Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Safe and Stylish Babywearing on a Budget

Look, I'm just going to come out and say something, without any intended malice but let's get honest here...

The babywearing image in America is definitely commercialized and decorated with snobbery.

It is. And I said it. I'm not only talking about the way carriers are glamorized in the tabloids, with celebrities trotted out in nifty looking baby gear to the masses.

These days, people say babywearing is a fad.
But how can a centuries-old, instinctive practice be a fad? Oh, right.
Even in the "regular troops" of mothers, babywearing has developed a finer culture of collection on par with Prada purses or Guess jeans. You might salivate and feel poor after mamas share their "stash photos" valued into the thousands.

On Facebook, some popular carrier designers have giveaways just so you can get a chance to PAY for the newest baby carrier. Yes, a giveaway to win a chance to buy something. Ain't nobody got cash to get caught up in that!

I wasn't kidding!

It certainly doesn't help that most baby carriers, even regular brands carried in stores, tend to come with big price tags. A typical carrier can start at $50 and is on average $150. Move into the stylish area and watch that jump to $300, $500 or higher depending on popularity and exclusivity.

Now, first off, if mamas enjoy collecting expensive wraps and showing them off, good for them. There's nothing wrong with spending your money on lovely wraps and carriers that suit your fashion style or make you feel good. We all do it with something, whether it's fancy clothes, nice makeup, rich lotions, electronics or even food and drink.

But here's what I want to tell those who are on a budget: you can still do it! You don't have to be the rich and famous or drive a Mercedes to enjoy babywearing. And for that matter, with a little bit of deal-skills, you don't have to settle for a 20 year old crotch dangler from your grandma's closet. You CAN stylishly and safely babywear on a budget. Here's how:

1. Prepare. To save money, prevent babywearing mistakes before you start. Research babycarriers and weigh them against your individual needs. Visit baby boutiques to try on a variety of carriers. If you don't have a child yet, bring someone's or bring various dolls. Or animals. Most people I swear roll their eyes or ignore this step but it's the most important one! You cannot buy a carrier based on another parent's recommendation. Your body, your baby and your needs are different than hers.

They wiggle, slobber and pee everywhere. Perfect comparison.

So go to that crazy carrier lady's house and start trying them on. Go to the local Babies R Us and even better yet, go to several baby boutiques as they have more options. Scan your local area for babywearing clubs, which have libraries for renting and swapping. Try before you buy, long before you buy. Wear them longer than a few seconds. Sit down, stand up. Bend over, walk, bounce and jog. Think about areas that might be a concern to you (neck pain, hip problems, weak shoulders) and pay attention while trying on carriers. Then you will have a better idea of which one you want.

2. Scan. Now that you have a rough list of what you want to buy, start scanning your options. Like trading stock or playing chess, slick-dealing is about timing. Don't get excited and buy the first carrier you see that comes with a discount. You need to get a true feel for the market value and what a good deal really is before you jump on it. Start looking around the online babywearing swaps, mama-targeted deal sites and general baby gear sites to find out what the going rate is and what deals tend to roll around.

3. Time. Many stores phase out old inventory to bring in the year's new designs and colors in pretty specific times. December-January and June-July are considered some of the best times to find baby deals. If your carrier is available at a local store, then get to know that store's clearance policy. When do they mark things down? What day of the week? Track inventory try to wait out the deal to the very best price.

Example: I found out that select Target stores sell Ergo carriers. So I watched my local Target phase out the Navy Organic Ergos from $115 to $40. I kept an eye on inventory and hit the store on the day they typically markdown baby clearance. Sure enough, hidden behind a full price Cranberry Ergo, I found my $40 carrier. Then I used my Target debit card to get another 5% off the total.

