How to Raise Baby on a Budget
Parenting on a budget may seem impossible—all those toys, all that gear, not to mention food, clothing, and furniture. How can you give your baby the best without draining your bank account? These smart tips will help.
Even financial advisors are befuddled when it comes to feeding your family. What percentage of your budget should go toward groceries? Turns out, this
varies depending on your region and your family’s specific needs. However, there
are tips that can help any mom trim her spending at the store:
- Strategize: A little organization goes a long way. Keep a list and stick to it. Come armed with your coupons and knowledge of which items will be on sale (use your store’s circular or website to stay in the know).
- Buy in Bulk: This won’t work for fresh items like produce, but when it comes to paper products, canned goods, and other non-perishables, keep an eye out for sales and stock up. You can also hit up wholesalers like Sav-A-Lot.
More grocery tips continued on the next page!
More on Getting Groceries
Eat! Sit down to a meal before heading out to the store. Not only will you need the energy to navigate the aisles, shopping while hungry will lighten your wallet while weighing you down. We can’t say it enough: Stick to the list!
Go generic: Are those brand names really worth it? Test your favorite products by comparing the ingredients on the labeled brands with those in the store-manufactured brands. You’ll likely see little difference.
Compare prices: Do a little sleuthing to find out which stores have the best deals on the items you need. One-stop shopping may not be the best way to go; meat prices may be juicier at one store, while produce prices may pop at another. (Don’t drive miles and miles out of your way for a bargain—gasoline and time are valuable, too!) Even within one store, you’ll find options and a variety of prices for the same category of items. Really think about your uses and your preferences. Are you buying tomatoes to throw in a stew? Maybe cheaper will do. Will your kids only eat grape tomatoes? The $4 box may be a deal for all that vitamin C and fiber. Debating the organic choices? Check out which produce is worth an extra expense to buy organic.
Newborns typically go through 80 diapers in a week, so you’d better have a plan that works for Baby’s bum and your budget:
Sign up: If you’re adamant about swathing Baby’s bottom in a brand name, you’ll find that it’s almost always possible to get Huggies and Pampers at discounted prices. Go to their official websites and sign up to get coupons and rebates. You can also sign up with a baby club at your local supermarket or drugstore to get additional savings. If you do your homework, you’ll never buy diapers at full price.
Supersize it: Jumbo packages of diapers are almost always a better deal than large sized ones.
Do the research: Compare generic diapers with brand name at a per diaper price. Factor in the time and gas you spend to get a deal, and again, take a look at which are offered at discounted rates.
Get help: If you’re in real financial trouble, contact your local Pregnancy Center to get free diapers weekly.
If you’ve decided to go with cloth diapers, not only are you saving the environment, you’re saving bucks. But it doesn’t stop here—get ready to conserve even more:
Lose the liners: Buy diapers that are thick enough to go without lining. If you’re committed to having an extra layer of protection, go with washable liners instead of disposable.
Forget flats: Cloth diapers generally come in five models—our research revealed that most moms prefer “all-in-ones” that come wrapped in waterproof cloth or “prefolds” which have a thick absorbent pad and can be secured with Velcro or snaps. Imagine wrangling with flat diapers that you have to secure around your child with pins every time you change her. Remember: Time is money.
Still deciding on disposable or cloth? Take our quiz to see which is right for you!
Frugal Formula Feeding
formula feed Baby, you can find tons of opportunities to pinch pennies.
Powder power: Powder formula is loads less expensive than liquid. Buy the mix and stir it up yourself. (Be sure to follow measurements and instructions explicitly—too much water can be dangerous for Baby.)
Go generic: Major formula brands (like Similac and Enfamil) tend to be more expensive than generic formulas while quality remains similar. All formula is regulated by the FDA, which maintains specific nutritional and safety requirements. Shop around to decide what’s worth the cost.
Saving with samples:: Register with companies (like Sam’s Club and Walmart) to get free samples of formula sent straight to your home. This website will keep you up to date on opportunities to cash in on freebies.
Buy in bulk: Find out if you can get a deal on buying formula in mass quantities. Just make sure to check expiration dates and plan ahead.
Get real help: There is federal funding for low-income moms who formula feed. Find out if you qualify for a WIC grant.
Possible Pitfall: Do not attempt to concoct your own homemade formula. There are essential nutrients in store-bought formula that are provided in exact amounts to give baby a balanced diet. These are researched by medical scientists and required by the FDA.
