Baby Gear Reviews: Playards, Swings, and Baby Carriers (Part 1 of 5)

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As a father of a 2-year-old and 2-month-old, I am now an unquestionable expert on all things parenting (that’s how it works, right?). Funny how parents can come off that way when in reality we live in constant fear of messing up our kids permanently.

Since a few readers have asked to write about baby-related things, here is a multi-part series on my opinions baby stuff organized according to Amazon’s Baby Registry system. I realize this only applies to a certain subsection of readers so I’ll space the posts out to once a week. The first three items on Amazon’s checklist are all items that will ideally occupy your baby while you do all the things you used to take for granted: eat, sleep, shower, use the restroom, and basic personal hygiene.

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Playards / Travel Cribs / Playpens

babystuff_pnpThe most popular brand is the Graco Pack N Play, they are like the Kleenex of playards. We received one Pack N Play (PNP) as a gift, and another as a hand-me-down. We’ve also had to use several of them in various hotel rooms that we’ve stayed at. They are very easy to set up and take down once you get some practice. Since they are used as travel cribs, really they can function as everyday cribs until your kid physically grows out of it (manual says up to 30 lbs on the bottom, 15 lbs on the raised mesh level).

I had a fantasy of my kids happily playing in them while I did work on the computer, so I set one up in my home office. That did NOT happen. When they are crawling it serves as a handy pen to keep them safe while you’re doing something briefly. But our kid never spent more than 15 minutes (awake and happy) in one. These days it serves as a nap area or toy storage bin. The other PNP went to the grandparents’ house and mostly serves as a diaper changing table.

  • Verdict: We got the basic ~$70 Graco Pack n Play playard and it did come in handy. Basically a portable crib. I would say it is more of a convenience than a necessity (unless you use it as a primary crib). I did not miss the extra add-ons like nap stations, changing tables, rocking seats, etc.

Swings and Bouncers

babystuff_swingEvery parent seems to have a specific swing to recommend. That’s because when you find a swing that your kids like and will sleep for an hour or more in, you whisper a Hallelujah! (don’t wake the kid!) and weep for joy.

We got a couple different swings as gifts. Baby #1 didn’t like them. We tried some of our friends hand-me-downs. Didn’t like those either. We bought some used ones from the local kid exchange store. Nope. Our first kid was colicky and simply didn’t like swings. One day we were at Nordstroms and saw the $300 retail price Mamaroo. I couldn’t believe I was actually considering buying a swing with an LCD display and iPhone connectivity.

Baby #2 actually likes the Fisher-Price Snugabunny Swing because it swings side-to-side and not just front-to-back. Both babies actually preferred this Fisher-Price Rainforest Bouncer due to its vibration feature and colorful distractions. We ate a lot of dinners with that thing in the middle of the dining table.

  • Verdict: Swings are totally worth the money if your baby sleeps in them. Ours cost $140 but many run much less. Try one that swings side-to-side and front-to-back. Try a vibrating bouncer too.

Soft Baby Carriers

babystuff_becoThey all carry your baby on your body so that you have both hands free to do something else. It seems like many cultures from around the world have similar ways of carrying their babies, so this is definitely something to at least try.

Mrs. MMB and I both tried a few different ones on and ended up picking the Beco Gemini baby carrier (~$130). It was relatively easy to adjust and get in/out, felt sturdily built, and supported both facing-you and facing-forward positions at a wide range of weights. After using it through amusement parks, airports, and multiple washings, we found it very durable and it should last through multiple kids. Worth the extra cost in our experience.

We thought that both of us could us it, but in the end, it was a lot of trouble adjusting it for size between the both of us, and really she did most of the baby carrying. It worked well and I think both kids preferred the carrier to any car seat, stroller, or swing.

Many other brands are similar: Baby Bjorn, Ergo Baby, Infantino. The Moby Wrap ($40) looked very natural but was pretty difficult to get the baby comfortable despite many viewings of YouTube instructional videos. It’s just one big piece of fabric so I’m also not sure why it costs $40. Some people love it, however. Our friends gave us a Mei Tai Carrier ($25) which is more like a Beco/Bjorn but all cloth without plastic clips. I now use it myself to hold the baby around the house. I think the Mei Tai is a good budget version of a Beco-style carrier, although it is more convenient to have the click-in buckles than to tie knots every time.

