Money Saving Tips for New Parents

It’s time to revise Frugal Baby Tips, a piece I wrote three years ago. I’ll gloss over the obvious tips…

1. Buy clothing from second-hand stores. Supply is so ample that stores can afford to turn away everything except near mint condition items. (If not, you’re shopping at the wrong thrift store.) Garage sales are also an excellent resource.

2. Borrow clothing and gear off friends who have had babies. It’s okay to ask. Unless an item has sentimental value or is outrageously expensive, "borrow" means "Here, take this off my hands. I don’t want to see it again, except on your child."

3. Breastfeed unless medically advised otherwise. Formula is a money sponge. I hate pointing this out, but there is a segment of society that views formula feeding as normal, rather than as a last option.

4. Embrace reusable diapers. How often is the most stylish option also a huge cost savings? Oh, and washing diapers in a machine is not icky. Don’t be a baby.

And now, a few more tips inspired by our pending second child…

5. Wait until after your baby shower before buying clothing and gear. You never know what you’ll receive.

6. If a purchase seems questionable, wait. You won’t need every
piece of baby gear. If an item is available at a local store, buy it
when you know for sure it’s needed.

7. Don’t decorate your baby’s room. This is a tough one to swallow because painting and decorating is almost a right of passage
for new parents (aided and encouraged by marketers). But within 3 or 4
years you’ll be redecorating again, either because the child has
outgrown the babyish decor, or you’ve had a second child who isn’t of
the same gender. If you must indulge, do so in a gender-neutral manner.
Otherwise, simply be sure there is something, anything other than bare walls for visual stimulation.

8. Crunch the numbers. Look at how much you’ll save or lose by having one parent staying home, or both parents
working part-time. Then weigh it against the benefit to you and your child by having
parent(s) around instead of a nanny or daycare.

9. The library is your best friend for baby music, and later, picture books.

10. Supplement life with blog product giveaways. *cough* Sites like Prizey
make contests easier to find. I got burned out on contest chasing
pretty fast. That’s a reason Thingamababy’s reader appreciation
contests involve no extra effort on your part, or are in some way thought-provoking. But if you enjoy being a
contest hound, there’s stuff to be had out there.

Now, when I posted my first frugal tips article 3 years ago, it was
less than two weeks after Thingamababy silently launched. My own mother
didn’t even know it existed; I wasn’t sure if this "hobby" was
sustainable.

So, now I look forward to you, gentle readers, posting your own bevy
of money saving tips below… and maybe even kicking my arse for
suggesting you should have committed career suicide by staying home
with your kid, or that you wasted money painting your baby’s room.

Comments

31 Responses to “Money Saving Tips for New Parents”

  1. Marketing Mommy says:

    My tip? Don’t bother buying infant toys. Car keys, wallets, wooden spoons, measuring cups, old TV remotes and phones will prove infinitely more interesting to your baby.

    Garage sales are hit or miss (although they are great for large, hideous plastic lawn toys), but the huge rummage sales put on my MOPS, MOMS and church groups are the best place to score blankets, crib sheets, clothes, pajamas, socks and wooden puzzles.

    I admire cloth diaper users, but I haven’t done it. Instead, I shop the sales (one kind is always on sale) and use a coupon.

    March 12th, 2008 at 11:54 am

  2. anastasiav says:

    Hey AJ – I wasn’t going to post until I got to your comment at the very end – it was less than two weeks after Thingamababy silently launched. My own mother didn’t even know it existed; . I’ve been a long-time TB reader (my son is now 20 months and I’ve been reading since before he was conceived), and although I don’t always agree with what you say or how you say it I’ve also found that your writing and your way of parenting has been inspiring to me, in a lot of different ways.
    Earlier this month, after writing about my life as a working mom for ages on LJ, I decided to start my own site about the trials and tribulations of being on the mommy track. Its just a tiny site, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stick with it, but I wanted you to know that its partly from reading your site that I was inspired to try and share my own experiences and perspectives with a larger audience. So, thank you. I hope that I, too, can look back some day and say “when I first posted about this, three years ago….”

