Expecting a baby? You'll be giving birth to some major home-decorating costs as well. Estimates are that outfitting a nursery costs anywhere from $2,000 and $6,000, and that's just the start.
Call it "ringing" up baby.
Americans spend about $27 billion annually on products for newborn to preschool-aged tots, according to industry statistics.
"Babies are big business," says Alan Fields, co-author of "Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% On Baby Furniture, Equipment, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear, and Much, Much More!"
"Magazines, stores and websites promote the latest baby gear," he says. "Parents want the very best for their infants and salespeople know that. The result is a lot of pressure on new moms and dads to overbuy and spend on things they really don't need."
Like imported Italian cribs. Memory foam mattresses. Cherry wood changing tables. Video monitors. Trendy bedding ensembles. Stylish crib mobiles. Designer area rugs. $1,000 strollers. (Yes, that's the correct number of zeros.)
Lynne Tapper, professional organizer and co-author of "Baby Daze: The Ultimate Baby Organizer from Applesauce to Zzzzzs," says trips to baby boutiques can make your heart soar but your wallet cringe.
"Everything is so cute. It's hard to resist. We learned with our first baby that you don't have to buy everything," says Brandt, a West Hartford resident. "As soon as the baby comes home from the hospital, you'll need diapers, clothes and someplace safe for the baby to sleep. The rest of it is optional."
If you're designing a nursery on a budget, you've got plenty of low-cost choices, according to Fields.
"Babies don't care if they're sleeping on designer sheets, and they don't care if their clothes are in a laundry basket or a designer dresser," says Fields. "As long as you've chosen products that don't compromise your baby's safety, the price doesn't matter."
Fields warns parents not to use second- hand cribs, no matter how tempting the bargain. Older models may not meet current safety standards, can be missing hardware and can have lead-paint finishes.
"Don't buy a used crib and don't take a hand-me-down from a well-meaning friend or neighbor. The risk is not worth it," says Fields. "And by old, we don't mean an antique. In just the past several years, millions of cribs have been recalled because of safety hazards."
(The good news is that all new cribs sold in the United States must meet federal safety requirements, which means that whether you buy a $100 crib at IKEA or a $1,000 crib at a specialty boutique, you'll get a crib that conforms to standards.)
Second-hand dressers, gliders, changing tables and rockers, along with lamps, rugs, mobiles and bedding sets, on the other hand, can be nursery furnishings deals.
These days, thrifty mommies and daddies have discovered the world of baby consignment shopping. National resale chains such as Once Upon a Child and Children's Orchard specialize in used infant and children's clothing, furniture, toys and equipment. (Once Upon a Child has seven Connecticut locations, including Enfield, Manchester, Wethersfield and Bristol; Children's Orchard is in Manchester.)
Local independent shops offer bargains as well. At Best Dressed Kids in Bloomfield, pack-and-plays, strollers and nursery accessories turn over quickly.
"Baby things really don't get much wear and tear. In some cases, things have been received as gifts and haven't been used at all," says owner Midge Becker. "People are amazed at how much they can save. Prices are about half of what you'd pay for new."
Sally Eigenraam, owner of Mommy & Me kids' specialty boutique in Kensington, added a consignment section to her business last summer. Called Lazy Daisies Furniture Consignment, it features current styles and name-brand baby and children's items in like-new condition.
"With the economy the way it was, people were looking for ways to save," says Eigenraam.
"In many cases, our previous customers are re-selling their nursery furniture, decor and accessories. There are some great deals."