  • Verdict: If you are cool with carrying your baby on your body, definitely get one. Starts at just $25. Mrs. MMB uses her baby carrier all the time when out shopping or running errands. Both of our kids napped in them regularly.

Costco Meal Planner Service: 20 Family Dinners For $150

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I know it’s still summer, but with two kids under two I’ve been trying to cook extra on the weekends and coast on the weekdays. This past weekend I made beef stew and pulled pork sandwiches in the slow cooker, and they turned out pretty good. Today I found 5dollardinners.com (from my wife’s Pinterest or Facebook), which shows you how to make 20 slow cooker meals for $150 using Costco’s bulk food packages (this version is gluten-free too).

5dollardinners

Basically, you go to Costco and buy exactly what is on the provided shopping list (6 pack of chicken breasts, 15 lb bag of potatoes, massive tub of BBQ sauce, etc) and then chop and separate all the ingredients into 20 separate freezer bags. When you need an easy cheap meal, pop a bag into your slow cooker in the morning and you’ll have dinner ready by the time you’re done with work. You’ll need a slow cooker with a timer if you don’t work from home. You can piece together all the info on the site for free, or for $5 you get some nicely organized instructions and even bag labels.

That makes this site a cool entrepreneurial example as well. Costco is already a great place for people who don’t want to shop for extreme bargains, they just want a decent deal with no hassle. Why not extend the idea to meal planning. The creator definitely put in work to save you time, so why not compensate her for it? They also have two other Costco meal plans that are not 100% slow-cooker specific.

With every ingredient having to go into more than one recipe, you’d worry about too many similar meals but the variety of the recipes actually looks pretty good. I haven’t actually cooked any of them myself, however. If I was really motivated I would try and make something similar for my own personal tastes.

Buy Things, Not Just Experiences: 3 Questions That Will Help You Buy The Right Stuff

You’ve probably heard that you should buy experiences, not things. But what about things that help you experience? Rebecca Rosen of The Atlantic shares research by psychologists Darwin A. Guevarra and Ryan T. Howell in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (an academic journal which I didn’t know existed).

Begin by examining why experiences provide more happiness than material consumption. [...] Experiential goods fit in under this framework because they likewise can satisfy those same psychological needs. A musical instrument, for example, makes possible a sort of human happiness hat trick: Finely tune your skills, get the happiness of mastery (competence); play your heart out, get the happiness of self-expression (autonomy); jam with friends, get the happiness of connecting with others (relatedness).

You could reframe this into asking the following questions before buying something:

  • Does it encourage you to become skilled at something over time?
  • Does it help you express your personal voice?
  • Does it help you spend time and connect with friends and family?

Of course, if you were really determined you could make anything fit into this criteria. (We could all use the Ab Blaster 4000 together!) But I think it’s still a good general guide, as you avoid things that are disposable, only provide temporary amusement, or only useful for giving the appearance of wealth or popularity.

Time Warner Everyday Low Price Internet Review: $14.99 a Month

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In late 2013, Time Warner Cable announced a new tier called Everyday Low Price Internet (ELP) for $14.99 a month + taxes. Speed is 2 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. The $14.99 a month is not a sale or promotional rate, that is the retail price available to anyone. If you are located in a Time Warner service area and are looking to save some money on your monthly bill, this is an option to consider. You won’t be able to stream HD Netflix on it, but it should work fine for e-mail and web browsing.

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Things that are not included in the plan:

  • Cable modem rental (additional $5.99 a month) – Get around this by purchasing your own modem from their qualifying model list. Example is this for Motorola Surfboard SB6121 for $68.99. More details on buying your own cable modem here.
  • Home WiFi (additional $4.95 a month) – This feature is nothing more than a WiFi router that may be integrated into your cable modem. Either buy a cable modem with WiFi, or better yet just buy a separate router for under $20. Example is this well-reviewed TP-Link Wireless Router with lots of customization features for $19.99.
  • Installation. I was quoted $29.99 for installation, but it may vary by location. You can also try to “self-install” for free if you have had the service at that address before. Existing customers can downgrade to this plan by calling in, there should be no need for a service visit.

