Babies are expensive. And they don’t get any cheaper as they grow (though when I no longer have to pay for full-time daycare, it will certainly feel like we got a raise!). If you want to be a little shocked by the estimated cost of raising a child, check out this calculator. When I was pregnant with my first child seven years ago, I realized that we were going to struggle to pay for everything we needed. Just looking at the average diaper and wipes prices and doing some math for how many diapers are needed per day for about three years can be a little shocking.
It was then that I knew I’d have to start saving money and changing habits, so I found a couponing group, and found my new hobby to save money. So what can you do to bring down the cost of raising a child? There are certainly lots of possibilities out there that are beyond what I do if you can make it work for your family, but I can at least help you save some money on the goods you need.
1) Nursery/travel items
So many of these things are expensive, but you do not need to buy the most expensive items on the market. Sometimes store registries suck us into spending more money than necessary. Baby items need to meet certain safety requirements so you can be assured that less expensive items are still safe, but you can definitely do research on these items for safety. The good news is that on most of these items, you’ll be able to use them for all of your children.
You can find plenty of deals, but you might need a little patience to find the right deal, so don’t wait until the month before your due date for items you’ll need right away. Also remember that you won’t need some things, like high chairs and jumpers for a few months after the baby is born, so you can keep looking for those, which gives you a little more time to save for the items.
I was able to find a crib on Walmart.com that came with a free crib mattress. I bought my travel system on clearance at Target (if I recall correctly, I found it 70% off!); Target tends to run baby clearance twice a year around January and July. Remember, clearance doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with it; they’re just making room for new designs. Also, Target sometimes runs sales that if you spend a certain amount on nursery items, you’ll get a Target gift card in return. Then you can turn around and use that gift card on something else you need, because we can always find something we “need” at Target, right?
Some things you can certainly find secondhand at garage sales, Facebook swap sites or consignment stores. Things like high chairs, jumpers and walkers are good things to look for, and you can often find them in really good condition since most kids do not use them too long.
2) Save money on diapers and wipes
Cloth diapering wasn’t for us, but it definitely can save most people money after the initial cost of diapers. Prefer to cloth diaper? You do you, mama. There are swap groups for cloth diapering to help save money, but I don’t know a lot about it beyond that.
For me, because I couponed for it, I probably came out pretty even with cloth diapering cost-wise (especially when you consider additional detergent and water usage). If cloth diapering isn’t for you, you don’t have to spend a fortune on disposables. If you learn how to coupon and take advantage of rolling rewards, you can save a whole lot of money. My favorite place to shop for diapers and wipes is CVS. They often run a deal of buying $30 in diapers or wipes, get $10 in rewards back. By stacking coupons and rewards, I often brought $30 down to less than $9 for three packs of diapers. Any time that deal or better came around (and I found plenty better), I stocked up. That way I was never forced to pay full price when I ran out. You can find nice gift card deals at Target throughout the year. Or if you don’t want to do all that, use Amazon Subscribe & Save and get items delivered right to your door (subscribe to 5 items a month and get 20% off baby items).
3) Breastfeeding items or formula
Again, do what works for you to feed your child. With both boys, I nursed for awhile, but eventually switched over to formula. Of course if you can exclusively breastfeed, there is not much financial cost. If you want to use breastmilk, but need to return to work or want your partner to help feed the baby, you have to consider added cost of the breast pump (covered by most insurances, but not all unfortunately), pump parts, storage bags and bottles. Shop around to find the best prices.
But knowing that isn’t possible or desirable for everyone, formula can be expensive (you can also see if you qualify for WIC), but the key here is to sign up with the formula companies who will send you samples, formula checks and coupons. You can pair all of those with deals at stores. There were times that I actually got formula for free by combining all of that.
Save all the money you can while your kids are young and don’t care about the clothes that they wear. Luckily, I’m still in this boat for the most part (although my 4 year old pretty much will only wear “comfy” pants right now). You can still find super cute clothing for cheap in a variety of ways.
First, shop consignment stores. Kids grow through clothing so quickly the first couple years that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend a fortune on clothing when they might only wear it a few times. Plus, use consignment stores to sell clothing when you’re done with it to make a little cash back that you can turn around to buy clothes in the size that your child is now in.
Next, take advantage of clearance. At the end of the season, buy up anything you can for the next year. My kids have been pretty consistent in “standard” sizing so I generally guessed their size for the next year correctly. Pair coupons or store rewards with clearance and get items for free! Yes, free. I have purchased items at Kohl’s and JCP for free and very cheap.
If you do it right, raising kids doesn’t have to cost you $726,000 (yep, that’s how much it says it would cost us for 2 kids). Saving money on the essentials will allow you to keep some of your hard-earned money and still do lots of fun things with your kids as you raise them.