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book excerpt

Money Smart Mom author Sarah Deveau saves money on toys by taking plastic food containers to the beach.

This is an excerpt from Money $mart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting, by Sarah Deveau. More of Ms. Deveau's money-saving tips can be found here. You can read a review of her book by Globe Investor blogger Chaya Cooperberg here.

Chapter Two: She's Glowing!

The Price of Pregnancy

Whether you found yourself pregnant by accident, intentionally, or with the help of a medical team, break out the sparkling apple juice - and your calculator. Before you've even bought your first sleeper set, you'll find plenty of pregnancy-related things you need, want, or just can't live without. You've got nine (ten, really) months of challenges to face - including finding a pregnancy wardrobe and deciding what prenatal classes to take - and that's not even covering getting ready for baby's needs (that's all the way in Chapter Seven).

Money Smart Mom Tip

"We started a savings account right away, bought a bag of diapers in different sizes every time we grocery shopped while we still had two incomes, and made sure we really spent time as a couple, because once that baby comes your loving sweetheart is nothing but a dad for a little while." - Melanie, mom of two.

Not Your Mother's Maternity Clothes

Though the next few pages specifically relate to finding maternity clothes, a women's concern, men reading this book may want to skim through, just to understand why your partner is raiding your closet!

With the exception of a lucky or self-disciplined few, many of us have buried away in our closets a range of clothing that may span five or more dress sizes. Sometimes they're clothes we once fit into, and others are items we picked up on sale that never did fit, but we always hoped some day would. Though the 'too tight' items will be of no help to you now, the 'too big' items will be wearable for up to the first five months of your pregnancy.

During your pregnancy, you'll likely have to find clothing in different sizes as your belly expands. Most pregnancy pants accommodate this through stretchy panels or panels that button, but some items will be comfortable early in the pregnancy and unbearable later. To avoid tight waistbands on your tight budget, it's time to learn how you can save while shopping for maternity clothes.

First Stop: Your Man's Closet

If you've got a man around who wears a larger size than you do, raiding his closet will be your first concession to your new pounds. Men seem to have a larger collection of comfy sweats, track pants and t-shirts, all perfect for bumming around the house and running to the grocery store. You've always loved to cuddle up in his too-large-for-you sweatshirts anyway, and now you have a real excuse.

The First 5 - 10 Pounds

Every pregnant woman hits the stage where she's too big for her regular clothes, but too small for proper maternity clothes. For some, this stage lasts just a few weeks, while for others, it can drag on for a month or two. In your tenth week your breasts may jump two cups sizes. In my first trimester I could no longer button my many fitted shirts. Without a belly though, maternity clothes hung strangely. With no extra cash available to buy shirts that would only fit for a few weeks, I called on all my friends to see if anyone could lend me any larger shirts and sweaters. A few days later I had a brand new collection of tops that fit perfectly. The opposite happened after baby arrived - when I was too small for maternity clothing but couldn't fit into my pre-baby clothing yet, I called on friends to borrow the right sized clothing.

When borrowing clothes from friends, maternity or not, avoid putting them in the uncomfortable position of having to ask you to return the items. When you ask for loaners, assure the lender that you'll be returning each item, as they may have borrowed the clothes from someone else, promised them to someone after you, or plan on being pregnant again themselves. Keep a record of what you received from whom, or ask if you can mark their initials on the tag with a permanent marker. Return each item as soon as you're done with them, and don't forget to enclose a thank you note.

Money Smart Mom Tip

"I was very lucky during my pregnancy and had lots of clothes lent to me. I barely bought anything! Considering you need to create a whole new wardrobe, I think the sharing of clothes is really important, especially between friends. The best idea I've heard of is to start a maternity clothing pool. It gets passed around to various girlfriends and everyone adds a few new pieces to the box as they pass it on. That way you don't have to buy a lot of new clothing; you get an entire wardrobe but still get new pieces that are still in fashion." - Colleen, mom of three.

After Your Belly Pops

Up until now you've borrowed clothes from friends, but once your belly has 'popped' you'll need proper maternity pants, and maybe a few tops too. Now it's time to call any friends or family members who've had children in the last few years to see if any of them have maternity clothes squirrelled away. Once you've collected as many items as possible from friends and family, you'll have to haul out your wallet and purchase the rest of the things you'll need. Your first stop should be consignment stores. In recent years consignment stores have gained credibility as great places to find quality clothing someone else no longer has a need for.

When buying used maternity wear, be wary of:

  • Stained items. Even if it's just lipstick, you may not be able to get the stain out.
  • Ill-fitting items. Alterations don't always work, and it's no deal if the item hangs in your closet for your entire pregnancy.
  • Versatility. A thick cable-knit sweater might be bargain-priced, but most pregnant women are more comfortable dressing in layers that can be removed, as your hormones wreak havoc with your internal thermostat.

Once you've cleaned out your friends' closets and visited the consignment stores, it's time to fill in the gaps in your wardrobe. Major discount clothing stores now sell reasonably priced clothing previously only available in expensive specialty shops. Set aside an afternoon to visit a few shops to comparison shop before you buy.

When buying new maternity clothes, there are a few key things to remember:

  • Avoid 'fake' maternity clothes. True maternity shirts will be longer in the front than the back to accommodate your growing belly without having the back of the shirt hang down to your knees. A fake maternity shirt is simply a large version of a regular shirt. Fake maternity pants won't be made of the same soft material real maternity pants are, a necessity to avoid irritating an often itchy belly.
  • Buy the bare minimum. Don't buy 10 shirts and expect to wear them through to the end. Buy five now, and pick up others as the seasons change, your belly expands, and as you tire of the other items.
  • When selecting pants, choose plain styles. No one will notice you've worn the same three pairs of pants the whole pregnancy if you've selected plain styles. Simple black pants and dark-washed blue jeans are easy staples. Avoid easy-to-remember items with multiple pockets, zippers, or odd colours.
  • Stretchy is good, constricting is not. Look for fabrics with a percentage of spandex or elastic.
  • Consider investing in a BellaBand®. This seamless knit band is worn at your waistline over your unbuttoned pre-pregnancy pants, over too big maternity pants, or around the waistband of any maternity clothing that falls down, and simply looks like a layered undershirt.
  • Choose solids over patterns, dark clothes over light. Black pieces are easy to mix and match, hide stains better, and are less memorable. Use funky and inexpensive accessories to brighten your look.
  • If your feet swell, look for inexpensive slip-on shoes with a low heel to get you through to the end.

Reprinted with permission from Sarah Deveau, author, Money Smart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting. Available at bookstores across Canada.