    March 12th, 2008 at 11:57 am

  3. Tracie says:

    I’m sure breastfeeding is a HUGE money saver, but unfortunately neither of my kids would do it and after much frustration and tears, we used formula. We ended up using the generic, which was the exact same and saved a TON of money. I second the library tip. We just started borrowing DVDs and CDs there for our daughter and she loves her weekly trip. Our library also has free story time for infants and toddlers. If you’re not using cloth diapers, then Costco has a store brand that is cheaper and works great. One of my friends found a recipe online for homemade baby wipes that saved her a ton of money. I saved by making a lot of my baby food too. I pureed just about anything and froze it in ice cube trays, way cheaper than the jarred baby food and more nutritious!

    March 12th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

  4. JMo says:

    Geez, I can’t think of anything that hasn’t been mentioned here already. Craigslist and Freecycle are our best friends.

    I highly recommend reading the Baby Bargains book b/c it helps you think through what you really need – what’s worth investing the money to buy good quality (crib, stroller, car seat) and what to buy second hand/borrow (swings, toys, etc).

    I disagree about painting the walls. Decorating the baby room is part of the fun of preparing for your LO’s arrival.

    March 12th, 2008 at 1:02 pm

  5. Jennifer says:

    I agree with marketing mama. The one gift I give to every new parent is a set of kitchen storage containers (think tupperware but cheaper) for the BABY and 3-4 soft balls (think tennis, raquetball, that type). There are hours of entertainment to be had with these things.

    March 12th, 2008 at 2:00 pm

  6. LIsa says:

    Marketing Mommy, your comment on not buying them toys made me think of this email I got. It’s hilarious.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayOCYhMh490

    When i was pregnant with our first child, the Baby Bargains book was my bible (we used the Bridal Bargains book, too). I highly recommend it as well. I only wish i knew about craigslist when number one was born. I also recommend not buying anything until you HAVE TO have it and to wait instead of store anything having it in advance. By the time you actually need to use these things, craigslist already has the even more recent model or one model behind at a much reduced cost. Selling on craigslist is getting very competitive, especially on the baby/kids section so you can bargain with the sellers, too.

    March 12th, 2008 at 2:00 pm

  7. Jen says:

    Things you really need:

    carseat
    diapers
    some clothes

    That’s really about it. Burp cloths don’t have to be fancy… a towel will do. Depending on where you live, a stroller is optional. You can make wipes. Etc.

    I’m about to have my second and while making the list of things that I’d like/need for this one, I realize how much I wish I had waited to get all of the newfangled gadgetry that we ended up with. Don’t get me wrong, we ended up LOVING the swing and found many items to be convenient and useful, but nothing overtly necessary beyond what I mentioned above (and a stroller for us in our area).

    That being said, there are two things I would spend good money on if I had to do it again. A car seat and a stroller. Both are so frequently used in our household that having quality items are a must in my book.

    What I wished I had done? Scorned the endless optional items to splurge on a top of the line car seat and stroller.

    You can probably guess what’s at the top of my list of this next one.

    But, I do have to say, some of that baby stuff sure is fun :)

    (Oh, and pureeing the baby food is a must do idea if you can. It saves HOARDS of $)

    March 12th, 2008 at 2:06 pm

  8. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    A reason NOT to give your child “Real” stuff as toys:

    How are they going to learn what is a toy and what isn’t? When they go over to others’ houses, they are going to expect these same items to be toys. Even at home, once used to playing with real items, they will not necessarily recognize that THIS remote is okay to be played with but THAT remote is not a toy and to be left alone. (And “real” items are not necessarily baby safe either. Even before realizing this problem with real items, I was eyeing some of my kitchen measuring spoons, etc askance because of the sharp edges. Everything I give my son goes directly into his mouth.)

    March 12th, 2008 at 2:43 pm

  9. Erica says:

    Thanks for the tips! I think we’ve done all of them except #4 (call me a baby all you want; I am NOT throwing poop into my washing machine unless we’re starving to death and don’t have another choice) and #7 (but the decor was a gift, so at least we didn’t spend the dough on it all!). Hand-me-down clothing has been a huge lifesaver for us. Adding to the stores you can shop at if you do need clothes, however, is Target. They have some expensive stuff, but they also sell the Circo brand, which has tees and shorts for 3 or 4 bucks and they work just fine!

