By: Revanche

Joining Gymboree was not part of my master plan

March 8, 2010


No, I’m not getting ready for any major life change personally.  It’s just that I’m failing to stay abreast of the tsunami of friends, friends of friends, and family friends getting pregnant and inviting me to every single baby shower, ever.  Similar to the previous decade’s “We’re engaged (and we want you in the wedding)!” the watchphrase of the 2010s bodes well to be “We’re expecting!”

Then, inevitably, the baby shower. Most of them are thrown together clutches of women from separate circles of the mom-to-be’s life who are mostly there to compare gifts.  I hate the cutesy games that always include a huge diaper pin or the ones where uttering the word “baby” is greeted with hoots and tallied throughout the afternoon.  And the cooing. The cooing. I hate baby showers. I know, I’m a monster.

I love babies, I love showers, I even like baby clothes, and I’m very happy for the expecting.  But let’s face it, your run of the mill baby shower is just awful.

And when you consider the outrageous cost of all things New Baby people register for, everyone else’s life events can easily run roughshod over your unsuspecting budget. You understand I love gift-giving, but I love good gift-giving.  Lacking the yarn wrangling skills (which aren’t cheap) of Mapgirl and Mrs. Micah, I trend towards more practical gifts like clothing in a variety of sizes, plenty of bibs, feeding-related equipment, lotions and potions galore. You simply cannot compile a good baby gift using conventional methods and get out the door for under $100-200.  And you know I’m not a get out the door gifter.

If we were only doing this dance once a year, I’d shut up and go along with it, but my cohort numbers at least 20 individuals, and I’m very very close with at least half of them which means I’m on the guest list for their friends and family. This decade, inclusivity will cost more than I can bear unless I “Adapt, Overcome and Improvise!”  [Points to whoever recognizes which Eastwood movie that’s from.]

So how do I graciously deal?  The same way I dealt with bridesmaiding: be creative and plan far in advance.

Stage 1:  Baby clothes can cost more than my personal annual clothing budget, so I’ve signed up for Gymboree’s rewards program wherein I’m showered with coupons and sales notices.  Twice a year, they have their Semi-Annual sale where clothes are marked down 50-70%, and combined with coupons and outlet stores, I’ll stock up on clothing for both genders.

Stage 2:  Baby-related stuff, being unlimited to any season, doesn’t go on sale the way Christmas, Valentine’s Day or other annual holiday stuff does.  So wrapping paper, bags, and tissue paper will be purchased in neutrals and well in advance of any shower invitation.  Baskets are a great wrapping aid, and are usually most affordable when found at resale shops like Big Lots, Tuesday Morning or Ross and Marshalls. 

Stage 3:  My closest friends know that I’m at least financially nerdy, so I’m issuing a declaration that all gifts post-baby shower will be something toward their education. And then I’m either contributing towards the school fund or giving a modest cash gift.

Note: I buy clothing in mostly larger sizes the kids can grow into since most gifts are onesies for 6 months and under. I target 18 months and older and try to find them for $5 or less.

[Image: m_bartosch/]


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19 Responses to “Joining Gymboree was not part of my master plan”

  1. Baby clothing is, in truth, a terrible gift. Most babies outgrow before they outwear–or even wear–the avalnache of gifts.

    I would suggest getting a book or two, even if not on the list. It is easy to stock up on these cheaply (Daedalus Books, for instance, is an excellent source). Or try Chinaberry Books–this is a retail site, but their recommendations are excellent and they have sale items.

    Your friends will thank you later.

    PS Unlike you, I hate showers and other occasions that seem to force gift-giving.

  2. Karin says:

    Last week I helped a friend who is expecting her third baby any day now, to sort through the baby clothes she already has – there were literally HUNDREDS of items, almost all received as gifts from well-meaning friends and relatives, and some barely worn as the avalanche of clothes had simply been so huge. Made me thankful and a little smug that I always buy books rather than clothing 😉

    Like Frugal Scholar, I’m not a fan of these gigs either. They seem like a shameless grab for “stuff” and I often try to subvert them by giving something less cluttery, like a charity goat or a zoo membership. Lucky my friends think I’m eccentric and still speak to me …

  3. eemusings says:

    Ugh, I guess I’ll be facing the same dilemma at some point. Love the basket idea. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Gymboree has really nice baby clothes. But yes, they outgrow them so fast.

