It’s amazing how a baby can turn your life upside down. There is nothing that surpasses the feeling of holding your own child for the first time, looking down at the baby’s face, and realizing that they depend on you for everything. What you soon find out, though, is that everything is quite expensive. Here are six less obvious financial lessons that my baby taught me in his first year of life that will save some serious money the second time around.
Don’t buy the cheapest diapers. This sounds crazy at first: you can save up to $0.10 per diaper by buying the store brand versus buying Pampers Swaddlers (my preferred brand for infants). But the savings goes away if you start figuring in the additional costs. We received equal size bags of Huggies, Huggies Supreme, Pampers Swaddlers, Luvs, and several store brands as gifts at our baby shower to help us determine which diaper we wanted to use, and we looked up the cost per diaper of each kind. We started with the expensive ones (Pampers Swaddlers) and loved them – they didn’t leak, none of the diapers were defective, and they kept even the poopiest of diapers from leaking out of the legs. By the time we reached the cheapest ones, we found that about 5% of them were defective (meaning they came apart while putting them on), they only held all of the urine about 75% of the time, and there was poop overflow (onto clothes, carpet, etc.) about a third of the time. If you figure in all the extra costs of clothes cleaning, carpet cleaning, and discarded junk diapers, the “cheap” diapers are more expensive than the quality ones. If there’s one area you shouldn’t cut corners on, it’s diapers.
Breast pump if at all possible. My wife was very successful in her ability to breastfeed and we plan on having multiple children, so we invested in purchasing a breast pump, even though it was very expensive initially. We bought one so that it would be convenient and quick for her to pump at an investment of $240. “Wow!” you might think, “that’s a lot of money.” But consider the cost of formula for six months (as much as $600) and then consider that the breastmilk has more nutritional value for your baby and helps him fight off illnesses thanks to the natural antibodies (meaning fewer doctor visits) and it’s clear that breast milk saves a lot of money.
Make your own baby wipes. Baby wipes are expensive, but when you’re facing down a dirty diaper, they’re a lifesaver. Thankfully, you can cut down on the cost quite a bit by making your own. Get a big roll of paper towels (I like Viva, but I hear Bounty works well for this, too), your baby oil bottle, your baby soap bottle, and a baking pan. Take a knife and saw that roll of paper towels right down the middle. No joke, cut the tube in the middle and all of the towels right down the middle. You can put one of the halves aside for later. Then, mix two and a half cups of warm water, two tablespoons of the baby oil, and two tablespoons of the baby soap together in the baking pan, then put the half-roll of towels in there. Let it sit for a minute or two, then flip it over. Wait another couple minutes until it is soaked clear through, then remove the cardboard tube and put the newly created “wipes” into a wipe container (you can use any sort of plastic container, but we actually use an old Pampers wipes container). Works like a charm, and a lot cheaper, too!
Don’t buy bibs; buy big shirts early instead. Instead of buying a bunch of bibs for the baby, visit a yard sale and look for t-shirts that fit a kid a year older than yours. Then, when it comes time for a meal, just put that shirt on over his outfit instead and tuck the larger collar in if you need to. Then let that shirt get messy, then after the meal, just toss it in with his normal wash. Then, a year later, your kid will have an “old” t-shirt to wear during their inevitably messy toddler years. Basically, you get to “double dip” on using the t-shirt and thus save yourself the cost of bibs.
Make your own toys. Many of the best toys for an infant are free ones. My eleven month old son has a toybox full of toys, but his favorite things to play with are a giant plastic cup (free at the State Fair), an old cell phone that doesn’t work any more, and a homemade rattle (made from four pennies, a baby jar, and some packing tape). Total cost of toys he doesn’t play with: lots. Total cost of his three favorite toys: five cents or so.
Make your own baby food. My son currently goes through about ten ounces of food per meal, which costs about $1.50 for the meal. That adds up to $4.50 per day just for the baby food. Instead of this, we can pick up vegetables and fruit by the pound at the store, steam them and blend them ourselves, and save some money. Let’s use green beans as an example. Buying a pound of green beans in baby food form would cost more than $2 and would provide only enough food for about a meal and a third. Instead, we buy a pound of green beans at the store for $0.89. We take them home, put them in the steamer, then blend them with some water until they’re at a reasonable texture level for his age. We store these in a dated bag in the freezer (we usually do 2 or 3 lbs. at once). For 3 pounds of green beans (which my son will polish off in a month if we give him a serving of it every couple days for either lunch or dinner), we can save more than $3. In a month, steaming, blending, and freezing foods of all kinds can save us more than $20 in baby food costs.