As you guys probably know by now, my husband and I have three kids – two sons (9 and 7) and one daughter (3.5).
Surrounded by friends who have four or more kids, I realize that I may not be the most “seasoned” mom out there. But I have learned a thing or two about saving money, which I’m happy to pass on.
Above all, remember this: A baby needs very, very little. Even if you are on an extremely tight budget, the most important thing a baby needs is your safe and loving arms.
Of course, at some point, you’ll probably want to feed him, or change her diaper — which is just the beginning of the cost carnival. There are several things you can do, however, to keep your costs manageable. Kids may be expensive, but babies don’t need to be!
1. Gladly accept hand-me-downs
We didn’t have a lot of friends with kids when DS1 was born, so we couldn’t really experience the love of hand-me-downs. Thanks to overly generous grandparents, however, we did have a very well dressed kiddo — whose duds we happily passed down to our second son, saving a bundle.
Our daughter, on the other hand, has been blessed beyond measure with passed-down clothing from so many good friends. I have spent less than $100 on clothing for her in three years of life, and she has tubs filled with outfits that will last her ’til kindergarten!
Depending on how you shop, hand-me downs can save you hundreds of dollars – if not more – in clothing alone!
2. Hand-me-downs aren’t just for clothing
Once your friends are offering clothing, you might find they have some gear to give away as well.
From strollers to swings, this stuff costs a fortune to buy new! And given that you often use it for only a few months, it’s not always money well spent.
We bought a lot of the basics for DS1, which we used for DS2 as well. When we moved back to the United States, we decided to sell almost everything – since the cost of shipping across the Atlantic was more than buying the items new again here.
By the time we had #3, we had realized how truly short-lived the baby gear phase is and that buying new usually doesn’t pay.
3. Buy second hand
If you don’t have a great source for FREE hand-me-down clothing and gear, the next best option is to buy second-hand. Here are some of my favorite venues:
- Thrift stores – Consignment-type stores tend to be the most expensive of the second-hand options, but they often have very high-end stuff at a fraction of the cost. While I am not a crafty maven, I did manage one dresser make-over, which could have been a super frugal way to furnish a nursery.
- ThredUp – Check out my post from earlier today for more information on how to get gently used, name brand clothing for as low as $3 per item.
- Garage sales – When DD was less than two weeks old, my husband and I took her out for a morning of garage sale-ing. We hit an amazing house – a mom of twin girls, who had tons of high-end clothing, priced at $.50 a piece. For less than the cost of one new ensemble at Gymboree, I walked away with dozens of barely-worn dresses and play outfits. Garage sales have also been great to me in terms of gear, including the Fisher Price Aquarium Soother for $5, which we played every night for DD for almost a year.
- Craigslist – The prices on Craigslist aren’t as low as garage sales, but if you have a baby who is born in the winter, you may not have garage sale options. It’s also a great source for gear. I want a baby “play mat”, but didn’t want to spend $40+ on something that we’d use for less than six months. I found one on Mr. Craig and was able to put almost all of the parts in the wash. Don’t forget: You can negotiate on the price. (Find more tips about shopping on Craigslist here.)
By the way, my two exceptions to buying things second-hand are car seats and mattresses. I would take either of those items from a trusted friend, however. We ended up buying new for both of those – but I recouped some of my costs on the mattress by reselling it on CL. And the carseat made a great hand-me-down to a friend with a first baby. (Read tips for reselling on Craigslist here.)
4. Make do & do without
Everyone has their list of “essentials”, but keeping that list to a minimum has definitely helped us to save money – even when we are buying our stuff second-hand.
Despite my lusting over the latest and greatest in strollers, we used the same Maclaren for all three kids; and we’ve never splurged for a changing table, preferring to use the (free) floor, couch or bed.
I will confess that our big indulgence has been slings (we have four), but we have collected them over the course of parenting three babies. And truly, for the way we schlepped our kids around, they were an essential for us!
It’s funny because while I have gotten rid of all of our baby gear and clothing, the one item I can’t quite let go of is our slings. I love being able to loan them out to friends – and teach them about the wonders of “wearing” your baby.
While nursing is wonderful for many reasons, I will just say that, apropos to this blog, breastfeeding is FAR less expensive than formula. If you are having your first, and are at all on the fence about how you will feed, I would strongly encourage you to give nursing a major go.
6. Use Cloth Diapers
We used a combination of cloth and disposable diapers with all three of our children – for many reasons, not the least of which was the money-saving. Learn more in this series of posts about cloth diapers, written by me and a number of guest contributors.
7. Be Patient
One of the best things about the minhag of not buying stuff before the baby is born is that it prevents us from going completely overboard. I know how worrisome it can be, primarily with your first, to fret over the details. And yet somehow, once the baby is born, it always seems to fall into place.
Likewise with older kids, when the urge to splurge on some fancy new thing hits, just sit with it – patiently. Unless it’s an urgent need, a week or two of patiently waiting won’t hurt — and it might help you save a lot!
8. Be a Savvy Shopper
I shop for baby stuff the same way I shop for groceries. I research, I buy on sale, I use coupons (or coupon codes for online sales), and I take advantage of other store incentives. So if you are planning to buy new from a “first-hand” store, don’t leave your savvy shopping skills at home!
What about you? How have you raised your babies on a budget? What are your best tips for saving money in an arena that can get costly – quickly?
(This post originally appeared on Kosher on a Budget in January, 2013.)