Baby on a Budget: How to Save a Bundle
Congratulations! Having a baby is such an exciting time, and it can also be a bit stressful. There is a lot to learn and prepare for, but finances shouldn’t get in the way. Here is some thrifty advice to get you ready for baby without breaking the bank!
The secret to saving and finding the best deals on quality items is planning, researching and comparing prices. Estimate costs you might incur and write a spending plan. While everything won’t unfold as expected, some things may work out better. If the stork sneaks up on you, start planning as soon as possible.
Review health insurance and savings plans
Choose a plan in which the premium to deductible ratio is the best price and value for pregnancy and childbirth care. Most health insurance policies cover the cost of breast pumps. Make sure yours does. If you have disability insurance, it may pay for maternity leave. Most importantly, start saving. Savings give a sense of peace and keep the focus on the baby in your arms instead of on financial burdens.
“Flex” financial muscles
Check to see if your employer offers a flexible spending account or health savings account. These pre-tax dollars can be used to buy prenatal vitamins, breast pumps, breast milk storage bags, thermometers and more. While you can purchase over-the-counter baby pain relievers, teething gel and fever reducers with an FSA or HSA, check with your insurance company. Some require prescriptions for over-the-counter medications.
Think about which option of childcare makes the most sense for your family – staying at home with baby, a daycare facility, nanny, nanny share – and then research the costs associated. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers childcare affordable when it accounts for no more than 7% of a family’s household income. Try to keep your childcare costs within that range, so your bank account won’t feel the pressure of baby’s arrival.
During the Pregnancy
Create a chic nursery without the designer price tag
You don’t have to be a celebrity to design a beautiful nursery. Start with a safety-approved crib and add another desirable piece. This is what Emily Zolan, an Acworth mom to Julia, 14 months, did. “I researched and found a particular crib that I knew was safe,” Zolan says. “I found it on Facebook Marketplace for $200 when it is usually $1,000. Then I got a glider from Costco.”
Zolan recommends buying a nice rocker. “You are going to be sitting in the nursery a lot, so you want to love it.”
Register and be rewarded
Create a baby registry at Amazon, Walmart, Target or Buy Buy Baby and receive free baby goodies and other perks like coupons and discounts on the items left unpurchased on your registry. The free gifts usually include samples of products to try when the baby arrives. You can decide what works best before you spend money on baby items you won’t use. “Be choosy with your registry,” Zolan suggests. “People naturally like to give sweet baby clothes and fun gifts. Pare down your registry to the necessities, and you may still get the fun, cute things you want.”
Spend modestly on maternity clothes
You’ll only be wearing them a few months. Budget more for maternity clothes for work than for working out. Buy staple pieces that can function for different events and activities. You can also find maternity clothes at some children’s consignment stores. For lounging around the house, baggy sweats and T-shirts are comfortable.
Don’t let diapering a bottom affect your bottom line
If friends want to give you a shower, consider having a diaper shower or make a diaper raffle part of a shower. Guests who bring a package of diapers in addition to their gift are included in a drawing for a prize. Amazon has a group gifting feature that allows expectant moms to set up a diaper fund. Friends and family give to the fund and the money is loaded on to the expectant parents’ gift card balance.
Sikedra Lamar, a Vinings mom to 9-month-old Ailani, uses this strategy. “I like the diaper fund because I can buy diapers as I need them,” Lamar says.
Brooke Norris, a Cartersville mom to 20-month-old Wyatt and 3-month-old Sadie, suggests having shower guests put a sticky note on diaper gifts labeling where the diapers were purchased in case you need to return them for a different size. “Target may have a 96-pack of Huggies and Ingles sells a 92-pack, so you can’t return diapers to just any store.”
Disposable diapers like organic, plant-based or chlorine-free ones can be pricey. Try a diaper subscription to cut down on costs if you want these specialty diapers.