Note that the above are not included on their standard high-speed internet plans either.

Comcast Internet Essentials Review: $10/Month High Speed Internet For Low Income Families

Updated with new sign-up promo and debt-forgiveness program. Comcast recently announced that they are continuing their Internet Essentials program that provides high-speed internet service for $9.95 a month + taxes, a subsidized $150 computer, and free digital literacy training to eligible low-income families. Specifically, you get their XFINITY Economy Internet Service for $9.95 per month with no activation or equipment rental charges.

Comcast will also include up to six months of complimentary service for any new family that has not yet applied for Internet Essentials. Families who are approved for Internet Essentials between August 4th and September 20th, 2014 will receive up to six months of Internet service.

Qualification details:

  • Be located where Comcast offers Internet service.
  • Have at least one child receiving free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program. If I read the income guidelines for the NSLP correctly, a family of 4 within the contiguous 48 states can’t make more than $31,005 a year to get free lunches.
  • Have not subscribed to Comcast Internet service within the last 90 days.
  • If you have a unpaid balance with Comcast that is less than a year old, you’ll need to work out a payment plan. Debts over a year old will be forgiven for a limited time.

This program is not supported with government taxes. Instead, it was a condition of the FCC’s approval of Comcast’s merger with NBC Universal, and now they are extending it because they want to merge with Time Warner Cable. Comcast states that if the merger goes through, they will expand access to all Time Warner coverage areas. They also state that over 300,000 families have signed up since this started in 2011.

(And yes, I know, Comcast has had customer service issues. Is that really shocking?)

Official announcement, via The Verge.

T-Mobile New Plan: 4 Lines for $100/Month Unlimited Talk, Text, 10 GB of 4G LTE Data

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T-Mobile just announced 7/30 that their Family Plan will offer 4 lines for $100 a month with unlimited talk, unlimited text, and 2.5 GB of 4G LTE data per line. (10 GB total across 4 lines. Unlimited 2.5G data after your LTE data allotment is used up.) That is an increase of 6 GB (1.5 GB per line) from their previous offer. Offer expires 9/30/14. I’m not sure why, but the bump up lasts only until 2016, after which it will revert back to 1GB of high speed data per line. That is 17 months from now, so hopefully 4G data will have become cheaper by then anyway. Add a 5th line for only $10 more a month.

These plans include T-Mobile’s free international 2G data and texting in 120+ countries. Came in handy for my brother-in-law when he was at the World Cup in Brazil.

These plans do not include any subsidy for a new phone. You can bring your AT&T or Verizon iPhone 5 straight over to T-Mobile just by swapping out the SIM card inside, no special unlocking procedure required. Usually the Prepaid SIM card is $10 but from 8/1 to 8/6 use the promo code SIMDEAL to get it for only a penny ($0.01). Get a nano SIM card if you have a compatible iPhone 5 or iPad Mini. Get a micro SIM card if you have a compatible iPhone 4, 4S or iPad. You can also check compatibility here.

I really hope T-Mobile stays independent because their aggressive pricing will help keep everyone’s plan costs in line.

Alternatively, you can get unlimited talk, text, and WiFi/3G data for $25 a month with Republic Wireless (per line, no minimum number of lines). You’ll have to buy one of their phones (Moto G starting at $149).

Walmart Savings Catcher: Automated Low Price Guarantee Now Nationwide

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(Update: Walmart’s new automated low price guarantee appears to be nationwide now. While still in “beta”, their FAQ has been scrubbed of any geographical limitations. Their inclusions list was changed to add the phrase “most fruits and vegetables.” You must submit receipts within 7 days. Via nicemann of FW. More details below.)

wmcatcherMany stores offer a “low price guarantee” but in reality nobody actually uses them. You have to find the competing price yourself, wait in the returns line, all for the opportunity to argue with the cashier about the validity of your claim. Who wants to do that?

