Expecting a baby, especially your first, means you have plenty to prepare for. Like anytime you attempt to prepare for the unknown, that can mean lots of purchases—some of which even turn out to be superfluous.
However, even necessary items can add up to an impressive sum. How much? It’s estimated that the first year of parenting raises household expenses by ten thousand dollars.
To help soften the blow to your budget, here are our tips on how to cut down on the costs of preparing and caring for your new baby.
1. Embrace the idea of buying second-hand.
Of course, you want the best for your baby. However, new parents are sometimes made to feel that if they don’t spend on the best, there’s a small chance that, years down the line, their child might end up resenting a less-than-posh childhood.
However, being a good parent doesn’t mean that you have to spend a thousand or more on a designer stroller for your new baby—or even one that’s brand new. There’s even evidence showing that those who grow up in thriftier families have a healthier relationship with money as adults.
So, what items are okay to buy second-hand?
Baby clothes: Since babies grow out of their duds so quickly, you’ll often find never-worn items on the rack at your local used clothing store. Even used items are perfectly fine. Just make sure that you give everything a good wash when bringing the items home, just as you should with new clothing. Also, avoid buying anything with drawstrings, and check to make sure that all buttons and zippers are safely secured.
Shoes: While we’re sure your baby is a fast learner, it’s unlikely that he or she is going to be walking in those first six months. That’s why used baby shoes are such a great deal—they’re not really used. So, go ahead and grab those second-hand sneakers or sandals, rather than investing in a new pair that will only be worn several times.
Toys: You want to surround your baby with stimulating toys, but buying them in bulk can easily break your budget. Rest assured, it’s also safe to pick up toys second-hand. Just make sure that they’re in good condition, without any chipped paint or loose pieces. Then, give each a thorough cleaning with your preferred disinfectant. If you’re worried that something might not be safe, check this product recall finder before your purchase.
Bedding sets: Cute-but-pricey bedding sets that include items like quilts and comforters not only aren’t necessary, they’re not even safe to put in the crib. And, while bumper pads are nice, they don’t need to be brand new. Instead, all parents need is a few good-quality crib sheets to keep your baby healthy and happy.
Many gently used items are fine, but there are some things to avoid when buying secondhand:
Car seats: It’s tempting to buy a second-hand car seat since they’re so darn expensive and, unlike fun toys or decorations, there’s nothing about them that inspires excitement. However, the safety functions that make car seats a necessity are constantly changing and evolving. Further, many older seats have already been recalled. For that reason, your safest bet is to always buy this, and other safety gear, brand new.
Mattresses: Unsavory as it sounds, mattresses are breeding grounds for bacteria and mold. Baby mattresses also become contaminated with other fluids that don’t easily wash out. Skip purchasing this one second-hand. Remember, when buying new, the firmer, the better, as it decreases your baby’s chances of rolling into a dangerous position.
Soft baby carriers: Despite being trendy, many soft baby carriers that form to your body, (this includes slings) have been subject to recalls. As with car seats, it’s important to do your research on each model carefully to ensure your baby remains secure.
2. Use cloth diapers over disposables.
If you’re not used to them, the idea of cloth diapers sounds like loads more dirty work than their disposable alternatives. But, consider that disposable diapers cost an average of $72 per month. Cloth diapers are dramatically cheaper, at an average of $19 per month (over a 12-month average).
However, the savings reduces to near-zero if you use a cloth diaper service. So, prepare to wash them at home.
3. Make baby food at home.
When your baby is ready for solids, going the homemade route has multiple benefits. But, the best is that blending up baby food at home rings up at roughly half the cost of purchasing store-bought brands, even when you go for organic ingredients.
4. Start asking for baby-related freebies right off the bat.
Many brands provide hospitals with samples, coupons, and other freebies for new parents, but hospital staff are sometimes too busy to dole them out. It’s worth asking if there’s anything on hand before heading on your first trip home.
5. Turn to your local library for books, toys, classes, and games.
Of all the staggeringly priced baby purchases that can be avoided, books are near the top of the list. We’re by no means suggesting that you don’t read to your baby! Especially since the activity has so many proven benefits.
That being said, libraries are a great place to test drive new stories. If your family grows attached to one, then there’s no reason why you can’t buy a version for home. (Don’t forget to check out your local branch’s DVD and audiobook selection, too!)
Libraries also offer an abundance of family-oriented classes, some even offering mom-and-baby yoga, weekly storytime, a play area, and more. They’re a great place for babies to go and socialize, and best of all, totally free.
6. Got a sick baby? Call your pediatrician on the phone before going in.
Sometimes an experienced family doctor might be able to diagnose what’s wrong over the phone, saving you time and a co-pay in the process.
7. Get savvy to potential tax savings.
There are plenty of tax breaks and credits available to families that new parents might not have had the chance to consider. For starters, each year a child is born or adopted, you can add a dependent to your tax forms—and earn an exemption that may reduce your taxable income by $3,950, per 2014 IRS rules. Adding on dependent-care, adoption and child tax credits can also save you thousands.
To learn more, check out the “Tax Information for Parents” page on the IRS website to determine how your child might impact your taxes.
8. Review your health insurance.
While it might not be as fun as picking out colors for your baby’s room, taking a close look at your health insurance can uncover some unexpected opportunities for savings. That’s because many big-ticket items, such as breast pumps, birthing classes, and feeding classes are often covered.
And, while we’re on the topic of insurance, be sure to notify yours as soon as your baby is born. There’s usually a 60-90 day window for doing so, which isn’t something you want to miss.
10. Consider a co-op nursery or daycare.
Childcare is easily one of the biggest expenses new parents face. How to save if you don’t have family nearby? Co-op nurseries and daycares work by requiring parents to volunteer their time, usually one day a week, in exchange for defrayed costs.
A traditional program that’s five mornings a week might cost upwards of $550 each month, while the same program in a co-op might cost only $350. While prices differ depending on where you live, the consensus is that co-ops offer substantial savings.
The Bottom Line
Hands down, one of your most important tips for saving cash is to consider every purchase, big and small. Avoid over-buying and over-paying for items that are flashier than needed.
Also, don’t forget to save by buying second-hand when safety allows. Can’t find something at your local Goodwill? You can also find great deals on Craigslist or at garage sales for a fraction of the price.
Finally, don’t be afraid to post a request on Facebook asking friends or family if there are any items that their children have outgrown and they’d like to get rid of, or even lend.
Just remember that items with a ton of life left are usually handed over during the off-season, so plan ahead by asking for spare coats in the summer.
A little bit here and there can add up to a lot down the line. And, while you should never sacrifice your baby’s health or safety, focusing on experiences instead of purchases allows you to save a few bucks and build priceless memories.