Having kids is expensive, whether a person is in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. No matter how much a person plans, they’ll likely find that they have some unexpected costs that pop up associated with their choice to become parents. Rest assured it will be worth it. An article from Global News reports, “The latest number from south of the border estimates that raising a kid born in 2015 to age 18 will cost the average middle-income family a whopping $233,610.” That’s not peanuts.
These costs can seem particularly momentous in the beginning when parents are faced with unpaid (or reduced pay) parental leaves, and high-cost daycare solutions. It can be challenging to plan a budget for a person that hasn’t even entered the family yet, but there are some ingenious ways to plan, cut corners, and save cash while kids are little, and maybe even squirrel away a little for a college fund.
There is a lot that parents can do to help reduce these costs, and all it takes is a little bit of planning. Here are 20 tips from real parents on how to save money during the first year after bringing baby home.
Clothes are expensive. Particularly when you need to replace them on a weekly or monthly basis since this is the rate most newborns will grow. Why break the bank on clothes that will no longer fit in a matter of weeks?
Tips compiled from anonymous parents to Business Insider said one of the best ways to save was to, “Shop consignment shops for kid's clothes. Save 'new' clothes for special occasions." Mom of Two Kathy adds, “When registering for the first child, it is best to go with gender neutral things in case future kids are a different gender. You end up saving a lot in the long-run.”
Sometimes all you have to do is ask. Plenty of parents in your family, friend circle, and extended circle are happy to pay it forward and pass along what they’re no longer using. You just have to ask. Blogger Erin from Fit Bottomed Mamas says, “If you have friends or siblings with children older than yours, let them know you'll take their hand-me-down clothes! I've saved so much money that way — and I still get to do PLENTY of shopping for my kids.
Plus, when you only use something a handful of times, like rain boots or snow pants, who wants to spend full price? Also keep an eye on garage sales and Craigslist for deals on items like tricycles, play kitchens, and other 'big' items. They're often still in great shape but have just been outgrown.”
Everyone knows that the wedding industry is big business, but here’s a lesser known fact, so is the business of raising babies. Advertising and ‘free’ registries are great at telling you that you need a lot to start your little one off on the right foot, but you don’t need everything that’s marketed to you as a must-have.
Mom Zoe told Baby Center, "I was so worried when I was pregnant because I couldn't afford everything on the "what to buy your baby" list. Now having come through the year I would like to advise - ignore lists prepared by certain baby goods companies!"
In an era of Instagram and photo sharing it’s easy to want to hire a professional photographer to attend every milestone your little one reaches and have high-quality images to print, hang on your wall, and send to family who live far away.
Parent blogger Holly from Mommies with Cents advises, “Learn to have restraint when it comes to professional photos. Take advantage of coupons and special deals.
You may only be able to choose one post (and it WILL be difficult) but you'll be able to afford more sessions to capture all the milestones (monthly photos or 3,6, 9, 12 months). Since I was able to master this, we splurged on a 12-month photo session with multiple poses.”
When all of the expenses come in at once it can be difficult to manage a budget. But if you take your time, spread things out and watch for sales you can save a lot of money and stress.
Mom Chloe says, "I found that stocking up in advance eased the financial burden, just popping a bottle of baby bath and some diapers in the shopping cart each week really helped spread the load. I also kept my eye open for special deals on baby wipes, most places do "buy one get one free" offers. I still do this and I must have 20 packs of wipes stashed away! "
Name brand items are often produced in the same factories as their name brand counterparts, particularly when it comes to baby products. These products are usually of comparable quality, and the only difference you’ll see is in your pocketbook.
Mom blogger JJ from Belly Itch blog says, “Skip the fancy wipe warmers, diaper holders (use a cute cheap cardboard cube from Target or Space in a top drawers to hold diapers), and expensive dirty diaper holders that are bad anyway because they recycle evaporated urine from soiled diapers through the air in the nursery).”
We get it. Being a parent means having a limited amount of time to run errands, but a little research, particularly for bigger or high-frequency used items can save a lot of cash - don’t forget to comparison shop. Another cash suck is impulse spending.
Mom Chelsea says, “Don’t buy a product when you first see it in a shop. Write the name down or take a photo, then go home to do some research using reviews online. If you like the reviews and are still thinking about the product after a few days, then go back and buy it.”
Meal planning and creating shopping lists can help save you time and money, both of which are really important when raising a young family. Surveyed parents told Business Insider, "Learn to cook and learn how to really grocery shop. Entertaining at home can save a TON of money."
Hosting events like pot luck meals can save money and time. For those who are in the fog of exhaustion who are prone to forget things when they’re at the store, consider shopping online and spending the small fee for home delivery service, that way nothing on your list will be missed.
Just because we’ve always done something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best way of doing something and that you can’t change. Just because date night before kids meant dinner and a movie, doesn’t mean that you can’t reconnect over other, cheaper activities.
Anonymous parents told Business Insider, “If it is physically possible, take up active pursuits like hiking, biking, and swimming as long as you are healthy; it's hard to spend money in the forest." To save even more money consider swapping sitting nights with family friends with kids, so both couples can enjoy a night or afternoon out without the added expense of a babysitter.