After the Arrival
It’s okay to be frugal when it comes to formula
Breast milk is free and has tremendous nutritional benefits, but it doesn’t work out for every mom. Save on formula without skimping on what your baby needs. If you buy a name brand, go to the company website and sign up for coupons and online deals. Ask your doctor for free samples and ask other moms for samples they don’t want. Keep in mind that all baby formula is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to meet certain nutritional requirements.
Norris discovered this with her second child. “As first-time parents, we were nervous, so we paid more for the name brand,” Norris says. “I talked to my pediatrician, and we used store brand with our second child, and she’s been fine.” Norris says she did a side-by-side comparison of the name brand formula with a store brand. “They both had the same ingredients.”
Check out consignment sales and stores
The beautiful thing about consignment is that you can get designer and name brand clothes, gear, furniture and toys at a fraction of the original cost. Baby items are outgrown so quickly that they are usually in good shape even if they are used. And once your baby is finished with an item, you can consign it. There are large seasonal consignment sales around Atlanta, typically in summer and winter; check online for dates and locations.
Consignment stores usually let patrons choose to receive cash or store credit for the items they sell and sweeten the pot by giving a higher amount for in-store credit. Once Upon a Child and Kid to Kid have multiple locations in the metro area; in Atlanta, Sweet Repeats has been selling upscale baby and maternity clothes for more than 35 years.
Find high-end baby clothing on the cheap
Wait until the end of the season and buy for the next year to get upscale or designer clothing at rock bottom prices. If your child outgrows the size you buy before the next year, you can always consign the items or regift to another expectant parent. Check out Facebook Marketplace to buy boutique baby clothes for less.
The cost of paying even a neighborhood teen has increased dramatically. Trade babysitting with another couple and you can enjoy a night on the town without the expense of a babysitter. This also helps your baby feel comfortable with other adults, which can be a game-changer if you don’t have family close by or in the event of an emergency.
Invest in an item that’s worth the splurge
You’re more likely to stick to your budget if you don’t feel deprived. With a smart financial plan in place, pick out an extravagant or convenient, time-saving item like a carseat-stroller combo, a bottle warmer, monogrammed diaper bag or a kids’ sound machine.
“The Baby Brezza is amazing,” Lamar says. This product works like a Keurig but with formula.
Norris loves the Owlet, a sock baby monitor. With it, parents can track their baby’s sleep patterns on their smart phone. Norris says it gives her peace of mind. “When Sadie had RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), I knew she was breathing fine.”
Zolan recommends Magnetic Me, baby clothing that comes with magnetic fasteners instead of snaps. “It makes dressing a baby faster,” she says. “When they are little, they don’t like to get cold.”
Babies don’t have to break the bank. With a specific savings plan, you can save a bundle without skimping on the things you love.
More Ways to Save
- If you’re looking for additional ways to save, remember that little things add up and adopting a few of these ideas can bring BIG savings over time.
- Don’t remove tags. If you don’t use something or it doesn’t fit, you may be able to take it back or consign it for a higher price.
- Buy gear that grows with your baby.
- Invest in a battery charger and rechargeable batteries.
- Don’t buy shoes until your baby walks.
- Buy diaper pails that use any trash bag or throw diapers away in a trash can with a lid. Specialty diaper pail bags are more expensive.
- Buy gender neutral if you plan to have more than one child.
- Make your own baby food.
- Buy diapers, formula and wipes in bulk at a wholesale warehouse club or opt for generic/store brands.
- Don’t buy a lot of bottles until after baby arrives. You don’t know what the baby will prefer.
- Breastfeed or pump, if you are able.
- Host a swap party.
Free Places to Play
- Look for free admission (usually for ages 2 and younger) at museums, nature centers and play places.
- Many baby and toddler classes offer free trial sessions.
- Playgrounds and parks are always free. Indoor mall play areas are great spots to play.
- Check your library or bookstore for free story times and activities.
- Join a local mom/dad group on social media; many meet up for in-person playdates and activities.