    A better gift would be boxes of diapers.

  5. Thankfully none of my friends are at that stage yet… although i need to start thinking of WEDDING gifts and housewarming gifts. EEP.

    Any ideas on those?

  6. Shevy says:

    As a mother of 4 kids aged 30 to 7 and bubbe to four grandchildren, aged 7 to 1 month, I’m going to tell you that you are spending *way* too much on baby gifts! $100 to $200? That’s okay if you’re the mother or mother-in-law of the new mother. Otherwise it’s insane. Spend $20 to $50 (max!) and nobody will think the less of you for it. If you really, really want to spend $100 per baby, give the parents the money to deposit into the baby’s RESP/529/Coverdell account! Or ask ahead of time if you can buy the infant car seat that they will have to have.

    Also, I can understand that everybody wants to make sure baby has everything imaginable when it’s the first child. If it’s not the first child in the family their siblings already have more stuffies, toys, bouncy seats, clothes, etc. than the new baby can ever use. Give subsequent infants something that doesn’t increase the clutter!

    Cruise the clearance racks at Gymboree and Baby Gap for expensive outfits at low prices (under $20). Give books or pay for a mother & baby class at the community centre. Give older kids the zoo or science centre memberships, when they’ll appreciate them. And, yes, diapers are a great shower gift (disposable or cloth if the parents want cloth or a diaper service for a couple of months).

  7. Ginger says:

    Don’t forget the diapers! Moms always need them in a variety of sizes and you can always find them on sale or use coupons…

    Definitely an excellent, practical gift to give mom. Seriously, you can never have too many. People are even giving “diaper cakes” to moms at showers now because they know how expensive those damn things get!

  8. I feel like everyone I know is having babies now! I don’t mind buying gifts for those sorts of big life events, but I did try to steer away from stuff that will be useful for a month.

    So. Diapers! Definitely. Other stuff could be like a spa day for the mom. Or offer to clean their house (or hire someone to do it). I imagine it’s even harder to get that kind of stuff done once you have the baby!

  9. I’m not quite there yet, still in the wedding season of life. But I’m thinking that when I get to the baby shower season, I’m just going to use coupons to stock up on all things baby and make cute little gift baskets.

  10. High Class says:

    You and I both dislike baby showers. I went to one two weeks ago that was co-ed that I actually had a decent time at. It was for an instructor I know from the gym, so it was a bunch of gym folks, and since the turnout was so huge they didn’t go overboard with the games.

    I really like the thought of giving money towards a school/college fund. My cousin is having a baby in August. I’m planning on knitting this: but I may look into funding the start of a school fund!

  11. Personally, I think Gymboree and Baby Gap clothes are still expensive, even when it’s on sale. I usually buy my kids’ clothes at The Children’s Place, which have durable kids’ clothes at a much better price; you can also sign up to get coupons emailed to you.

  12. 444 says:

    I’m lucky enough to have not been invited to many of those. And if you think the games you mentioned are bad, I’ve heard of (never experienced) something having to do with food (to eat at the shower) and (clean) diapers in which to serve it! **shudder**

    How about a gift certificate for mom and dad to order pizza since they’ll be too tired and busy to cook?

  13. Jessie's Mom says:

    Back in the day, I always gave a bottle of wine along with baby gear (powder,shampoo, washcloth, etc.)And if you’re giving diapers, give cloth! This reliance on disposables is really rough on the planet. And do moms really register for baby showers these days? That smacks of a gift grab to me.

  14. Mrs. Micah says:

    I only go to showers for family members if I can help it. I only enjoy those showers, and I think it’s because a) I know the guests pretty well & b) this baby is actually going to be part of my life from here to eternity and so I care much more about it even before it’s here.

    I haven’t yet settled in on a gift (I do like to craft something, but I like to throw in something else as well). Normally I do something like what you do–buy an outfit for 9 months and up.

  15. No one is getting married or having babies in my neck of the woods, but I will keep your sage advice in mind. When that time comes, I’m expecting it to be all in one fell swoop as well.

  16. Revanche says:

    Wow! I’m impressed at the responses here.

