My husband and I have three kids – two sons (7 and 5) and one daughter (19 months – that’s her at 2 weeks!).
Surrounded by friends who have four or more kids, I’m practically a newbie in the world of motherhood. So while I would never dream of doling out parenting advice on this blog, I have learned a thing or two about how to save money while raising (at least for the first few years) said babies — which I am more than happy to share! Here are my eight favorite tips:
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 $50 on clothing for her, 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 much more – in clothing alone!
2. Remember: 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. (If you give a mom a hand-me down onesie, she’s going to want a pack-n-play to go with it…)
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 have seen many bloggers remaking Good Will furniture finds into GORGEOUS nursery sets – if that’s your thing.
- ThredUp – I haven’t used this service personally, but a number of friends have told me about it. Basically, you sign up for a free membership, which allows you to swap boxes of clothing or toys with other members. It’s like paperbackswap, but for baby stuff! (If you’ve had a good ThredUp experience, please chime in!)
- 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 two dozen, 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 play every night before DD goes to bed.
- 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. The other plus of Craigslist is that you can search for exactly what you want – like when I was looking for a white Jenny Lind crib (we disabled the drop side, don’t worry!). After using Craigslist for a number of purchases, I have become pretty good at “screening” sellers, so I don’t waste my time – or theirs. Don’t forget: You can – and should – bargain on the price.
By the way, my two exceptions to buying things second-hand are car seats and mattresses. We bought both of these purchases new, including getting a really lovely organic mattress for DD. It was a splurge, but by paying pennies for the rest of her gear and clothing, we had created margin in our budget.
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 Bugaboo, we have 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 schlep our kids around, they are essential for us!
While nursing is wonderful for many reasons, I will just say that, apropos to this blog and all things being equal, 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
I know I have been promising a post on cloth diapering and it is coming, so I’m going to just tease you with the headline and ask you to stay tuned… If you are currently a cloth diapering ima (or aba) and would like to contribute to that future post in any way, please contact me!
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’ve done countless posts on wipes and diaper deals, so I won’t rehash that here, beyond to say that you truly can get a deal on just about anything.
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?