How to Save Money with a Baby
Frugal Living

How to Save Money with a Baby

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You’re having a baby. Congratulations!

Babies cost money.

They also make messes, laugh, cry, and make you laugh and cry at same time. But one thing that keeps some people shy away from having kids is the thought that they are expensive.

While some increase in expenses is a given with each addition to your family, particularly in areas such as food and clothing as your child gets older, they don’t have to be very expensive at all during the baby stage.

As a young wife and mom living on a single income with student loans to pay, I understand the need to keep expenses under control, so here are my 8 top tips to save money with a baby.

1. Cloth Diapers and Wipes

It costs between $2,000 and $2,500 to keep a baby in diapers and wipes for 2.5 years, from birth to potty training. With cloth diapers, you have a larger, one-time expense up from, but even with only one child using those diapers they will pay themselves back before long.

Depending on the type of cloth diapers you decide to go with, the total savings can vary. For example, if you go with cotton prefolds or flats and covers, your savings will be greater than if you go with the more convenient (and closer to disposables in ease of use) all-in-one type of cloth diaper.

Buy used

Besides the type of diaper you choose, another way to save money is to buy your cloth diapers on sale or through a cloth diaper swap site. Simply Google (or check on Facebook) to find groups near you.

Oftentimes there are moms just like you who are at the end of the cloth diapering journeys who want to sell their “stash.” This can be a very cost effective way to get a larger amount of cloth diapers than you might be able to afford brand new. These swap groups can also help you make money from your diapers when you’re done with them.

Regarding the cleanliness of buying used diapers, most of the moms in this type of group care just as much about you about what they put on their children and will often “strip” the diapers to deep clean them before selling them. If you would like to make sure that they’re extra clean, you can also strip the diapers yourself once you purchase them.

 If you want to start, check out my post on building your cloth diaper collection on a budget. 

Cloth not your thing?

If the thought of cloth diapers just completely grosses you or your partner out, keep your eye out for sales on the brand of diapers you use. Depending on the sale price, this could end up being cheaper than some of the more expensive types of cloth diapers if you’re only using them for one child.

2. Breastfeeding

I understand that for some people this isn’t an option, whether because of physical or occupational circumstances, but if you can breastfeed your baby, the cost savings is tremendous.

While your grocery budget might increase as your baby grows and eats more (because you’re still eating for two and that second person is growing quite quickly), a few more snacks is nothing compared to buying formula.

It can cost around $1,800 to feed a baby formula for the first year. And that’s not even counting if your baby has a sensitive stomach and needs special formula, which runs quite a bit more expensive than regular depending on the type you need.

As an exclusively breastfeeding mom, the first time I looked at the cost of formula, I was shocked at the cost of a single can. (Side note: I was in the aisle to buy disposable diapers, which are also expensive. See #1)

 Wondering how to save money on your wardrobe? I have a post on how to make (nearly) your entire wardrobe nursing-accessible without buying a whole new wardrobe. 

3. Hand-me-downs

Maybe you have a sibling, cousin, friend, or neighbor with a baby just slightly older than your little one. This is a great opportunity for you (and potentially for them as well) to save money on clothing.

If you know someone who is finished (at least for the time being) with the size of clothing your baby will need, see if they will let you borrow it. By doing this, you cut down on the space needed to store the clothes plus you get more use out of the clothes than storing them in a box between children.

By using clothing more than once before getting rid of it (pending stains, tears, etc.), you can increase the savings for everyone involved. You can even reciprocate the favor if you already have clothing for a different size or gender that your friend or family member currently needs.

I’m a bit older than my cousins, but when they were born in quick succession of one another, my aunts added dozens of uses to outfits that otherwise would have quickly outlived their usefulness simply by packing them up and shipping them off for the next cousin to wear them.

By increasing the number of times an outfit or piece of clothing is worn, the price per wear is lowered, saving you money even if the clothes were bought new to begin with.

4. Buy secondhand

If you don’t know anyone to get hand-me-downs from, thrift stores are your friend when it comes to finding affordable baby clothes. Oftentimes, when people finish with a size of clothing and don’t have a place to store it or someone to lend it to, that clothing ends up in thrift stores.

This is where you come in. Instead of buying new from the store, even cheap big box stores like Wal-Mart, try checking out your local Goodwill or other thrift or consignment stores to see if they have what you’re looking for.

If you’re worried about the cleanliness or condition of clothing from these stores, there are a couple things you can do.

  • First, be judicious about checking the clothes over for stains or tears before ever spreading the checkout. Only buy clothes you know will get you quite a few uses.
  • Second, take the tags off and wash the clothes as soon as you get home. This ensures that the clothing is clean before it touches your baby’s skin. If the fabric will hold up, you can also wash it on your washer’s hot setting to make sure it’s extra clean.

5. Homemade Baby Food

Just like with formula (and most snacks marketed to kids for that matter, but that’s a different post), those tiny jars of various fruit and veggie concoctions can really add up.

Let’s say your baby just started eating solids and eats approximately 1–2 jars per day. At $1.49/jar, that’s an average of $2.25.

Now let’s say you buy a bag of carrots and a sweet potato at the store. You take the sweet potato and a couple carrots and steam them until their soft and purée them with a little water, breast milk, or formula.