Walmart is has a new feature called Savings Catcher that automates their low price guarantee. Thanks to reader Doug for the tip. Here’s how it works:

  1. Enter the TC Number from your Walmart receipt at walmart.com/savingscatcher or scan the barcode using the Walmart smartphone app.
  2. Savings Catcher compares the prices of the items you bought at Walmart to the advertised prices at the time of your purchase from the print and online versions of weekly print ads of top retailers in your area.
  3. If Savings Catcher finds an advertised price that is lower than what you paid for the same exact item at Walmart, you can get a Walmart Rewards eGift Card for the difference.

This program appears to be available nationwide now. Just for reference purposes, here were the initial test markets and the local competitors they checked against:

  • Atlanta, GA– Aldi, Food Depot, CVS, Food Lion, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Ingles, Kroger, Publix, Rite-Aid, Kmart, Target, Walgreens, IGA, Wayfield Foods and Piggly Wiggly.
  • Charlotte, NC– Aldi, Bi-Lo, CVS, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Ingles, Kmart, Lowes (Food), Target, Rite-Aid, Publix, and Walgreens.
  • Dallas, TX– Albertsons, Aldi, Brookshires, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, HEB, Kroger, Target and Tom Thumb.
  • Huntsville, AL Market– Aldi, Belle/Food World, CVS, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Save-A-Lot, Foodland, Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Publix, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens.
  • Lexington, KY– Aldi, CVS, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Save-A-Lot, Kroger, Meijer, Rite Aid, Target and Walgreens.
  • Minneapolis, MN– Aldi, Cub Foods, CVS, Family Dollar, Hy Vee, IGA, Rainbow Foods, Shopko, Target and Walgreens.
  • San Diego– Albertsons, CVS, Dollar Tree, Ralph’s, Rite Aid, Vons, Smart & Final, Target, Fresh & Easy, Walgreens, Stater Bros and Save-A-Lot.

Savings Catcher applies to your in-store Walmart purchases only. Online prices from competitors don’t count. If you use a manufacturer’s coupon, it will consider the pre-coupon price. You can submit up to 7 receipts per week and 15 receipts per month. Savings are issued on a Walmart gift card that can be used in-store or online. There are item restrictions.

Included:

  • Most groceries such as cereal, rice and most fruits and vegetables except for: store brand items, deli, bakery and weighed items like meat.
  • Consumable items such as paper towels, bleach and trash bags.
  • Health and beauty items such as shampoo and makeup.
  • Select general merchandise items.

NOT included:

  • Store brands, deli, bakery and weighed items like meat.
  • General merchandise items, (including, but not limited to, electronics, media and gaming, toys, sporting goods, housewares, small appliances, home décor, bedding, books and magazines, apparel and shoes, jewelry, furniture, office supplies and seasonal products).
  • Non-branded items.
  • Tobacco, firearms, gasoline, tires, prescription drugs, optical and photo products and services, or products that require a service agreement such as wireless, automotive or financial products.

How much should you expect back? One frequent shopper reports 2-3% back, via DailyFinance:

Anne Jurchak was part of Walmart’s focus group. She said she’s been getting back $5 to $7 on her weekly trips to Walmart in which she typically spends $200 to $250. Jurchak has used those savings to buy holiday stocking stuffers and a case for her e-reader.

Keep in mind that like many other savings programs like CVS ExtraCare and Safeway Club cards, this will collect data on you and basically track your spending to your SavingsCatcher account. I personally don’t worry about that kind of stuff too much, but FYI.

Manything: Turn Your Old iPhone, iPad, or iPod Into a Free Home Security Webcam

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manythingIn order to keep an eye our house on longer trips as well as monitor our dogs anytime, we bought Samsung WiFi cameras a while ago that stream directly to our phones. We decided not to go with Dropcam in order to avoid recurring monthly fees. Our cams only record short clips onto Google Drive upon motion detection, but it is free and they work adequately for our needs.

A new app called Manything will turn any iPhone, iPad, or iPod with a camera into the same style of streaming WiFi webcam, complete with motion detection and saved video clips in the cloud (currently iOS only, Android in development). Found via ad on Daring Fireball. You can view live streams on your iPhone or computer, and it can send you app or e-mail alerts when there is motion detected.

