A penny saved is a penny earned, right?
These days, I feel, a penny saved is a penny that can be put somewhere more useful - like say a savings account, a new roof fund, that emergency vet bill (those always seem to come out of left field, don’t they?)
So when I started to tackle my nursery design for my first baby, I knew with absolute certainty that I could not, would not, spend more than $1000 cash. I needed the rest of our savings to act as a maternity leave buffer. (Did you know the average Canadian baby costs $550 per month for the first year? Yep. They are expensive little jiggers.)
For the first four months of my pregnancy, I socked away $250 into a separate ‘nursery’ account and when I hit that magic $1000 figure, I cashed out. Hard stop. No more spending on the nursery. Now, the nursery proper doesn’t include things like clothing, diapers, and toiletries. It also doesn’t include larger baby items like play yards, strollers, and car seats. I’m talking strictly about the nursery decor - the stuff that goes into the Baby’s room and stays in the Baby’s room: crib, rugs, changing table, toy storage, rocking chairs and the like. You know, the stuff you see on Pinterest.
I’m thrilled to say that after some careful calculations and by following some tried and true decor and DIY tips, I came in exactly on budget and my sweet Baby’s nursery is exactly what I envisioned.
Here’s how I created a Nursery Oasis without breaking the bank!
While I was saving up for four months, I started a secret Pinterest Board. I collected images I liked, color swatches that appealed to me, funny little nursery sayings. Eventually, my colour story became clear. Oddly enough, I thought I was going to go whole hog with a nautical theme, but when I looked at the entirety of my mood board, I had been pinning lots of things in greys, aquas and lighter wood tones - so that’s the direction I focused on. I don’t know the gender of my Baby, so I made sure that the dominant colour (in my case aqua) would work well with a couple other hues, like navy, leaf green and fuschia should we decided to make it a more girl or boy space down the line. Make sure you only buy items that fit within the parameters of your mood board; this way you know with certainty that everything will be consistent.
As you collect items that fit with your mood board, you will want to (have to!) edit them down. Even if you love them, try to return a few items. Babies don’t need a lot of stuff and, I’ve heard, they accumulate things faster than the average human, so make sure you leave space in your nursery for those extras that will come along. It was hard on me to return the sweet cloud shaped toss pillows, geometric twinkle tights and trellis pattern throw rug, but I did. I saved myself $150. The room also breathes a lot easier now without all those extras.
Oh my lands, you guys! THIS is where I saved a CRAP TON of cash. Most people I know have had to ‘lose’ their home office in order to make space for baby. This is especially true if you live in an urban condo or a small house. BUT consider ways to consolidate your office space (I now have mine tucked into the tiniest corner of our sunroom) and repurpose some of that furniture for Baby.
For example, my husband and I converted a super old Ikea bookshelf into our changing table for about $30 worth of wood and finishing nails. A good purge of books and old knick knacks and I don’t miss having it in my office at all. The average change table is 17” wide, so anything with a reasonable length and that width could work. Get out your measuring tape. Seriously.
We also repurposed an old dining hutch for nursery storage. We bought it on Kijiji five years ago for about $100. I painted it up and added new knobs. Sure, it’s meant to display plates and platters and servingware - but in the nursery? It works for books, baskets, and stuffed toys and beneath is where we keep spare diapers and the breast pump. Think outside the box on this and you can save a bundle. Trust me.
Other items we repurposed? My Grandmother’s rocker (I decked it out with new pillows and a new little side table), a bookshelf from the basement that once held DVDs, and wicker baskets from our linen cupboard that contained linens I was no longer in love with. If things don’t fit with your mood board, a lick of white paint will bring your design story back into neutral territory every time.
The caveat here is the obvious potential for ‘ick’ factor. I would shy away from buying diaper pails, changing table accessories and stuffed toys at yard sales, but if you search for the unusual - you can find mega deals. Our basket-style pendant lamp was purchased at a yard sale for $1.
