Six Surprising Ways To Save Money With A Baby

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.

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  1. twinsmommy says:

    I buy the Target brand of diapers. No problems with leakage, blow outs or wasted diapers. I have 14 months old twins and we go through a lot of diapers.

  2. Danielle R says:

    Hey- I spend $0 on diapers- I use cloth! I sold my formula checks that they sent me on ebay and used the money to buy cloth. I wash my own for my twins (now 16 months old)and it costs me $1 a month in extra water and $3 a month in extra electricity for drying- though I try to hang to dry… and no diaper rash either! I also breastfed and made my own baby food.

    Also, if you are planning on more kids, you can reuse the cloth for them-
    just something to think about! :)
    Danielle

    ps I bought most of my cloth on http://www.diaperswappers.com it is a trading website….

  3. Great tips! Let me know if you have more activity-centered content. I’ll link to it from RookieMoms.com

  4. gclyne says:

    For the newborn set, I’m all about the Swaddlers. But once my daughter hit the size 3 diapers, I experimented with just about every brand there is. My frugal favorites are the Sams Club generics, followed closely by Little Tikes brand found most often at Big Lots. Both are excellent quality for $0.12-0.15 per diaper.

    Also, I made all her baby food, and AMEN, it really does save a lot of cash. I try to encourage as many new moms as I can to do it too. It’s really as not hard or time-consuming as one might think. I spent maybe one afternoon every couple of weeks steaming and pureeing all manner of fruits and veggies. Then I’d freeze it in ice cube trays and transfer to labeled ziplocs. By keeping the texture as chunky as she would tolerate, my daughter was able to easily transition to finger foods almost completely by 10 months. So I really didn’t make her food for all that long, and it was so easy and cheap!!

  5. stacy says:

    Breastfeeding is free. No pump required.

    We use cloth dipes and cloth wipes, too.

  6. kathryn says:

    We combo diapered the first four kids, cloth during the day and disposables when out or at night. The fifth one was all disposables. The blow-outs you’re talking about mainly happened to us in the first few months (pre-cereal eating) and when wearing Huggies diapers. My fav generics are Albertsons store brand and wallyworld’s parents choice. Perhaps a cheaper plan would be to ask for Pampers size 1 & 2 at the shower and switch to a generic when the baby is sitting up and eating cereal. We had more problems with perfumes and dyes causing a rash than with leaks.

  7. DadCafe says:

    To cut down on bibs and cleaning, you could just feed your child topless (your child, not you) if it’s warm enough. I’ve put together a list of other money-saving ideas for parents here:

    http://www.dadcafe.co.uk/articles/saving-money-for-parents.php

    There doesn’t seem to be any overlap with your list so hopefully you don’t mind me posting.
    Thanks for the tips.

  8. eire1032 says:

    I know this sounds terrible but my husband and I are pretty young, 26, and most of our friends are the same age with two or more children. On to the terrible part…out of all of our friends we are the only one’s who do not qualify for any type of government funded assistance. We have two children in diapers and we buy the cheap brand (parents choice, white cloud)and the same goes with formula(although I breast fed for 6 months with both). But what I have noticed is that all of my friends on WIC use Pampers and Enfamil. I’m glad that they have the help they need but I don’t really see how it’s fair that their kids get the name brands(which we helped pay for with our taxes) while my kids get the off brands (which there is nothing wrong with but still). I actually had one mother, who was in her teens, say to me “Oh, you use Parents choice, I heard that those were really cheaply made.” and several other mothers have told me that they were uncomfortable with breastfeeding and didn’t attempt it! We spend 800.00 dollars a month on insurance just so we can pay 30.00 everytime we go to the doctor and last year my daughter went without a flu shot b/c they were out out shots from the “private” supply and were only giving them to state funded patients…(and for free. I think that it is very commendable that some of us are choosing cloth diapers to make a brighter enviromental future for our children(bravo! :)…but what about their economical future? If we use our governments money to buy name brands now, what does that leave for our children tomorrow? And what does that leave for the families that make a little too much for the cut?

  9. KoryO says:

    Check to see if your local grocery chain has a baby club. Publix in Florida has a great one. Every four months or so, they send me coupons that are more or less age appropriate for my son (some of the stuff was really for me & the Mr….like the dollar off a rotisserie chicken when the boy was a newborn). I’ve gotten coupons for their store brand diapers (work just as well as the national brands), the occasional $1 off meat/produce that I have used to make baby food, and other ones I’ve traded with my friends.

