Everything changes once you become a parent. Your sleep is cut in half, you eat standing up, you’re not sure which day of the week it is, and oh yeah, your finances take a major hit.
In fact, a 2015 study done by the United States Department of Agriculture found that the cost of raising a newborn through the first year of life for middle-income parents is $12,680. Yikes! No wonder you’re googling “ways to save money once baby arrives.”
So how do you prepare for this truly amazing time in your life without going broke?
Fortunately, there are lots of parents who have come before you. Here are some ways they saved money that might help you cut costs, too.
Breastfeeding on a budget
- Breastfeed if you can. Breastfeeding is a very personal decision, but if you decide to do it, you can save a lot of money. Breastfeeding will save you anywhere from $75 to $200 a month, depending on the type of formula your baby needs.
- Choose breastfeeding supplies wisely. Pillows, nursing cover-ups, and nursing pads all add up. Consider making your own nursing cover or using a shawl, opt for washable nursing pads rather than disposable ones, and test out a friend’s nursing pillow before buying one. You may find you don’t really need one.
- Consider a used pump. Electric double-pumps are ideal, as long as you’ve made room in your budget for one (they run anywhere from $150 to $3,000). The good news is, you only need to buy the plastic parts/attachments and bottles new. You can rent, borrow, or buy a used pump.
Ways to save on formula
- Always ask for samples. If you’re formula feeding, don’t leave the hospital without samples. Make sure and ask your pediatrician for samples each time you visit their office, and email the formula manufacturer. They just might send you a free case.
- Sign-up for rewards programs. Formula companies offer free online rewards programs. Once you’re signed-up, they will send you coupons and savings codes to use in-store and online. And if you earn enough points, they even send you free supplies.
- Opt for powder formula over ready-to-feed can While the convenience of ready-to-feed formula may be nice, the extra cost adds up quick. Stick with powder formula. It’s much cheaper to buy in bulk—plus, you won’t have to lug home gallons of heavy liquid.
- Ask for help with specialty formula. If your baby needs a special formula blend, ask your doctor for ways to save on the cost. Check with your health insurance to see if the cost is covered. And of course, contact the manufacturer and ask if they will send you some free cans.
Dress your baby without breaking the bank
- Skip the shoes and mittens. Yes, it’s cold in the winter, but those tiny shoes and gloves do not stay on your baby. If you’re worried about your baby getting cold, purchase a few sleep sacks that keep their feet covered. And when your little one starts walking around the house, resist the temptation to buy those cute little leather shoes. Your baby will have better luck learning to walk without bulky shoes on.
- Buy clothes in ages and stages. Hit up your favorite consignment shops and buy different-sized clothing. Purchase some storage containers and label each one with a size/age range. When your little one grows, you’ll have clothes ready to go. For added savings, ask for gift cards to your favorite shops.
Save money at mealtime
- Make your own baby food. If you’re looking for baby food bargains, one of the easiest and most economical options is to make your own. Most jars of baby food cost $1.00 each. But you can save a lot by getting creative in the kitchen. Puree veggies, meat, and fruit and let them cool for 30 minutes. Then pour into ice cube trays, cover with foil, and freeze. Once the food is frozen, take it out and place each serving in a ziplock bag to store in the fridge.
- Buy in bulk. If you’re buying most of your baby food, purchasing in bulk makes the most sense. Experiment with different brands and types of food before buying large quantities. Once you know what your baby likes, stock up when it goes on sale. You can also save on cost by ordering online.
Baby gear that makes sense
- Say yes to hand-me-downs. Chances are, you have some friends or relatives who have baby gear lying around. If they offer it to you, say “yes.” Clothes, strollers, diaper bag, bouncy seats, toys, bassinets, the list goes on and on. Most used items are perfectly safe to use. Car seats and bedroom furniture such as cribs, toddler beds, changing table, and dressers may be the only exception. If you decide to go with used furniture, do some research online about recalls and/or safety updates before furnishing baby’s room with used items.