Recently added was IFTTT support (not even available with Dropcam), which allows you to link the app with other services and networked devices like Philips Hue lightbulbs, Belkin WeMo and Google Nest. Via 9to5Mac and GigaOM, here are some examples of what you could do:

  • Start recording when I leave home, stop recording when I return
  • Start recording when the last family member leaves home
  • When motion detected outside the home, turn on Philips Hue lighting to look like someone’s home
  • Start recording and send alert when Nest smoke alarm is activated

That sounds pretty neat. Right now, they are offering 30 days of continuous cloud recording for free. However, future pricing will include a free option limited to one device and 12 hours of recording. That’s still good enough to serve as a free security camera. Unlimited live viewing and motion detection alerts will also stay free.

My experience. I played around with this app over this last weekend, but perhaps due to the recent press I found their Manything.com website to be very slow and unresponsive at times. The motion detection and alerts worked, but then I was unable to load up the saved clip, which was frustrating. I had better luck using the app directly to view clips.

Otherwise, viewing the live streams on my phone worked fine; The sound was clear and I counted about a 10 second delay. The app itself is relatively simple and easy to set up. I like being able to adjust the motion sensitivity and to block off specific areas where you should ignore motion. I wish you could change the sensitivity settings remotely however, right now you can only modify them on the actual camera.

Top 10 Best Dirt Cheap Beater Car Models?

volvo240

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In 2006, Jay Lamm organized the first 24 Hours of LeMons (official site, Wikipedia) in which cars picked off the street that cost under $500 (not counting safety equipment) raced each other for 24 hours straight. The name and format parodies the legendary and prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans racing series. A penalty might involve welding a huge metal sculpture on your roof to increase weight and air drag. Racing accessible to the masses and a sense of humor? Awesome.

In a recent Car and Driver article, they listed the most successful models after 8 seasons and 104 races. I figure, if you want to know if a car model is durable, race it for 24 hours straight. Here are the top 10:

  1. Volvo 240
  2. 1984–1993 Mercedes-Benz 190
  3. ’90s RWD Lexus (SC300/400, LS400)
  4. Alfa Romeo Milano
  5. Mazda Miata
  6. Acura Integra
  7. 1984–1991 BMW 3-series
  8. Ford Taurus (mostly SHOs)
  9. Ford Festiva
  10. Mazda B-platform (Mazda 323/Protegé, 1991–1996 Ford Escort/1989–1994 Mercury Capri)

The Volvo 240 has gained a near-mythological reputation for reliability, with many claims of 300,000+ miles and 20+ years. (Start noticing how many you still see on the road, even though the last model year was 1994!) Forget owning a Prius, roll up in a 240 and you’ll have some frugal cred. No longer Swedish-owned and losing market share, Volvo’s most recent commercial is still trying to live off the reputation of this model:

I’m not familiar with the Alfa Romeo listed, but otherwise these are older cars that appear to have been designed and engineered with tolerances such that they can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Older Benz and Lexus models were known for this. Given the race parameters, perhaps it also means that they can be fixed with a standard tools and parts that don’t cost a fortune.

The Largest Consumer of Electricity In US Homes Besides A/C Is…

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Most people will guess that the heater and/or air conditioner is the biggest source of electricity usage in the average home. But what about the second-largest?

The HD DVR Cable Box, at least according to the LA Times (what about water heating?). Digital video recorders are basically computers that use about 35 watts (some up to 50W), but the problem is that unlike desktop computers they use that much power even when “off” or on standby. I used to keep mine behind a cabinet door and it always felt like I could cook an egg on top of it.

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Here’s another graphic from the NY Times on the same issue:

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At 35 watts, that’s like running three CFL bulbs (13W, 60W equivalent) all the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Depending on if you have the cable box and DVR separate, you are looking at roughly 300 to 450 kWh per year. That is $50-$75 per year, per box, at 16 cents a kWh. Many people have two or three boxes in their homes.

One source of this problem is that the cable companies have no incentive to make their boxes more energy-efficient. You pay the electricity bills, not them, and you either don’t know about their vampire energy use or are subject to their local monopoly anyway.

