The Nursery

Rethinking The Furniture Fixation

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Those color-coordinated nursery sets always look so soothing -- until you look at the price tags. Even if your tastes lean more toward Ikea than Pottery Barn, a matching crib, dresser and changing table can easily top $1,000.

This is another situation in which "used" should be your mantra, both for environmental and financial reasons.

Liz Pulliam Weston, a personal finance columnist for MSN and contributor to "The Experts' Guide to the Baby Years," said she advises new parents to think hard about what they actually need to buy new.

And as the mother of a young son, she knows how it feels to fight the pressure and marketing. "I can still remember walking into a baby furnishings place. The saleswoman fluttered over to me, saying, 'This is your first, of course you're going to buy all new . . .' "

But you don't have to. Instead, you can take friends and co-workers up on their offers of hand-me-downs, scour Craigslist, eBay and the classified ads for deals, or check out the gently used treasures at local consignment shops, which sell secondhand goods on behalf of the owner.

Then you can take the money you save on furniture and buy a new, organic mattress and bedding, both of which are getting cheaper and more widely available. Babies R Us sells an organic crib mattress made by Serta, for example, for $199.

If others insist on buying you new nursery furniture, direct them toward retailers that specialize in pieces made of sustainable wood and that use paints and stains that are low in volatile organic compounds.

And no matter where the crib comes from, check out its safety history. Used cribs are frequently implicated in serious accidents, often involving improper assembly. Don't buy one unless you have the manufacturer's instructions and are certain you have all the pieces. If your secondhand crib turns up on a recall list, send it to the dump, not another unsuspecting parent on Craigslist.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company