I have devoted the entire blog to product suggestions and in this post I am taking a counter view of embracing minimalism as a way to save money while you are raising your baby. Here is my compilation of all the possible ways by which you can cut costs, even while being a great parent. But if your money-management system requires sifting through piles of receipts and retrieving cash from various pockets and purses,
General Cost Cutting
- Record expenses – What gets measured gets done. When you are working to cut costs, it is helpful to actually see what you are spending, and not necessarily in your bank statements. There are apps which can help you record your expenses and evaluate whether you are on the right track. I would use the app since any process that requires sifting through receipts will not work. My favorite apps – Mint, Billguard, Spending Tracker.
- Cut the cord – Getting rid of cable can make a big difference in your total expenses, as much as $500-1000 per year. Get Netflix and Hulu Plus, in addition you will probably subscribe to Amazon Prime with the baby coming, so you will have access to Amazon Prime Video as well. Total expenses will come down to $100-$200 depending on whether you choose one or all of them. Here is a great article which provides some suggestions on saving money by getting rid of cable.
- Try to save on water. Where I lived – our water bills would touch $200 per month on some months, with all the bathing and washing once the babies grew a few months old. There are a few easy tricks that can save a lot on your bills
- Use dishwasher as opposed to hand washing, which takes up more water. Of course wait for the dishwasher to be full before using.
- Use a faucet aerator to reduce water flow without reducing pressure.
- Switch to a low flow shower head. There are many in the market, but check out Nebia when it launches.
- Shower instead of using the bathtub. Opt for shorter effective showers.
- Install and adjustable flapper which can regulate the amount of water flushed down. Or just switch to a low flow toilet.
- Try and save on gas – Another of the less conspicuous expenses that are blowing a hole in your wallet. Here are some tips
- Get an energy audit done (many utility companies offer them for free or a small fee) and find out how you can increase the energy efficiency of your home.
- Set you water heater at 120 F or normal temperature.
- Get a programmable thermostat that will enable you to set the temperature in advance according to your needs. This can reduce your bill in a substantial way.
- Maintain your filters and heating system.
- Add more insulation to save as much as 10% on your bills.
- Use drapes effectively to let more sunlight in and to reduce chilly air leaks.
- Seal all leaks as they can lead to a huge wastage of air.
- Avoid the AC in summers by using drapes and fans effectively.
- Save on electric bills.
- Change all your incandescent bulbs to LED or CFL bulbs.
- Try and get energy star rated appliances if your existing ones are older and are guzzling electricity.
- Turn off electronics to save as much as $100 a year.
- Change out furnace filter and remove lint to make dryer more efficient.
- Clean out the refrigerator coils twice a year to make the refrigerator more efficient.
- Follow the 1 day rule to avoid impulse purchases. Whenever you feel like buying something add it to list and look the product after a day. Chances are that you will not be quite as excited this time around. Online impulse purchases are the worst – you almost never feel satisfied when you get the product.
- Eat out less and when you do avoid sodas or alcohol(I am of course talking about the father). Try to take your lunch to work rather than use the office cafeteria. Also set a limit on your coffee budget, may not be possible to eliminate completely but limit to one a day.
- Make fewer trips to the grocery store. If you end up going every other day you will buy more than you need. Get a Costco or Sams Club membership and you will find yoursleves going less and getting more quantity when you do. Not to mention getting the products for less.
- Buy store brand whenever possible. Most of these products are made by teh same companies that manufacture your name brand, so there are only a few for which I would pay the premium.
- Reduce your meat intake – Not advising anyone to give up meat, but opting for plant based proteins every now and then can make a big difference to your budgets.
- I understand that you may love to read and spending on books might seem a great investment in yourselves. However you can get the books and also save money by joining your local library. Now you can cancel your kindle unlimited or audible and all such subscriptions.
- Batch your errands – It might be tempting to get out of the house every day to do errands but it makes sense to batch them together so that you can reduce your miles.
- Buy higher quality items as opposed to cheap items – eventually they will be bigger bang for your buck than cheaper items which will have to be constantly replaced.
- Check with your workplace if you can telecommute at least one day a week. Saves money spent on gas, eating lunch, coffee and so on. Save more money on gas by carpooling or biking to your workplace.
- For your wardrobe invest in basics, which can go well with each other and can be mixed and matched. Also don’t fall for online deals – instead buy after your have had a chance to try and test the fit. I can recall so many dresses which I had to return or never used because I did not find it fit me well when I got it.
