Two months before my daughter was born, I had already collected enough clothing for the first year of her life.
Onesies, sleepers, caps, sweaters, socks, and shoes were strewn all over our living room floor as my wife and I took stock of our soon-to-be baby’s growing wardrobe.
And we didn’t buy a single piece of it.
There are so many ways new parents can save big time when it comes to new baby items. Check out the following strategies from moms at Student Loan Hero (SLH) who’ve been through it all.
1. Accept hand-me-downs for your baby
My wife and I relied on friends with 1- and 2-year-olds who no longer had a use for smaller baby clothing.
These parents jumped at the chance to clear their homes of these unused items. We even received a hand-me-down baby carrier and activity mat, as well as books and toys.
If you’re curious to see how much you’re saving by taking gently used items, Google the prices of items you’re receiving. The travel bassinet shared by my sister and her 1-year-old, for example, saved us $35.
Borrowing used items for your child could also help you avoid buying something your child might only use for a few months, if at all. Not all babies get a lot of use out of activity centers or bouncer chairs, for example.
If you don’t have family members or friends with young children, Tracy Odell, SLH’s vice president of content, suggested finding a local parents group online where members post items for free or for sale.
“Often, you pick up lightly used baby items at a fraction of the retail cost,” said Odell, a mother of two boys. “But there are a few things you should think twice about before buying used.”
Odell, who has edited parenting publications, said it’s worth checking the expiration date and accident history of car seats. She added that it’s wise to play it safe by avoiding used mattresses.
2. Buy (and sell) used baby items, too
If you don’t mind going the used route, there are other ways to seek out so-called hand-me-downs.
Janae Noneman, SLH’s senior compensation and benefits analyst, recommended consignment stores for buying and selling used clothing for your baby.
“I was a little hesitant initially, to be honest,” said Noneman, a mother of three kids younger than 10. “In my head, there was a stigma with buying used clothes. But both [stores] I’ve gone to had specifications on what brands they’d accept and the condition the clothes [had] to be in.”
She said this strategy was a godsend for her two sons, as they wore through the knees of their pants with regularity.
“It’s been great offloading clothes and other baby gear we no longer needed and making some money without having to do a garage sale,” she added.
3. Create and share your baby registry
As you list out what you need for your new baby, you might find some gaps that can’t be filled by hand-me-downs or used purchases.
That’s where a baby registry can come into play. Share a link to your registry with family and friends before your baby shower and watch the items roll in.
And if you don’t know how to get started on your registry, look to your friends’ old baby registries as a guide.
Keep in mind that where you list your registry could be a cost-cutter in and of itself. Target, Amazon, and other major retailers offer discounts for registering with them.
Also, Miranda Marquit, a senior writer at SLH, said you shouldn’t be afraid to register for gift cards.
“You can use those gift cards to buy things like diapers and formula,” said Marquit, who is the mother of a teen son.
Marquit also pointed out the benefits of a food processor for boosting your savings.
“Rather than buying baby food when your little one starts eating something other than breast milk or formula and rice cereal, puree what you’re eating,” she said. “It’s an easy way to give them good nutrition at a lower cost.”
4. Don’t assume that expensive equals better
Whether you’re building your baby registry or shopping online and off, you might be tempted to rationalize a costly item. My baby deserves the top-of-the-line model, the thinking goes, and I can always use a credit card.
SLH writer Elyssa Kirkham advised against this impulse, as it could lead to overspending.
“Don’t be shy about buying the cheap version of items for your baby,” said Kirkham, a mother of two kids younger than 5. “Baby gear only has to last you a few months up to a year, possibly longer if you plan to have more kids.”
Kirkham’s son loved being rocked, for example, so she and her husband opted for a cheaper $40 baby swing that did the trick — not a more expensive model.
There are also some baby items you could spend less on but still get the same level of quality. Odell mentioned diapers as the perfect example. When shopping at Costco, Huggies might be $8 more expensive than the Kirkland Signature offering, but Kimberly-Clark Corp. manufactures both diapers.
“Don’t feel like your skimping on [the] baby if you buy store-brand diapers or wipes,” Odell said. “You’ll be buying diapers for years — yes, years — so these savings can really add up.”
5. Focus on needs — not wants — for your baby
Having a baby is expensive. There’s no way around it.
But you could spend less than you have to with this final tip from Kirkham: Become choosy about what you buy.
“Every baby needs clothing, warmth, food, somewhere to sleep, a car seat, and maybe a stroller or baby carrier,” said Kirkham, who has written about being financially prepared for a baby’s arrival. “Anything beyond these items is not something your baby ‘needs,’ so don’t feel like you have to buy it.”
With that said, Kirkham added there are some instances when buying a “want” — or listing it on your registry — makes sense.
“Look for items that offer great value for their price … things that will keep your baby happier and make your new job as a parent easier,” she said.
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