In planning for a second child, my husband and I certainly didn’t count on being blessed with a surprise newborn. Yet, when I went in for my first trimester ultrasound at approximately the eight-week mark, sure enough, there was the picture of twins swimming around in my tummy.
Throughout the course of that day, we felt a wide range of emotions, from pure joy to sheer terror. Having not one but two children would be a financial and organizational burden. When we looked at the budget, we knew we’d have to get inventive if we wanted to keep prices down.
It’s crucial to know how to save money if you’re a first-time parent or expecting a child. Several entry points are provided below.
How to Save Money While Caring for a Child
- For common supplies, use subscription programs.
There is no hiding the fact that newborns need a lot of diapers (6-12 per day, on average). The cost per unit is high, at about $0.25. Diaper accessories, such as wet wipes and diaper rash cream, should be stored in a cool, dry place.
Signing up for a subscription program is a simple method to save money on diapers and related items. Discounts on frequently purchased items can be found at online stores like Amazon and Diapers.com; customers need just sign up in advance to have their monthly supply order shipped to them. There’s no risk involved because you may halt your subscription whenever you choose and simply pay for batches when they are sent.
Through our subscription service, my husband and I are saving roughly two cents each diaper and $3 to $4 per month on wipes and ointment. I calculate that this year, only on diapers, wipes, and ointment, we will have a save of $200.
- Try Babysitter Sharing
For various reasons, such as location or expense, childcare is out of the question for some working parents (some centers can have waiting lists of one year or more). On the negative, nannies are often more expensive than daycare, but they may make life easier and more stress-free for busy parents who need to get their babies to and from school every day.
In the United States, full-time nannies may expect to earn anywhere from $500 to $700 per week ($2,167 to $3,033 per month) on average, as reported by BabyCenter. Consider looking for a nanny share arrangement with another family in the area to split the fees.
Although the basic fee will increase with each new child, you may save money by dividing the bill in half. A similar tactic may be used to reduce money spent on a babysitter. Get together with another local couple and split the cost of a babysitter.
When it was just our toddler and us, my husband and I would often share a sitter with another couple who also had a young child. Our babysitter charged us $10 per hour for up to two children, so we split the expense by taking turns transporting our kids to each other’s homes.
One option is to form a babysitting co-op or exchange with other local families. This ensures that you have access to reliable babysitting services whenever you need them, provided that you are prepared to return the favor when your time comes around.
- Utilize Daycare Referral Programs and Prepayment Discounts
Daycare in the United States is not inexpensive, despite being promoted as a cheaper alternative to employing a full-time nanny. Child Care Aware of America reports that in 2011, the average annual cost of full-time baby care at a center was between $4,600 to over $15,000.
Inquire about a referral program at your facility to see if it might assist you offset some of the costs involved with enrolling. Such initiatives are common at many facilities, and in some cases, visitors can even get paid to bring their friends on a tour.
For every parent I brought to the recent open house at my local center, I received a $25 credit. Even though neither of the two couples I invited ended up signing up, I still got $50 off my bill that month.
An additional consideration is a prepayment discount. While most daycares charge on a weekly or monthly basis, yours may provide a discount if you pay for the whole year up front.
You may have to stretch your finances to pay the money all at once, but if you do, you can save yourself 5-10% off your annual payment.
- Employ intelligent shopping techniques
You may save a lot of money on baby supplies by just preparing ahead. It is best to get your baby’s first winter coat in the spring or summer, when the stock is being cleaned out for the next season. In general, the ideal time to buy seasonal clothes is immediately following the end of the season in question, as this is when stores are most eager to clear out their stock and provide the greatest discounts.
Cribs, high chairs, and strollers are examples of non-seasonal baby goods that are not significantly discounted at any time of year. Yet, the models from the previous year tend to be cheaper and just as functional.
You may want to look for a used stroller or high chair online because many baby stores no longer carry the products you need. If you’re willing to buy pre-owned, check out sites like eBay or Craigslist; if you’d rather buy anything brand new, Amazon.com often has a good selection of discontinued models.
Buying a car seat requires extreme caution. That’s the one item you should never buy second hand. Any model older than five years with an average safety rating should be good, but it should be in brand-new, unused condition and purchased from a reliable retailer.