- Check for unclaimed property- Not many may be aware of the free nonprofit site www.unclaimed.org You can check to see if you’re entitled to collect any unclaimed funds or other assets, such as forgotten bank accounts, security deposits, or refunds for yourself or for deceased relatives.
- Stop drinking bottled water. Americans spend an average of $1,400 a year on bottled water and so this seems like a no brainer. Use a refillable bottle, buy a filter for your tap water and get rid of any impurities.
- On demand cabs – We have reached a time when hiring cabs on demand may work out to be cheaper than owning and driving a car. Check out your situation and decide appropriately – especially if you drive only occasionally.
- Automate your bills payment and put reminders in place to pay your credit card bills so that you don’t have to pay interest or late fees.
- You will see that I have not advocated any drastic measures such as selling your car or getting rid of your cellphone etc. I dont think it is really necessary unless you are in real cash crunch and then those are choices you will make with or without me advice. All I can remind you is not to mistake luxuries for necessities. Here is a great list of items that most people consider to be essentials but in reality are not. See if there are are any that you can get rid of without losing out much in your life.
BEFORE YOU BECOME PREGNANT
21. Lose weight before getting pregnant. – Obesity increases medical expenses (and risks of complications). This is a great investment in your health that will be worth a lot of money and mental trauma saved over the course of your pregnancy.
22. Decide whether the mother is going to work or stay at home after the baby is born and if so how long. Having this decision already made can provide a great deal of clarity. You can negotiate with your workplace to let you continue to do small projects from hom on a part time basis. http://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/pre-pregnancy-health/general/before-getting-pregnant/#page=16
23. Look at ways and means you can make money online even while you stay at home taking care of the baby. Here is a great compilation from a blog that has outlined most of the ways you can make money in between your parenting duties. If you start before the baby comes you have a full year of time to get a hang of the myriad ways to make money.
24. Decide where you want to live to minimize expenses. Living downtown might have been a great idea when you did not have to worry about babies. But maybe it makes sense now to move to the suburbs or a less expensive part of town.
25. Don’t move to a bigger home – Having a baby does not necessarily mean you have to a bigger house immediately. You could wait for some time before you do that – your baby needs to be around you more in the first year and paying more rent or mortgage on a bigger home is unnecessary. Not to mention all the extra expenses that will come with that.
26. Get you teeth checked – Getting teeth and gums checked before pregnancy can save you a lot of money down the line. Not just because you are likely to have issues with your teeth and gums(cost me an extra $500 to get my gum growth removed. In addition, some doctors say that brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist regularly can cut your miscarriage risk by up to 70 percent.
27. Stop buying more clothes once you have decided that you are going to try and become pregnant. All those clothes will be pretty much useless in a few months and may take you a maximum of a year or more to get back to. By that time, you may not even like those clothes anymore.
28. Find out how much maternity pay you are entitled to when you take the leave and what the conditions are. Knowing this in advance will allow you to plan your job switches appropriately. A wrong move later on could result in loss of thousands of dollars.
29. Get rid of stuff you will no longer need once you become pregnant. Sell them off at your pace and you will have a decent amount of money left over. I sold off a lot of my clothes knowing quite well that I may not be in a position to wear them for the next couple of years.
30 Check out ways you can save taxes once you have dependents. Some employers even offer a dependent-care account for you to contribute pretax dollars which will be deducted from your taxable income. Becoming cognizant with all such opportunities will result in a lot of savings down the road.
Now that you are pregnant.
31. Shop around for insurance – Understand your needs and find out the best plan for you which will reduce overall out of pocket expenses. Be realistic – for example if you are having twins you have a 75% chance of C-section and a good likelihood of using Epidural, and an above average likelihood of being admitted for pre-eclampsia and other ailments. So choose the insurance that will bring down your overall expenses(including premiums and co-pay).
32. Even if you are satisfied with your insurance, please make sure you contact them and ask detailed questions about what coverage you have and how you can reduce expenses. Under the affordable care act most insurances cover breast pumps and so it makes sense to understand this before you opt to rent or buy.
33. Limit your maternity wardrobe budget as you are unlikely to use these clothes again for some time. I would suggest you borrow from friends or relatives and buy used high quality items if necessary. Wait till you absolutely need the maternity clothes before you buy them.
