People always say, “Babies are expensive!”
When I got pregnant, I couldn’t wait to meet our little guy. I was ecstatic about everything ‘baby’… all except the costs associated with having a little one.
After some research, I found multiple studies that show that the first baby can run you anywhere from $12,000-$26,000 for the first year. When I read a few articles with these astronomical numbers I was overwhelmed. The first figure of $12,000 did not include health care, daycare, or having to buy a bigger house, apt. or car. The second figure accounted for everything you could think of including aforementioned expenses.
EXCEPT there were no articles (at least that I could find) that included or factored in a full-time working parent becoming a stay-at-home parent. By me choosing to stay home, we cut our income in HALF! Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. We crunched the numbers again and again and were surprised at our findings. Note– I go into great detail about these numbers in my book I co-wrote, Living a Rich Life as a Stay-at-Home Mom. If you are wanting to add up to see if working vs. staying at home is more financially affordable, it is a must read. You can buy it for a few dollars on Amazon.com or on my secure order form here.
So… it is accurate and logical to say that babies (especially the first baby), are VERY expensive.
By the way, I would never put a price tag on the actual worth of my beautiful son Denali. He has brought soooo much happiness, joy, and meaning to our lives; he is worth any expense. That said, I just love to be prepared and I wanted to know in terms of numbers what I needed to plan and prepare for.
After my research on costs, I began making a list of different ways I could get everything I needed for our coming baby without spending a fortune.
I did a lot of thinking and research and had to get creative, and I am very excited to say that I was able to save $10,516.37 on our baby in his first year.
Below you will find 23 unique ways to save on your baby’s first year. The reason I say ‘unique’ is that many of the 46 ways to save (Yes, there is a part 2. Yay!) are not in the common, ‘How to save on your baby’ articles that you will find online. I want to share these unique ways of saving with you, so hopefully you will get to enjoy your little one without having to shell out a fortune.
Before you get shopping, you will want to start off by making a list of things you will need for the arrival of your baby. If this is your first, your list is going to be quite long. You may need a swing, crib, changing table, changing pad, rocker, etc. Keep in mind that many of these items can be very pricey when bought new. See a Baby Checklist here.
1- Buy neutral gender colors of main items. If you think it looks weird for a baby boy to sit in a bright pink Bumbo and if you want to have more than one child, purchase these types of items in neutral colors in case your next baby is the opposite gender. Bonus Tip: Although this is a personal thing, knowing what gender of baby you are going to have will save you a lot of money in so far as you will be able to buy things for him/her previous to their birth and stock up on gender specific items.
2- Take the hand-me-downs you are offered. If you are lucky enough to have friends or family who will give you their hand-me-downs, accept them graciously and send them a thank you card and maybe even a small gift (who knows – they may want to send more things your way because you were so grateful).
3- Stock up on diapers when they are on sale (using coupons as well) and have enough to last your baby 4 months. This is because you may not recover well, you may get sick, you may not want to go shopping. I’ve been there. You don’t have to be a ‘couponer’ to use a few coupons on diapers. I have bought at least 3,650 diapers this year. Buying them on sale and with coupons has saved me over $871.50 this year. Amazon Subscribe and Save may eliminate this need. If you sign up for AmazonMom you get 20% off of diapers and wipes. You can schedule them to arrive (shipped free to your door). After a lot of research I found that you can get cheaper diapers through AmazonMom than Costco, SamsClub and most stores. You can often beat prices that are sale with coupons. If you prefer not to join AmazonMom, then stocking up (and doing so early, I started at 14 weeks) is something I really recommend!
4- Pay attention to price per diaper. I am a dedicated couponer and when I was stocking up I would stock up on Huggies or Pampers when they were .15 cents or less a diaper (sizes N-2) and .18 or less (sizes 3-5). Brand name diapers range from .40-.30 cents a diaper regularly. If you are not an avid couponer but are willing to look for sales and use coupons with the sales then stocking up on anything under .20 cents on Huggies or Pampers will still save you a lot of money. Bonus Tip: I love Pampers because they are so soft and absorb urine so well. I love Huggies because they held the blowouts better than Pampers. I now love Huggies Overnites; they are the best in absorption! I use them at night, during nap times, and when my son is sick. You’ll be thankful for them if your baby gets diarrhea and when your baby starts sleeping longer. I would recommend Huggies overall. Bonus Tip 2: You can google and use a sizing chart to determine how many diapers you will need. Typically it is Newborn through size 2’s you’ll need 10-12 diapers a day. That is about 1400 diapers you’ll want to have around for the first 4 months. Keep in mind that the charts are an average size indicator. Your baby may be smaller or larger than average so have some size 3 in your stockpile as well. I was able to exchange the unused, unopened diapers for bigger sizes at Wal-Mart and Target when needed. Just tape the receipt to the box and you shouldn’t have trouble exchanging or returning. Bonus Tip 3: Again, Subscribe and Save on AmazonMom is a great way to score cheap diapers. Make sure to clip the coupons when you add the diaper to your cart. You can get Huggies at .18-.22 cents each (depending on size) with Subscribe and Save. If you are a great couponer you can save more by waiting for crazy good sales but the typical person will save the most by using AmazonMom’s free shipping and 20% off. You can sign up for it here.