Homemade Carrot-Sweet Potato baby food

2 Carrots = $0.20

1 Sweet Potato = $0.78

If one batch makes approximately 10 jars of baby food:

Cost of produce = $0.98 / 10 jars = 9.8 cents per jar!

That’s mere pennies compared to the ready-made version. Plus, you can spoon it into ice cube trays and simply thaw the cubes out as you need them.

Once your baby has learned how to swallow more solid foods, you can even skip the purée step and just give them cooked (and cooled) foods cut in age-appropriate sizes, saving you even more time.

For the 6 months from your baby starting solids until their first birthday, this can save you almost $375!

Bonus: if you make purées or small pieces of baby-safe foods you’re already cooking and eating, your baby will learn to eat what you eat and you won’t have to buy them completely separate groceries from the rest of the family.

6. Keep it simple

Newsflash: Babies don’t need every single gadget designed for them. In fact, when faced with too many toys, they can often be overwhelmed and may very well do better with fewer belongings.

Double duty

Do you need a bouncer, jumper, swing, AND an Exersaucer? Or a bassinet, cradle, crib, and eventually a toddler bed? Many things marketed for babies perform similar tasks.

Figure out what’s really a necessity and skip the rest. Or find things such as cribs or changing tables that can transition to toddler beds and dressers down the road.

“Non” toys sometimes make the best toys

In my experience, you don’t need dozens of kinds of baby exercise equipment or toys. Let them explore, focus on simpler toys. My son’s current favorite toys are a wooden spoon from my kitchen (also an excellent teether) and a plastic ruler from my desk. Given the choice, he’ll choose these over most of the other brightly colored toys strewn across our living room floor.

Maybe if you have multiple children who will use these, they might be worth it. Or maybe your baby wouldn’t sleep in a crib for the longest time so you had to try something else. Every family and every baby is different, but if you’re looking to save money, cutting down on buying similar items (or selling extras you already have) can help you save money in the long run.

7. Don’t keep up with the Joneses

Yes, I know the other moms at the library storytime have fancy strollers with phone chargers or whatever new-fangled contraption they’ve added to them. And I know that baby girl has THE CUTEST little bow headband and coordinating outfit.

Is your goal here to have your baby look like other babies, or is your goal to save money? If your goal really is to save money, there has to be some give-and-take on how fancy the things you buy for your child are.

Don’t buy all the newest trends and gadgets

In Point #4 above about shopping secondhand, you can often find exactly what you need for your baby without paying full price for it new. It may be slightly older, but most of the time it will serve its purpose just fine.

Sometimes people buy those fancy outfits or strollers and then donate them when their child outgrows them. You may just be able to find a really cute outfits for just a fraction of the price.

And even if you can’t, your son or daughter won’t remember whether or not they had the latest fashions or toys when they were a baby.

Side note: if fashions change as much as they have since I was born, even if you dress your baby in the fashions that are considered “in“ now, they’ll probably still be embarrassed that you dressed them in that when they look at the picture in 15 years. I mean, florals and lace were very popular in the 90s In girls dresses, but the way they were executed would make them almost laughable for today’s children.

Buy versatile pieces

If you want to save money, opt for simple pieces, including onesies, pants, or skirts. The more you can mix and match these outfits, the more they can express style without breaking the bank. They simple, timeless pieces will stay in-style longer and won’t be out of style by the time they’re passed on to the next kid.

8. Buy Quality

For some baby items, used just want to cut it. Take car seats for instants. Well someone could claim that the car seat they are selling has never been in an accident, and you can check the expiration date on the sticker on most car seats, you never know if that person is telling the truth. (It If you are buying a car seat from someone you know and trust to tell you the truth, buying a used car seat can be fine if it has enough time left before it expires to suit your purposes.)

For most other items, used can be perfectly fine as long as the items are in good condition.

However, whenever you need to buy an item, particularly a larger ticket items, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of quality versus cost. Well that high chair may be a steal, how long before part of it breaks? Will you just be buying Another one after not too long?

One way to save money while buying quality items, is defined a model or brand you know is constructed well. Then check in multiple different stores and see if them any of them have sales on the item. This is especially helpful if you don’t need an item right away necessarily, because it allows you to get a quality item were listed you would pay do you get it brand new immediately.

Now, keep in mind that these tips don’t include if you have a baby shower or gifts from other people. I was blessed to have a couple baby showers that supplied us with boy outfits for 0–3 months and most of the more expensive baby gear we needed, which was nice for things we didn’t want to buy used.

While we were gifted many items were still use and clothes that got us through those first couple months, tips such as getting hand-me-downs and shopping at thrift stores have helped me save money as my son has moved beyond the sizes we were gifted. These tips will also help us stay on budget as he continues to grow.

How do you save money with a baby?

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  1. Good ideas! My baby is due May 15th, and I’m already trying to plan a dozen things until then. But saving money is always a good idea. I can’t wait to try my hand at making my own baby food.

    1. Congratulations on your pregnancy! It’s such an exciting time planning for your little one to come. Is this your first? I understand having a dozen (or more!) things on your to do list to get done before he or she is born. Let me know how the baby food turns out!

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