By Wendy Mihm | Wednesday November 17, 2010
Congratulations on your new baby!
If you are a first-time parent, nothing can prepare you for how much your new baby will change your perspective on life. The funny thing is, everybody probably tried to tell you, but a message of that depth is impossible to relay – you have to experience it yourself. You have to hold that baby, smell her, hold his skin against yours, recognize that one-and-only cry from down the hospital hallway and proudly exclaim, “Here comes my baby!”
You have some exciting times ahead, and some very expensive ones. As I write this, my youngest is just 20 months old, so I am not so far removed from this experience. I know that you are probably quite overwhelmed, sleep-deprived and not ready for anything really hard-hitting, so I’ll keep the list short, sweet and simple. Here are six quick, perhaps unexpected tips to save money on your baby.
1. Hold Back on Gorgeous Baby Clothes.
I know this is really hard to do, but there are several good reasons for it. First, people will give them to you anyway. Second, babies grow incredibly fast, so buying tons of beautiful clothes for them at this young age makes very little financial sense. You will be storing them away – or giving them away —sooner than you think and it will break your heart. This happened to me a lot. People gave me these super-precious outfits (some with matching hats that neither of my kids would keep on their heads) that my babies wore no more than twice before they had to be laundered and stored away. Then because my kids are opposite genders, I ended up giving everything away. Finally, fancy baby clothes are notoriously over-priced. Why? Because makers of beautiful baby clothes know that new moms are incredibly enamored with their new babies and will often over-spend on them.
If you want buy your child a few nicer outfits, wait until they are about 3 years old. At that point, their growth slows down quite a bit, and they can wear the same clothes for a year or more and your money is better spent. And believe me, this child will turn three in the blink of an eye.
2. Discover Craigslist*.
I don’t know, maybe we were too snobby for Craiglist with our first baby, but we were practically Craigslist Disciples by the time our second kid came along, and it saved us a bundle. Babies are babies for such a fleeting time that their things don’t get much wear and tear, and you can get excellent bargains from other people on everything from musical bouncy seats and play mats, to strollers and bath tubs. Just make sure you find a seller that includes a photo of the item(s) for sale and that they describe the item as “clean” and in “excellent condition.” You might also email the seller to ask what year she purchased the product to make sure you’re getting something that’s just a year or two old, rather than something that was dug out of someone’s garage after having been stored for 8 years.
*I would like to add one addendum to this tip, based on the comment provided by Jemifus, below: be sure not to obtain your child safety products from Craigslist or any other used source, with the exception of extremely close family or friends. This is particularly true for car seats, which you must be absolutely sure have not been in an accident before you use them with your child, as an accident can cause the plastic or other materials in the seat to deteriorate and not function properly at the moment of impact.
3. Kiss Up to Friends for Hand-Me-Downs.
Certainly you have some friends who have older babies or toddlers, yes? If you suspect that they are done having children, now is the time to suck up to them and ask to borrow their kids clothes and shoes as hand-me-downs for your baby. If they say yes, be sure to thank them with something nice like a pretty kitchen candle, even though they will be happy to do it, I assure you. We happen to have two friends who had baby boys about 7 months after we had our son. It’s fantastic for me because I don’t have to store anything! Every few months, I just divide his outgrown items into two bags and deliver them to our friends. I really love getting the stuff out of our house and knowing it’s going to good use “in the family,” so it’s a win-win-win!
4. Don’t Skimp on Diapers.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive for a financial advice columnist to tell you to buy the expensive diapers, but it’s worth it. Yes, the store brands are cheaper – in the short run. But in my experience, and in the experience of my friends, they simply do not work as well. They leak both urine and poop. And these poop leaks can be, ummm, dramatic. Like, up the back and into the hair. Cleaning poop out of your child’s hair – and off the carpet, the drapes, the changing pad, the baby’s clothes, and the crib sheets – costs time, money and sanity. Plus the Velcro tab things often break off of the generic diapers, so you end up having to throw the broken ones away – a total waste of money. Try this method instead: buy a small pack of the name brand diapers – we really liked Pampers and Huggies—and find out which ones work best for your baby. Then buy in bulk later at a place like Costco or Diapers.com. But don’t buy too many size “N” (for newborn) or even size 1 diapers up front – they grow out of these very quickly and you may end up with a bunch that you never use. Save the bulk purchases for when they are in larger sizes, like size 3 and up.
5. Skip the Diaper Changing Table.
To save money on your baby, just put one of those curved changing pads on top of the dresser that you’re probably already going to put in your baby’s room. The changing table is a piece of furniture that was invented by people who want to sell you baby products that you don’t need.
6. Try Out Baby Bjorns, Slings or Other Carriers With Your Own Actual Baby Before Buying.
Your baby may love being carried in these. Or she may hate it. Make sure you find out before you buy. I once spent $68 on a brand new, gorgeous baby sling (and that was the inexpensive one – the one I really wanted was over $200!). Then I spent an hour learning to use it with the included instructional DVD and even after weeks of trying, my infant son hated it. He just was not that kid. My daughter would have loved it as a baby, but alas, she was 3 years old and riding a Plasma Car by then so I sort of missed my window. So I sold it on Craigslist at quite a loss.
So there you go: you’ve read our 6 quick and easy tips to save money on your baby! Now go take a nap.
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