34. Use belly bands to extend the use of your regular clothes for some more time.
35. Use bra extenders to use your bra for longer before buying the new one as your breasts enlarge. I would also use maternity bras instead of buying larger sized bras each time your breasts enlarge. The maternity bras give you plenty of room to grow and can be adjusted as needed.
36. Don’t go for expensive mommy preparation classes – This could easily cost you hundreds of bucks and I would opt for local community classes instead.
37. Create your primary registry at Amazon which has the cheapest prices and will be affordable for more people as they will not have to pay taxes(in many states) or shipping. Not to mention the fact that Amazon will further discount on the products 30 days before the due date. Do create your duplicate registry at other stores so that you can utilize those discounts as well.
38. Say yes to baby showers and if possible wait for the baby shower before you purchase on your own. Keep adjusting your registry as you buy your own items off the list, in case you find a good deal somewhere.
39. There are a ton of stretch mark creams in the market but if you want to save money rely on olive oil or coconut oil. They should work well for most people.
40. Do you research to find the products that work for most people. This blog is primarily meant to help with this research process and there are many more that can help with this. This will ensure that you buy only tried and tested products and minimize wastage of money by buying duds.
41. Consult a lactation advisor. This will make sure you are well prepared to do your best to make breastfeeding efforts a success. These consultants cost $200-$300 but you should check for hospitals which have free nursing advisors or hotlines.
42. Limit the number of clothes in your registry – you will get a lot of clothes as gifts so it is unnecessary to add more to the registry.
43. Return Excess gifts that you receive – I understand you might feel hesitant to return something that people have gifted after putting in some thought. However you should understand that letting a product remained unused is not great either.
44. Do not hesitate to add big ticket items to your registry – many of your friends or colleagues might pool their money to get you that particular product. Do not add small and frivolous products so as to have plenty of cheap items in the registry.
Buying Baby Products
45.Look for sales before you buy any product. Here are some tools to help you get the best price for anything you buy.
- If you are buying from Amazon use the site camelcamelcamel.com to check the price trend for that product. If the price has gone lower in the past it is likely that it will happen again. You can install their extension or plugin to see the trends right there on the amazon site. You can set alerts to notify you when the price drops below a threshold.
- Slickdeals price tracker is another great tool that helps you track prices for a product at any of the sites including Amazon, Newegg, Gamestop, IKEA, Buy.com, and others.
- Invisiblehand is a great site which can be installed as a plugin or extension in your browser which will automatically show you cheaper price options for items you are buying right now.
46. Even when you get the lowest price, you can save even further by accessing your chosen product at your chosen site through cashback sites. Canback sites like ebates.com, couponcactus.com etc. Ebates lets you earn cashback from over 1,800 retailers and, to date, have paid over $250 million to its users. Here is a great article from huffington post on cashback sites. https://ibotta.com/ is anotehr great site to get cashback even when you shop in grocery stores etc. When you buy something being sponsored by Ibotta and the store you bought it at you will earn cash back
47.Make money while you shop or search or spend time online – Swagbucks.com offers cash-back rewards for more than just online shopping: Users earn a virtual currency called Swag Bucks for a variety of online activities, including searching, shopping, taking surveys, playing games and discovering online content. Members can simply install a search toolbar to make it easy to start earning rewards. Swag Bucks can be redeemed for retail gift cards, PayPal cash and other rewards.
48. Couponing – Never again buy anotehr thing from a store before checking for coupons first. Check in coupons.com or retailmenot for coupons before buying anything. Their apps can be used while you shop in the stores. Check of this blog for some more great tips on couponing.
49. Sign up for samples and coupons from the major baby brands. Most major baby brands like Pampers and Gerber will reward you just for signing up for their emails or rewards programs by offering you deals galore.
50. Do not buy any breastfeeding items(unless your insurance completely covers the expense) unless you are sure. You don’t want to end up with a product that you will never use. Better to rent for the first couple of months and then decide on the purchase.
51. Welcome hand me downs, wherever they come from.
52. Buy used baby products online from any of these multiple sources. Here is a list of stuff that is ok to be bought used. Among the stores I prefer “Once Upon A Child” where you can get products for half the price. You can even sell the back for half what you paid. You can also buy all this stuff second hand on classifieds, thrift stores, garage sales, or even on Facebook yard sale sites.
53. Freecycle.com is a great resource to find other parents who might be giving away their baby clothes and gear. There is a lot of activity if you live in a metro area. I did use Craigslist to give away a lot of my products when we had to relocate from Chicago.