4. Avoid. Avoid the psychological marketing and buying traps related to dealing. Don't use a coupon offer just because a company sent it to you. Watch out for sales and discounts that merely make a carrier the same price as other stores. Stay away from unsafe, fake, knockoff or other unsavory carriers. Don't get into a bidding war or buy an overpriced carrier due to crowd excitement. Stick with your market evaluation and your budget. Another carrier will come your way, I promise.

Example: Toys R Us is famous for having exciting deals such as "Buy 1, get 1 free" but if you compare their regular prices to other stores such as Target and Walmart, you'll find that the sale makes their products the same cost as the regular price at other stores.

Another example: Many deal sites such as Zulily can have legitimately good deals. But often they are merely showcasing products with inflated prices and big percentage points to entice purchases. A recent showcase on Zulily was the "Disney Collection" advertising up to 55% off, but a quick scan of the prices showed products almost the same cost as local stores, without the local advantage of waiting for clearance or using coupons.

5. Stack. Stacking is a method where you combine as many discounts and promos as possible. This decreases the final total beyond the original deal.

Example: If you shop at Target, you can get an additional 5% discount by using their debit card.

Example: Stack a manufacturer coupon with the store's coupon. (Many stores such as Whole Foods allow this, always check the rules).

Example: Stack different promo codes together. So if you are buying a carrier online with a discount code, also look for other codes that might allow stacking, such as free shipping.

Example: Various phone apps now offer rebates or even put money directly into your paypal for purchasing specific products. You might be able to line up your list with their list for more savings.

Example: Many online deal sites offer referral bonuses. Refer the sale to your friends and earn discounts or even outright cash to apply to your carrier purchase. This is a win win win situation: the site gets more sales, your friends get a deal and you get a break on your purchase.

6. Resell. If you find a very, very good deal, then you can purchase multiple carriers and sell some of them. The money you make reselling them needs to pay off your costs and then cover the carrier you keep, so carefully calculate all the costs involved including taxes, shipping and fees.

7. Rebuy. There's nothing wrong at all about buying secondhand as long as you verify the carrier is in good working condition. In fact, it's been my experience that carriers are so easily misunderstood/misused or mispurchased (see #1 PREPARE) that buying secondhand will often get you an almost new carrier at a steep discount. I scan my local secondhand baby shop every week or so to look for these misunderstood carriers. You can then also stack if your secondhand shop offers discounts and coupons.

Be sure to check yard sales, consignment sales, mommy-group garage sales/fundraisers, online groups...any sale that includes babygear is probably going to have a carrier floating around somewhere. Because you followed step 1 and step 2, you will know which carrier is worth buying and at what price.

8. BTSRB. Barter, trade, swap, rent and borrow. You'd be surprised what you can get when you have a service or product to offer in exchange. Are you a photographer? Nanny? Can you carpool, clean, babysit, sew/craft? Do you have other babygear that another mama needs right now? Have you asked a mama friend if you can pay her to temporarily use a carrier she isn't using right now? Do you have a closer friend who will just let you borrow? You won't know until you ask.

9. Create. Notice I put this one at the bottom. You can make your own carrier. With some research, it can be safe and comfortable. But unless you do this frequently and already have all the supplies lying around, it's unlikely to be a safe, stylish and cheap carrier. If you have the skills, go for it. Just be sure to keep an eye on the bottom line if you have a strict budget.

Some sites to keep an eye on for periodic carrier deals:

zulily.com (Want to share love? My referral link is: http://www.zulily.com/invite/guggiedaly)

The big group on Facebook:

The budget group on Facebook:

Like the idea of slickdealing? Check out slickdeals.net.

What was your best carrier deal? What is your favorite deal site for babygear? What is your deal tip? Please share!

1 comment:

  1. Love this post and totally agree! I have a decent stash and never paid more a hundred or so for any of my carriers. However, you say to try out carriers while jogging in them and while I know you know, your readers may get confused, not realizing that it is not safe to jog while baby wearing! Brisks walks and hiking are great but for actual jogging, you should use a jogging stroller and ideally wait until baby is at least 6mo if not a yr.