Previous generations were really into cutting coupons to save money, or that’s the way TV made it look. There’s no reason you can’t. Blogger Honest Mum says, “I would also recommend buying nappies or other items you need in bulk. Supermarkets tend to have 2 for 1 offers and online stores often have great deals with redeemable voucher codes.”
Subscribe to coupon sites to help you find the best prices on products you need, and keep track of expiration dates using your calendar so you don’t let them expire for products you need and use.
This is especially true for people who are bringing the first grandchild into the home - the grandparents can’t wait to start spoiling! Family members who want to provide gifts will often take guidance from the parents and are happy to help purchase outfits for special occasions and sometimes even a bigger ticket item like a stroller or crib to help out.
Parents told Business Insider that for these type of items, “Let Grandma buy it. No matter how cute it is, it will be [ragged] and discolored in a month."
The best things in life are free. Companies that make baby products can’t wait to get you and your little one hooked as fans of their products. This is why so many of them offer samples that can allow you to decide what you like best and sway your future purchasing choices.
Mom Claire says, “Take advantage of all the free samples and vouchers you get at the hospital for a start! Work out a budget and stick to it. You will have to make some lifestyle changes, but we don't miss our Friday night takeout. Even things like shopping around for a new mortgage and changing our gas and electricity supplier saved us some pennies. It may be a bit of an adjustment at first but it is amazing how quickly you will adapt."
Plastic spending is easy to lose track of. A study conducted by Dun and Bradstreet found that people spend 12 to 18 percent more when using credit cards to pay compared with cold hard cash. Blogger Jessi from The Budget Mama says, “Don't stop budgeting. I know it's a challenge when you're running on 17 cups of coffee and an hour of sleep, but make sure sticking to a budget remains a priority for you or you'll find yourself spending money without realizing it.” If you aren’t sure where you’re spending your cash, just write everything down as you spend it and then review it at the end of each week.
Hand me downs from kids who are born at the same time of year as your child, but a year ahead can be a great way to get clothes that fit your child during the correct time of year, but these people don’t always exist in your social circle. Consider extending the reach in your request to get items you need for cheap or free.
Mom Lisa suggests, “You could start a "baby things" exchange - ask at your midwife's clinic if they'll let you place a notice on their board, asking for any unwanted things." When your child outgrows these items you can return the favor to other parents requesting clothes.
Thankfully we’re all moving towards an experiences, not things based existence. This is something to consider when you’re filling up the shopping cart at the store. Mom Charlotte says, “Babies don't need all the things that the catalogs try to tell us that they do.
Most of all they need as much love as you can give. Many children have lots of material things but don't get the love and attention which is more important. Keep trying to look at it that way, that is what I have done. The baby doesn't care if it sleeps in a drawer at first, as long as its mom gives it lots of cuddles."
I can’t even tell you the number of items, particularly clothing, that I took the tags off of, washed, folded, and put away but never used. It takes a little organization and restraint, but consider keeping products in their new ‘store’ display quality. Mom Katie says, “Keep all of the tags on/keep items in their packaging after your baby shower, and open things as you need them once baby arrives.
You’ll determine pretty quickly what works for you, what you love, and what you can easily live without, so this way you can return your unused items and buy diapers, wipes or other items you decide you need.” Another option for things that don’t fit is to exchange them for sizes that do, or re-gift to friends and family who are having children.
The web is a wonderful place for parents. It can give you someone to talk to in the middle of the night when you’re up feeding a baby, as well as connect you to people to bounce ideas off of on everything from nursery decor to whether or not to visit the doctor about that rash. Mom Billie says, “I'm part of a Facebook group called Buy Nothing. It links you with your neighbors to exchange and ‘gift’ items you no longer need. I get all the clothes I need and then gift them to another mom when I'm done.”
Parents know exactly how expensive childcare can be, and that it never hurts to ask about potential future sibling discount offers to help you make your decision if you plan on having more children, or have multiples. Monica says, “As a mom of two children in daycare concurrently, we feel a strain financially, so we look for any savings we can get. I always tell new parents to inquire about sibling discounts, as well as competitor pricing/discounts.
A lot of the time, daycares will not be upfront about these savings, but if you ask they will certainly honor them. Another thing to consider is reasonable negotiations; many daycares are open to negotiating tuition costs even though it may not always seem that way. Moral of the story: If you aren’t afraid to ask, you could save yourself a decent amount on a high-ticket daycare bill!”
Phone, internet and cable companies will often offer fantastic deals to new customers and then increase prices after a year or two, and then slowly raise the price later. It’s worth the time to research and negotiate those prices, even if you end up switching, you could save hundreds each year.
Mom Beth says, “If you’re taking parental leave and no longer driving your car into work every day, contact your insurance provider and let them know. If you’re using the car less often insurance premiums tend to go down.”
Different cities offer many programs available to parents, often at no cost. Researching free parent-child programming at your local early year's center or library can save you hundreds of dollars each year on activities to keep you social. Mom Lynne says that she met many friends via a Meet-up group that was formed online, and simply local parents bringing some toys and enjoying each other’s company at the park. Best of all, it was free and the kids made connections that lasted as they grew older.