When you hear those statistics about it costing one quarter of a million dollars to raise a child you do kind of wonder if that’s really true. It sure can feel like the estimate may be closer to a million dollars when you are going through boxes and boxes of diapers and you know this phase will last a few years. Until becoming a parent I didn’t realize the desire to buy toys for our kids because of the nostalgic feeling I felt for certain toys. All of that plus new clothes and shoes and houses (and bigger houses to store all the stuff they need) and cars (and bigger cars to hold more kids)…yeah. Kids can be expensive. But, as with almost anything, you can find a deal or a coupon or a way to save some money.
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Your kids don’t need all new clothes/toys/shoes (and you might not either!)
From the beginning of pregnancy I knew I would buy some second hand clothes and accept offers of clothes from friends, family, and coworkers. I learned that after the boys wore the clothes a while that the yellow poop stains and spit up stains don’t come out all that well. Not only that, kids’ eating habits generally include throwing food on the floor, them, you, the ceiling, walls and places you never imagined. Spaghetti night needs to be naked or you say good-bye the clothes they are wearing. Not to mention they outgrow clothes and shoes really fast. Don’t get me wrong. We do buy our kids some new clothes and I get all excited to dress them up in their cute outfits (for a few hours and then they are back in their hand-me downs).
Consider as well that mom’s body changes with pregnancy and post-pardum so inexpensive clothes are nice since you may change six sizes from start to finish. You may have friends who were recently pregnant and can let you borrow some clothes as well. I will say that I bought new jeans and I think one new top, but everything else was second hand or borrowed. Even my scrubs for work I borrowed or friends gave me old ones. I did buy a support band which really helped with work and being on my feet so often. I actually gave my first one away to a friend and bought another. I love that band!
Don’t buy a diaper bag
We didn’t buy an expensive diaper bag but the $70 we spent on our first one was a waste. It wore out very quickly and started ripping by the seam. Our second one totaled $0 (it’s Henry’s old back pack). Henry used this back pack all through college and it has held up for baby very well over the last year. What a great return on his investment! If you really, really want a diaper bag, my advice is to do one of two things.
- Grab yourself a 10 pound bag of flour or sugar or whatever you’d like and head to the nearest Babies-R-Us or Target or where ever you want to register. When you get there, grab a diaper bag you think you’ll like (put something in it as well like a water bottle or two) and your imaginary 10 pound baby and drop your keys 5 times and pick them up. Then go pick up a car seat an an other bag full of something and drop your keys again. Do you like how the bag is reacting in all this? If not, don’t get that bag. Try another. Keep trying until you find one.
- Ask a friend (or two or thee) if you can borrow their bag and a try the same thing. Or you can purchase a few and try similar things at home (carrying in your groceries, loading stuff in your car, going for a walk) with it full of baby stuff. If you purchased a few, return the ones you don’t like.
Something else to remember when selecting a diaper bag is that this thing will sit on the floor of many restrooms, restaurants, parking lots, etc. and will most definitely need washed. Purchase one that can go in the washing machine or can be easily wiped down (his back pack goes right in the washer).
After Christmas (or any major holiday, really) hit up some of the second hand stores for items that are barely used. Sometimes grandparents will buy toys, pack ‘n plays, etc. just for having family in town and then give them away. We found our pack ‘n play like this. It was barely used and in fantastic condition. We set it up in the store to check for smells, stains, and function. If it doesn’t have a manual you can usually find one online and possibly order one from the company. We absolutely love our Graco pack ‘n play and still use it for our second baby. This one is very similar to what we have and is very reasonably priced.
Fight the urge to get everything you think you’ll need
Don’t buy everything all at once (i.e. bottles, blankets, lotions, soaps). If you wash bottles and nipples you can’t return them. And you won’t know what your baby will like…I have about 16 bottles and nipples unused from both my boys that they just didn’t like and wouldn’t use. I was stubbornly set on that one type and brand. Bad idea. Oh and I was so ready for baby. I washed and sterilized all of them before he arrived. And do you know which ones my boys actually preferred? The ones Nana bought that I thought were a total waste of money. I was so wrong. Register for a variety of bottles and small travel sized lotions and soaps so you can try and see what will work for baby. My oldest had eczema so none of the regular baby soaps worked for him. Instead, I was told by pediatricians and friends that Johnson and Johnson is actually too harsh for many babies until they are 6 months old. Dove white bar is better for them. We also ended up using Aquaphor for both of them and I love it!
Throwing your money down the toilet
Ahhh…diapers. They are a necessary nuisance to having babies. We decided to use cloth diapers with our oldest to save money as well as make less of an environmental impact and I had heard it helps with potty training. Some people thought we were crazy, some were supportive. But my coworkers and their families gave us their old ones to try which was amazing. To learn more about cloth diapers I attended a workshop at a local cloth diaper store in Colorado (which has now unfortunately closed!) and was set to start. Once again…my advice is to borrow and try different brands and types you think you’ll like before buying a whole bunch of one type. I’ll probably do a whole post on cloth diapering but in general, the two brands we used most were gDiapers and Grovia hybrid. To go along with our cloth diapers we use cloth wipes which me made ourselves! Actually, we cut up old T-shirts and use those scraps for wipes. The material is soft and I don’t feel bad at all about throwing them away when they are too gross to wash.
Now with our second baby we have not used cloth diapers as much (unfortunately). They are a bit more time consuming and with as much running around as we do, disposable have been easier with the second. We learned with Lawrence that babies sleep longer when they aren’t awoken by a really wet diaper and bed (which can and does happen with cloth when babies sleep 12 hours), so by the end of his diapering we were using cloth during the day and Pampers at night. We did that with Cyprian in the beginning but now we use either Huggies or Luvs nearly all the time (and we use coupons printed from InboxDollars or Swagbucks as well as the Ibotta app (sign up with my referral code: eacwalx)).
Hopefully these tips will help ease your mind with your little one either on the way or newly here! There are many other things you can do to save money with babies as well. Any suggestions?