When my husband and I set out to have a second child, we never imagined that we would be blessed with an extra baby. But sure enough, when I went for the first trimester ultrasound around the eight week mark, there it was: the image of twins floating in my belly.
On that day, we experience a series of emotions, ranging from unadulterated happiness to total and utter panic. Adding not one, but two children to the mix was going to be not only a logistical challenge, but also a financial one. We realized that we would have to be really smart and creative if we were to keep our costs manageable.
If you are new to parenting or expecting a baby, it is important for you to realize that there are ways to cut costs. Here are several ways you can get started.
How to save money caring for a baby
1. Use subscription programs for common supplies
It’s no secret that babies go through a lot of diapers, 6-12 per day. At about $ 0.25 each, the expense can really add up. The same applies to supplies used in conjunction with diapering, such as wipes and ointments.
An easy way to save money on diapers and the like is to sign up for a subscription program. Retailers like Amazon.com and Diapers.com offer discounts for commonly used supplies, and all you have to do is register ahead of time to receive your monthly treasure in the mail. There is no downside as you can unsubscribe at any time and you only pay for each batch once it is shipped.
My husband and I pay about two cents less per diaper and $ 3- $ 4 less for a month for wipes and ointments through our subscription program. By my estimate, we’ll save $ 200 this year on diapers, wipes, and ointments alone.
2. Test Share babysitter / babysitter
For some working parents, daycare is not an option due to logistics or lack of space (some centers may have waiting lists of a year or more). Having a babysitter can be more convenient and less stressful than carrying a baby to and from daycare, but the downside is that they tend to cost even more.
According to BabyCenter, babysitters charge between $ 500 and $ 700 a week ($ 2,167 to $ 3,033 a month) on average for full-time care. To save on costs, try to find a shared babysitting situation with another local family. While it is true that an additional child adds to her base rate, she can still get by financially by dividing the total cost in half.
The same strategy can be applied to babysitting costs. If you are planning a night out with another couple in the area, arrange to share a babysitter rather than each having their own.
When it was just us and our little boy, my husband and I used to split the services and expenses of a babysitter with friends who had a son of a similar age. Our babysitter’s rate was $ 10 per hour for up to two children, so we managed to cut our costs in half by taking turns driving our children to each other’s house.
You may even find it beneficial to establish a childcare cooperative or exchange with other families. By doing so, you will always have babysitting services available, as long as you are willing to reciprocate when it is your turn to sit down.
3. Take advantage of daycare referral programs and prepayment discounts
Although it’s often billed as a more affordable option than hiring a full-time babysitter, daycare in the US is far from cheap. According to Child Care Aware of America, in 2011 the average cost of full-time child care in a center ranged from $ 4,600 to nearly $ 15,000 a year.
To help alleviate some of those fees, ask if your center has a referral program that will qualify you for a tuition credit if you refer a friend to join. Many centers offer these types of programs and some even offer financial incentives just to encourage their friends to take a tour.
For example, my local center offered a $ 25 credit for each parent I brought to the last open house. I brought two couples with me, and although neither of them signed up, I received $ 50 off the bill for that month.
Another option to consider is a prepayment discount. Many daycare centers bill their clients weekly or monthly, but yours can save you a break to prepay all year long. You may need to stretch your budget to fork out the money up front, but if you can, you could cut 5-10% off your annual bill.
4. Employ smart purchasing strategies
Sometimes all it takes is a little advanced planning to get the best deals on baby items. If you know your baby is going to need a winter coat at some point, buy one in the spring or summer, when all the leftovers from the previous season are marked for sale. As a general rule of thumb, the best time to shop for clothing for a particular season is right after that season ends, when retailers are desperate to move inventory and discount accordingly.
Sadly, there is no particular time of year when non-seasonal baby items like cribs, high chairs and strollers are noticeably cheaper. However, with most items, you can save money by purchasing the previous year’s model.
Since many baby stores do not stock older models of strollers and high chairs, it may be best to try to find them online. If you are willing to buy used, visit sites like eBay or Craigslist; For unused items, try Amazon.com, which tends to have a pretty decent inventory of older models.
Always be careful when buying a car seat. This is the one thing you will never want to buy used. An older model with a normal safety rating is fine as long as it is not more than five years old, but make sure it is new, unused, and from a reliable source.
5. Join a rewards club
Diaper companies and baby product retailers tend to offer rewards or incentives to frequent shoppers as a way to build brand loyalty. Pick a brand of diapers early on and sign up for their rewards program. Then save the codes that come in the package and add them to your account each week. Before you know it, you’ll have enough points to get some free supplies.