5- Skip the warmers. Just throw the box of wipes near the heating vent in the winter or on the window sill in the summer to heat up the wipes. Or just wipe the baby with cold wipes (babies have survived much worse than a soft, sanitized, cold wipe on their cute little behinds). Put the cold lotion in your hand and warm it for a few seconds with some hand friction. Or put the baby shampoo and lotion (while in closed bottles) in the bath water while the bath is filling up to warm them up. Not only are the warmers expensive, they take up batteries, energy and space.
6- Buy second hand. If you aren’t lucky enough to get hand-me-downs (my siblings and friends were still having babies when I got pregnant), you can buy pretty much everything second hand on classifieds, thrift stores, online, at garage sales, or even on Facebook yard sale sites. Bonus Tip: I sanitized or washed anything I bought used (including books) and we’ve never had any problems. Here is a blog post on how to get 30-50% off of thrift store prices!
7- Immunizations- If you choose to immunize, most insurance covers them. If yours doesn’t, or if your insurance charges a co-pay, it may be cheaper to get the immunizations at a health clinic in the area. Our health clinic is $10.00 an immunization as opposed to $200+ that the Dr.’s charge insurance companies and the $25.00 co-pay they charge us.
8- Use powered things not battery operated things when possible. Batteries will eat through your budget, especially if the item is a battery powered baby swing. I haven’t done the math but I could bet that if you have more than one baby that uses the swing, you would save by buying a new swing that plugs in as opposed to buying a used battery powered swing and all the batteries needed to keep it running.
9- Garage Sale, Garage Sale, Garage Sale! Even if you aren’t an avid ‘Garage Saler’ like me, you can save thousands by buying things at garage sales. Next to buying used from family and friends, garage sales have by far the LOWEST prices on the HIGHEST quality of items I’ve found. Email me if you want my list of baby items and what I bought for how much and where. Bonus tips: Read this post on how to go garage selling/ yard selling effectively. Following these 11 garage selling tips will save you thousands even on future kids or purchases to come!
10- Use smaller packages of diapers when your baby starts growing out of that size. Babies grow fast. When the diapers are looking like they are fitting just a tad tighter yet still fit, use smaller packages like jumbo packages instead of the boxes. That way if your baby hits a growth spurt and gains a few pounds in one week you will not be left with an opened/non-returnable half box of diapers. Bonus Tip: Look on classified for those who have not done this and who are selling their opened half-full boxes for cheap. (I discuss non-brand diapers on Part 2).
11- Set up a registry with items on your list. Don’t feel pressure to register at Babies R US or Buy Buy Baby. Register at places that are inexpensive. A lot of people have a budget and a certain dollar amount they spend on baby shower gifts. If you register at a less expensive place they will be able to buy you more for less. I registered at Walmart and Amazon. They are less expensive and have a great return policies. I was registered at Target and received one expensive duplicate item. They almost wouldn’t return it because there is a limit to a dollar amount of how much you can return. After that I deleted my Target registry and stuck with Walmart and Amazon. Further, Amazon offers 10-15% discount off of items on the registry 30 days before you baby’s due date. That way if you didn’t receive or find a second hand much needed item you can get it then. For further information click here and search: Baby Registry Completion Discount.
Bonus Tip 1: Regularly update and remove items as you receive the item or find them second hand. I updated my registry every Saturday after garage selling with the things I bought. Think strategically about your registry and put items on there that you definitely want new or that are hard to find used. Bonus Tip 2: If you receive a duplicate gift or something you don’t want, take it back to the store or ship it back free to Amazon and make sure to bring along your coupons. Most likely you will get store credit and then you can find a new item and use a coupon to maximize that credit.
12- Buy and use ‘free and clear’ detergent instead of the expensive baby detergents. Free and clear is a type of detergent that comes in multiple brand or non-brand varieties and is free of dye and other allergens. When you buy it on sale with a coupon you can get liquid name brand free and clear detergent for under $2.00 a medium sized bottle or less; compared to a $9.00 bottle of Dreft, the savings are significant. If you haven’t had a baby yet, trust me when I say you will be doing a LOT more laundry. (Winco, Sam’s Club, & Costco have low prices on these in bulk as well!)