ONE DOLLAR, people!
Sure, we spent another $12 on a new wiring kit to make sure it was safe. But a $13 light fixture that is very a la mode is major savings. Other things you can scout at estate and yard sales are solid wood bookshelves, rocking chairs, wall hooks and even art work.
Don’t get me wrong, children and baby retailer websites are like crack to me. I ‘OOOH!’ and “AAAH!” over everything I see. But then I remember that those sites and stores appeal to my lizard brain and I would like to be ruled by the portion of my brain that knows it only has $1000 to spend.
So I add what I love to my mood board and try to find something that matches that feeling at a NON-Baby shop. You definitely don’t need the $25 bins from the baby store just because they have that extra white piped edge when you can get the same thing at the ‘adult’ decor store for $17. Your baby will not know the difference. I ended up with a set of bins from the Dorm Room section at Bed Bath & Beyond and wooden crates bought straight from The Home Depot.
Three of the four walls in our nursery are adorned with some sort of cost-saving, DIY design element. Let’s just say, I spent a lot of time in craft stores this summer. But I managed to save a great deal of money on the ‘fun stuff’.
My biggest splurge was on our full-scale, alphabet soup wall. I knew I wanted a tone-on-tone piece on the largest wall in the space (because my mood board told me so!), so I waited until I got one of those fabulous ‘50% your entire purchase’ coupons and then went to town on the ABC section of the craft store.
Our window wall was boring, so I jazzed it up with an $8 Sharpie paint pen. Yes. I wrote on the wall. For $8. There was no way I was spending cash-money on expensive wall decals in the shape of fauns and fairies. $8 triangles will do just fine.
Over our change table, I painted simple dollar store canvases in coordinating acrylic paint, and framed them with some basic 1x2 boards from the hardware store. I cut shapes and words out of adhesive vinyl for just a few dollars. And I love them.
The motto of the story is, you really don’t have to spend much on a nursery for it to feel fresh, clean and ready for someone new. By holding back the spending, you’ll mitigate any future guilt you’ll feel when it comes time to switch things up for the toddler, little kid, big kid and teen stage and you might have some fun while you’re at it.
Here is my total cost breakdown for our nursery:
An even $1000. Who’d have thought :)
We go into this journey called ‘growing a human being’ with the best of intentions, don’t we? I’d like to think so.
When we finally ended up with a sticky baby, I set a few ‘rules’ for myself.
I was not going to Google. Nope. Not at all. Unless I suddenly turned into Linda Blair a la Exorcist and my head started spinning on my spine - I wasn’t going to Google. I wasn’t going to start shopping for the nursery until I was more than half way through the pregnancy. (I have started an inspiration board though! Check it out here!) I was going to take my prenatal vitamin, stretch every day, eat normally and do my absolute best to not take drugs. I don’t mean hard drugs. I mean any drugs. I didn’t want to take the Diclectin my OB prescribed for my nausea in my first trimester. I didn’t want to take the daily heartburn medication I was prescribed around 12 weeks either. When I had a headache, I’d medicate with a frozen bag of peas wrapped in a towel on my head even though there’s consensus that Tylenol is acceptable.
Those were my ‘rules’ for myself and my promises to my baby. In retrospect, my last ‘rule’ should have been “I was not going to pee down my leg.”
You can call me irrational now. It’s okay. I can handle it. Because I’ve broken basically every promise to myself and my baby in spectacular fashion.
In making those asinine pledges, I failed to account for my chronic underlying condition. I am what is called a ‘frequent kidney stone former’ - a totally lame disease description, I know.
Essentially, about once every three or four months, I’m thrown into the fiery depths of hell, thrashing and screaming and crying until I either pass a stone through my kidneys or I end up in the emergency room on fabulous drugs and then in surgery to have a stent implanted in my pee duct. Yes, my pee duct.
Let’s just pause here. Can you see where this is going? Drugs? Pee? Google? Ugh.
