Keeping Up with the Baby Joneses: How Mommy Guilt Makes Us Overspend

Baby stroller envy
Baby stroller envy

Catherine Donaldson-Evans has stroller envy brought on, in part, by mommy guilt.

The new mother, who lives on Manhattan's Upper West Side, pushes her 5-month-old daughter in a stroller that's well made, but nonetheless,"'70s looking," she says.

Meanwhile, "everybody in New York has these very fancy designer strollers," says Donaldson-Evans, senior lifestyle editor of The Stir, a parenting and lifestyle blog from CafeMom.

"I feel a little guilty that my daughter is riding around in a not-as-glamorous-looking, pretty stroller," Donaldson-Evans says. "I don't want her to look back at her baby pictures and ask what the heck I was pushing her around in."

These days, the social pressure to outfit your bundle of joy in trendy, upscale baby gear is intense for new moms -- especially in competitive cities like New York, Donaldson-Evans says.


Baby Gear: Top of the Line vs. Cheap Chic


"When you enter the mom race for the first time, you can certainly feel as though you need to buy all these top-of-the-line baby products," she says. "Frankly, I don't have the money to do that."

And while Donaldson-Evans doesn't necessarily give in to the pressure, the feeling is still palpable. "It's like the peer pressure thing that we did in high school."

She's not alone in her mommy guilt.

New moms nationwide feel an "overwhelming" pressure to overspend on products for their baby, even as they curtail spending in other areas of their lives due to the still shaky economy, according to the national Brand New Mom study by Kelton Research.

The study of more than 1,900 moms revealed that when it comes to making purchasing decisions for their baby, emotions often trump practicality: Even when it has been proven that a high-profile brand offers no meaningful benefit over significantly less expensive options, new moms are often inclined to opt for the pricier item, the survey revealed.

What's more, more than half of expectant first-time moms (58%) said they ruminate incessantly about what products they need to buy their babies on a daily basis, while 37% of the moms surveyed said they feel guilty when they can't afford a particular baby product.

DailyFinance posted an informal poll question on popular pregnancy and new baby website, and the responses from its readers echoed those findings: 53.8% of women with babies under 3 months old, and 50% of women with babies 3 months to 6 months old, said they felt pressured to overspend on baby products, the poll revealed.

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Less For Mommy, More For Baby

According to Kelton Research, 59% of moms surveyed said they were stressed about their personal financial situation. And while three-quarters said they'd cut back on eating out, entertainment and buying clothing for themselves, only 13% said they applied cost-saving measures for their impending or new baby.

That certainly holds true in Donaldson-Evans' household, where new baby related expenses like daycare costs have crimped the family's budget. "We had to cut way back on going out to eat, what we spend on food in general, and on ourselves," she said. By contrast, "We're doing the best for the baby."

That comes as little surprise, Nancy Lee, president of, a universal gift registry platform that works with more than 2,000 retailers -- from national chains to baby boutiques -- tells DailyFinance.

"Whether the economy is up or down, moms would be more apt to buy something expensive [for their kids] than for themselves -- especially when you're having your first baby, and you feel that everything has to be perfect, you feel better if you have the best high chair, the best stroller," she says.

That notion is increasingly being informed by a 24/7 cycle of brand advertising, chatter on mommy blogs and celebrity news that fetishizes the stars, their kids and all their accoutrements. The constant barrage of advertising influenced 35% of the moms surveyed to spend more than they planned on their first baby, Kelton's study revealed.

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"The marketing of baby products has changed to rival the marketing of luxury goods like clothing and handbags," Lee says.

The impulse to buy top-of-the-line baby products is reflected on the lists of tony products moms of all income levels place on their baby registries, Lee has noticed.

They want what the stars have. When celebrity magazines featured Angelina Jolie wheeling around one of her kids in a Stokke Xplory stroller, "sales for the stroller went through the roof," he recalls.

Chances are, you don't have a Brangelina level bank account. If that's the case, and you'd like to cut back on the mommy guilt overspending, check out this gallery of eight trendy status-symbol baby products, matched with perfectly respectable -- yet much lower priced -- alternatives, courtesy of