    March 12th, 2008 at 3:11 pm

  10. Amber says:

    Get medicine at stores that offer free or discounted perscriptions (like Publix’s free antibiotics if you live in the South). Since my daughter has an ear infection almost every month, that has been a life saver.

    Buy store brand diapers and formula, if you use disposable diapers and formula of course, and there’s nothing wrong with not breastfeeding or using cloth diapers. ;) Be sure to sign up for coupons from manufacturer’s web site if you have to have name brand.

    Oh and buy store brand medicine (Tylenol, Mylicon etc). It’s all the same thing.

    March 12th, 2008 at 4:18 pm

  11. Mama Peach says:

    For babywearing parents, there are some GREAT For Sale or Trade boards where you can buy used wraps, ringslings, pouches etc. that have been previously loved at great prices. The best part about it is a previously loved baby carrier is even softer and more snugly (and easier to use for new babywearers) than a store-bought new one.

    March 12th, 2008 at 5:20 pm

  12. Allison (CodeCrafter) says:

    Those are great tips and there have been some more great tips in the comments!

    We followed most of those tips. I had sort of the opposite of a nesting instinct when I was pregnant. I just wanted to purge stuff from my house and really went minimalistic on the baby stuff purchases. We didn’t even have a baby shower. (We had a blessing way to celebrate the beginning of our new journey with symbolic gifts instead…) I was pretty militantly anti-stuff and that kind of backfired. We have ended up buying a few things I never thought we would, the highchair and the stroller being the biggest things…

    One tip that maybe is pretty obvious is making your own baby food once they get to the solid eating stage. It is way cheaper to buy the veggies and fruits, grind them up and then freeze them in ice cube trays for meal size portions.

    March 13th, 2008 at 7:52 am

  13. K G S says:

    We didn’t buy a swing (it seemed like a “luxury item”), but received a full sized one as a gift when our daughter was 2 months old. Geez, I wish we’d bought one at the beginning! It was literally the ONLY place we could put her down without her crying. I liked the cuddling in the sling and all, but sleeping standing up while wearing one turns out not to be possible. Trust me, I know. Not all babies like swings, but it’s certainly worth trying one out (at a friend’s, in a store) and getting one on Craigslist or something if it works.

    Our daughter didn’t wear clothes much in the summer her first year, but that strategy depends on where you live.

    March 13th, 2008 at 10:36 am

  14. Summer says:

    I’ve gotten more and more frugal since having kids thats for sure. Here are some more tips I’ve picked up along the way:

    1.) Buy clothes in larger sizes they grow quickly. Buying too many clothes in infant sizes you won’t use half the outfits you get.

    2.) Take care of your clothes so you can resell them to a kids consignment store or exchange for other clothes in a bigger size. Same with your toys and strollers, etc.

    3.) Get a Sam’s Club Card or Costco. Great deals on diapers, wipes, formula, etc.

    4.) Yard sales are a must as well as taking hammydowns (spell?) from relatives or coworkers

    5.) Cheap craft supplies – cut up diaper boxes or any boxes and keep scrap paper so they can paint artwork on one side. Keep old plastic table cloths from bday parties as they work great for drop clothes. Use natural materials for paint brushes (leaves, sticks, fingers, old rags, etc.) – more for toddlers

    6.) When decorating your room – make that part of your baby shower party/gift – have your friends help you and bring different supplies so you don’t have to buy everything.

    7.) For me becoming a stay at home mommy just wasn’t possible. My husband and I both have to work…. in the beginning my husband worked part time and I went back full time after my maternity leave. Then my mom was able to watch her so he could go back full time. But as they get older (and even some daycare’s might have this) check into scholarships available at their preschool or daycare. If they go to a church daycare they might have scholarships available for kids. I’d love to be able to stay home, but I also don’t want to have to be on welfare or not be able to provide for my kids what they need much less want. Its the way the world is nowadays unless you marry for $ or marry someone who has $. Me, I married for love… and he is my best friend… unfortunately neither of us are rich lol, but we have a happy family!

