From a car seat and crib to diapers and daycare, little ones come with big expenses. In fact, parents spend an average of $14,000 on their baby’s first year. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the baby superstore and fill up your cart with products you may not need or use. But these money-saving strategies can help you buy the best for your baby gear for less.
Think neutral. If you’re planning on having more children, register or buy gender-neutral-colored baby gear now so you’ll feel comfortable using that product again for your next baby. This year, purple is the new pink or blue. You also can’t go wrong with lime green, red, orange, yellow, silver, black, or green. Be sure to heed this advice when you’re shopping for big-ticket items, such as a car seat and stroller.
Try reusable diapers. If you use disposable diapers—like the majority of parents do even though reusable diapers are becoming more mainstream–you can anticipate spending an average of $80 per month per child, for a total cost of around $2,400 from birth to potty training (at around age 2 1/2). But you can spend less than that by using cloth diapers, which will run you $500 or less for a complete stash that you can use for your next baby too. Today’s cloth diapers are almost as easy to use as disposables. They’re better for the environment too. Even just using cloth diapers some of the time, such as on the weekends, can help reduce your diaper overhead.
Get a free breast pump. If you plan to go back to work full-time after your baby is born and continue breastfeeding, a double electric breast pump can help you get the job done fast and efficiently and help maintain your milk supply. But the price tag—upwards of $240—can be a budget buster, especially when you’re busy stocking up on other big-ticket baby items, like a crib, car seat and stroller. Fortunately, there are smart ways to save on this mommy must-have.
As a result of the Affordable Care Act, as many as 80 percent of health insurance companies are now covering the cost of a double electric breast pump. Insurance companies don’t have to provide such a premium model for free, but they know it gives moms the best shot at breast feeding success, which ultimately helps reduce medical costs. Call your health insurance company to find out what type of pump you can get and the brand options. If the selection doesn’t include the brand/model you had in mind, such as a decked-out double-electric Medela, ask whether you have to get the “recommended” pump or if you can choose to purchase one that’s “out of network” and submit the receipt for reimbursement.
Buy products that multitask. It pays to buy gear that does more than one thing or that can be repurposed later. Opt for a diaper pail that can be converted to a trash can, a plastic “grass” baby bottle drying rack that can also dry your delicate wine glasses, a swaddling blanket that’s also a nursing cover and a play mat, and a play yard that functions as a mobile changing table and a travel crib. These days, you can even use your cell phone as a baby monitor. The list goes on.
Shop store brands. ‘Course breast is best. But if you need to use formula, store-brand formulas, such as Walmart’s Parent’s Choice or Target’s Up & Up are the way to go. (Confession: I’ve done some spokesperson and written work for Perrigo, the makers of store-brand infant formula. This after touring their manufacturing facility in Vermont and doing my research on this concept.) Here’s the thing that sold me: All storebrand infant formula must be nutritionally equivalent to name-brand formulas as per FDA regulations. Yet, store-brands cost up to 50 percent less, saving you up to $600 a year. Try store-brand disposable diapers and wipes too in the large size package you can find. The 121 count box of Walmart Parent’s Choice cost just 16 cents per diaper compared to 24 cents per diaper for a 117-count package of Huggies. Experiment until you find a storebrand diaper or wipe you like. For more information on saving money on diapers, check out my book, “Save Dollars on Diapers.”
Join your supermarket’s baby club. Many supermarkets offer a free baby club that ties the store’s rewards card to baby product purchases. Baby club card holders can typically receive discounts for points they earn by purchasing eligible products, which often include diapers and wipes as well as baby food, formula and baby lotion among others. Baby clubs are available at major supermarkets across the country. To maximize savings, use manufacturer’s coupons on baby products when possible while earning baby club rewards.
Ditch your virtual cart. When you’re shopping online for baby gear, especially at specialty retailers, fill your cart with what you need. Then leave your shopping cart for a day or so. Retailers can tell when your shopping cart is loaded but idle. Don’t be surprised if you get a coupon or promo code sent right to your e-mail that encourages you to click the “buy” button.
Get cash back with online shopping. Instead of heading directly to an ecommerce site, such as Diapers.com to do your online baby gear shopping, start at a rebate portal, such as Ebates.com. Rebates sites like Ebates.com enable you to get cash back on your baby product purchases. The practice, known as spend-to-earn shopping, is akin to entering through a rebate door before proceeding to the ecommerce site you’d normally go to anyway. Ebates.com features over 1,500 online stores, such as Diapers.com, which offers 2 percent cash back on purchases. Your rebate/savings can go right into your PayPal account or get sent to your home by check.
These are so many ways to save on baby gear, more which I’ll cover in subsequent posts. Meanwhile, what’s your fave?