BUDGETING FOR A BABY
It's no secret that a baby costs a lot in the first year (and the second, and the third ...). A middle-income family welcoming a child can expect to spend about $245,000 per child from newborn to the age of 18, according the most recent estimate by the USDA, which releases an annual report on the subject. For parents, the numbers are downright scary. These 10 tips should help first-, second-, and even third-time parents spend a lot less.
1. REUSE EVERYTHING
First-time parents will likely receive numerous items from various baby showers, but it's certainly easy to fall into the trap of spending a fortune on baby gear and clothing. Let's be honest; the baby will just soil everything within the first few months, anyway. Save big bucks by borrowing from families that have already had kids, or go the secondhand route. Never turn away boxes of old baby clothes. If your kids will be close in age, the crib, infant car seat, and other newborn baby gear you already have should still be up to current standards. But if you're considering reusing such items, check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure they still fall in line with the agency's guidelines and haven't been recalled.
2. BREASTFEED IF POSSIBLE
For some people, breastfeeding just doesn't work, and there is no shame in that. If you don't breastfeed, figure on spending roughly $40 a week on formula -- sometimes more -- for the entire first year of a baby's life. Any positive health benefits aside, the effect on your wallet makes breastfeeding well worth it.
3. DON'T INVEST IN BREASTFEEDING SUPPLIES (YET)
As with clothes and other baby gear, many parents-to-be go all out with breastfeeding paraphernalia. Nursing tops, nursing bras, nursing covers, nursing pillows, a top-of-the-line breast pump -- you name it. But what if breastfeeding doesn't work as planned? Then you've spent a fortune on stuff that will only get a month or two of use. It might be worth waiting a month or two to see if breastfeeding suits you and your child before investing in any specialized equipment. Even then, don't go overboard. All you really need is yourself and a willing newborn. That said, if you plan to work outside the home or have a partner help with feedings, a good breast pump is a worthy investment. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to cover breast pumps and lactation counseling services as preventive care for women. Given that breast pumps can cost upwards of $300, it's definitely worth a call to your insurance provider to find out exactly which breast pumps and services are included in your plan. Many plans also cover some or all of the rental cost for a hospital-grade pump, another money-saving idea if you aren't sure how long you will need a pump.
4. DON'T STOCK UP ON BABY SUPPLIES YET
Your baby may not like the type of pacifier you just bought half a dozen of, she may have an allergic reaction to those diapers you stocked up on, and he may refuse to use the bottles you invested in. Better to try one first to see how baby likes it before investing in a large supply.
5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREEBIES
Baby care is a booming business and companies all want your loyalty, so they're more than willing to give out free samples and coupons -- all you have to do is ask. Baby wipe samples can keep your diaper bag stocked, and we've seen free baby slings, car seat covers, and nursing covers just from digging around online for coupons and coupon codes.
6. TAKE WHAT THE HOSPITAL PROVIDES
After the baby is in your arms, the hospital is required to throw away what's left in your room away if you leave the items behind. This includes formula samples, diapers, and wipes. Take along an extra empty bag to the hospital and pack up this gear when you are discharged.
7. BUY DIAPERS IN BULK
OK, cloth diapers may be cheapest of all if you clean them yourself and don't use a service, but new parents going the disposable route can save, as well. Don't pay the mindboggling price for weekly diaper packs from the grocery store; instead, buy in bulk from a place like Sam's Club, Costco, or Amazon. The Amazon Mom program is free for the first month and essentially gets you a free Amazon Prime membership in addition to 20 percent off diapers and wipes. After that, you can choose to pay the membership fee or cancel and go elsewhere. Diapers.com offers free two-day delivery on orders greater than $49 and posts low prices for bulk diapers. Of course, you'll want to wait to start a program like this until you know which diapers work best for your baby.
8. MAKE YOUR OWN BABY FOOD
Like most other baby things, baby food is expensive. Brands like Gerber start at around $1 per jar and organic varieties can cost triple that. That adds up quickly, especially if your child works his way up to five to seven jars a day. Making your own food is a much cheaper option -- albeit more time consuming. All you really need is a small food processor and fresh veggies or fruit. With a little advanced planning, you can steam a few extra vegetables from your meals and mash up fresh fruit for the baby. Freeze extras, so there's a nice stash to choose from on days when there's no time to prepare fresh.
9. SKIP THE CRIB BEDDING
Sure, the crib looks cute with all that bedding -- pillows, blanket, bumper, and the lot. But in all actuality the baby needs none of this. To reduce the risk of SIDS, current advice says babies should sleep on their backs with nothing in the crib. In other words, skip this unnecessary cost.
10. SKIP BABY SHOES, TOO
Yes, they are cute, but all a baby really needs is a warm pair of socks. Your newborn isn't going to be walking for some time, so why invest in shoes when she has no use for them?