You could put the cable boxes on a timer if you never record shows at certain times, but you’d want to leave time for both the 10-15 minute boot-up and the regular downloading of the day’s channel line-ups. Most people expect their TV to work instantly.

Or you could just drop cable. Apple TV and Roku internet streaming boxes (Netflix, etc.) use much less power when idle and you can just unplug them when not in use. (Startup time is under a minute.) From an older GigaOM post:

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The newest Roku 3 supposedly uses 3.5 watts when streaming HD video while the Streaming Stick uses about 2.5 watts. Both are reported to use about 2 watts when idle.

Cable Bill Haggling Revisited

Recently it was time again to haggle my cable bill (I still get a steady stream of success story comments on that post). Actually, I ended up just switching to DSL as I’d been having some ongoing speed issues with my cable internet. I’ll take the one-year discounted deal from DSL, and then when I go back to broadband cable I’ll sign up for whatever special offer they have then.

I’m not the only one. Here’s a Vox article “Here’s the secret to getting a lower cable bill” which supposedly talks to ex-Comcast customer service reps and offers the following tips:

  • “It pays to play hardball,” says a customer service representative who worked at an Oregon call center from 2002 to 2009. “Threatening to cancel will get you further than outright asking for a discount.”
  • Asking to talk to a manager could actually backfire, as managers may not be judged based on customer satisfaction metrics like regular customer reps. You just want to reach retention specialists.
  • People in Comcast’s “retention” department are rewarded based on their success at getting you to keep your service without giving you a big discount. So they’re going to do their best to get you to change your mind for free.
  • Retention specialists only have a limited number of discounts to hand out to folks. If you can’t seem to get one, that specific person might not have any left. Call back and try again and you might get someone with discounts left. But don’t call too many times, as they track your calls.

And here is a Business Insider video with basically the same idea, but maybe the nice production value will convince you that haggling is a legitimate customer tool. ;) As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.” Your mega-corp internet provider won’t just hand you a discount worth $100+, but they might if you just ask.

Best Baby Registry? Return Policy, Completion Discount Comparison (Updated)

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Updated details, added new stores, and added our own experience. You’re gonna have a baby! Part of the whirlwind is deciding where to start your baby registry. Similar to wedding registries, you go to the store, pick up a bar code scanner, and simply zap everything you want to put onto your registry. They usually provide you a checklist so you don’t forget anything. You can also add and remove items on registry online, and track what items were bought.

Here are the results of my research after scouring the respective sites and reading various baby forums, comparing factors including selection, price, customer service, return policies, and completion discounts:

Babies R Us

  • Pros: Large selection, registry works both in-store and online. Registry Rewards program where you get points when other people buy from your registry. You can return items to a physical store up to a year after arrival date, with certain restrictions (see below). In-store items on registry can be returned without receipt. Works with Shoprunner.
  • Cons: Prices tend to be higher in general. Some items are online-only, and thus not available in stores. Online-only items can be returned to a physical store for store credit, but if they are mailed back then the refund credit goes to the original purchaser, not you. Also, such items require a gift receipt or online packing slip.

Completion Discount: Physical coupon arrives 6-8 weeks before stated arrival date. They mail you a 10% off coupon good for a one-time purchase (technically valid for one calendar day) that can include some or all of the remaining items on your registry, with some restrictions:

The completion offer is not valid on diapers, formula, furniture, “R”US Gift Cards, Special Orders, Buyer Protection Plan, Video Game Hardware, Kiddie Kandids and Motherhood Maternity merchandise. It is not valid on prior purchases.

Amazon.com Baby Registry

  • Pros: Large selection, online-only. Competitive prices in general, plus no sales tax in many areas for now. Return policy offers a free prepaid return mailing label if you return the item in new and unopened condition within a year from date of delivery. You will get a gift certificate with the value (purchaser will not be notified). Also offers universal registry features if you want.
  • Cons: Can’t return things to a physical store. For easy returns, items must be “sold by Amazon.com” and not a third-party seller. Otherwise, you are subject to the return policy of that specific seller. Of course, you probably didn’t buy the items so you have no control over this.

