, it’s your prerogative to dress your child however you choose - irrespective of the price tag. But if we’re talking functionality, the majority of your everyday baby and kids' gear has an extremely limited lifespan, sometimes no more than a few months. (Because, um, your child does not stop growing!) 

And on top of that, little kids tend to put their clothes through the wringer! I’m talkin' rips, holes and all manner of stains of the food, dirt, paint and miscellaneous variety.

To save myself the heartache over every piece of destroyed/too-small clothing, I opt for bargains, second hand finds and hand-me-downs for things like shorts, pants, t-shirts, tops and hats.  

I particularly love hand-me-downs because of the circularity of a beloved piece getting a second-run. (And if any of your outgrown kiddie clothes do miraculously survive, please make the effort to donate.)

Speciality clothing.

I’m about to contradict my previous point by singling out a few instances when you should consider spending that bit extra on a new clothing item.

First up - a waterproof jacket with a hood. This is an absolute must-have for inclement conditions. Look for something that’s a hybrid between a warm jacket and raincoat.

My other splurge is swimwear, particularly if you’re regularly doing swimming lessons or hitting the beach. Chlorine and sand absolutely hammer cheap swimsuit material and you’ll see it turning see-through or stretching out way too quickly.

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(Oh, and speaking of swimming - don’t skimp on goggles either. Budget ones are guaranteed to fog, leak and make the already difficult process of learning to swim infinitely harder!)

Shoes.

To spend or not to spend on little kid shoes? That is the question - and the least straightforward to answer.

First up, until your child’s actually walking, shoes aren’t necessary, as research suggests keeping your baby and toddler barefooted helps develop muscle and stability.

Once they’re up and (sorta) running, personally I still would hold off on making a big footwear investment on account of their constantly growing foot size.

As your child heads for ages three and up, that’s when they’re really out exploring the world and in need of some supportive and protective footwear. It’s time to stump up for a really good pair of sneakers. (And if you hadn’t already figured it out - forget laces. Velcro or elastic for the win!)

I recommend investing in one solid pair of sneakers to do the everyday heavy lifting - and then supplement that with a few bargains like sandals, gumboots and special occasion shoes.

Listen to This Glorious Mess where Holly and Andrew share their 'I don't' lists. Post continues after podcast.


Toys.

Toys, books and other play equipment provide hours of entertainment - but are also developmentally necessary because children learn through play. So, does that mean maxing out the credit card at your local toy store? Absolutely not.

There’ll always be a time and place for your kiddo to receive brand new toys and books. Think birthdays, Christmas, or grandma-is-coming-over-and-always-brings-a-surprise. 

But I personally subscribe to the idea that a toy collection should be comprised of second hand or hand-me-downs. In my experience, these toys tend to be the most indestructible (but be sure to always closely inspect for breakages or loose parts) - and they tend to have more 'play possibilities' in them. 

That’s why I’m all for scouring charity stores and even keeping your eyes peeled for finds in your local sidewalk clean-up.

And don’t forget the good ol' library - borrowing satisfies that quick-hit fix of something new and different, but without requiring you to find a storage spot at home. 'Cause let’s be honest, there’s no free space available, anyway!

Feature Image: Instagram @shazzyhuntmedia.

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