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Saving Money in Baby's First Year

by Kathleen Roberts | April 7, 2008 12:00 AM
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Saving Money in Baby's First Year

According to the USDA, in 1999 the cost to raise a child to age 18 was estimated at $ 160,140. Today that estimate is more like $ 250,000 and continues to rise. It is enough to keep expectant parents awake at night with worries of how they will provide for their new baby. The good news is that, if you are careful, you won't have to rob a bank to meet your baby's needs.

Needs vs. Wants

One key to saving money in your baby's first year is to understand the difference between needs and wants. Yes, your baby will need a crib. She does not need the fancy, round crib with hand-carved legs and a ruffled canopy for $ 1200. This would be a want, not a need.

You baby will need clothes. He will not need an entire wardrobe of brand new designer clothes including things like two pair of socks for $ 25 and a $ 40 Quicksilver hoodie that will be outgrown in a month or so. Yes, these are real prices. Yes, they are really scary. No, you don't need to spend that kind of money to properly care for your baby.

Saving on Baby Furniture

$ 1200 may sound steep for a crib, and it is. If you have money to burn you might even spend more than that. However, if you are an average parent, you will be relieved to know that you can find a perfectly acceptable crib for far less money.

If you opt to purchase brand new, you can find a lovely crib for less than $ 100 and a mattress for less than $ 50. If you are willing to buy used you will spend even less. Just be careful if you are using an old crib. Avoid cribs with lead-based paint and be sure the bars are not more than two and three-eighths inches apart.

Often you can also find a small chest of drawers and changing table used as well. Even if all your baby furniture is used, a coat of paint and some personal touches will pull it all together. You baby will not care either way.

Look at garage sales or check out online sources like eBay, Craigslist or Freecycle to find great deals on the furniture you need for your baby. These are great resources to find baby clothes as well. Many new parents find that friends and relatives can supply them with almost all the clothes and furniture they need with plenty left over—for free! Nothing is better for a budget-conscious new parent.

Saving on Diapers

Here is another area where you can save a bit of cash. Many parents find that store brand diapers work perfectly fine. Others feel that name brand diapers are more effective and therefore more cost-effective too. This is simply a mater of preference and you may find that you use both depending on your budget at the time of your purchase.

You will find in the first few months of your baby's life you will change diapers more often, but expect on the average to go through seven or eight a day. This can cost up to $ 180 a month with wipes in addition to this expense.

Some lucky moms get diapers at their baby shower, which can greatly reduce the cost of diapering in the first few months. This is also a great way to try different types of diapers to decide what ones you like best. There are many brands of wipes as well.

If you decide on name brand, you can often find money-saving coupons in the paper. You will also find that you get them in the mail if you register with companies that manufacture baby products. If you get a new baby package in the hospital, you will find many ways to get coupons and samples of countless baby products including diapers. Just don't be fooled into thinking you need every baby item advertised. Take advantage of free samples, but only purchase what you really need.

Many parents choose to use cloth diapers. This can save money if you launder your own diapers instead of using a service. However, to determine if you are truly saving money you will need to consider the cost of hot water and laundry detergent as well as the time involved in laundering. You'll also need diaper covers or plastic pants, pins (unless you have Velcro covers) and possibly diaper liners if you choose to use them.

Feeding Baby

The most cost-effective way to feed your baby in the first year is to breastfeed. After all, it doesn't get much cheaper than free. Still, you will want to keep some formula on hand just in case. You will also want to factor in the cost of a breast pump, nursing pads and nursing bras. You may even want to purchase clothing that makes breastfeeding easier and more discrete. If you need someone else to feed or want to give water to your baby, you'll be happy to have a few bottles on hand as well.

If you choose to bottle feed you will have the expense of bottles, nipples and a bottle brush. A warmer is not a necessity but some parents like to have one. You will also have the option of powder, concentrate or ready-to-feed formula. Never give your baby milk unless your doctor tells you too.

Powder is the least costly of the formula options, but this can also be expensive with an estimated cost of about a week. Many parents are happy to find they qualify for the USDA program called WIC (Women, Infants and Children). WIC will provide vouchers each month that will buy formula, cereal, juice and other foods that will help with a healthy pregnancy and childhood. To qualify you must meet income guidelines, but it is well worth it. You can receive benefits from the time you become pregnant until your child is two years old. Find out more by visiting the USDA website (http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/howtoapply/default.htm).

There is no doubt that having a baby is very expensive. It is also very worth it. You can raise a happy, healthy baby even if your income is limited. Your baby won't care if she has designer clothes or a fancy crib. She is happy just being loved and cared for. Enjoy it while you can. Soon she'll be a teenager.

Kathleen Roberts is a freelance writer and editor as well as the mother of five children. She writes about pregnancy, parenting, gardening and natural living. Kathleen enjoys spending as much time as she can in the outdoors with her family in the Florida Keys where she enjoys scuba diving, bicycling and anything else that will allow her to interact with nature.

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