    @Frugal Scholar: I do try to get a variety of older sizes, not just the onesies, or just go for tons of bibs in the “clothing” department. Books are a great idea, I’m an avid reader but most of my friends aren’t so I forget they’d still be good baby gifts.

    And wait, you mean LIKE me, right? We both don’t like baby showers? Because my “I like showers” comment was that I like taking showers. 🙂

    @Karin: I like your more creative ideas, I guess being overwhelmed with the flood of babies stunted my creative thinking. Memberships to zoos and such are a great idea!

    @eemusings: Brace yourself 😉

    @MoneyHoneySF: I think after this I’m going to have to stock up on diaper coupons and sales — people are so picky about diapering, though!

    @The Asian Pear: For weddings, I go with money all the way now. When I had much less money (ha ha like I’m wealthy now) we were all on budgets so I worked my weddings – I bought the bride and groom personal gifts that I knew they wanted (not wedding related) when I could buy them (on sale, with coupons, or when I had more cash flow) and let them know it was their [wedding/bridal shower] gift. We were much more casual back then, too.

    Housewarming? Depends on the friends. I haven’t done much on that front yet, but I’d consider wine for older friends, or a gift card to their favorite furniture store if they have one, or a homecooked meal basket (ie: dried pasta, sauces, cheese, salami). Honestly I always feel like food is a great gift.

    Shevy: I phrased that poorly — it’s not that I want to spend that much, but for what and how much I want to buy, it would cost that much if I paid regular prices. So I totally agree that if I *needed* to spend that kind of money, I’d be better off contributing to the college fund. 🙂

    @Ginger: I guess I’d better start taking requests for diaper preferences NOW so I can save up and buy in bulk 😀

    @paranoidasteroid: I did to the housecleaning + cooking for three days thing, I’m goin to hire that out when I’m rich. (as a gift, I mean). 🙂 It’s too bad you can’t give mom the one thing she really needs: SLEEP!

    @me in millions: Definitely a good idea. Planning ahead always takes the worst of the stress out for me.

    @High Class: That is incredibly cute!! Please post pictures if you do make it!

    @Jersey Mom: It’s funny, out here at least, Gymboree sales are way better than Children’s Place. I can’t find anything on sale at CP for less than $12 per piece, I can get three or sometimes four items for the same amount at G. The quality seems comparable.

    @444: oh I’ve heard of that one. The food in question would be CHOCOLATE. Like I need chocolate ruined for me?

    I like the ordering in gift certificate idea, you guys are so awesome at this!

    @Jessie’s Mom: Welcome! And yes, moms do register. Well, parents register. I’ll admit forcing my friend to because as the hostess, her family from grandma through aunts and uncles, kept calling me asking when she wanted or needed. Since they had purchased some of their own stuff and didn’t want to appear gift grubby, they’d refused to register but it was making my life rather complicated with the calls back and forth.

    @Mrs.Micah: I’ve recently discovered that if you travel out of town, you CAN avoid going to showers. *whistling*

    @Investing Newbie: *shudder* In theory it sounds like fun, but after a few years of constant engagement/wedding/shower/etc. arrangements, it can get overwhelming.

  17. Wait. Chocolate? In diapers? This is somehow an appropriate thing to serve at a party?

    SO glad I haven’t run into that one. I would probably have to leave.

  18. I have faced this problem as well. Which is why I am a convert to the diaper cake.

    This is a picture of my first adventure

    and this is how I put it together with instructions

    I hope this helps.

  19. Red says:

    Great tips! I’m freaking out about buying for ONE baby this year! (D’s brother’s girlfriend is due sometime this summer. I think June.) So I feel your pain! Luckily, I’m not the type of girl who becomes best friends with other girls easily. I have one very good girl friend, and D’s friends are mostly single men. But when I hear baby, I want to buy everything I see! Even though they’re not married and D and I aren’t married, I’ll be a “kinda” aunt, and that has me lit up!

    One thing I know for sure that we’d like to do is start a savings account for their baby. I told D a few weeks ago that the best gift we could give their child is compounding interest. Instead of spending hundreds on toys, we’re going to spend hundreds (over the kid’s life) on a savings account that we can give to him or her when he or she graduates high school. I’d much rather invest money that way for a person than spend so much money on toys that are discarded in a few weeks.

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