Completion Discount: You become eligible 30 days prior to stated arrival date, receiving 10% off a one-time order up to $5,000 worth of good from remaining items on registry. If you are an Amazon Mom member with Prime, you’ll get a 15% off completion discount instead. Applies only to items sold by Amazon.com, and only items that are deemed baby-related by Amazon are allowed.

Target Baby Registry

  • Pros: Convenient for gift givers, lots of stores nationwide. Competitive prices in general. You can return or exchange any item on your registry in-store, with or without receipt. Will be easier to use up Target gift cards since they sell everything from toothpaste to furniture.
  • Cons. In-store selection is more limited and varies by location.

Completion Discount: Physical coupon sent to you, activates after due date. Good for 10% off all remaining items either in-store or online, you can use it both online and offline as long as it’s the same day. (Some people report that the 10% coupon works on all items in that one purchase at Target, but I can’t confirm.)

Buy Buy Baby

  • Pros: Very large selection, registry works both in-store and online. You can all return items to a physical store, even without receipt, for store credit. As this is the baby branch of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, you can use BBB 20% off coupons (sign-up online for mailing list to get coupons regularly). Overall better reviews from mommy forums regarding customer service.
  • Cons: Limited store locations. Prices may be higher on average. However, Buy Buy Baby also does price-matching to online stores like Amazon (see below).

Do you price match items I find advertised for less at another website/retail store?
We will gladly match our direct competitors’ prices on identical items. Please call us at 1-800-436-3048 so a Customer Service Representative can assist you. Exceptions may apply.

Completion Discount: Valid after due date. 10% off all remaining items, you will receive both a physical coupon in the mail and a coupon code via e-mail, so make sure both are accurate. (Some people report that the 10% coupon works on all items, not just remaining items in registry. May vary by each store policy, similar to the acceptance of expired 20% off coupons.)

The Rest

Here are some other baby registry alternatives:

Walmart Baby Registry was very basic. There is no special registry return policy, it’s just their standard gift return policy which means you’ll need a gift receipt. Without a gift receipt, you’ll be limited to a certain number of returns and be required to submit your driver’s license. There is no completion discount. Still, if you do most of your other shopping at Wal-mart as opposed to Target, it’s probably convenient to register here and be able to use any store credits or get gift cards from Wal-mart.

TheBump has a universal-style registry that lets you include items from Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, and several smaller retailers. I didn’t really want to deal with gifts coming from that many different retailers, all with their own unique return policies.

Wishpot is another universal registry that allows to add any item from any store online, and then people can “reserve” that item to give to you. A price comparison engine helps gift givers see where the item is the cheapest. Again, this method makes it difficult to return items as people may buy them from online stores that require you to arrange and pay for return shipping or have a gift receipt, or stores that you don’t have near you. It seems more focused on making things easier for the gift giver than the gift recipient.

BabyLi.st is another universal baby registry option. You can add items from any retailer (even sites like Etsy.com) or non-stuff like college tuition, dog-walking, or baby sitting hours. Again, this method makes it potentially difficult to return items but it appears that you can also choose the retailer you want it from (whether people will actually buy it from there is a separate question). They recently announced a 10% completion discount good at four stores: Diapers.com, Land of Nod, The Honest Company, and Giggle.

Our Baby Registry Experience

In the end, we decided to register at Babies R Us and the Amazon.com Baby Registry. We would have chosen Buy Buy Baby over Babies R Us, but there was no BBB near us. Babies R Us will work best for friends and family that prefer to browse and then buy something in a physical store. Amazon is more convenient for people that want to ship us something directly, but still has a good return policy for the most part. In the end, we were happy with the results. We used the completion discount from both Amazon and Bed Bath and Beyond without issue, but definitely bought more stuff from Amazon. We did return some duplicate things to Bed Bath and Beyond instead of mailing it back to Amazon, and it took us nearly a year to spend all the credit (mostly because we were too lazy to drive back out to the store and we tend to buy a lot of baby stuff used).

We decided to leave out Target for the sake of simplicity and did not regret it, although we have since bought lots of gifts for other expecting parents from Target.