Stupid, stupid me. Did not consider that all the pressure on my lower back area from growing my sweet baby was going to squish all those bits together and cause pressure that would create stones faster than normal. I mean, besides being monitored by my obstetrician, I’ve also been monitored by my urologist through this pregnancy. There were no red flags. Everything was fine; except the crippling sciatica, the Carpal Tunnel swelling, the limb numbness…
Google probably would have told me those symptoms also indicate kidney swelling and can happen in pregnancy. But I didn’t Google (see promise 1.) I just thought “I’m pregnant!” and waddled slowly on my way.
Last weekend, while enjoying a wonderful BBQ at a friend’s house, as people were admiring my maxi-dress clad 22-week bump, I felt a stone drop.
Over the years, my husband has learned to heed my frantic whispers if it happens in public. “Honey, something’s wrong. We need to leave now. I can’t pee. I’m swollen. There’s something wrong.” We ghosted out of that BBQ so quickly, I don’t think people realized we were gone until the next day.
Within two hours, we were in the emergency room, my blood pressure had plummeted, I was incoherent, I had vomited up what felt like four days worth of stomach contents, and a nurse was pumping morphine into an IV hooked up to my vein. MORPHINE! I hadn’t even taken so much as a Tums for 22 weeks, and now I was being injected with MORPHINE? How was this even happening? I AM BREAKING MY RULE (see promise 3.)
“Don’t worry, I can feel baby moving!” I’d say to my husband between drug induced sleep and through gritted teeth.
Secretly, in my mind I was saying “Yeah, my baby is doing the running man and screaming ‘these drugs are DOPE, Mamma!’” I don’t know how he got glow sticks into my uterus, but I swear the baby had them.
Then, at about 4:30 in the morning, my husband was helping me sit up and inch my way to the bathroom. We looped my IV around my hand, disconnected my heart monitor - the ‘get to the bathroom’ drill is all too familiar to us now.
And the pain intensified. That never happens. This wasn’t normal.
“Why is it getting worse!?” I wailed. “I’m going to be sick!” I warned. “Google that shit!!” I demanded. (*cough* promise number 1 obliterated.)
He probably Googled it. But I mean “Intense pain while passing kidney stone” is a stupid thing to Google.
Miraculously, I made it to the bathroom.
As I was trying desperately to pee, I had an uncontrollable urge to vomit, and suddenly I was faced with an impossible choice: I wasn’t finished peeing. But I really, really needed to puke. Which end do I cover?!
I turned around. I retched. And I retched. And I coughed.
And then I peed. Down my leg.
You don’t consider that violent vomiting while passing a kidney stone while high on morphine in nothing but a backless hospital gown at 4:30 a.m., in the emergency room, while 22-weeks pregnant, will result in a complete lack of bladder control.
It does. It 100% does. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A RULE.
“Honey?” I said breathlessly through the door. “I peed.”
“That’s good news. I’m glad,” he said. (Having a kidney condition means you are treated like a potty training toddler. “I peed! I peed! Let’s celebrate!”)
“No. I peed down my leg.”
The bathroom door creaked open. He threw in a clean pair of underwear.
HOW DID HE KNOW I’D BREAK A RULE I DIDN’T MAKE?!
Nothing feels as good as clean undies after you’ve peed yourself.
Babies - I get it now.
When all was said and done, I was in and out of the emergency department in about a day and half, lighter by one massive kidney stone, less one blown kidney valve (that’s why I peed), and definitely feeling some injured pride.
I realized how short sighted my promises had been.
I needed the drugs. They say it’s important to take care of yourself first, right? I learned afterwards that low-dose morphine doesn’t even cross the blood barrier. So much for glow sticks and the running man. What I do know is I can’t let myself consider this a mothering fail. My baby is just fine. I am healing.
I’ve now thrown out my rule book.
Okay. All except one rule: Always travel with an extra pair of panties in my purse.