Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


15 May 2011

Confessions of a bargain hunter

We had a big shopping spree yesterday – the pointy end of the sudden realisation that

  • I am 3 weeks out to full-term
  • babies can come early
  • I can no longer put on my house socks without resembling an inebriated Sumo wrestler in a dizzy bat race. Very unglamorous.

Prior to yesterday’s shopping spree, I had waxed lyrical about the different kinds of shopping mommies out there, and I’ve learnt I vacillate between The Bargain Hunter and The Accidental Splurger. And truth be told, I hardly splurged – which surprised me very much. The biggest surprise is how much I’ve enjoyed bargain hunting with Tony – who, as it turns out, is great at scouring AllClassifieds for cool deals.

Anyhoo… after months of bargain hunting, I thought I’d compile some tips and tricks we’ve gleaned along the way.

Pace yourself

So you’ve just peed on the stick and you know you’ve got months to get things in order. Don’t start too late. It’s a budgeting thing, really – if you can afford to spend $2,000 at a go towards the end, good on you. But chances are, you’ll need to spread the cost over a few months. Especially if you’re starting from scratch because you have no hand-me-downs.

Decide what’s new, what’s pre-loved

One of the things I struggled with initially was the guilt that I wasn’t being prudent enough with money. So the temptation is to go against your gut and try and buy everything second-hand. Only to go home with dregs and realise that you’ve just wasted $120 rather than saved $170, because now you’re stuck with a second-hand electric breastmilk expressor that you can’t bear to use because you keep picturing some other random woman’s lady bits in them, and faint mooing in the background. Or whatever. And look, it’s an individual thing but Tony and I eventually figured out what we absolutely wanted to buy first-hand, and what we were happy to buy pre-loved. It’s okay to buy some things brand new.

Know what the going rate is

Once I figured out what I wanted to get, what was absolutely necessary to me and what I felt were optional extras, I started a list that has lived in my handbag ever since. I also did a bit of online sleuthing beforehand and dropped in the best recommended retail prices (RRP) I could find in that list. Those RRPs formed my price ceiling. That way, if I happened to walk past a shop or find something online for cheaper, I had a benchmark from which to work. It made impulse on-the-spot buying a lot easier and cheaper. And oh look – I’ve even included my Shopping list template!

Go in pairs

You are a pregnant woman. Chances are, you are going to slow down by 30% by the time you reach 6 months, and waddle by the time you’re 8. So think about your safety, and turn up at the door with someone else who can

  1. yank you to safety, or
  2. have the presence of mind not hampered by Pregnant Brain to defend you if you should come into harm’s way.

If you’re responding to an advert to suss out pre-loved goods at someone’s house, remember that they are strangers – even if they sound lovely on the phone. Also, having someone else with you to bounce off ideas wouldn’t hurt.

Get your code straightened out

Whether you’re turning up at the Baby & Kids Market, or at someone’s home sussing out their wares, it can be hard to walk away from an offer that just doesn’t meet your minimum standards. Especially if the owner (usually the Mommy) is standing there, rocking her gorgeous baby, and sharing how he/she “absolutely loved playing with it”, and how it was his/her “favourite toy”. Couple that awkwardness with your shopping partner and you trying to discuss the merits and demerits of the item in question while the owner listens in, and you’re more likely to find yourself leaving the stall/house with crap you didn’t want. So yes – get some kind of pig latin going between you and your shopping partner. Learn to read each other’s signals – especially if one of you is uncomfortable and wants to say ‘no’.

Bargains can come from anywhere

I’ll relay a recent shopping win that best illustrates this point. Those floor-gym thingies with overhanging toys that encourage newborns and toddlers to get tactile? They are colourful, educational, and freakishly expensive. Tony and I were eyeing a Lamaze one that was retailing for $99.99 on average. He found a second-hand one online for $50 – score! So he set up the appointment… and I happened to waltz into Target, found the same unit, did a price check… and walked away with a $14.84 bargain. Brand new. True story. Very smug still. Moral of the story: just because it’s in a department store, doesn’t mean you can’t find freak deals. Leave no stone unturned.

Plan to recycle

So you’ve made your bargain buys. Now what? Document how much you actually paid for each item. And then keep the packaging. Take photos of how the item came packed, if you have to. Because when it’s your turn to play babyware seller for some other bargain hunter, you’ll know exactly how much to price your stuff and you have a better chance of selling your wares if your packaging looks pristine. And who knows – you might be able to make a tidy profit.

To be a reader breeder

ElilyMommy is a voracious reader, so it’s really no surprise that she’s read more books about Mommydom than I can count on all the fingers and toes in my household (formed and forming). And while I’ve had difficulty digesting some of the other volumes she’s passed to me because she has infinitely more patience than I do with long-winded authors (Tony and I keep hollering GET TO THE POINT! at Babywise, for instance), I’m absolutely loving The Read-aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.

Basically, it’s a book about instilling the love of reading in a brand new human being – and it’s chockful of statistics and case studies that wow and inspire the likes of Tony and I. We’d both decided ages ago that our child’s love of electronic nannies (television shows, computer games) should never trump the love of reading – mostly because we have a hunch about the benefits of reading as we’ve each been its beneficiary. This book turns the hunches to ah-hahs. It also tells us why we should start by reading aloud to the child, pretty much the moment she can hear you.

Which, for Blobette, would be right about now.

It’s weird reading to your own belly. As much as I feel I should sit and read “Where’s the green sheep?” to my protruding middle torso, I fear it gives me the giggles and the distinct sense of You’re on Candid Camera. But when I was nine years old, I loved my borrowed copy of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes so much, that I made myself memorise the shortest tale. So much so that I can recite it to this day.

So this is what Blobette’s been hearing from me. (Might be slightly inaccurate, as I’m typing this from memory. Haven’t bought my own copy yet.)

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went to knock on Grandma’s door,
And when she opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin.
Then Wolfie said, “May I come in?”

Poor Grandmama was terrified.
“He’s gonna eat me up!” she cried.
And she was absolutely right –
He ate her up, in one big bite!

But Grandmama was small and tough,
And Wolfie cried, “That’s not enough!”
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
“I’ve gotta have a second helping!”
Then added, with a frightful leer,
“Therefore, I’m going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.”

In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,

“Grandma… what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see you with.”

“Grandma… what big ears you have!”

“All the better to hear you with.”

The Wolf sat watching her, and smiled.
He thought, “I’m going to eat this child.
Compared to her old Grandmama,
She’s going to taste like caviar!”

Then Little Red Riding Hood said,
“Grandma, what a lovely, furry coat you have on!

“That’s wrong!” cried Wolf.
“Have you forgot?
To ask me what big teeth I’ve got?
But ah, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway!”

The little girl smiles. Her eyelid flickers.
She takes a pistol from her knickers.
Aims it at the Wolfie’s head,
And bang, bang, bang! She shoots him dead.

A few weeks later in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change – no cloak of red!
No silly hood upon her head!

She says, “Hello… and do please note
My lovely, furry wolf-skin coat.”

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