You can spend less, get better value, and still buy high-quality, safe products. And you don’t necessarily need to spend a bundle to get them.
The following budget cuts won’t compromise your baby’s safety, which should always be your top concern.
- Go with store-brand disposable diapers. Although Consumer Reports tests show that the name brands are the top-rated disposable diapers, because overall they tend to be more absorbent and fit better, you may find store brands more than adequate—and a cost cutter. You’ll save about 3 cents per diaper if, for example, you compare the cost of size 1 Parent’s Choice, Wal-Mart’s store-brand diapers, with Pampers, also size 1. Saving pennies per diaper may not seem like much, but with 10 changes per day (which is reasonable with an infant), you’d bank about $9 per month and $108 per year using the size 1 store brand diapers.
- Breast-feed if you can. It’ll save you $2,000 a year, the money you’d spend on infant formula.
- If you choose or need to use infant formula, buy milk-based formula. It tends to cost less than soy-based formula, so don’t buy soy or another type of special formula unless your pediatrician recommends it. The powdered version is the least expensive. And keep in mind that all infant formula sold in the U.S. must meet the same basic nutrient requirements specified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so if your baby likes store-brand formula, buy it—in the largest-size cans you can find.
- Don’t buy designer duds. Babies may be able to wear them only once or twice before they outgrow them, which inspires new-parent guilt and the sense that the money could have been better spent on diaper, wipes, or formula. If you can’t resist, watch for sales at your favorite baby stores and scout for designer wear at secondhand shops.
- Buying a crib mattress? Nix the convertible option. If you’re planning to convert your baby’s crib to a toddler bed, put this added feature in the “not necessary” category. While “dual firmness” convertible mattresses are available with an extra firm side for infants and a cushier, standard or memory foam on the other for toddlers, you don’t need to spend the extra money. Convertible mattresses cost $220 to $400 , compared to $90 to $200 for a non-convertible mattress. Don’t worry. Your baby will still be happy with a firm (non-convertible) mattress when he becomes a toddler.
- Shopping cart covers—feel free to skip this purchase entirely. It’s not a must-have. In fact, using one may be more trouble than it’s worth. Keep in mind that the covers themselves can harbor harmful germs—from blood as well as mucus and feces—longer than a bare cart handle because the germs can get embedded in the fabric. That’s why it’s important to wash a shopping cart cover in hot water and a bleach-based disinfectant and dry it completely after every time you use it. Another reason I put shopping cart covers in the “optional” category: These days, many supermarkets supply sanitizing wipes for cleaning the cart handle and seat when you walk in, which can do a good job of reducing the germ load there. If wipes aren’t provided, keep a small supply of disinfecting wipes in your purse or diaper bag. Even after wiping, keep your baby from gnawing on the handle by bringing his favorite teething toy.
Consumer Reports Best Baby Products (Tenth Edition) is chock full of money-saving advice. It’s organized in a handy A to Z format and reviews a wide range of essential baby (and parent) gear, with an emphasis quality and safety. It will help you find the best value and give you the information you need to determine when a bigger price tag means better quality and when it doesn’t, which baby products are must-haves and which are a waste of money, and which products might even be unsafe.
What did you do to save money on baby products? Post your own tips here.