Saturday, January 9, 2010

Money, money, money!

I've mentioned once or twice in the past that the cost of living in Australia is generally much higher than it is in the USA - my dad and stepmom, who live in a not-so-cheap area of Southern California, were stunned at the high price of food, gas and general goods (furniture, clothes, cosmetics, etc.) when they flew out for a visit a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, baby stuff is much the same, and trying to set up a twin nursery on a budget has been frustrating, even though I'm shopping around extensively for the best deal and buying secondhand items when I can.

I thought it might be interesting to illustrate my problem with some direct, brand for brand comparisons of common nursery items in the USA and Australia (I'm somewhat restricted to particular manufacturers since not everyone sells in both countries, and I'm trying to focus on budget friendly items, which is why this is a bit Ikea-centric). Because the conversion rate is relatively close at the moment - $0.91AUD to $1.00USD - I'm only going to give prices in American dollars, since most of our readers are from the States.

Ready? Let's go.

One of the big attractions of cloth diapers is that, over time, they're cheaper than disposables. BumGenius's 3.0 range is fast becoming one of the most popular cloth diapers out there. A single baby requires about 24 cloth diapers, if you want to wash them every other day.

Break it down:
- USA - the 3.0 runs about $18 per diaper (so for 24 diapers, it will cost you $432 to outfit your baby's bum)
-  Australia - your baby gets to go in a $34 poo catcher (that's a total of $816 - and of course, you have to double that for twins)

You need somewhere to put your baby while you're strapping on the diapers, right? The second cheapest changing table I could find in Australia was Ikea's Gulliver (the absolute cheapest was the somewhat rickety looking Sniglar, also from Ikea).

Break it down:
- USA: this bad boy will set you back $79
-  Australia: it's more than double the cost at $169

Want somewhere budget friendly to nurse or rock your baby to sleep? How about Ikea's Poang rocker.

Break it down:
- USA - you can pick up the Poang for just $179
- Australia - that same rocking chair will cost you $493

Because we have to buy two of everything, we're looking for the most inexpensive - yet well rated - cribs we can find. While Ikea's "baby cage" Gulliver won't win any beauty prizes, it is one of the two cheapest cribs I've been able to find in Australia (the other is Ikea's Sniglar, which is even less attractive), and is highly rated in Baby Bargains.

Break it down:
- USA - the Gulliver retails for a thrifty $99
- Australia - you have to plonk down $218 for the exact same crib (and don't forget, you need two of these)

We wanted a side-by-side stroller (tandems are no good for twin newborns as both seats don't fully recline) that is narrow enough to fit through a standard doorway, durable and lightweight - after reading about a million reviews, we finally settled on the Baby Jogger City Mini Double.  It's not the cheapest option, but I think it's the one we'll be the most satisfied with.

Break it down: 
USA - the City Mini Double costs $399
-  Australia - get prepared to pony up $777 of your hard earned dollars

I'll stop here...I'm sure you're seeing the pattern! If you bought all of these things for your nursery in the USA, it would run you $1,719. In Australia, you're looking at $1,632 just for the diapers alone. Add in everything else, and you've hit $3,507 - and expensive stroller aside, all of these things are among the most budget friendly options around!

I don't know why there's such a huge discrepancy in prices. I think it's probably due to more than one factor. For example, the Australian dollar didn't used to be so close to the American one - I think it was around 20 years ago that it was only worth something like $0.50 to the US dollar - so there may simply be some residual, "Well, this is how it's always been" happening. There are also importation costs to take into account, but ultimately I think that prices are high simply because - well, where else are you going to go? We're on a lightly populated island, thousands of miles from anywhere. It's a captive audience, and if you need something, you have to pay what is being demanded.

The obnoxious thing is that the wages here don't really balance out the cost of living, at least in my experience - although some professions, like waitressing and teaching often pay higher, most others generally pay roughly the same or often less than they do in the States. So it's not as though we're all consistently making double the salaries to pay double (or triple) the prices. It's also deeply frustrating that, as I've mentioned previously, there really isn't much of a secondhand market outside of capital cities - and even in those it's comparatively scanty.

I guess I've written all of this to say...I'm sorry if it seems like I whine about money a lot (at least,  I feel like I do sometimes!), but this really has been a lot more challenging than I expected. And if there's anyone out there from Australia reading, please tell me - if you live in an area where there's isn't much in the way of secondhand shopping, how do you do this without going into the poorhouse???


  1. I can sympathize a bit. I live in one of the most expensive places in the world (Copenhagen), and my family and friends in the States don't understand both how small our flat really is, and how expensive things really are. I'm not overreacting, well, at least as much as they think I am! ;)

    I got a lot of stuff from other moms. I started going to a playgroup while I was still pregnant, and moms were eager to free up some of their own space by *giving* me their newborn-sized clothes, outgrown Bumbos, and now-neglected toys. I don't suppose there's anything like that near you? It was amazing! :)

    Good luck!

  2. I can sympathize as well. I live in Dublin, Ireland which is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. I think my parents had a bit of a shock when they were here visiting! I've lived here long enough now that I stop converting everything to USD, because the difference was driving me to drink!
    We're hoping to start TTC this year and I want to thank you for your posts about cloth diapers and buying stuff secondhand. I didn't even know those groups existed!
    My parents are still in the US, so when we do get pregnant, I will probably ask them to ship stuff over to us and I'll be stocking up on goodies when I'm visiting.

  3. I can't sympathize as I live in the States, but maybe you can have your parents in California buy you some of this stuff and then have it shipped. Surely it'll be cheaper? (You pay for it, but they buy it.)

    Good luck!!!

  4. Wow! I didn't realize that there was such a big difference. I live in Canada which is more expensive than the States but not as much as Australia! Good luck with finding the best deals!

  5. I thought Chicago was expensive, but that is a little crazy. I too think it might be cheaper to have your parent's ship out the items especially the diapers.