I remember trying to add it all up one day: That magic number we would need to afford a child. They’re expensive, right? You hear about it all the time. After informally polling family and friends, I finally figured out there is no magic number. There’s no way to fully comprehend how much we will spend in a child’s lifetime – but we can at least plan for ways to spend better. Here are a few tricks I’ve stumbled upon in my first 7 months as a mother.
Track The Holiday Sales
If you’re like me and are having a January baby, you are perfectly primed to benefit from some deep holiday discounts. Fight the temptation to start impulse buying at the store and instead start bookmarking those big-ticket items you have your eyes on. I benefitted from some extremely deep Amazon discounts for my Graco car seat and stroller combo, as well as a Pack ‘n’ Play and a couple of extra car seat bases. Want an affordable jogging stroller? Start bookmarking now!
Use Store-Brand Formula
While breastmilk is free, if it’s not an option or you prefer not to nurse, formula will be a regular purchase. There are some expensive formulas out there, but you don’t need to buy the top-of-the-line to get the job done. Consider that a 1.45-pound container of brand-name formula can cost nearly $30, while a generic brand with almost the same ingredients could save you at least $7.
When I returned to work I decided to go 100% formula because my milk supply was too low to justify pumping breastmilk. It was difficult to be no longer getting that “free” food. I looked at all of the expensive brand named formulas, and I had no idea how we were going to afford such a thing. Then I noticed the store name generic brands and how closely their ingredients resembled the big brands. My pediatrician confirmed my suspicion that store brands are okay to use as well.
Make Your Own Baby Food
I know it’s exciting to start feeding your baby real food and watch their cute little faces as they eat peas for the first time. However, with this new stage comes another cost. The little glass jars (or plastic containers) are typically around $.50 to $1.00 and the squeezable pouches are about $1.50 to $2.00.
If your children are anything like my daughter, those will go fast. If you make your own food, you will realize how much you can save! In fact, if you already own an Instant Pot and/or a NutriBullet, this can be done really easily and frozen ahead for future meals.
Store Brand Diapers/Wipes
My husband and I are all about using inexpensive diapers, and they work great. While I was pregnant, I was in line for a flight and the parting advice of another mother talking with me was to choose Luvs to save money. If I was having a girl (I’m not sure why this makes a difference). Once I was able to break up with that Huggies blue line, I learned that she was right. My family has been saving tons of money ever since. (Thank you, sweet lady in the San Antonio airport with that adorable four-year old! Hope Seattle is treating you well!)
I’ve now extended the savings by purchasing store-brand baby wipes. I’ve finally broken up with the idea that I need to spend a little more on those name brands because my baby deserves only the best. She also deserves a financially-sound future, and by making smarter purchases I’m giving her that! And switching brands on wipes has zero impact on her well-being!
Cloth Diapers and Wipes
Full disclosure: I don’t use cloth diapers or wipes. But I have a cousin who does and he swears up and down it’s not as hard as it sounds. They also make their own baby food, so I can’t imagine how much they saved in their daughter’s first year. The way they explained it to me is that if you get the right kind of cloth diapers and get a good system going, it’s not a big deal. Admittedly, they do require a front-end investment, but this quickly pays itself off in the long run. Also, it’s all about getting the best detergent for cloth diapers. When you’re trying to be gentle on baby’s skin while getting a good clean done, this can be a challenge. A couple of leading brands in this department include Rockin’ Green Soap and Charlie’s Soap.
For the best results after a mess, dump the poop in the toilet, spray the cloth diaper with some stain remover and throw them into the washer. My cousin swears this really isn’t as gross as you might think. And he did introduce me to some great B-horror movies over the years, so I tend to trust his judgment.
Only Buy The Needs
People are going to tell you everything you “need.” You “need” a changing table, an Ergobaby, seven extra crib sheets, and 12 different shoes (for somebody who can’t walk yet). Let’s be real — there aren’t really tons of things that you need when it comes to a baby. You need blankets, clothes, diapers, bottles, pacifiers, a stroller, a new crib (and a mattress), and a new car seat. That about sums up what you need. Everything else is just things that are helpful but not necessary.
Live Frugally Elsewhere
If you are worried about cash when you bring a baby in this world, start finding ways that you can save elsewhere. You can start cutting coupons on food, eating out and shopping less, etc. People are convinced that babies are so expensive, but making lifestyle changes is a great way to manage this extra cost. If you frequently dined out or hit the bars pre-baby, you’ll also quickly learn that expenditure goes away (and Netflix is only $8 to $12 a month).
Don’t be afraid to ask people for hand-me-downs. There is no shame in asking friends and family to see if they have any clothes, toys or other baby gear that they aren’t going to be using anymore. And on this note, make sure that you don’t take any used cribs or car seats for safety reasons. This is actually something that it’s okay to be choosy about.
Don’t be too terrified about the cost of a baby. That was the other thing my cousin assured me briefly before I joined the parents club. He said you find a way, you move the money around. I hope these tips will help you move around money a little better. Even if it’s something as simple as switching formula brands, you really can save a lot.
About The Author
Sarah is the writer (and brains) behind Baby Brain, a blog about baby gear and mom life. When she isn’t working at her 9 to 5, she enjoys flying superhero style with her baby girl and geeking out on Game of Thrones with her husband. Connect with her on Twitter or Pinterest.
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Also published on Medium.