    My husband grew up in a family with 5 siblings and his dad worked and his mom stayed home. But they always struggled, and I mean “really struggled dirt poor”. My husband doesn’t want to have our kids have to struggle. That doesn’t mean we are rich nor do we want to be but having the two incomes allows us to live comfortably without lacking necessities. My husband said he’d never be rich because if he got a lot of money he’d end up giving it all away anyways. lol

    March 13th, 2008 at 11:20 am

  15. Jessica G. says:

    A changing table is a crazy useless piece of furniture that takes up real estate. Find a dresser (Craigslist!) that you really like and paint it or refinish it if it needs love. Or find a new one. You will get years and years of use out of it . Most of the changing pads out there have a nonslip base. You can always secure the pad with snap straps or build a temporary “box” to hold the pad in place.

    I always tell parents to keep the tags on the clothes except for the softest, cottony, basics that you know you will be using immediately. It is amazing how many fancy outfits you get that will never have a chance to see daylight. Keep the tags (& gift receipts) and you can always exchange them for things you really need.

    I don’t shy away from buying Robeez crib shoes, especially during the first year. The soles never get dirty and you can resell them on eBay and recoop 1/4 to 2/3 of the cost. So, they end up costing less than the cheaper brands.

    March 13th, 2008 at 12:22 pm

  16. Sara says:

    My husband and I make a priority to spend time together alone, as our goal is to remain married to each other our entire lives, we want to keep our marriage strong. However, date nights are really expensive if we hire a babysitter, and in a one-income family almost impossible to afford. Instead, we swap child care with families who have kids similar ages to ours. Our little one thinks it is all for him: he gets to go to a friends house to play or have a friend come over to play, while at the same time Mommy and Daddy get to got out for a date (even if it’s just coffee) and remember why we fell in love and had kids in the first place!

    March 13th, 2008 at 1:36 pm

  17. Angie at Baby Cheapskate says:

    Great list of frugal ideas and great comments, too. Freepeats.org and Freecycle.org are great places to hunt for FREE baby, kid and maternity stuff.

    March 13th, 2008 at 1:53 pm

  18. Chief Family Officer says:

    I second the comment about not needing a changing table – we never got one and have never regretted it.

    The frugal advice I wish I *hadn’t* followed was to wait to buy a quality breast pump and see if breastfeeding worked out first. It’s silly because if breastfeeding isn’t going well, then you absolutely NEED a quality breast pump to build up/maintain supply. You can always rent one, but if you’re planning on buying one down the line anyway (like I was), then you should just buy it up front – I would have saved at least $30 if I’d bought mine at Babies R Us before my son was born instead of at the hospital on the last day I was there because we were going home and I needed to pump constantly to build up my supply.

    March 13th, 2008 at 8:20 pm

  19. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    You NEED a quality breast pump to build up/maintain supply — but they generally recommend using a HOSPITAL-GRADE pump in order to do this. Not the style you buy at Babies R Us, which is good for maintaining supply but not that great for building it up. So even though I had a pump before my baby was born (bought from someone who bought their pump before their baby was born, and then their milk never came in at all so they didn’t need it.), I still rented the hospital grade pump for the first month of pumping before starting to use my own.

    I recommended to a cousin that she rent first as well, which ended up beign a great thing because for a $30 rental fee she avoided spending $300 on something she could not use because after a lot of effort, she ended up not being able to get her supply up to the point where it was worth the time, to her, to pump.

    If you are looking for saving money on baby stuff, I highly recommend http://babycheapskate.blogspot.com/ — she follows sales and lets you know where is the best place to buy diapers (and occasionally formula) Right Now. As well as other baby stuff

    March 14th, 2008 at 11:35 am

  20. Erin says:

    Okay, so after reading all of these comments…I have a few things to say. We DO cloth diaper and have really enjoyed it–we have a diaper sprayer that we use at the toilet which prevents much poop from actually making it’s way to our washer. My husband is actually a surprisingly big fan of this tip! :)

    Also, the nurse in the hospital said that Baby Tylenol is the ONE thing she would NOT buy the generic version of. She said that though there are the same ingredients, the generic companies aren’t as good at regulating the concentration of them, so sometimes you end up giving your little one too much–even when you are following the directions correctly. I think when they are a little older it is okay, but as newborns, she cautioned us against it.

