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(George Doyle/Getty Images/(c) George Doyle)
(George Doyle/Getty Images/(c) George Doyle)

SMART COOKIES

Don't break the bank on junior's nursery Add to ...

New moms, who aren’t exactly sure what they’ll need for baby’s first year, tend to get suckered into spending more than they need to. The sweet little room known as the nursery can be the biggest money pit of all.

My colleague, Sandra Grahame, is due in December and just finished her son’s nursery this week. She set out to create a nursery that doubles as a spare bedroom for her two-bedroom home. Her budget for the transformation was less than $1,700. She opted for transitional furniture (a crib that transitions into a bed, a day bed that turns into a double) from Ikea. For this project, Ikea was her go-to. She also saved by picking up inexpensive fabrics, finding a seamstress on Craigslist, and having custom curtains, bedding, and pillows made for a fraction of what it would have cost her to buy the items new. DIY art projects, like photocopying images from her and her husband’s favourite books and framing them, cost less than $20. Take a look at the finished nursery and for more DIY projects that will reduce the cost of your nursery transformation, visit Pinterest.com.

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Erica Ehm, blogger and chief executive officer of YummyMummyClub.ca, says when shopping for baby furniture make sure you can envision putting the items into a family room or another bedroom at some point. She learned this lesson after she was finished with her rocking chair: “After you finish with the gliding, where do you put it?” she laughs.

For this reason most moms, like Ms. Ehm, also say that investing in a change table is a waste of money. Instead, find a dresser that could double as a change table and then transition into other uses later on. If you do plan to sell anything you buy for the nursery after its use, consider the resale value. When my friend Katie moved from a condo to a more spacious home, she wanted to upgrade the size of her crib. Her original crib was a “hot item” and she was able to sell it for the same price as it was originally purchased (because she also threw in the mattress she received as a shower gift).

Baby showers are perfect opportunities to cross off a few big-ticket items from your list. Sarah Deveau, author of Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting, and a blogger at YummyMummyClub.ca, says even if you’re not having a formal shower, or think you should be creating a registry, do it anyway. She says she themed her baby shower (books and bottoms) and assumed everyone would bring something fitting for the theme. Turns out friends, family, and colleagues wanted to get her more and took it upon themselves to figure out what she needed. Translation: duplicates and unnecessary items. Her registry regret was not having a registry at all.

Ms. Grahame opted to register with MyRegistry.com, a great site for her family and friends who are ordering online from Canada and the U.S. You can register with a number of stores, as the site notifies you where the products you pick are cheapest. It’s best to make a list of the essentials, the nice-to-haves, then the pure indulgences, and register in that order. After making a list, have the moms in your life check it twice. You might be missing a few things or have your nice-to-haves in the essentials list. A special diaper bag is an example of an unnecessary purchase that was scratched off of Ms. Grahame’s list (though the “diaper dude,” a more masculine tote, is still on the list for her hubby).

If you’re asking for clothes, Ms. Ehm says think ahead because your baby will be growing out of those onesies within weeks. Be sure to ask for some clothes that will fit months after the baby is born. “The first year is really expensive, so you want to try and spend as little as possible by making a very smart registry,” she says. Another trend catching on, if you’re having more than one shower, is opting for a baby shower after the baby is born. This way you can not only introduce your little one to friends and family, you can also get those items you missed or didn’t realize you needed.

Ms. Deveau says Facebook and other social media tools are your best resource in baby’s first year. There’s nothing worse than spending over $100 on an Exersaucer, only to swing by your girlfriend’s place and discover hers in collecting dust in her basement, she says. Sharing what you have and what you need with other moms is essential when it comes to saving. She uses Facebook to get the word out for everything, because a lot of times people have items they just haven’t got around to selling or taken the time to post an ad online.

New mom Katie Reiach swears by Craigslist for buying and selling baby gear. She says don’t place too much emphasis on the picture and write up alone, look for other clues that you might be snagging a deal, such as where the item is coming from. As she was shopping for a new chest of drawers and a crib she found one post with a bad picture and a little write-up – but it was in a great part of her city so she thought it was worth checking out. Turns out, the family was just happy to get rid of the furniture. They even knocked their price down from $400 to $300, well below the value according to Ms. Reiach.

While social media is great for swapping items and finding items on discount, it’s also a great way to find out if an item is actually worth purchasing. “In the baby business people will try and sell you tools that you don’t really need and things you can find elsewhere for less money,” says Ms. Ehm. “People take advantage of us when we’re hormonal and pregnant ... we’ll buy anything,” she jokes. Bottom line for new mamas: before investing in a piece of furniture or the latest gear and gadgets, consult your circle of in-the-know moms.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the Globe’s personal finance site.

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