- Join a Rewards Club
Retailers selling diapers and other baby products frequently use loyalty programs and other incentives to keep customers coming back. Get in on the rewards program of a diaper brand you know you’ll use from the start. Then, each week, add the codes from the packaging to your account. You’ll quickly rack up enough rewards points to redeem for free merchandise.
Similarly, if a store sells rewards cards, join up for as many as possible. You may save money by accruing shop dollars, and you’ll also receive email alerts about sales and coupons.
- Register for Free Samples
Simply searching Google for “free baby samples” may return dozens of results. You may request a free trial of anything from baby food to professional photography.
For this reason, it’s important to be wary of free samples offered in various circumstances (meaning, not so free after all). Nonetheless, there are generally no hidden costs or fees associated with “free” infant items. Your sole “payment” is giving these generous businesses permission to spam your inbox with announcements and offers.
- Request Hand-Me-Downs.
When I was expecting twins, my husband and I made it clear that we would gladly take any gently-used items that came our way. Therefore, we stole a few necessities from kind neighbors and friends who no longer had a use for their infant supplies.
A generous couple gave us a nearly unused baby swing. One offered us a stroller and toys, while others opened their attics so we could rummage through their gently used items. By just inquiring and being flexible, we were able to save a significant amount of money.
- Avoid Formula
The nursing vs formula argument is one of the most contentious topics in all of parenting. One thing is certain, though: Breastfeeding is far more affordable than the alternatives, even if there is some debate over which is the healthier choice nutritionally.
To pump, and to spend money on the tools and equipment necessary to do so, is to come out ahead financially. Powder, liquid, organic, and allergy-specific baby formulas all have different price points. However, the monthly cost may exceed $100.
- You Can Make Your Own Baby Food
Those tiny jars of baby food can get expensive fast, costing close to $1 for standard brands and nearly double if you go for organic. Premade baby food can cost anywhere from $3 to $10 per day, so making your own food can save you a lot of money.
Make a ton of delicious, nutritious food for little money using only a regular blender or food processor. Vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and peas, which are high in both calories and nutrients, are a good place to start. Put them in a pot and simmer until they soften, then purée until completely smooth.
- Create a Baby Registry
You should still go ahead and register for baby items at your local baby store even if you have no intention of having a baby shower. For starters, this can assist direct well-meaning friends and family members toward the baby products you need most, rather than a flood of cute but superfluous teddy bears and other soft gifts.
You may save money on baby products you were going to buy anyhow by completing a registry at many different stores and get discounts of between 5 and 20 percent.
Simply for registering a registry, some stores may provide you with a complimentary gift bag. My husband and I got complimentary bibs, wipes, and baby lotion the previous time we did this.
- Build Your Own Toys
You know how parents usually complain that their children would rather play with the packaging materials than the actual gifts they received? That’s not entirely false; babies do respond well to bright colors and varied textures.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can get the same effect for far less money by using boxes and wrapping paper instead of actual toys. Be cautious and give them a thorough inspection before giving them to your baby. Stay away from anything that might hurt your baby, such as staples or anything with a sharp edge.
- Create Dependent Care and Flexible Spending Accounts.
There has been a parallel increase in the price of healthcare and daycare. Babies have a knack for picking up all sorts of nasty viruses, which may lead to frequent trips to the physician and a friendship with the neighborhood pharmacy.
Costs associated with co-payments can increase quickly. For this reason, a flexible spending account may make sense if your workplace offers such a benefit and you have dependent children.
If you are married and filing jointly, the IRS allows you to set aside $2,550 of your yearly income for healthcare expenses in a tax-free flexible spending account. Making the right choice on your benefits form will save you about $750 each year if you’re in the 30% tax band.
Expenses for care for young children follow the same pattern. If you’re a married couple filing jointly, you may put away up to $5,000 a year in a dependent care FSA to go toward daycare expenses. That’s a yearly savings of $1,500 if you’re in the 30% tax bracket.
The main caveat of health and dependent care FSAs is that you have to spend the funds within a certain time frame or lose them. This means that if you contribute $2,000 to your healthcare FSA but only end up spending $1,500, you will lose the remaining $500. To avoid this, it’s important to budget wisely for things like medical care and child care.
There’s no denying that, at least at first, the costs associated with your new bundle of joy will be prohibitive. It’s not all bad news, either. In no time at all, your newborn will be a full-fledged toddler, and you’ll no longer need to change diapers or buy brand-new clothes every other week. This will provide you not only more freedom, but also more room in your budget.