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    Frugal Moment: The Best Advice of My Life

    May 1, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I’ve made it no secret that I was a bit panicky when I discovered I was pregnant with our first child. There were so many levels on which I felt inadequate and unprepared. One of those levels was financial. Si had his first “real” job, and mine didn’t even quite qualify as “real,” since I was on staff at the university where I had been in school for the previous five years. We lived in Los Angeles County in a breezy one-bedroom, one-bathroom, less-than-six-hundred-sqaure-foot apartment that was built in 1915. I just didn’t see how it was going to work.

    I didn’t know much about pregnancy, but I had a vague notion that there were “rules” in regard to eating and nutrition that I should probably be aware of, so I called one of the nurses from the University Health Center {her name was Ann} and asked if we could meet for lunch.

    Now, Ann is one of those people that one can pour one’s heart out to upon first meeting her, and that is precisely what I did. She was so gracious, assured me we would do just fine, and told me everything I needed to know about my eating habits. She also helped me decide how to break the news to my boss {I was very nervous about that one}.

    And then Ann gave me the advice of my life. Actually, this ended up being the advice of our life. She said, “Don’t think that because you’re pregnant you need to go out and buy everything for the baby. Let God show you that He will provide for you.” She told me a story about her first child, how she got pregnant at an equally “inconvenient” time, and how she and her husband went into debt creating the perfect nursery. I remember her telling me the crib cost $400. I remember calculating her age and thinking the equivalent would cost nearly $1000 in current dollars. This woman had learned her lesson the hard way, and cared enough to help other families avoid such follies.

    So, I went home and told Si all about it. It felt so freeing to us, this notion that we didn’t have to do it all. So we prayed, and waited. And everything we needed showed up by the time E. was born. Relatives helped a lot, of course. They purchased a changing table and a playpen that doubled as a bassinet. But the most astounding part is how we aquired our crib.

    I must have been about five months pregnant, when Si’s old roommate called us. He explained that he had been working at a pregnancy center’s donations center, and someone wanted to give us a crib. The center had been accepting end-of-the-year donations, and they literally didn’t have enough space for all of the goods they had received. We were amazed, but we said yes because we weren’t sure how else to get a crib. This old roommate drove two hours to bring us that crib…and the best memory foam mattress to go in it…and a giftcard to buy us some groceries after the baby was born.

    I was near tears. I was so overwhelmed that we would ask for a crib {not even remembering that they required mattresses!}, and God truly provided more than we could ask for or even imagine. We were very humbled by the whole experience. We were also greatly encouraged to trust in God for our needs.

    The months went by, and E. was born. And then more months went by, and all we ever

    The nursery is a magical place where you and your new baby will spend precious time together. –Pottery Barn

    bought for him were diapers, wipes, etc. It wasn’t until after he turned one that I ever needed to buy him a single article of clothing, and it was only socks! God continued to provide even after we felt “secure,” using people in our church to give our son hand-me-downs. He didn’t outgrow all the clothing until after he was two, we had been given so much.

    God never gave us a designer nursery {rather, He taught us we didn’t really need one}. E. shared a room with us {out of necessity} until he was about 13-months-old, and his sister followed suit for the first five or six months as well {and this will probably be our habit}. Babies only really need a place to sleep, clean diapers, clothes on their back, and food in their tummies, and that is what God has provided. Whether it was the doctor’s office that would give us a month’s worth of formula “samples” or the family that gave us the extra diapers their babies had outgrown, God provided the necessities time and again.


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  • Reply Grace May 3, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    Hey Brandy! Great article. Thanks for sharing with us. I totally know what you mean about God’s provision and I remember going through that part of life with you. For me, I’m constantly in amazement to see how my bank account never gets to zero especially the last couple of months of unemployment.

    I’m learning so much about how I really don’t need what I think I need and how to handle money. This is such a different mentality when I was working, full time, full salary, etc. I hope I can keep it up when I start that again!

  • Reply Rahime May 2, 2006 at 6:48 am

    Yeah, you’re more likely to spend precious time together in the kitchen while you cook and they play on the floor with your tupperware, or in the living/playroom or outside when it’s sunny. 🙂

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with having a designer nursery either (or having children later in life), but it seems like that much money could be better spent (even if you are oler and have more cash). College fund? Retirement savings? I do think such beautiful nurseries are nice…just not for the baby.

    As the kiddos get slightly older though I think they tend to spend more time in the bedroom…though I suppose it depends on the kid’s personality…my sisters and I did.

    My cousin and his wife have two darling girls who are 6 and 4. Their mom has made their room into an almost magical place (though I think not expensively) with her decorating knack. The girls spend hours in there playing with their dolls and reading.

  • Reply Brandy May 1, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks. 🙂

    The “designer baby” line made me giggle! Si and I have a joke that people these days don’t create families; rather, women have one designer baby at the age of 35 (and the daddies are optional accessories to be disposed of at will).

    I do think the expensive nursery phenomena is much contributed to by the combination of women waiting longer to have children and having fewer children. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of those things, but when society as a whole is doing it, there is a lot more cash to be spent when Baby finally appears on the scene. What is sad to me is that as this has become the norm, the poor girls in their early 20’s feel the pressure to duplicate it, but they really can’t (shouldn’t) afford that!

    I won’t say that I’ve never been sad that I missed out on the “nursery” experience, because I have, usually while touring a friend’s nursery they are preparing for their baby. But the fact remains that such a nursery is a luxury, and my children aren’t shortchanged at all by lacking something that you rightly say they won’t even remember! Nurseries are always for the mommies.

    By the way, I put in the Pottery Barn quote because it I thought it was ironic. My daughter does have her own room, but I can’t think of anywhere we spend less time. A lot of the Pottery Barn ideas are aimed at people who don’t actually have children yet. Once I had kids, I realized bedrooms were the place where people sleep, and that’s about it. 🙂

  • Reply Meredith May 1, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing such an inspiring story! : )

  • Reply Rahime May 1, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    Good for you! I know I am not a mother yet, but I’ve always wondered at the people (I really know several) who spend thousands of dollars creating a perfect “nursery” environment and have all new everything. Babies don’t care, and they won’t remember.

    When they’re infants, babies grow so quickly that many of the baby clothes I find a garage sales and consignment stores are almost new.

    My mother tells me that my first room when I was born was the oversized bathroom ajoining my parents room. Of course I don’t remember it, but it worked. Having a “designer baby” (I see a lot of them in the wealthy area I work) is much more for the parents image than the kids well-being… though I guess a lot of people don’t know any better until they’ve had the experience.

    I’m glad your nurse gave you that advice before E. was born.

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