How to do a Baby Show – without blowing the budget

The Baby Show hits Birmingham NEC next week and no doubt thousands of mums and dads-to-be will descend on the arena in search of some bargains. And no doubt, many of them will also come away with items they never imagined they needed – and may be destined to hide away in a cupboard without ever being used.
And I’m speaking from experience.
At six months pregnant, I trooped off to the Baby Show in London’s Excel, alone because I knew Mr MoneySaver would say no to most of my intended (and frivolous) purchases. I made a LOT of mistakes when it comes to budgeting. Yep, I admit it, I got sucked into the whole baby bonanza and was spat out a lot poorer the other end.
So, here’s where I went wrong and what you can do to avoid my mistakes.
1. I didn’t make a list. Amateur mistake! Instead, I just popped along all wide eyed and gullible to every saleperson’s patter without any thought as to what I actually needed.
And this is why I came away with reusable washable lambswool breast pads. What??
In fact, I bought two pairs so that I would be covered (literally) when one pair was in the wash.
I NEVER used them. Not once!
2. I didn’t do any research on the items I planned to buy.
I knew I wanted some sort of sling or baby carrier but hadn’t put any thought or research into it. This is odd because I relentlessly scoured information on other big purchases, furiously Googling reviews on prams, sorting through Which? recommendations for car seats and consulting forums on the most reliable maternity jeans. Yet, I went in completely blind on the baby carrier issue – and basically fell for the first sales pitch I heard.
It was, admittedly, a very good sales pitch, delivered by a very calm earth mother-type. I even tried one of these stretchy wraps on and saw how easy it was the assemble with a plastic doll at my chest. But guess what, when it came to a fragile, wriggly real live baby, I couldn’t figure out how to work the thing and being a first time mum, I had no confidence in my origami skills or the ability to keep this baby safe.
I think I used it a handful of times. (There was a silver lining in that it turned out to be from a faulty batch and I got my money back, but it could have been £60 down the drain)
3. I didn’t know the secrets and tricks.
Some – or maybe all, I don’t know – of the pram and pushchair sellers will flog their display items for a fraction of the price at the end of the show.
I wasn’t aware of this, and let me tell you how frustrated I was to learn that the Uppababy representatives had ex-display models on offer for, I think, around a quarter of the price but they were only available to those who could pick them up at the end of Sunday’s show. I was working on the Sunday and had no way of getting there. VERY FRUSTRATED, and that’s an understatement.
If you’ve got your eye on a certain item and you know there will be sellers at the Show, there’s no harm asking about ex-display goods. The Uppababy Cruz I wanted had literally only been on display for 2 days – it was basically brand new.
Just make sure you’re available at the end of the show!
4. I underestimated my own strength.
I hadn’t intended to buy baby wipes. I mean, why bother going to the Baby Show to buy wipes when you can get them from any supermarket, right? But then someone very convincing told me all about the brilliant qualities of Water Wipes. I was convinced.
Oh but if you buy seven packs, you get this great discount. Oh, yeah, okay, sounds brilliant. I’ll just cart seven heavy packs of wipes on two tubes, on my own, in two carrier bags, to reach central London to meet my husband and his friends in a pub, where I will need to stow my purchases all evening before lugging them back home on the bus. And that’s just what I did – at six months pregnant. To save about £4!!
5. It’s okay to give in to some cute things – so long as they’re practical and not too expensive.
There are so so many adorable items at the Baby Show, and if you’re pregnant, it’s really very hard to resist. I did have some willpower and as I didn’t know the sex of our baby, it was easier to avoid all the gorgeous outfits. Instead, I satisfied my craving for cutesy things by buying six dribble bibs in funky patterns. They were gorgeous AND useful, they didn’t break the bank in the slightest and I’m still using them for baby number two now.
At least that’s one thing I did right!
Baby Shows are great if you:
a) know what you want and keep to a list
b) take someone else with you to rein in your spending and provide a sounding board.
c) drive there if you’re planning on buying a lot of stuff
d) don’t get sucked into buying things you never considered before. If you didn’t think you needed it prior to some salesperson pitching it, you don’t need it.
e) set yourself a budget and keep to it
And lastly, don’t stay too long. These places are massive and full of people and they suck all your energy out, even if you do stop half way for drinks and snacks. Don’t be tempted to go round all the stalls “just one more time”, get in and out in a couple of hours maximum, before you lose the will to live.

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