Getting ready for your baby’s arrival can be one of the most exciting experiences in life. But it also can be a time of anxiety, since the addition of a child can take a toll on your finances.
In fact, the average cost for a middle-income family to raise a child through the first year of life is $12,680, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (While that’s a lot of money, a Bankrate survey found that many people think an infant is even more expensive.)
Luckily, with a little preplanning and some savings strategies, you can prep for a new baby without blowing your budget. Here are four ways to save on and plan for baby expenses.
Baby-related expenses don’t have to be a huge drain on your finances.
Baby needs — beyond diapers and formula — don’t cost that much, especially if you are lucky enough to receive big-ticket items from family and friends, says Julie Scates, certified financial planner, owner of Albany, California-based Asti Financial Management, which often counsels expectant and new parents.
“You should be most concerned with making sure you can cover your expenses after the baby’s arrival, especially if Mom (or Dad) will be taking some time off to be with the baby and income will decrease,” Scates says.
So, start redrawing your household budget early. “When you’re in your second trimester, and can move around and make phone calls and do things,” she says, “you should be planning.”
That includes finding out about maternity and paternity leave policies; what kind of short-term disability you are eligible for; if there will be additional costs to add the baby onto your health insurance policy; and what type of baby care you might need and how much it will cost.
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Rethink ‘must-have’ baby gear
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A baby registry can save money on baby gear and other essentials, but it pays to consider your finances — and resources — first.
“If you’re looking to save money, or get the most from your registry, then this is a critical step,” says Carly Kirsch, former owner of a Connecticut-based baby-planning service called Newly Nested.
Some key questions to answer while building your list of “must haves”: Will you have a dedicated room or space for a nursery? Are you thinking of breastfeeding or formula feeding? Will you be traveling with your baby often?
Your answers will help you save money because you’ll avoid buying or registering for unnecessary items.
Before you even go shopping or set up a baby registry, consider getting the word out that you’re open to hand-me-downs, says Kirsch.
“Check first with family, friends and even neighbors,” she says. “Check consignment stores, too, that have higher standards on what they accept.”
She points out that most products such as swings, bouncer seats and highchairs have removable covers or liners that can be washed and sanitized. Just be sure those items meet safety standards and aren’t on any recall lists.
While a baby registry can save money on the baby essentials, a little planning can add to your savings.
Ask for gifts of long-term baby expenses that are the most expensive: diapers and wipes. “You can also request that friends and family give you gift cards to club and warehouse stores where diapers and wipes are cheaper,” says Kirsch.
Add to the registry some smaller items you’ll need down the road, such as feeding accessories, bowls, spoons and sippy cups.
When choosing pricier baby gear, find those that do double duty, says Joanie Demer, co-founder of TheKrazyCouponLady.com, a couponing and shopping advice site.
Her suggestions: Instead of a registering for a bassinet and a playpen, go for a play yard that has a bassinet insert. Instead of registering for the traditional highchair and the portable highchair, choose a “space-saving highchair that can be attached to a kitchen chair and toted along to Grandma’s house.”
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Don’t do the usual pink or blue
While it may not save money upfront, going gender-neutral on larger items is a wise way to stretch your budget if you plan to have more than one child.
“Choosing patterns that can be used for a boy or girl for items such as car seats, highchairs, etc. can save you money down the road,” says Kirsch, former owner of Newly Nested. The same goes for baby furniture — a Victorian-style white crib may look lovely in your baby girl’s room, but it may not work for her future little brother.
Another savings tip: Consider going generic on certain items. Store-brand formula meets the same FDA requirements as the name brand, says Demer. Price, she says, really is the only difference. “Store-brand formulas average $14 per can, whereas the name brands sit around $23.”
If you do find yourself attached to certain brands, sign up for their loyalty programs and “like” their Facebook pages to get coupons and discounts, Demer suggests.
As for clothing, use clearance sales to stock up for the future, she adds. When your child grows, you’ll have a head start on his or her wardrobe without breaking your budget.