Maximizing Your Budget in 2015: Baby Supplies

Maximizing Your Budget: Baby Supplies

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.

Use craigslist.

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?

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  • Reply TT April 9, 2015 at 7:49 am

    +1 for Craigslist. We found that in affluent neighborhoods parents often wanted to buy “the best” for their child, but then would only have one kid and be done with most items quickly without much wear and tear. This has meant great savings for us.

    • Reply Joanna May 10, 2015 at 12:50 am

      Awesome. Craigslist is a treasure trove of goodness out here in NYC. I love it.

  • Reply Rob April 9, 2015 at 8:28 am

    “How do you maximize your savings on baby supplies?”

    Well Joanna, we acquire all our babies when they’re 18 years old! 🙂

    Still no Easter Bunny yet, eh? Tell Sally to have a stern chat with her baby sis to get her butt in gear!

  • Reply MomofTwoPreciousGirls April 9, 2015 at 8:29 am

    When it comes to stains we avoid as best we can. For instance both my girls had reflux. So they basically spent their days in a diaper and a bib while we were home! If it was chilly a plain old onesie. When they started eating solids we just stuck with a diaper. Even the high chair cover was taken off so we didn’t have to constantly wash it. The chair was easy to wipe off and kids were easy to put directly into the bath after their meals!! Nearly every photo of my children at home is with just a diaper.
    Having two girls close in age mostly worked until they started having minds of their own. My oldest is a comfy, jeans and t-shirt kind of gal. The little one gags at the sight of jeans! We had to pull out our summer clothes for a trip to Miami and she was freaking every day about wearing pants because she grew out of all her sundresses (which are super cheap at Walmart).
    We still buy wipes at every other Costco trip. They are 7 and almost 6! We find them so useful, especially on the go. I try to wait until they have the $4 off and stock up.

    • Reply Joanna May 10, 2015 at 12:53 am

      We use wipes for everything these days! It’s a good thing they’re cheap. I could see us continuing to use them well past the baby stage in our house.

      It’s funny how different your two girls are! I’m already starting to see differences in Wynn’s personality compared to how Sally was as an infant. Can’t wait to see how it is when they’re older!

  • Reply Nicole April 9, 2015 at 9:46 am

    Great list! The nice thing about having two kids of the same gender is that you can reuse most of Sally’s wardrobe, and buy her higher-quality brands, like Hanna Andersson, knowing that #2 will wear them as well. And I agree about Craigslist/ garage sales- you can find great deals and most parents are just looking to get rid of things and don’t care so much about the price!

    My best piece of advice when it comes to saving on baby supplies is to resist buying every single baby item that comes on the market. You probably don’t need a swing, a bouncer, a bassinet, and a rock n’ play! Try to keep it simple- it will be easier in the long run and save you money!

    • Reply Joanna May 10, 2015 at 1:04 am

      Great advice. It really is tempting to buy every baby supply ever, especially with your first baby. And you’re right… knowing Sally’s clothes will be reused makes it so much easier to pay a little extra up front to know they’ll last through baby #2, too!

  • Reply MOMMY IS THE NEW BLACK April 9, 2015 at 10:15 am

    This may seem like a no brainer but it took me a while to just accept it…free gifts!

    When my 11 month old was born and the months that followed, my family would just buy things for him. I’d mention that I need to order socks from Carter’s or that I have not been able to go to the store in weeks and my family (& friends) would just bring these things to my house when they’d visit. I’d offer to reimburse them, but they never accepted. I think it’s a pride thing, but when people offer to just pick up “this” for you or give you extra “that” and not want anything in return, it’s hard for your pride to just accept it. That’s probably how I saved the most money and I didn’t even mean to. They would also help clean or bring over cooked meals for us to freeze and that saved us a bunch of money AND time. I wish I accepted all this sooner. 🙂

  • Reply Tarynkay April 9, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Our biggest money saver was probably cloth diapers and cloth wipes. We also did not buy baby food, we just fed our son whatever we were eating. Extra bonus: he is the least picky three year old I know.