54. Offer to buy things from people who are done having kids. You will find many friends and acquaintances willing to sell their products for cheap provided they know where the product is going. This is because they have a sentimental attachment to the products and would like to know that it is being well used. Some may really appreciate teh extra space once they are able to get rid of these items.
55. If there is a birthday or holiday season coming up before the baby is born, and your loved ones want to gift you something, make sure you let them know that you would rather have then buy you baby stuff.
56. Buy products you need as opposed to want. Please understand that babies dont need a lot of stuff that may seem appealing to you, you are buying for yourselves and not for your baby.
57. Buy gender neutral as much as possible. This will enable you to pass the product on to future children.
58. Buy bare minimum baby clothes. Don’t stock too much of the preemie or newborn items and keep the labels intact so that you can return the products if necessary. When buying all in ones that serve as layer under the clothes, you should be ok with buying the cheapest available – sometimes you can get slightly defective ones for much less. In addition, with regards to staples like undershirts, all-in-ones, and socks it is advisable to buy plain white, if it gets really dirty all you have to do is to bleach them.
59. Don’t buy baby shoes, They may look cute but they are unnecessary since the baby is not going to walk for a long time.
60. Buy in bulk whenever you feel that you know the demand of the product will not change over the next few months. Get a membership at Costco or Sam’s Club to be able to get products for cheaper when you buy in bulk.
61. Skip baby bath products like tubs and other accessories. You can do without these for several months after the baby is born.
62. Buy a convertible car seat instead of an infant car seat which will become pretty much useless in 6-9 months.
63. You can manage without strollers and use baby carriers instead. Even if you are buying strollers buy convertible ones which can be used as a carseat holder and then as a regular stroller.
64. Buy plug in baby gear and stuff as opposed to battery operated ones. This will save you lots in electricity over the course of time, even though the batteries do usually last a reasonable amount of time.
65. A changing table and dressers are items that you can do without. Change the baby on the floor or on the bed(just be careful). Also look for furniture that can serve multiple purposes – like a changing table/dresser combo or a bouncer which can also serve as a chair and so on.
66. Buy quality things that last as opposed to cheaper items. If you buy cheaper items, you might have to buy them again and in addition they might not be is a good enough shape to sell once the use is over. The rule of thumb is to buy the best value for money items – sometimes they will be cheaper and sometimes more expensive.
67. On a similar vein it is advisable to buy higher quality diapers as opposed to cheaper ones. With cheaper diapers, leaks and other mishaps are common and you might end up spending a lot of time on cleanup and might have to throw away a lot of the clothes.
68 Shop the clearance rack – When you go to a store, head straight to the clearance section and you will be able to snag good quality items for much less.
69. Two tips related to buying from stores. Buy your baby products(except diapers) from stores that don’t have the word baby in them- and you are likely to get things for cheaper. If you are buying from specialty shops, try and negotiate for a cheaper price.
70. If you are having twins, it does not mean you have to buy two of everything. A lot of items can be shared.
71. No necessity to buy toys in the first year – except teethers. As you will see almost everything can become a toy for you curious babies who look at everything they see with utter amazement.
Many of the best toys for an infant are free ones. My eleven month old son has a toybox full of toys, but his favorite things to play with are a giant plastic cup (free at the State Fair), an old cell phone that doesn’t work any more, and a homemade rattle (made from four pennies, a baby jar, and some packing tape). Total cost of toys he doesn’t play with: lots. Total cost of his three favorite toys: five cents or so.
72. Amazon mom Subscribe and Save gets you 20% off daily needs shipped for free straight to your door. This ends up being even cheaper than Costco or Sam’s Club sometimes. Amazon Mom offers 20% off diapers, Free 2 day shipping, and a host of other benefits including Amazon Prime.
73. Price match at Target for Amazon.com items. The only limitation with Amazon.com is that it has lower prices but doesn’t accept typical manufacture coupons. You can go to Target, ask the to price match Amazon and then add a few manufacturers coupons too.
After you had the baby
74. Utilize accounts like Shutterfly for free announcements. Shutterfly and other sites similar to it offer 50 free prints when you sign up. If you design your own announcements for your newborn or his/her first birthday, you can get them practically free!
75. Ask hospital and pediatrician about samples and coupons. Take advantage of all the free samples and vouchers you get at the hospital for a start. You can also keep most of the baby basics that are provided by the hospital and kept in the cabinet below your bassinet – includes diapers, swaddling clothes, nasal aspirators, disposable nipples. Our nurse encourage us to take all of these suggesting that we were already being charged for those.
