From a car seat and crib to diapers and daycare, little ones come with big expenses. In fact, your baby’s first year or two can total over $17,000 according to the latest USDA estimates. It’s tough to know what this really means until you’re in it. But if you’ll be going back to work, you’ll likely feel the pinch quickly. In 36 states, fulltime childcare is now higher than a year’s tuition at a four-year public college. How can you save money, get the best for your baby, still pay off your student loan and go out once in a while or say, treat yourself to a latte? Here are just a few ways to strategically cutting corners that can add up to big savings.
First save-money strategy: milk your baby registry
Get well wishers to buy everything for you—or at least as much as possible to fund your baby’s first year. But stock your registry as if you were paying the tab. In other words, do your homework to make sure each product on your registry makes sense for you. If in doubt, leave it out. Don’t be afraid to register for big-ticket items, such as an infant car seat, stroller or stroller frame and crib (friends and relatives can chip in together). Add the little stuff too, such as diapers and wipes.
Think neutral. It’s overwhelming to plan for baby #1, but you can save money if you can think ahead to theoretical baby #2 (if you might have more than one child) and register or buy gender-neutral-colored products the first time around. In lieu of pink or blue, think lime green, red, orange, yellow, silver, black, green or gray.
Babyproducts Mom is a big fan of buying new the first time around, then using your own used products for baby #2 and so on (unless there’s a big gap between babies). That way, you can register all of your products with the manufacturer in case of a recall. You know the vintage and the product history and how it has been used, which is important.
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 save money 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, such as Tidy Tots, are almost as easy to use as disposables. (“Essentials” kits for anything baby are often the best deal.) Cloth/reusable diapers are 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.
Psst! For about reusable diapers and other ways to save on your diaper costs, you can download a free copy of my book, Save Dollars on Diapers by signing up for Babyproducts Mom e-mail updates.
Buy products that multitask. To save money, buy gear that does more than one thing or that can be repurposed now or later. Opt for a diaper pail, such as the Diaper Dekor Plus, which can be converted to a trash can, a Boon “grass” baby bottle drying rack that can also dry your delicate wine glasses, a baby blanket that’s you can also use as a stroller cover and a play mat, a play yard that functions as a mobile changing table and a travel crib and a full-size crib such as the Fisher-Price Lakeland 5-in-1 crib that converts to a day bed, toddler bed, then full-size bed. And go ahead and use your diaper bag after you’re done with it. This Lassig Neckline diaper bag, for example, can easily double as a handbag.
Get a free breast pump. 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. In insurance speak, a breast pump is considered durable medical equipment.
Here’s how to nab your freebie, deluxe pump, if you have health insurance:
- Call your health insurance company to find out what type of pump you can get and the brand options. If you’re not happy with what you hear, 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.
- Ask your obstetrician a prescription for a pump. That’s your ticket to your free pump. You can usually get your prescription before your third trimester.
- Call your insurance company’s durable medical equipment telephone number to order your pump.
- Watch for your pump to arrive by mail.
That’s it. Then put the pump together before you have to use it, even if you plan to breast feed. Engorgement can make it tough for your baby to latch on, in which case, you may need to do some emergency pumping.
Shop store brands. While breast milk is best, store-brand infant formula is a great option for moms who want to formula feed or supplement breast milk with formula. Infant formula is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Consequently, store-brand formulas, such as Walmart Parent’s Choice or Target’s Up & Up, must be nutritionally equivalent to name-brand formulas, yet cost up to 50 percent less. Store-brand formula can save 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. Online reviews can help narrow the field for deciding if the store-brand diaper is worth try. Customer feedback, such as “great value, meets expectations, better than leading brands,” can offer valuable insider feedback and insights, such as which brands run smaller or larger than expected and which diapers do the job during the day but fall short overnight.
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 save money by receiving 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.
Make your own food pouches. When your baby is ready for “solid” food, “making your own food pouches will save you roughly $1.60 per day,” says Kristen Ahmer, the creator of the Original Squeeze food pouches. Hey, it adds up. That’s about $50 a month. Fill reusable food pouches with pureed food mixed with breast milk in the beginning. Using a Squeeze funnel saves you from having to spoon it in.
What are you doing to save money during your baby’s first year? Lemme know by leaving a comment on Babyproducts Mom Facebook page or a comment below and sign up to receive e-mail updates right in your inbox.
By Sandra Gordon, copyright 2016 Baby Products Mom
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