13- Start a clothing exchange with neighbors, friends, and family- One of my neighbors had a boy about 9 months behind mine. I sent her all of the clothes he outgrew. Then our other neighbor had a boy 6 months afterwards. So we sent the clothes to her, and hopefully now they will go to someone else. With each person who uses the clothes new clothes get added to the pile. I bought most everything for .50-$1.00 a piece. I also don’t know if I’ll have another baby boy. I figure instead of storing the clothes I should spread the wealth. I’ve enjoyed the clothing exchanges. UPDATE- When I had my daughter, my sister-in-law sent me all of her baby clothes (on exchange). Now that my daughter is 7 months old my sister-in-law is going to have a girl in a few months again. I sent her all of the newborn-3 month old clothes back plus a lot more I had received at my baby shower and that I bought.
I will continue sending her the clothes and I know that if I have another girl they will come back. Each time we do this lots of clothes are added to the pile (granted some may get stained or tossed out) but the pile seems to grow with each person’s use. Baby to 2T clothes rarely get tons of use as well—unless your baby is one of very few that doesn’t grow fast. Clothing exchanges are a great way to save money and prevent from having to store a ton of clothes for years.
14- Make your own baby food. Buy produce from stores or get bulk produce from co-ops like Bountiful Baskets and make the baby food yourself. Bonus Tip: I bought a baby bullet for $20.00 at a garage sale. I did use it a few times but I used the munchkin mesh food holders more often. Also, I feel like I could have used my blender instead of the baby bullet.
15- When buying baby food pay attention to calories. I was surprised when I was checking out baby food that the same company makes Stage 2 baby food with 40 calories and Stage 2 baby food with 80 calories and sells them for the same price. Then I looked at another brand which had Stage 2 with 100 calories for the same price. Buy the higher calorie count food if it is around the same price and it will keep your baby full longer and save you money.
16- Have a diaper-themed, baby-book-themed, or other-themed baby shower. If you have stocked up on baby clothes and already have a lot of the other things you need, having a themed baby shower helps your guests know what to bring and helps you to stock up on certain harder-to-find-used items. I had 3 showers thanks to my friends, my family, and my church. On the third shower I asked to have a baby book themed shower. I got many wonderful books. I have since gotten about 80 more books (we read 30-60 minutes a day and I get tired of the same books so I need variety). I buy the books at thrift stores for .25-.50 each. I usually always buy board books so I can use a Lysol wipe and clean each page and dry it. I sanitize each page so that I know the used books are germ free.
17- Use different make shift items that serve the same purpose. Pillows worked better for me than the Boppy for nursing. Some people use a dresser instead of a changing table. You may want to use a blender instead of a baby bullet. We left our doors open instead of investing in a baby monitor. Any bag that you can easily get into and has pockets and can be washed will do for a diaper bag. Use a radio, iPod or whatever you have for white noise instead of the pricey white noise machines. Get creative and it will save you not only on money, but also on space. Here is a checklist with some legitimate substitutions you could make if you can’t find the items for super cheap.
18- Do your own newborn photographs. If you have a good camera (or a decent one will do too) you can create newborn photographs on your own for free.
19- Ask for baby items for your Christmas and/or birthday presents. We asked for diapers, a highchair splash mat, a baby swing, and a few items we didn’t get off our registry, and that were difficult to come by used or that we wanted new. Use every opportunity you have for gifts to ask for things for your baby and you will save a lot.
20- Nurse your baby for as long as you feel comfortable/are able. Not only does nursing boost your baby’s immunity and helps you and him/her in a variety of ways, it also saves lots of money. That said, you should plan for the odd possibility of not being able to nurse for as long as you want. I planned to nurse for a year, but a surgery I had, an allergic reaction, and a host of other issues made it impossible for me to nurse for a year. I was only able to nurse for 4 months and supplement until 5 and that in itself was a struggle. Plan for the unexpected when factoring in the cost of feeding your baby. Here’s an article on what to do if you can’t breastfeed. And the Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding. Note that these blog posts are of my experience and yes I had great difficulty nursing.
21- If you are going to use formula, research the best kind and factor in the cost when making a decision. Formula is tightly regulated so going with an off brand is just as nutritious and much less expensive.
22- Start your baby on the type of formula you are going to stick with. We spend $100.00 a month on formula buying in bulk and using formula checks. Had we started on the Kirkland/Costco brand (assuming my son didn’t have any negative reactions to it) we would only pay $60.00 a month in formula. (Sam’s club has an awesome new brand with generic sensitive options.) Buying generic would have been almost $300.00 worth of savings a month. Note- we tried switching but a full week of screaming and crying resulted in us surrendering to the name brand. Some babies have a difficult time switching which is why I encourage new parents to start out on the cheaper brand.
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