    Have to second the poster about stripping down the baby before feeding him or her. It sure helps cut down the amount of laundry, and keeps his outfits looking good for our next bundle of joy! Girls could possibly wear blue now and then, right? ;)

  10. KoryO says:

    Urk…hit the submit button by mistake before I could add another tip….

    eBay sometimes has some great finds. You can get some clothes that have never been worn (look for NWT for “new with tags”). Since we are moving to Iowa from Florida this March, I got our boy a winter coat for much less than I could have found elsewhere, even with after-season prices and shipping factored in.

    And don’t forget the local children’s resale shops. I got an adorable outfit for our boy’s Christmas picture (long sleeve plaid shirt with matching sweater vest) for $6 that normally went for $30. A good chain to check out is Once Upon a Child, but you may have a local chain that is even better where you live.

  11. Dana says:

    @eire1032: It really isn’t that helpful to play the class envy game, wouldn’t you agree? Different people have different circumstances. If I were making enough to owe taxes I’d rather fund a box of Pampers than some of the ridiculous things our government gets up to anymore.

    That said, when it comes to formula brands, there isn’t necessarily a lot of wiggle room insofar as choice is concerned. If you’re choosing formula over breastfeeding you are already compromising your little one’s tummy, much less the effect it’s going to produce if you keep changing brands to get the cheapest thing going. Better to pick a brand and stick with it, even if it’s not at the best savings.

    And it’s easy to say “just breastfeed” and I actually agree with you, but here’s the problem: women AREN’T taught to breastfeed properly. A low-income mother can’t afford a good lactation consultant, and I’ve been the “beneficiary” of the hospital-employed ones; they’re… interesting. They are OK with formula supplementation, one of the surest ways to screw up the BFing relationship, and one of mine SHOVED my baby’s head onto my breast. I’m still not sure what that was about. There’s La Leche League, but nobody tells you about that at your OB appointments, and poor women are less likely to know LLL exists. I was lucky. I was on LiveJournal and there was a fantastic BFing community there. If it weren’t for them I might have failed.

    As for diapers, you can spend that little bit extra on the brand or you can spend a lot extra to wash your sheets more often. Poor women can’t afford lots of bed sets or crib sets. Personally, I co-sleep, and have since my daughter was born; that’s even more to wash! My apartment building has no laundry and no hookups for washers and dryers. I would imagine a lot of poor women are in my situation, and even if they have hookups available, who’s got that kind of money to buy a machine? So it’s buy the cheap diapers that blow out ten percent of the time, or put a little more money into the good ones and spare yourself an extra trip to the laundromat every week. I guarantee it is not a ten-dollar difference between diaper brands.

    I’m gratified to see I’m not the only one who thinks Huggies are atrocious. I also really like the Target store brand of diapers.

    @Trent: Want to see some hardcore diaper savings? Look into something called elimination communication. You’d still use diapers but apparently, babies pottytrain a lot sooner. I was too chicken to try it with my daughter but if I ever have another child I might give it a go.

  12. Jihan says:

    I was considering on cloth diapers, as much as I like them, it’s a costly investment in my hands, knowing they are like $30 each, it really gets to me. And knowing babies probably poop like 7-8 times a day, I don’t have a washing machine so this would cost me to go to the laudromat almost everyday. I could hand wash it, but what are the odds it would be faster or easier.

    I was planning to buy one and see how it works, and buy disposables at the same time.

  13. Megan says:

    A note on diapers and wipes: use cloth diapers during the day; use a good brand of generics at night (we have never had problems with generics–our baby wears one every night for about 12 hours, never leaks). As for wipes, we use flannel wipes that we ordered from the same website that we get our cloth diapers from, supplemented with plain old washcloths you can buy in packs of 18 for $5. We just wash these wipes in the same load as the diapers, and we have enough diapers and wipes to last a week between washings. Even if you choose not to use cloth diapers, if you simply switch to cloth wipes you will save lots of money with almost no work. Just buy enough to last a week (about 50), and carry plastic shopping bags in your diaper bag to keep the used ones in. For poopy diapers I like to use one wet cloth wipe followed by a dry one. Wash the wipes in a separate load with nonchlorine bleach and homemade or biodegradable laundry detergent, using some sort of stain remover if necessary, in hot water.

  14. meredyth says:

    Another useful money saving tip: sign up for your area’s Freecycle. Google it and join through Yahoo. I don’t have kids yet, but I am CONSTANTLY seeing baby and kids’ supplies up for someone to take it for free! And once you move past needing something you can pass them on to someone else trying to save some money.

  15. tentaculistic says:

    Hey Jihan, you might check out Etsy.com. I’ll admit that I’m not a diaper expert at all, but when I looked for cloth diapers, the world’s *cutest* diapers were about $15 on Etsy. On Diaperswappers.com I was seeing prices of around $8… those are used though (which I personally wouldn’t mind, since that’s what a washing machine is for, but everyone has to make that particular decision herself/himself).

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