Similarly, sign up for a rewards card for every baby retailer that offers one. You can accumulate store dollars over time, and as an added bonus, you will receive coupons and sale notification emails to help you save even more money.
6. Sign up for free samples
All you need to do is type the words “free baby samples” into Google to instantly find dozens of offers. You can get samples of everything from formulas to photoshoots.
In other contexts, free samples can sometimes be too good to be true (that is, not so free after all). But when it comes to baby supplies, “free” often means “free,” with no strings attached. The only “cost” involved is the requirement to submit your email address so that these generous companies can flood your inbox with advertisements and offers in abundance.
7. Apply for Hand-Me-Downs
When I was pregnant with twins, my husband and I made it known that we were happy to accept inheritances. As a result, we got a number of essential items from friends and neighbors who no longer needed baby items.
A couple gave us a practically unused baby swing. Another gave us some toys and a stroller, and several families let us raid their basements for little-worn clothes. We easily save hundreds of dollars just by asking and without being picky.
8. Avoid formula
One of the hottest topics across the parenting spectrum is the debate between breastfeeding and formula. While there are differing opinions on which is nutritionally healthier, one thing is for sure: Breastfeeding is by far the cheapest option.
Even if you are pumping and therefore spending money on the supplies that allow you to do so, you will still keep going. The cost of formula varies depending on whether it is powder, liquid, organic, or formulated for babies with allergies. But it can easily cost more than $ 100 a month.
9. Make your own baby food
At about $ 1 each for regular brands, and almost double if you go organic, those little jars of baby food can quickly lose their appeal. Instead of spending $ 3 to $ 10 a day on pre-made baby food, try making your own baby food.
A standard blender or food processor is all you need to prepare a variety of cheap and healthy meals. Some easy things to start with are nutrient-dense veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, and peas. Just cook and mash them until they reach a smooth, smooth consistency.
10. Create a baby registry
Even if you don’t plan on having a baby shower, you must sign up to receive gifts at your local baby store. For starters, this can help direct your potentially generous friends and loved ones to the baby items you need the most, thus helping you avoid an influx of adorable but totally unnecessary teddy bears and other similar plush offerings. Also, many retailers offer a sign-up coupon that could save you 5% to 20% off baby essentials – items you planned to buy anyway.
Some stores may even give you a free goodie bag just for creating a record. The last time my husband and I did this, we got bibs, wipes, baby lotion, and other helpful supplies.
11. Make your own toys
You know how people always say that when their babies receive gifts, they spend more time playing with the boxes and the wrapping paper than with the toys themselves? Well, there is some truth to that – when it comes to babies, all you really need is some color and texture to keep them happy and stimulated.
In this regard, boxes and wrapping paper work just as well as real toys, only they are much cheaper. Just be sure to be careful and inspect them carefully before offering them to your baby. Avoid staples, sharp edges, or anything else that could harm your baby.
12. Set up flexible spending and dependent care accounts
As in nurseries, healthcare costs are getting higher and higher. Unfortunately, if there’s one thing babies tend to be good at, it’s picking up all kinds of nasty germs, which can translate to multiple visits to the pediatrician and a first name relationship with your local pharmacist.
Over time, all of those copays can add up. So if you have children and an employer that offers one, a flexible spending account can make sense.
According to IRS guidelines, with a flexible spending account, you can allocate up to $ 2,550 of your annual income to pre-tax health care costs if you are married and file your taxes jointly. If you are in a 30% tax bracket, you can save about $ 750 a year by doing nothing more than making the right choice on your benefit form.
The same concept applies to daycare expenses. With a dependent care FSA, you can allocate up to $ 5,000 a year if you are married and file a joint return to cover day care costs. Using the example of the 30% tax bracket, that’s a savings of $ 1,500 over the course of the year.
The main problem with health and dependent care FSAs is that your money is allocated on a “use it or lose it” basis. In other words, if you decide to put $ 2,000 in your health care FSA, but only manage to accumulate $ 1,500 in eligible expenses, you will lose the last $ 500. To avoid this, be sure to carefully calculate your medical and child care expenses before commit to a specific dollar amount.
Yes, your little bundle of joy is going to cost you a ridiculous amount of money, especially in the beginning. But not everything is bleak. Before you know it, your baby will be a full-fledged toddler, and the days of changing diapers and buying new clothes every other week will be long gone, and with that will come not just a lot more freedom, but a lot more movement. space in your budget.
What additional ways can you suggest to save money on baby care?