Shopping for Baby Supplies on a Budget
by Elizabeth S.
As the excitement of having a baby sets in, it may be accompanied with a bit of panic about how you will afford this wonderful bundle of joy. After all, babies need a lot of stuff. If you're a new parent, you're probably a little overwhelmed by the choices between disposable and cloth diapers, formula or breast milk, and which car seat, toys, and bouncy swings are right for your baby.
You want to give your kids the best, but you also don't have the money to pay cash for top-of-the-line baby items. So, how can you make the best choices for your baby within your limited budget? I have a few tips below to help you navigate the new world of babies and budgeting.
Baby Food on a Budget
Typically, babies consume only breast milk or formula for the first six months of their lives, which makes feeding costs pretty simple. Breastfeeding is obviously free, but you will need a breast pump, which can cost as little as $150. However, under The Affordable Care Act, all private and commercial insurance companies are required to cover breast pumps. Medicaid of WIC do not cover breast pumps, so if you are covered under these plans and you can't afford a new breast pump, borrow one from a friend or family and purchase starter kit, which includes the plastic attachments that shouldn't be shared. A start kit typically costs $45.
While breastfeeding is less expensive, it is not an option for everyone. For parents who are unable to breastfeed or prefer formula over breastfeeding, formula will cost between $60 - $100 per month according to BabyCenter.com. Total for six months from approximately $360 - $600. To save money, try powdered formula. It requires mixing and measuring, but costs nearly 20% less than ready-to-use formula.
One important breastfeeding tip is to wait a few weeks before stocking up on breastfeeding bras and shirts. Breastfeeding is not for everyone and you should make sure it works for you and your baby before putting any money into breastfeeding clothes. You probably won't use them in the first few weeks anyways, as you will be spending most of your time at home.
How to Save on Diapers
According to Babies'R' Us, babies go through almost 3,000 diapers in their first year alone. Cloth diapering has made a big comeback in recent years, as a health cost-effective diapering option. However, the upfront cost for cloth diapers is significant, which man make it hard to tell which option is cheaper in the long run.
On average, disposable diapers cost about $0.20 each, which means you'll spend roughly $600 in the first year, depending on brand and quantity in each box. For disposables, there is no upfront cost - you simply go out and restock when you need them. You can get disposable diapers from local diaper banks, which help families in need at no cost.
Cloth diapers, on the other hand, have significant upfront costs, but will save you money over time, especially if you plan to reuse your cloth diaper stock on future children. Kelly's Closet recommends you stock up on at least 15 - 24 diapers, in order to make it through two to three days of diaper changes before washing. Pre-folds are folded flat clothes that you lay inside a diaper cover, and they are an inexpensive cloth diapering option. The cost of 24 pre-fold diapers range from $150 to more than $200 up front for a sufficient stock. All things considered, the initial cost of cloth diapers can be as little as $300, and they are durable enough to last through multiple children's diapering years. If you are interested in cloth diapering, but unable to afford the initial costs, organizations like Giving Diapers, Giving Hope provide free cloth diapers to low-income families.
Saving Money on Baby Toys and Clothes
From the moment you find out you're pregnant, it's hard to resist the adorable toys, onesies, and tiny baby shoes. Everyone will tell you that these things are part of enjoying the baby experience. However, if you're on a tight budget, it's important to stick to just the necessities. This will help you save up for necessary medical expenses, child care, and other unexpected costs after the baby is born.
Keep in mind, your baby may grow out of newborn clothes quickly. Many friends and relatives will give you newborn and 0-6 month clothes as gifts, so you may want to hold off on onesies until after your baby shower. Don't be afraid to ask family and friends to gift you a variety of sizes, rather than just newborn clothes. If you buy too many onesies in small sizes, your baby could outgrow them within a few weeks or months. Another tip for clothes is to shop for used or discounted items. If your friends have recently had babies, ask if they have any newborn onesies they want to get rid of.
Baby toys are adorable, but if you're on a budget, less is more. Don't purchase every imaginable toy right away. Newborns won't use them and waiting to see what your baby responds to can help you find a few toys they will love, rather than a bunch of toys they won't use.
Affordable Baby Gear and Furniture
Babies require a lot of special gear like cribs, changing tables, car seats, strollers, baby carriers, bath tubs, diaper bins, and bouncy swings. Unfortunately, most baby furniture and gear is expensive and all together can really add up.
The good thing about baby gear is that people are always trying to get rid of it when their toddlers outgrow it. Shop around at consignment stores, Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and garage sales to see if you can find high-price items secondhand. If you would prefer new items, don't be afraid to tell your family and friends what you need before your baby shower. This will help them if they want to pool their money for a big gift, and it will help you by avoiding duplicate high-price items.
Never buy anything you can't pay cash for. You have nine months to prepare for your baby. Save up and purchase high-price items over time, ask for things you can't afford as gifts, or shop second-hand. Going into debt before your baby even arrives will not benefit you in the long run.
I hope these tips help you prepare for your new life as a budgeting parents. Taking the financial stress out of having a baby will help you enjoy those first precious years. Remember these quick tips:
- Never buy anything you can't pay cash for
- Ask for help from friends and non-profits and
- Buy gently used items when you can
For more budgeting tips, check out our blog.
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