In 2015, we’re putting extra emphasis on budgeting since it’s a must for financial success. Each month, we tackle a different category, and by years’ end, we’ll have one big resource for maximizing your entire budget.
What better time to write about the Baby Supplies portion of the budget than the month of my due date? Or rather, the day before my due date! We’re gearing up to take everything we’ve learned from baby #1 and hopefully use it with baby #2 — including our spending on baby supplies. Our perspective on children’s expenses is limited to the two years and three months we’ve been parents, so we’d love to hear any input from some of you veterans out there, too!
From babyhood to toddlerhood, these are the tips that have served us best in saving money.
From strollers to cribs to bouncers, the majority of baby gear can be found on Craigslist. As an exhausted new parent, I found the idea of ordering items on Amazon to be much more appealing than scouring Craigslist, emailing a stranger, driving to pick up an item from said stranger’s house (with a screaming baby in the backseat), and then driving home. But then I compared prices and found items in near perfect condition for half their retail price — or even better. For the most part, when people are done with their baby stuff, they are DONE. And they just want to get rid of it. Depending on where you live, the market will vary, but we’ve found a number of baby gear items on Craigslist for a fraction of their listed price. And we’ve yet to even encounter a creepy stranger, much to Johnny’s disappointment. If you’re looking to save on baby gear, Craigslist can save major bank, albeit with a little extra time and hassle.
Buy on sale.
We received hand-me-downs for Sally’s wardrobe the first year of her life. And then the little monster started outgrowing her nieces, so I had to start purchasing her clothes. I found a few items at thrift stores, but as a working mom at the time, I just didn’t want to spend my weekends scouring secondhand shops. And so I started scouring the Internet instead.
While I love saving money, I hate having to spend extra time to do it. And shopping from the comfort of my home on my laptop was much more appealing. As a rule of thumb, I only buy Sally’s clothes on major sale. With Gap, for instance, I wait until the sales are at 40% with no exclusions, which means I can get an extra 40% off their sale items, too. With H&M, which is already super reasonably priced, I wait until they’re offering at least 20% off. Those are my two go-to stores for Sal, as well as Old Navy at times. This means I’m signed up for all these stores’ email lists, so that when I’m on the lookout for new clothes, I’m in the know when their major sales are happening. To beef up on even more savings, I make sure to activate Ebates (which is literally as easy as clicking a link) to save anywhere from 3% to 10% extra. When I do buy, I stock up, which ensures I’m not spending impulsively throughout the year, and I also get free shipping. She looks cute, our budget likes it, and I do all my shopping while Sally is sound asleep at night.
Buy gender neutral.
When we were about to have Sally, we tried to think of our future children when we bought major baby items. Just in case we have any boys down the road, we avoided pinks and instead stuck to gender neutral colors on all of our baby gear: strollers, carseats, carriers, and furniture. We’ve also bought some gender neutral clothing and bedding so that if and when Johnny Jr. comes along, we won’t be left totally starting from scratch. There will be plenty of items that you can get your pink and blue fix from, but try your hardest to resist with the big ticket items.
Keep a long-term perspective.
Getting out Sally’s newborn clothes for this new baby reminded me just how quickly kids grow! Before Sally was born, I wanted everything of hers to be perfect: her outfits, shoes, hair bows, etc. And I still like Sally to look cute and put together. But I’ve realized that she doesn’t need the best of everything. She wears clothes and shoes for a matter of months before she’ll never wear them again. Keeping that perspective has really helped me just say “No!” to expensive baby items. Before committing to any baby/kid purchase, we always ask 1) how much it will be used and 2) how long it will be used. The items that are splurge-worthy are the ones we’ll use every single day for years — carseats, strollers, baby carriers and backpacks. Buying cheap on the items that won’t be in rotation for very long doesn’t mean you love your baby any less. Promise.
Buy diapers in bulk.
The biggest expense by far (aside from the hospital bill) of having a baby is diapers. Sometimes in those first few months of parenthood, I would just sit back and feel annoyed that so much money was being spent and then immediately thrown in the garbage. After just a couple of hours’ wear, no less! And although it may have saved us money, we decided cloth diapers weren’t something we wanted to do. During those newborn months, there was no better way to save more money on disposable diapers than by ordering them in bulk on Amazon using Amazon Mom and Subscribe and Save. I wanted a specific brand (Pampers Swaddlers) since they were the only ones that prevented blowouts before Sally started eating solid foods. Once things got less… liquidy, I was able to keep my eye out for sales on other brands and no longer used Amazon or Pampers exclusively.
Find a system to get stains out.
No one can prepare you for how dirty babies and children are. They’re filthy little animals. Now that Sally has perfected her utensil skills, her clothing gets fewer stains. But she used to get stains on every single item of clothing that she wore for more than five minutes. Prior to becoming a parent, I’d dealt with stains here or there, but never to this degree or sheer dirtiness. Strawberry juice soaked all over a white shirt. Carrot puree splattering a yellow sweater. Pizza sauce smeared across light blue leggings. This was serious stuff. And even though I don’t spend a ton on Sally’s clothing, it needs to last her and our future children. So I found a stain-release method that works for me (which I shared here). I plan to use it as my kids get older and start finding my stash of lipstick or coming home with grass-stained knees and bloody noses. Lots of dirty times ahead!
Take advantage of holidays.
While our kids are young and don’t expect much from (or even understand) birthdays and Christmas, Johnny and I plan to take the opportunity to buy necessities for their gifts. We’ve already done this with our little guinea pig, Sally. If she needs winter clothes, that might be what Santa spends much of Sally’s Christmas budget on. Or if she needs a new pair of shoes, she might get them for her birthday. When she’s older and becomes more aware, more of Sally’s Christmas and birthdays will be spent on wants, but we plan to always spend some of it on a need or two. It helps us to fit some of those expenses into our gift budget, rather than having to find a different place to put them.
Those are our top tips. Now we want to hear yours. How do you maximize your savings on baby supplies?