    I found consignment sales easier than scouring Craigslist. There is a full, nationwide list on Consignment Mommies. We also accepted all hand me downs, and then handed everything on down when he outgrew it.

    • Reply Joanna May 10, 2015 at 1:06 am

      I’d really like to try not to buy baby food with our second. It will save a ton of money, and I’m all about having a kid who isn’t picky. We’re struggling with that with Sal right now, and I wonder if I could have done something differently to prevent it!

      I’ll have to look into Consignment Mommies. Thanks for the tip!

  • Reply Halsy April 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    I’m weary of craigslist for baby items but I know a lot of people who did baby item swaps to make sure child liked product first! If you plan to have more than 1 child buy items with that in mind-especially for strollers etc (will it convert can you add a second bucket seat). Consignment sales are good- they usually have pretty strict rules to sell. Also join a moms group! Do it for your sanity too if you are a stay at home mom. I live in a fairly affluent community and women are always just giving away for free things like swings, bouncers, etc at swap tables at the meetings! Take care of items first time around so they can be used in future!

    • Reply Joanna May 10, 2015 at 1:08 am

      You’re so right about joining a moms group! I’m a part of one with our church out here in NYC, and it’s crazy how much baby stuff gets given away and passed around. And it’s great to have a support group of other women in my same stage of life. It’s been a major game changer with adjusting to life with kids out here!

  • Reply Petrish @ Debt Free Martini April 9, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    To cut cost for baby supplies I advise people to always have a baby shower. I know that may seem a little greedy, but we all have people in our lives who are also happy to see the future bundle of joy and would be glad to contribute some gifts to offset the expenses.

  • Reply Courtney April 10, 2015 at 12:11 am

    I agree with everything that’s been said and we do most of these things too. Our kids are 4 and 2 now and I think one of the biggest savings/best things we’ve done is pretty simple- we don’t buy them things they don’t need! Seriously, we never buy our kids toys except on their birthdays and Christmas. It makes the toys more fun then and we don’t have five million toys around. And believe me, our kids have plenty of stuff to play with. (Also, grandparents do buy them toys and books frequently and we just let that happen and enjoy that fact that it saves us money). I know so many people that spend hundreds of dollars a year on toys and kids just don’t need that many things and no one has enough space in their house for that!

    • Reply Joanna May 10, 2015 at 1:11 am

      Great tip, Courtney! Kids really don’t need much to have fun. It’s so funny the random items Sally will become obsessed with and play with for weeks. Oftentimes, it’s her smallest and least expensive toys in her room. I’m learning more and more that it’s not the stuff she has that helps her have fun!

  • Reply Jessica April 10, 2015 at 8:08 am

    A huge help to me with my first baby was a diaper baby shower. I had already had a couple showers and had tons of hand me down clothes from cousins so when a friend of mine asked to do a shower for me she suggested a “clothe the baby’s bum” type of shower and everyone was asked to bring diapers or wipes. It was awesome!! I saved so much on diapers with baby #1 and even had extra in certain sizes that baby #2 benefited from it too.

    • Reply Joanna May 10, 2015 at 1:12 am

      Seriously! That’s awesome. There’s nothing more expensive that first year than diapers! What a great shower to throw a new mom!

  • Reply Katie Ball April 10, 2015 at 11:03 am

    While Craigslist here is hit or miss on baby stuff, our city has a lot of Facebook groups that do kids’ items and smocked clothing (I live in the South. Smocked rules!). We also have two really big consignment sales twice a year – I’m not brave enough to go to them yet, but I’m sure once baby #2 arrives, I’ll have more motivation to check those out! (Consignment Sale moms are CRAY CRAY!)

  • Reply Melissa Cunha Lima August 28, 2016 at 1:30 am

    It’s definitely a most important think. we really have to need many ideas about this. I will try to follow this unique ideas and love to share all. thank you so much.

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