Sure, frilly crib skirts are cute, but who needs ‘em? Your baby sure doesn’t, so take a close look at your kid’s room to make it
functional while being frugal.
Pieces that “grow”: Choose convertible furniture that grows with your baby, like cribs that transform into big-kid beds, or a Pack ‘N Play that can serve as a place for Baby to sleep and later, a playpen. (Just keep in mind that it will be easier for Baby to eventually climb out of Pack ‘N Play than a crib).
Get scrappy: With some crafty creativity you can put together some standard nursery pieces yourself. Instead of a changing station, a changing pad on top of a dresser will do! Need extra storage? Adjustable shelving saves space and cents.
Go second hand: Check out Goodwill and garage sales for some nursery staples, but never skimp on your baby’s safety! Take a look at some of these second-hand dangers.
Get rid of gratuitous gear: Things like diaper genies and wiper warmers just aren’t necessary. Check out moms’ most useless baby items for clues on what you can do without.
Before you buy anything be sure to keep up on recalls.
Before you roll your eyes and click “Next,” check out easy ways to get the discounts you need without drowning in newspaper.
Use eBay! That’s right! Diaper and formula coupons are frequently auctioned off at a fraction of their value. WARNING: Be sure that the value of the coupon is worth more than what you’re shelling out; check the price of shipping and any additional fees.
Click—don’t clip! Go paperless with your coupons. Websites like these allow you to download the savings right onto your grocery loyalty card or your cellphone:
Print at home: You can find loads of coupons on the Internet and print them at home. Remember to keep the cost of printing in mind—ink jets ain’t cheap. Try these sites for savings:
Go classic: When all else fails, turn to your grocery store circular, the Sunday paper, and the packaging on your favorite foods.
Possible Pitfall: All amateurs should avoid one common coupon mistake. Don’t get so psyched on the savings that you start buying things solely for the sake of the discount. Only use coupons for groceries and gear that are typically found in your home.
Cast Out Costly Clothes
Back away from the adorable outfits! Sure it’s hard to resist those beautiful colors and fun fabrics, but your little one will grow out of them before you know it, so stick with these rules when shopping:
Make a list: Write out exactly what your babyneeds, not those too-cute items that will have you cooing all the way to the poor house.
Go second hand: Hit up friends and relatives for outgrown outfits, check out thrift stores and garage sales. Make sure you launder everything thoroughly before dressing Baby and make sure that the clothes meet current safety standards.
Off-season shopping: Sales start at the end of each season, so prepare by keeping a sharp eye out for great deals.
Get organized: Coordinate with your friends to set up “swap-meets.” Set up a circle of swaps so that everyone can share clothes and hand off hand-me-downs.
Beating the Bottle
Major debates have sprung up on the subject of water. Is buying bottled really worth the cost? Proponents say that tap water in certain regions contains unregulated contaminants, while opponents say bottled water is a scam: Its packaging and transport is bad for the environment, it’s expensive, and it’s unnecessary! Our public water supply is already protected by the government. Additionally, plastic bottles may leach harmful phthalates into your baby’s drink. So, what should you do?
Investigate: Check the quality of your local tap water
Refill: If your water is safe, buy glass, aluminum, or steel bottles for your family and keep filling up!
Bulk buy: If you think that bottled brands are essential for your family, then buy in bulk. Getting jugs delivered will be less expensive and better for the environment than buying cases of small bottles.
Baby’s safety comes first, so check out items that you should never skimp on:
Car seats: If you don’t know the original owner, second-hand car seats may not be safe for Baby. Even if the seat looks unscathed, you have no way of knowing if it has been a prior crash. Buy new and compare prices for the best deal.
Cribs: Cribs can be purchased second-hand, but you must make sure your crib meets these safety standards.
Toys: It’s great to when you land some hand-me-downs, but make sure that toys are clean (especially bath toys, which can contain mold or mildew) and that they have not been recently recalled.
Consider Your Time
Being a DIY mom may seem like the best way to save on cash:
-Breastfeed, it’s free!
-Whip up your own organic baby food, it’s cheap!
-Knit your own baby booties!
-Concoct homemade cleansers!
Although these are wonderful things to do for your wallet and your baby’s health, you also need to consider the value of your time. Remember: Those minutes are a commodity, and they may not be best spent with a knitting needle in hand. Take a moment to think about how you spend your day and the most efficient ways to stay frugal.
Surprise! Equipping, feeding, and outfitting your small offspring is likely to cost you between $9,000 and $12,000 during pregnancy and the first year of life, say Sandy Jones and Marcie Jones...view gallery
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