    And I love the blog giveaways–I’ve won 3 things in the last 2 months since I have discovered them.

    And I mentioned the Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program in a comment for the giveaway, but it is too cool. Many communities in partnership with United Way give each child (who’s parents or grandparents sign up) in the community a free book a month until they turn 5. What a great way to build your library! Check to see if they have it in your area. The books are brand new, developmentally appropriate, and mailed right to your doorstep. Check out imaginationlibrary.com

    March 15th, 2008 at 8:37 am

  21. Miss Alex says:

    3 items I am glad I did not scrimp on: a front pack (facing in) carrier, good walking shoes for me (considering wearing the front pack is often much better than a stroller but still a little like being 19 months pregnant), and a few $20 fancy pocket cloth diapers for overnight.

    I’m also a big fan of washing your baby’s tush in the sink and then wiping on the clean end of the diaper.

    Plus, my baby loves kitchen toys more than anything else. Of course I look closely to see if they are safe. The silicone spatula is her all time favorite. I keep one in the front of the car to pass back if she gets fussy.

    Re: books, we buy TONS at the library used book stores and garage sales. If you are lucky, you can find some new condition books to put aside for gifts, too.

    Re: the poster that says kids will not know what they can play with if you let them play with “non-toys,” exploring the world around them is the main job of babies. It’s a real disservice to not let your baby touch anything unless it came from Toys R Us. Any competant parent should be able to redirect a baby who is touching something that their hosts don’t want touched.

    Re: the breast pump–your average nurse on demand SAHM does not need one. If that’s you, plan to rent, or get a handmedown. I used mine exactly once, because my pediatrician was being a bonehead and wanted me to measure my output when my baby was peeing constantly and so obviously it was all ok. I fired him immediately after. I had a handmedown and still had to buy the $40 sterile package of new tubes etc–a big waste. My baby is 10 months and, due to some digestive issues, is just starting solids now. And she is in the 90th percentile for weight!

    March 15th, 2008 at 10:26 am

  22. Katie says:

    Re: The breast pump, buy or rent.

    I bought a manual breast pump (pump with your hand, not an electric breast pump) and I am very glad I did. While it’s not great for long term pumping, it is a heck of a lot cheaper than the big electric ones and good enough for short term, once in a while use. I ended up having oversupply issues (yes, you can produce too much breastmilk) so excess pumping was actually off limits for me. However, it was nice knowing I had it. I also used it to help pull out my teeny tiny nipples on the first few days so the baby could latch on. I also plan on using it later for times when I need to be away from the baby for a while.

    March 15th, 2008 at 10:42 am

  23. Michelle says:

    Erin, I’d be interested in some links to the “GREAT For Sale or Trade boards where you can buy used wraps, ringslings, pouches etc.” that you mentioned. I’d love to not bay full price and I definitely plan to babywear!
    Thanks!

    March 15th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

  24. Sylvia says:

    thebabywearer.com is the best site for finding and learning about both new and used babywearing stuff! diaperswappers.com is the best I’ve found for new/used/info on the huge range of diapering possibilities…

    March 15th, 2008 at 4:36 pm

  25. smurphy05 says:

    We just had our daughter almost 8 months ago, and even though we knew it was going to be a girl, we registered/bought a lot of the big items (stroller, swing, exersaucer) in neutral colors. We plan on having more children and if we have a boy, we can reuse these things again and not worry about putting him in a pink stroller.

    March 16th, 2008 at 2:35 am

  26. harmzie says:

    I wholeheartedly supported the hand-me-down & consignment store rackets when my kids were small.

    My reasoning: it’s going to be too soon that my kids will be demanding “the latest” (whether they get it is an entirely different matter). I might as well save a buck (or several) NOW while they don’t care!