77. Give breastfeeding a good try before opting for the formula as this is going to be a major drain on your resources. Once you start try and maintain breastfeeding for as long as possible.
78. Buy reusable breast pads instead of buying use and throw ones.
79. Use cloth diapers instead of disposables and you could end up saving thousands of dollars per year. When trying out, there are a lot of companies that let you try out the cloth diapers for free. You can try them at no expense before deciding if it is right for you.
80. Buy used cloth diapers to save even more.
81. Buy generic baby formula. They have the same nutritious value as name brands, unless you are buying organic. If you have a cheaper brand in mind it is better to start the baby with that brand rather than try to introduce it after the baby has already got used to it.
82. Make you own baby food – You can even give the baby processor a skip if you already have a steamer and blender at home. This will save a lot of money that you would have to spend buying baby food.
83. Air dry your washables instead of using the dryer.
84. When you buy diapers or wipes, you are likely to encounter different packages and counts. So it is better to go by cost/diaper or cost/wipe as it will allow you to quickly estimate of you are paying too much or not.
85. Re-purpose old bags for holding diapers instead of buying diaper bags.
86. Always be prepared with essentials in your bags so that you don’t have to buy items in an emergency paying exorbitant rates.
87 Carry stain pens in the diaper bag- If you can treat those baby stains right away, you’ll not have to throw away a lot of items that are irredeemable damaged.
88. Buy smaller bags of diapers when the diaper starts getting a little too small. A sudden growth spurt could render useless the huge stack of diapers that you bought in bulk.
89. Immunizations – Check if your insurance covers them and if they don’t, check if it is cheaper to get them immunized at local clinics than pay the co-pay.
90. Get help from parents and in laws, and other relatives who love children and are eager to help. You could also trade babysitting time with other friends or neighbors who also have babies in the same age range.
91. Pre cook your meals and freeze so that you have everything you need for several months after the baby is born. Freeze leftovers too, even though you might be tempted to get rid of them if the quantity is not sufficient.
92. Hone you laundry skills – Your tendency to stay with cloth diapers is directly proportional to you proclivity towards doing laundry. You would also be able to redeem quite a few clothes that a lot of parents may be willing to chuck rather than put in the effort to clean.
93. Make your own wipes – Of all DIY ideas this seemed to make most sense, as I was never comfortable with the chemicals in chepaer wipes. Get a big roll of paper towels (I like Viva, but I hear Bounty works well for this, too), your baby oil bottle, your baby soap bottle, and a baking pan. Take a knife and saw that roll of paper towels right down the middle. No joke, cut the tube in the middle and all of the towels right down the middle. You can put one of the halves aside for later. Then, mix two and a half cups of warm water, two tablespoons of the baby oil, and two tablespoons of the baby soap together in the baking pan, then put the half-roll of towels in there. Let it sit for a minute or two, then flip it over. Wait another couple minutes until it is soaked clear through, then remove the cardboard tube and put the newly created “wipes” into a wipe container (you can use any sort of plastic container, but we actually use an old Pampers wipes container). Works like a charm, and a lot cheaper, too!
94. If you are going to return to work and need daycare, search around to find the best most economical way. My neighbor is wonderful and has a daycare. It’s less than most and has superior care. Although I’m a stay-at-home-mom I had a neighbor girl come in the summer for 4-6 hours a day so I could work from home on some summer projects for my brother’s company. I paid her $3.00 an hour. Think outside the box, ask around. If you love one company or individual but they are more than the competition ask them to price match the nearby competitor. Price matching could save you A LOT of money.
95. Make use of items already available to serve the same purpose. Before buying anything ask yourselves if you already have things at home that can be hacked to serve the same purpose. You will be surprised at the solutions you find if you get creative.
97. Save on formula by introducing cow’s milk as soon as you get the permission. I would suggest ditching any kind of toddler formula that these companies pitch as a way to keep you as customer for as long as possible. A lot of them contain sugar and may become addictive for teh child who will prefer this to the cow’s milk.
101.Call your pediatrician and talk to the nurse or doctor about the specific problem before setting up the appointment. So many of the issues are so common and may not need any medicines and the pediatrician can diagnose it quickly over the phone. Save the co-pays and the expenses incurred in driving over to the place by doing this.