“Okay, I get it, babies are ridiculously expensive. I need to cut costs, but I also don’t want someone calling Child Services because we DIY’ed the crib.”
New person, new clothes, new furniture, new headaches. You’ll spend an average of $12,000 just for baby’s first year, but not all parents can stash that much cash ahead of Junior’s arrival. Pare down some of those expenses with these ten tips. You’ll still need to buy Advil in bulk though.
1. You know you’ll need baby necessities like diapers, formula, lotions, and baby thermometers, but did you know you can ask for samples of these items before you leave the hospital? Ask your delivery nurse for some baby swag and coupons before you take your munchkin home.
2. Stick to what’s necessary for your baby and save your pennies. Deluxe activity center? Chances are your tot will have more fun playing in the box that their fancy toys came in. If you still want those non-essential items, consider borrowing them from parent friends.
3. Since a baby outfit from Old Navy is just as cute as a baby outfit from Bloomingdale's, don’t overspend on items your baby will probably explode through. Consider shopping at consignment stores for maternity and newborn clothes, or check local parenting boards to see if any neighbors are selling gently used clothing.
4. Many new parents flip out over big-ticket baby items like cribs and changing tables. And while those one-off costs are considerable, tracking your ongoing costs will be more helpful in keeping your budget on track. Disposable diapers average around $80 a month, so you might spend $960 a year in diaper money - probably way more than you spent on your baby’s crib.
5. Don’t say we didn’t warn you - family food expenses jump after your bundle of joy arrives. The good news: food is an easy place to cut costs. Try couponing, buying generic brands in bulk, cutting down on takeout, and making your own baby food. Blender + cooked sweet potatoes + formula or water = gourmet baby meal.
6. Your other new major expense? Childcare. Babysitting can range anywhere from $10 to $20 per child depending on where you live, and the average cost of center-based care is $11,666 per year. Consider babysitting co-ops or nanny-sharing with a parent friend or neighbor if your children are around the same age and you have similar schedules.
7. Instead of upgrading car seats or baby furniture every year, choose convertible car seats, strollers, and crib-to-bed pieces that will easily adjust for your growing baby. Usually, convertibles from well-regarded baby furniture brands aren’t much pricier than non-convertible versions. However, don’t forget to purchase a conversion kit when you buy your crib; if your crib model is discontinued and you don’t have that kit, you’ll be stuck with buying a new crib or toddler bed.
8. Mommy and Me (or Daddy and Me) classes are a great way to get out of the house and keep your baby stimulated. They can also be - no surprise here - expensive. Look to your local community center or library to see if they offer the same classes for less. Baby swim classes through NYC Parks and Recreation, for instance, are included with the $150 yearly NYCPR membership, while private swim classes can run upwards of $200 for an 8-week session.
9. “I’ll never be that parent who has a blowout birthday party for a one-year old.” That may be your mantra until the eve of Junior’s first birthday and you start questioning your choice of renting out a petting zoo and ordering passed hors d’oeuvres for the parents. Your child won’t remember taking pictures with goats and llamas at the petting zoo, so don’t overspend for these experiences; save for the ones your child will remember.
10. Kickstart your baby’s college savings by contributing to tax-advantaged accounts, like 529s and Coverdells, as soon as you can. But once and for all, don’t leave baby’s college money in a regular savings account. Not only will you miss out on compounding interest, but those tax-deferred accounts protect your funds from the inquiring minds of financial aid officers.
Need help calculating those ongoing baby costs? BabyCenter features a good calculator for baby’s first year.
Photo: John Althouse Cohen