Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Baby Registry is Never Finished, Only Abandoned

I must confess, I have been working on my baby registry for months now. At first it was mostly just window shopping and information gathering. I checked out a few of the major retailers who offer baby registry services: Babies R Us, Baby Depot, Target and Walmart. After considering a number of factors, including selection, reputation, available resources, and convenience, I decided I would register at both Babies R Us and Target.

Babies R Us had the largest selection by far, and is the most frequently used retailer for baby registries. Also, their website is really detailed and user friendly. For instance, it offers a lot of good FAQs, checklists and buying guides for first-timers, which I really needed. The pictures and product descriptions are clear and extensive, and most of the products provide User Reviews so I could read the opinions of people who had actually bought and used the products.

I chose to register at Target as well mostly for the added convenience and the affordable but quality selection of products. Babies R Us stores tend to be few and far between (I think Connecticut has 4 altogether) while there's practically a Target in every town, and this works out for people who prefer to do in-store shopping so they don't have to pay the shipping fees to shop online. Plus, it's nice to be able to see things in person sometimes. Some of the items available at Babies R Us were not available at Target and vice versa, so it allowed me to pick from a wider range of items in certain cases. I also found that some of the items available at both stores were cheaper at Target, or that some items you could only buy online at Babies R Us were available in-store through Target.

When I started I really had no idea what I would need beyond the obvious general gear: crib, car seat, stroller, diapers, wipes, clothes, bibs, etc. Of course if that was all you needed, it would make for a pretty boring if not pointless baby registry so I knew there was more to it than that. Plus I wasn't sure how to choose between the brands, models and styles of all the various products. If left to my own devices, my baby registry would have probably developed in one of two ways: either a) I would have chosen too much stuff, much of which I would never really need or use, half of which would not even be appropriate for my purposes, and some of which would likely have been unsafe or poor in quality, or b) I would have chosen very few items, not even aware of the many smaller but necessary items I would need to purchase later on. Thankfully, as always, I did my homework. That's just how I roll.

First I scoured the internet for lists of "must-have" items. There are a number of different places that are happy to tell you what they think you should have when baby comes. Here are a few examples from:

Babies R Us

After printing and reading over numerous lists like these, and reading other articles and guide book chapters on the subject, I realized that, while there were many similarities, no two lists were exactly the same. I decided to combine all the information I had gathered and develop my own must-haves list that I felt would best suit my needs. I will happily post this in the near future, but keep in mind that what's "necessary" for me may not be "necessary" for you - and likewise, what I find to be completely useless may end up being your lifesaver.

Here are some of my general tips about building your baby registry:

1. Don't bother registering for clothes. People are going to buy you plenty of clothes. I'm not quite 6 months along, and I already have 6 or 7 outfits that people have given me "just because". If there's something unusual or special you want or need that you probably won't get without asking (i.e., I considered registering for a Christening outfit but then decided against it), then by all means add it - but also keep in mind that you have no way of knowing exactly what size your baby is going to be so it may be best to wait until after he or she is born to buy something event-specific or one-of-a-kind any way.

2. Don't forget the simple stuff. Feel free to register for the essentials, like diapers, wipes, formula, toiletries, medicine - I even registered for batteries to run the many different toys and gadgets also on my registry. You're going to need lots of those kinds of things, especially early one, and the costs can really add up. Wouldn't it be nice to have, say, a three or four month supply of diapers already waiting for you when you bring your baby home?

3. Don't be afraid to register for "big ticket" items. I say this for two reasons. Aside from the fact that you might just have very generous (or very wealthy) loved ones, it's entirely possible that a group of your friends, family and/or co-workers may want to get together and buy you one big gift from "the gang", so go ahead and put the $300 jogger stroller on there and they might take up a collection. What have you got to lose? The worst that can happen is that no one buys it for you. Which brings me to the second reason to put it all on there regardless of the price: some retailers (I know Babies R Us is one of them) offer a "registry completion discount" when you buy many of the leftover items on your registry after your shower - so if you were going to buy it any way, put it in on the registry, see if you get it as a gift, and if not, you might just get a discount when you purchase it yourself later!

4. Think ahead. While it is obviously most important to cover the bases of what you'll need immediately when you arrive home from the hospital, your baby will grow out of many of the toys, clothes, and other items fairly quickly, and his needs and abilities will change as well. For instance, since your baby can't sit up on his own or eat solid foods when you first bring him home, you won't need things like a high chair or feeding utensils right away... but you will. Since your newborn obviously can't read or problem solve yet, you won't need wordy books or puzzles right away... but you will. If your baby is born in the summer, he won't need a winter coat or snowsuit right away... but he will. Don't go crazy with down-the-road items, but it's a good idea to include some things that will become useful as time goes on.

5. Think outside the nursery. These days, it's perfectly acceptable to register for some non-traditional but still very important items you may not have considered. Do you have a digital camera to snap photos of your baby when he or she arrives? Do you have sufficient memory or other useful accessories for that camera? Maybe you'd like a digital photo frame or a particular software program to help you display the many pictures of your little one. Also, see if your registry of choice offers the option to include gift cards - Target does, for example - so that indecisive or impatient shoppers can get you something that doesn't require much time or thought but that they know will be useful to you - and that will ensure you get something you can use, either now or later on.

6. If possible, try to develop your registry based on both internet research and in-store visits. You probably won't be able to see everything in person, but it definitely helps to see some of these items up close - online photos and descriptions can be unclear and/or misleading, especially in terms of things like size, color and texture. In-store displays of items like strollers allow you to not only view but try out the products - I changed my mind about which stroller I wanted after I had the opportunity to see a few different ones and push them around a bit. When making your store visit, use but be wary of the in-store registry associates. They can be a good source of information but remember that they do work for the store and therefore it is part of their job to sell you on as many items as possible, wbuch may ultimately include items you may not want or need.

7. Even with the tons of extensive research I did - scouring the product descriptions, reading customer reviews, checking out consumer reporting sites, looking over articles, flipping through magazines and guidebooks, making and re-making lists - the actual registry process itself was, at times, confusing and exhausting. There is just so much stuff out there, so many angles to consider, so many different colors and styles, tons of little details. It is definitely a project you will want to do in stages. Start your registry early enough that you can take your time, but not so early that the items you've selected will be unavailable or superseded by newer models when the time actually comes for people to access it. Sit down for a few hours at a time and tackle it little by little, maybe focusing on a different category each day.

Expect that you might change your mind on certain items, possibly many times. As I said, I've been on working on mine for months, and I could probably continue to work on it for a few more, but it's come to the point where I just have to say, it's finished and I'm not changing it again - my baby shower invitiations are going out this week, and once that happens, you pretty much have to leave the registry alone from then on so that people can go ahead and shop for you!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have tweaked my registry about a million times! It's an exhausting process!!

One of the best things to do: read product reviews. they really saved me some headaches!!

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