- Look for gear that can be used over the years. Some items that you’ll use for several years come with the option to buy in a “convertible” or multi-use model. If you’re buying new, consider a convertible crib that turns into a toddler bed. Also look for car seat/stroller combos that transition from a rear-facing infant seat to a toddler and big-kid car seat.
- Skip the fluff. There’s no need to purchase anything for the crib other than a mattress and fitted sheet. Skip the pillows, comforters, stuffed animals, etc. You can also save by passing on the wipes warmer, pee-pee teepee, baby towels, robe, pacifier wipes, bathtub, ear thermometer, bottle warmer, and much more. Some of this gear may look useful, but often you won’t need it.
- Share books and toys. Babies love to be read to. But those cute board books are expensive. Rather than buying new books, why not gather a few friends and create a book swap? Meet once or twice a month to trade books. Not only will this save a lot of money, it also gives you a reason to get together with other moms. As your baby gets older, consider adding a toy swap into the mix.
Diaper dos and don’ts
- Ask for samples. Before you leave the hospital, ask for any samples they may have. At your first doctor’s appointment, ask your pediatrician which diaper they recommend and see if they have any freebies.
- Sometimes cheaper is not better. Some of the more expensive newborn diapers have features that are worth the cost. These include umbilical cord protection and a wetness indicator on the outside that shows you how wet the diaper is without having to unfasten and check.
- Test-drive before you buy. Once your baby is out of newborn diapers, it’s time to test a few out. Get with friends and do a diaper swap. This is an easy and affordable way to try other brands before you buy.
- Deals on diapers. After you’ve settled on a brand, it’s time to stockpile. Pick up an extra box or two when they’re on sale. Just make sure you don’t over-buy a particular size. Babies grow fast and too-small diapers are a recipe for some serious messes. You can use the same strategy for wipes. If your baby does not have sensitive skin, you might want to opt for the cheaper brands.
- Join a rewards club. Diaper companies offer free online rewards programs. Once you’re signed up, they will send you coupons to use in-store and codes for online. If you earn enough points, they’ll even send you free supplies.
- Order diapers and wipes online. Yes, you can order diapers and have them delivered right to your door. Online retailers like Amazon and diapers.com offer discounts each time you buy. They also have subscription services that can reduce your cost each month.
- Cloth vs. disposable. Using cloth diapers can save you a lot of money IF you do the laundry yourself. If you use a diaper service to clean your cloth diapers, you won’t save much money (although you may have other reasons for opting for cloth).
- Keep a “backup bag” in the car. You never know when a major blow-out is going to happen. Keep a bag in the car with extra diapers, wipes, change of clothes, snacks, and formula/bottle. This will save time and money while out and about—and keep you from having to stop in at Target for an emergency change of clothes.
Other ways to improve your monthly cash flow
Cutting costs by being a savvy shopper is only one way to stay ahead. There are other ways to improve your monthly cash flow with a baby on board. Here are a few strategies to help you do just that.
- Tackle credit card debt. If you carry any sort of credit card debt, you might want to consider consolidating and/or eliminating a few pieces of plastic. Consider paying off higher rate cards and then setting them aside so you’re not tempted to use them. Having two or three credit cards is typically enough for most families.
- Adopt the three-jar method. Typically used as a way to teach kids to save money, this method can also help new parents budget for baby items. Get three mason jars and label each one with the following: must-haves, wants, and big purchases. Toss loose coins and single dollar bills into the jars each day and empty them at the end of the week. You can even take this one step further and open up a savings account just for baby purchases. Deposit the money from the jars each week and dip into that account first when buying baby products.
- Share costs for childcare. If you’re working outside the home, the cheapest childcare option is typically a commercial setting. But if you want at-home care, you might want to hire a nanny. If you can’t afford the high monthly costs of a nanny on your own, consider sharing a nanny (and his or her salary) with another family.
- Refinance your student loans. Most people are able to save over $200 a month by refinancing their student loans. If you have student loans, see our Student Loan Refinancing Calculator to learn how much you could save.