Babies bring joy and wonder to our lives. They can also cause families to overspend and go into debt. According to a recent BabyCenter survey, parents will spend an estimated $10,000 on their little bundles of joy in the first year. There are a few costs you won’t be able to change--like doctor co-pays--but there are many ways you can save money on the things you need for your baby. Try these money-saving techniques for a family life with less stress and more savings.
Your number-one source for baby gear should be friends and family. Put the word out that you’re looking for items like strollers, playpens, baby carriers, bouncy seats, stationary activity centers, and more. Many people will be willing to give you their used gear for free!
Look for used baby gear at baby resale shops, garage sales, and on craigslist and Facebook groups. Before using these pre-loved items with your baby, make sure they’re not part of a recall. Cribs manufactured after June 28, 2011, have been subject to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) new safety standards. If your used crib was manufactured after that date, check with the CPSC’s website for a safety checklist.
The one piece of baby gear you should buy new (or use from your own older child) is a car seat. Your baby will be in their car seat a large percentage of time, and you want to make sure it’s the safest seat possible. Used seats may have been in an accident and could be damaged even if they look fine. Be aware that car seats have expiration dates--usually six years after they are manufactured.
Not everyone has the ability or inclination to breastfeed, and that’s OK. However, if you can successfully breastfeed, you will be saving a lot of money. If you use formula exclusively for the first year of your baby’s life, you would spend an estimated $1,000 to $3,000. Breastfeeding, though not convenient or possible for all moms, is free.
On the plus side, there are tremendous health benefits to breastfeeding as well!
You’ll probably spend $800 or more on disposable diapers in your child’s first year. If you’re serious about saving money, cloth diapers may be the way to go. The amount you’ll save depends on the type of cloth diapers you choose and whether you opt for a diaper cleaning service or wash them at home. Cloth diapers save you the most when you reuse them for another child--it’s like getting free diapers!
If you don’t want to use cloth diapers, there are still many options for saving money. Look for store deals and coupons whenever possible. Also, don’t be afraid to try new brands, including generics. Some parents like store-brand diapers even better than name brands, and they’re much cheaper. Bring a calculator with you to the store to find out how much each diaper costs before you buy.
One of the biggest baby costs is childcare. In some cases, this cost can’t be avoided. Other parents can save on childcare by thinking creatively. Crunch the numbers: would it make economic sense for you or your partner stay home with the baby? Could one of you work part time or do some type of work from home? If you need full-time childcare, brainstorm ideas for keeping costs low. Could a grandparent or another relative watch the baby for a cheaper rate? If you work part time, you might be able to exchange childcare with another parent.
Babies don’t need many clothes. Sure, they spit up and have diaper blowouts, but their clothes only need to keep them warm and covered. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying too many cute outfits your little one will quickly outgrow.
When family members ask what to buy your baby for holidays or her birthday, suggest clothes. Make sure to tell them your child’s size and any special requests, like pajamas or long-sleeve onesies. People who buy your child clothing will love knowing their gift will be used.
Another way to save is by using hand-me-downs. If you plan on having another child, keep all your baby clothes. Even if your next child is the opposite sex, you will still be able to use some items. Take hand-me-downs from cousins, friends, or anyone who wants to give them to you. If something doesn’t work for your child, donate it to another.
Babies start eating solid food when they’re between 4 and 6 months old. One way to save money on baby food is to make your own. Baby food is easy to make; it’s mostly just cooked and pureed fruits and veggies. You will need a reliable blender or food processor, as well as some extra ice cube trays for freezing the baby food into cubes. Designate one day per week as baby food-making day, and make the week’s meals at once. Remember to put the next day’s pureed cubes into the fridge to defrost.
Even if you don’t have time to puree, you can make some of your own baby food on the fly. Mash up your own ripe bananas and avocados, diluting them with breast milk or formula for younger babies.
If you’re trying to save money, don’t buy baby toys. You are probably throwing some great toys away in your recycling. Babies love empty containers. Just make sure they don’t have any sharp edges. An empty soap or lotion container makes a great bath toy. Supervise your baby while he or she crumples newspaper. Cups and spoons are also good baby toys you already own.
The same friends and family members who gave you baby gear will probably have toys to give you too. Accept all hand-me-downs with gratitude.
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