    Some good tips. Thanks

    March 16th, 2008 at 2:52 pm

  27. flynn says:

    You can find instructions for making your own sling on Jan Andrea’s amazing site, http://www.sleepingbaby.net/jan/Baby/ . There are also lots of other patterns and tips. I am a poor sewer but was able to make a great sling that we used all the time.

    My lactation consultant offered discounts on breastpumps. If you already have a visit to the consultant covered by insurance, see if they have a deal with a manufacturer.

    We also didn’t bother with a changing table, since inexpensive ones were made from weak materials and I read too many reviews that talked about them collapsing under a small baby. Our changing pad has screw attachments, so I started with it on my bureau and then moved it to my old school desk, now in the baby’s room. A bit of that rubbery shelf liner underneath keeps it from slipping.

    March 17th, 2008 at 10:41 am

  28. Martin says:

    Save money by sharing your own music collection with your baby. Baby music is not always the best quality music and while simple melodies sometimes get our daughter’s attention, you can quickly see how any great music that you love from your collection is good music for her. Our daughter loves Sigur Ros to fall asleep too.

    I couldn’t agree more that “real” items can be toys too as long as play time is defined and the “real” toys become tools again after a healthy session of fun, but I can’t imagine that car keys are EVER a good toy for a child under the age of 4. I’m not so sure Toyota or Ford could even begin to tell me the list of lubricants, metals oxides, and plastics that live in the ignition of your car, or the host of oils, bacteria, and solvents that end up on your car keys as you fill the tank and just handle them. Bad toy in my opinion. Though maybe at an age where washing hands is an enforced habit maybe its fine. I don’t want that stuff living in my daughter thanks very much.

    March 17th, 2008 at 4:10 pm

  29. Christina says:

    If you’re into babywearing, go to walmart, get 5 yards of a jersey knit type fabric ON SALE for $1/yard, cut it in half lengthwise and then you have two – count them – two moby wraps. Go to http://www.mobywrap.com to learn how to wrap it or http://www.mamatoto.org. This has been my lifesaver.

    Cloth diapering is great and is the best if you can just do prefolds and covers. Diaperswappers has great second hand diapers, if you want try something else. I think we’ve spent around $150 total on cloth diapering doing that.

    For wipes, I cut up a few flannel receiving blankets and put them in a plastic wipes container with a wipes solution. Yeah, they fray, so if you’re crafty you can serge the edges or get some fray check at a fabric/craft store to stop that. Or not. You get them as gifts, the baby grows out of them too quickly, so at least this way you’re using them.

    For our first we had the whole nine yards, but now that we have two we’re much more frugal.

    March 19th, 2008 at 5:10 pm

  30. Erin says:

    A sling or wrap was a must-have for us – our $200 stroller gathered dust for 20 months before our son started to prefer sitting in it occasionally as opposed to being worn!

    I know not everyone is comfortable with cosleeping, but the crib was another huge waste of money for us. Our son slept in a borrowed bassinet for the first three months, and we have been happily cosleeping ever since. Consider having a bassinet on hand for the first few months, and only buying a crib if/when you decide to go that route.

    Look into local parent’s groups – you can often find info through your church or library, Yahoo Groups, or Meetup.com. It may not seem like an obvious money-saver, but for someone like me who lives far from most of my friends and family, providing entertainment, education, and socialization for a toddler is much easier through frequent playdates and events with group discounts as opposed to paying for private classes, going to events on our own, etc.

    April 16th, 2008 at 11:38 am

  31. AJ McCreary says:

    Cool site! As a Mom of a 2 year old theres alot of useful info on here!

    Note on cloth diapers: they make potty training SOOO much easier! If not to use them for the earth and you wallet do it so you can be diaper free sooner!!

    Something not really mentioned here is childcare, I just wrote a peice on was to save on childcare at PIC Current the link is: http://current.pic.tv/2008/10/07/penny-saving-childcare-ideas/#comments. I hope it can be useful to people!

    Again thanks for all the useful info!

    October 7th, 2008 at 10:27 am

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