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Raising a Baby Without Breaking the Bank

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Let’s face it: Babies are adorable, and well worth the effort….but they can be really expensive. Even without buying all the fancy and expensive baby gadgets you see at the store and online, basics like clothes, diapers, food and toys can really add up. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is around $250,000. Yikes!

But providing for a baby doesn’t have to break the bank. There are many ways to save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in the first two years of your child’s life.

Food: We’ll start with nutrition of a newborn, milk. Baby formula can be very expensive, ranging from $50- $200 a month. If at all possible, consider breastfeeding. Not only is breastfeeding recommended for most families because of its health benefits, to both baby and mom, it can save you at least a thousand dollars, likely much more. If breastfeeding isn’t possible, there are still a few ways to not spend as much money on formula. Firstly, take advantage of the free formula samples offered at your OBGYN’s office and the hospital. This will give you a way to test out different brands and types of formula for free. When you find a formula you like, look at the brand’s website and see if any rewards programs and email lists with coupons are available. Also, don’t be afraid to try store brand formula, like Target’s Up & Up brand. You may find your baby likes it the same as the well-known brands, and you’ll save a lot by making the switch.

When you start adding solids into your baby’s diet, realize that you don’t always have to buy pre-made Gerber or Beech-Nut baby food. Making your own pureed foods can be simple, and is certainly MUCH cheaper in most cases. Googling “Making your own baby food” will yield dozens of useful results. You’ll realize how easy it can be. Stop buying Gerber pureed bananas for .75 cents a jar, and buy whole bananas for .75 cents (or less) per pound and mash/puree it yourself. The same goes for most other fruits and veggies. Cook, puree, and save!

Diapers and wipes: Don’t be fooled into thinking that only Huggies and Pampers have good diapers and wipes. Just because it’s the most expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best. My favorite diapers are Luvs. They are cheaper than Huggies and Pampers, and for both my kids, I discovered they leaked less. Consider store brand diapers and wipes as well, you may be surprised at how well they work.

Once you decide the brands you are happy with, ALWAYS try to buy in bulk. Compare prices on the big boxes of diapers and wipes at places like Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club/Costco, and Amazon. You should be able to find all those prices listed online, saving you a trip to those stores. I prefer buying my diapers and wipes on Amazon, through their “Subscribe & Save” program. The diapers are a few dollars cheaper per box than even Sam’s Club, and it gets delivered automatically every month right to my door. Plus, my kids love to play with the delivery box. You can’t beat free toys!

Clothing and shoes: Never forget, babies are messy. Spending $5-$20 dollars on an item of clothing only to see it get stained within days can be frustrating. A good option is to buy second hand clothes when you can. You won’t believe how many people in your area are selling or giving away baby clothes they no longer need. Look through yard sale listings, craigslist ads, and other classifieds sites in your area (remember to be safe if meeting with strangers). I have bought almost all my boy’s clothes and shoes second-hand for .25 cents to $1 per item. Most all the clothes have no stains, and many look brand-new. Once you start buying used, you’ll get good at finding the gently-used stuff.

Baby gear/entertainment/toys: Buying second-hand is a great option for most everything you need for a baby, not just clothes. From big items like bassinets, cribs, swings and bouncers, to toys and books, you can save lots of cash buying used. It’s well worth the effort in looking. Just last week, I bought a little monster truck for my 2 year old for .25 cents at a yard sale. It’s now his favorite toy, and has provided hours of entertainment. (Although this item was like new, it is a good idea to disinfect any used toys).

Providing a healthy and happy environment for your baby doesn’t have to make you broke, or prevent you from saving what you need to for emergencies or retirement. Just a little knowledge, planning and effort will help you achieve your financial goals.

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Written by Erica Quist

Erica has been writing and moderating online discussions for over 5 years. Her ongoing work with a major news organization has firmly established her as a respected consumer advocate. You can reach her at erica@bankscoop.com.

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