Tips To Save Money During Baby's First Year

Add to the family and you add to the household budget. With diapers, wipes, laundry detergent and formula, expenses can go up dramatically. Fortunately, there are simple ways to save money in the baby department. Here are 10 tips you can put into place today.
Mary Fetzer

1. Breastfeed
Breast milk best for babies… and it’s free! Baby formula is expensive. According to Breastfeeding Magazine, the average family spends approximately $1,500 per year on formula!

Breastfed babies are healthier. Parents of formula-fed babies spend more on healthcare costs than their breastfeeding peers. Furthermore, a child’s illness can affect household income, as one parent may have to miss work to stay home or take the baby to a doctor.

Breastfeeding is a convenient way to boost your baby’s health while saving money.

2. Make your own baby food
When your baby is old enough for food, consider making it yourself. On a per-serving basis, baby food sold by the jar is quite expensive. Instead, use the fruits and vegetables you buy for the rest of your household and strain, mash, cook or puree them.

When you prepare your own baby food, you know exactly what’s in it, and you can tailor it to the texture that best suits your baby.

3. Use cloth diapers
It’s easier throwing away a poopy diaper than washing it. But cloth diapers are an excellent alternative to expensive and environmentally unfriendly disposables. According to Earth Easy, an estimated 10,000 tons of disposable diapers are landfilled every day – and they can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Today’s cloth diapers are available with Velcro enclosures, so you won’t stick the baby with a sharp diaper pin. And cloth diapers are no longer just a flat square of cotton. Now you can get them pre-folded, contoured, fitted with elastic or with a built-in waterproof cover.

Even though you have to use energy to launder the diapers, Earth Easy suggests the cost of cloth diapers, laundered at home, is significantly lower than using disposables, with estimated savings ranging from $800 to $1,600 over the course of two-and-a-half years.

4. Make your own baby wipes
Sure, they’re convenient, but baby wipes can be awfully costly. You can easily and inexpensively make your own wipes:

In a plastic container, such as Tupperware of Rubbermaid, mix 2 cups of warm water with 2 tablespoons each of baby wash and baby oil. Cut a roll of paper towels in half so it’s about the size of a roll of toilet paper and place it in the mixture to soak. Flip it once to saturate the other side then remove the cardboard core. Use the remaining half of the paper towel roll for the next batch you make.

Considering how many wipes you use on a daily basis, you’ll find the homemade version to be a lot cheaper than store-bought wipes. Furthermore, you control what goes into the mixture so you know exactly what’s going on your baby’s skin.

5. Share clothes
Baby clothes are irresistible, but babies grow quickly, and it’s foolish to invest in dozens of stylish little outfits. Buy plenty of the basics, like onesies and sleeping gowns, but don’t go overboard on clothes. So often you’re left with clothes the baby outgrew before wearing.

Instead, check out garage sales, second-hand shops and thrift stores, too. Shop eBay for gently worn, affordable clothing.

You can have an abundance of clothes without spending a cent. Network with other parents -- friends, family, coworkers and neighbors – to let them know you’ll take those extra clothes off their hands. Most will be grateful to free up some closet space.

6. Freecycle
Clothes aren’t the only thing you can find in good used condition. The Freecycle Network is a nonprofit, grassroots movement of folks who give and get stuff for free. With more than 6.5 million members around the world, you won’t have any trouble finding cribs, car seats, swings, walkers, high chairs and strollers. “It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.” Membership is free, and groups are moderated by local volunteers. You’ll save money, help others and benefit the environment.

7. Save money on daycare
Daycare costs can take up a big chunk of your budget. The cost of childcare can actually rival one parent’s income. In a two-parent household, the ideal situation is to adjust working schedules so that your baby spends as little time as possible in daycare.

If changing works schedules is not an option consider asking family members for help. Or look into the possibility of working from home. See if the company you currently work for provides telecommuting opportunities, or start your own business at home. You can have the best of both worlds.

8. Cut laundry costs
The problem with most detergents is the fragrance. Scented detergents can irritate a baby’s delicate skin, but expensive baby brands aren’t the only alternative. Affordable detergents such as All Free & Clear clean the entire family’s clothes without unnecessary allergens.

And since you’re all using the same detergent, you can wash the baby’s clothes with your own. Throwing onesies in with your cotton T-shirts is an economical thing to do. While some of the baby’s things may need some pre-treating, they don’t need a separate washing.

9. Don’t buy things you don’t need
You can picture a beautiful nursery with lovely furniture and coordinated bedding. But the reality is that you don’t that so much of that stuff is simply not necessary. You don’t need a diaper stacker that matches the baby’s comforter – comforters aren’t recommended for babies anyway. Why invest in a changing table? With inexpensive changing pads, you can take care of that business just about anywhere. 

10. Take advantage of free entertainment
Don’t invest in expensive toys, baby videos and music CDs. There is plenty of free entertainment for your baby.

Sing and read to your baby. There’s nothing more soothing than a parent’s voice, whether or not you can carry a tune. Take your baby for walks and point out the fluffy white clouds in the bright blue sky. It’s never too early to amuse your little one this way.

Babies under age 2 shouldn’t watch television or videos, so save your money. Instead, swap books with other families or check some out from the library.

As your baby grows, he’ll enjoy playing with boxes, pots and wooden spoons.

Bottom line: You may be tempted by the fabulous baby stuff available to you, but much of what you buy for the baby will be used for a year or less, so control your impulses.

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