Raising children takes love and patience – and budgeting skills! MarketWatch estimates the cost to raise a child from birth to age 17 is more than $230,000 when factoring in housing, food, and childcare (excluding college).
So, during your baby’s first year of life, it’s important to start saving money wherever you can. We’ve come up with seven categories in which you can save money during your baby’s first year.
When it comes to feeding, breast milk is considered to be healthier and more economical than formula. No matter which you choose, both methods have associated costs, which break down as follows:
- Breastfeeding: Exclusive breastfeeding is free. That said, many moms also purchase breast pumps and associated gear, including breast milk storage bottles and bags. However, even with these costs, many moms say they can save $500 to $1,000 a year compared to formula feeding.
- Formula feeding: Formula feeding has a direct cost. For this reason, many moms choose to use formula as a supplement to breastfeeding. Exclusively formula-fed babies also tend to develop more ear infections and digestive trouble than breastfed babies, so you might be spending more money at the doctor’s office as well.
As your child grows, it can be more cost effective to make your own baby food at home than to buy it by the jar. Baby food is essentially pureed fruits, vegetables, and proteins. If you have access to fresh produce and a blender or food processor, you can make and freeze baby food packets, which can double as teething aids. For older babies, you can puree a little of your meal before seasoning it and feed it to the baby (with a few rich food exceptions).
Buying new baby clothes is fun – but it’s unnecessary. Let’s face it – the baby is going to throw up on and otherwise mess up these items, so there’s no need to spend a lot of money on clothing.
My advice is to purchase new items only for special occasions, and buy just a few basic pieces for day-to-day wear, including:
- Onesies: Buy several plain, inexpensive onesies at local stores, online, at garage sales, or at consignment stores.
- Pants: Same situation. Pants will be stained in no time, so try to avoid expensive bottoms.
- Socks, not shoes: Babies don’t need shoes in their first year of life unless there is a specific medical need. Choose cheap socks instead.
- Bibs: Snap or velcro bibs can help reduce staining of onesies (and the amount of laundry you have to do!). And when it’s time to start solid foods, buy a plastic bib with a pocket. You’ll save on cloth bibs and laundry there as well.
You can also consider adding items beyond newborn sizes to your baby shower registry if you’re having one. Babies outgrow newborn sizes quickly and asking for bigger sizes gives you the chance to accumulate clothing for the rest of the first year of life.
3. Nursery and vehicle items
Too often, new parents think their babies need every piece of furniture or travel equipment on the market. However, there are many multifunctional pieces you can buy instead of purchasing one of everything.
Consider the following questions before making expensive baby purchases:
- Can the baby’s dresser top double as a changing table?
- Can the car seat be used in rear- and forward-facing positions?
- Does the car seat snap into my stroller?
- Do we need both a baby swing and bouncy chair?
- Does this crib convert into a toddler bed?
- Do we need both a crib and a pack ‘n’ play?
Often, these items are available in great shape at consignment shops and garage sales. Two caveats: 1) Purchase a new or recently made crib instead of an antique crib. Safety features on cribs are updated regularly, and your baby’s health is the most important factor in your purchasing decisions. 2) Car seats should be bought new because you never know whether an old car seat has been through an accident, and car seats have expiration dates.
Cloth diapers are more economical and environmentally friendly than disposable diapers; disposable diapers are convenient but more expensive. Either way, consider signing up for a subscription service that offers home delivery, automatic shipment options, and discounts for buying in bulk. This reduces cost and stress – no last-minute trips to the store for diapers.
Baby wipes are expensive, too. When my girls were small, we used Quickables instead. These cloth wipes were originally designed for adults with incontinence. You can purchase thousands of Quickables wipes at a time online. They’re free of chemicals and much cheaper than traditional baby wipes – just dampen them with warm water, clean up the baby, and dispose of the cloths.
"MarketWatch estimates the cost to raise a child from birth to age 17 is more than $230,000 when factoring in housing, food, and childcare (excluding college). So, during your baby’s first year of life, it’s important to start saving money wherever you can."
Parents love to buy toys for their babies, but infants need only a few items in the first year of life. Choose colorful toys that make a little noise, including:
- Rings that attach to the stroller and car seat
- Safe chewable toys (babies learn through all their senses, including taste and touch)
Babies don’t necessarily remember that they played with a pink rattle last week and a purple one this week. These preferences develop around the toddler years, so don’t worry about providing a lot of variety in that first year.
Why pay more for something designed with a specific intent when a workaround is cheaper and sometimes better?
- Bottle and wipe warmers: You can warm up a baby’s bottle in a dish of warm water just as quickly as you can with an expensive bottle warmer. And if your newborn’s bottom comes in contact with a little cold wipe on occasion, trust me – the baby will be just fine.
- Burp rags: There’s no reason to purchase special burp rags. Cloth diapers are inexpensive and absorbent, and they work well for multipurpose cleanups.
- Diaper bags: Designer bags are trendy and fun but also expensive. Consider purchasing a backpack or large tote instead. These items serve the same purpose but likely will be more durable and less expensive than a traditional diaper bag.
7. Other financial opportunities
Your little one is small now, but time goes by quickly. Before you know it, your baby will be graduating high school and ready to go to college or join the workforce. Consider stashing what you can, even $5 to $10 a month, in a savings account or college savings plan. Over the next 18 years, it will gain interest, increasing your investment for the child to use as an adult.
There’s also cost-savings to be found in your health care. Look for providers who are in network with your insurance or health care coverage, including the hospital at which you seek prenatal care and delivery, as well as your baby’s pediatrician.
You can also save money by taking advantage of free classes and seminars at the hospital, pediatrician’s office, and in your community. Look for free or reduced-cost programs, such as:
- Childbirth classes
- Breastfeeding support
- Parenting classes
- Mommy-and-me exercise classes
Your baby’s first year of life is a time for bonding, milestones, and new experiences. It’s our hope that these tips will help you venture into parenthood with less financial stress.
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