Save on Baby Stuff

It’s a common theme amongst new parents to overspend on baby, particularly the first. If you want to have money to save for baby’s post-secondary school, you’d be wise to find ways to not spend so you have some cash to stash.

Make sure you price-check everything, and use all the coupons you can. The baby biz is very competitive, but price points can vary dramatically from one store to the next. If you walk into a high-end boutique, you’re going to blow your brains out.  Choose your stores carefully.

Speaking of stores, why not shop second hand? Babies grow quickly and buying clothes, furniture and toys second-hand is a great way to pay pennies on the dollar, leaving more for savings. Hey, don’t bother with the snobby, “Second hand’s not good enough for MY baby” crap.  You can drop a small fortune on your Mini-Me now or have some money for college or university later. And tell the truth, it isn’t really about the baby, is it? She doesn’t have a clue about new or used. This is all about YOUR ego.

Parents are usually in a rush to get kids into the next size as proof that they’re doing something right and their babies are thriving. But if you rush into the next size of diapers, you’ll end up paying more because there are fewer in the box. And rushing to the next size means you’ll end up with a whole bunch of clothes that have barely seen the light of day.

You should keep your growing child in mind when it comes time to buy strollers and car seats. Since they often come with height and weight limits, buying equipment at the higher end of the size scale will mean fewer new buys as your baby grows.

Skip the fancy bedding sets completely. I’ve seen parents with four complete bedding sets for their baby’s crib. You’re showing off. Or you’ve got an impulse control problem. Your baby doesn’t care if he’s got little cars or flying sheep on his sheets. That’s you getting caught by the “Awww” factor.

Make your own baby food. You control the quality of the ingredients. You control the sugar and the salt. And you’ll save a ton of money… upwards of 50% over buying your baby food pre made.

Don’t get suckered into specialty kitchen appliances and storage system for your baby food. You’ll need a food processor, some ice cube trays and some plastic bags for the freezer.

Get stuff for free. Manufacturers throw stuff at new parents. In an attempt to win their loyalty, they bury them in coupons and free, Free, FREE! Get on all the mailing lists and sign up for the rewards programs. What you don’t use you can swap with other parents.

Bypass the organic milk. I had one mom insist on giving her toddler organic milk until I made her do the research and she saw just what “organic” meant. Not such a big deal. Certainly not worth the money! While you’re at it, don’t get suckered into “Toddler Formula.” Totally unnecessary.

Buy non-gender specific colours. Yes, you may want your girly-girl baby in pink, but if you have a boy next he’ll look pretty silly. Babyies wear their clothes for such a short time, you should stick with unisex colours so you can pass them down to the next kid. Yellow, orange, green, chocolate brown… great colours regardless of the gender of the child. And white onesies go with everything.

Pace yourself. You might want it all right now, but if that means tapping credit, that’s dumb! Don’t try blaming Mommy Brain. It’s your impulse monkey that’s jerking your strings. When you know you’re pregnant, make a list and then work the shopping into your regular monthly cash flow. Each year take an inventory of what you have and what you’ll likely need, and use your list to shop sales and get the best deal.

Perhaps the best piece of advice for a new mom or dad is to go shopping with an experienced parent (not your own!) Hormones and shopping are a bad combination. So is sleep-deprivation and shopping. Take along the voice of reason (so don’t choose your shop-a-holic BFF) and you’ll end up with money to stash away for Junior’s future schooling, which is a much better investment.

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Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join MyMoneyMyChoices.com to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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29 Responses to “Save on Baby Stuff”

  1. A very timely article, I just started my list this morning.
    Thanks!

  2. So. So. True. A conversation with an experiencd parent is great (and you might score some hand me downs). Trust me: all you really need is a car seat, stroller (sanity saver), some sleepers, diapers and lots of inexpensive flannel blankies (shameless plug for nursing here: its free). Wait to buy anything because you never know what will be given to you. Good thing we were given a second hand crib, because our son never spent one single night in it! Changing tables are totally not necessary…we just used a little matress thingy on top of a long dresser we already had and later the bed. Set up an RESP and let people know that there is one so they can contribute something useful instead of fancy outfits that you won’t even remember are in the closet.

  3. And, instead of going shopping with your baby to get out of the house and prevent you from going stir crazy, find an early years centre and join in on their drop in programs. Go for walks. Bring snacks with you wherever you go. A new mom needs her energy, and you can pack healthier than what you can buy.
    The time goes by so fast. My eldest is headed to uni in the fall. We’ve saved money by buying second hand when stuff was actually needed, so, money won’t play a factor in choosing where she goes.

  4. Very true and all good advice. We have hardly bought any clothes for our first daughter, who is now nearly two- we got so many hand-me-downs, there are things that are basically new, some of which she never had the chance to wear! It’s great for us, especially now that we’re expecting our second daughter. She’ll get to wear the clothes too, and some of them will be things her older sister never wore (out of season, etc).

    Another good idea for parents-to-be is to start looking for diaper sales before baby is born. If you buy a box or two here and there when the price is good (this goes for wipes too!) you’ll save money when you really need it, once Baby comes. Or, instead of having a baby shower and getting a bazillion cute things you’re never going to use, have a diaper party instead and ask everyone to bring a different size of diaper. I had friends who did this, and they didn’t buy diapers for a year!

  5. This is very timely for me, as I’m entering into the energetic 2nd trimester. But, what I’m thankful for right now, is that we have very limited space in our 2 bedroom condo so it means that we won’t be accumulating everything right away. I will purge out some of the stuff in the 2nd room, and then I have my parents and in-laws curbing their spending by buying diapers when they’re on sale. (which will also be handy when baby visits. Beyond that though, I’m actively researching what to purchase. Stroller, car-seat, bed, and the necessities. But beyond that, since I won’t know gender, I won’t get swayed by super cute boy or girl items. Just the basics!

  6. My grandmother keeps telling me that babies don’t have to cost that much, and I think by following some of these simple steps – she’s right. What she does forget though, is it’s not that they cost a lot (or that they have to), it’s the going down to one income that’s difficult.

  7. Those bed in a bag crib linen sets are the most ridiculous waste of money ever. If you read the package, the sheet is the only thing you can leave in the crib when the baby’s in there, so now you’ve decorated an entire room around a sheet. And you can be sure they’ll spit up, or worse, the first time you lay them down on that sheet.
    Far better to ignore the crib for a minute and just decorate the room for a 2-8yr old and then just get some plain crib sheets to coordinate for the brief time you may actually use a crib. Our kids were monkeys and were climbing out before they were one.

  8. avatar Lurking Lola Says:
    March 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Great advice here!

    Work your experienced parent network: We’re itching to give away our baby things!

    Watch out with toys. You really don’t need many. We just took away 2/3 of our 2-year-old’s toys, because he was overwhelmed with the number and wasn’t playing well with them. With the smaller lot, he rediscovered things he hadn’t seen in a while and started playing more creatively with them. We’ll rotate some of the hidden toys out in a bit, and he’ll be thrilled.

    Good luck with your families.

  9. For the first four years of my daughter’s life, you could count on your hands how many new articles of clothes we bought for her (besides socks and big girl underwear). Most of her clothing was gifted or hand me downs or bought at “moms” sales. She doesn’t care about brand names. I used that money to buy her good shoes and good snowsuits – things she uses every day and that need the durability for an active child.

    We did purchase many items new (like crib, bedding, exersaucer, etc.) anticipating having more children so it would get its use. Alas, we were unable to have more children but lent out some items and eventually sold everything online or at a garage sale.

    I was recently at a baby shower that was a diaper/wipes and a favourite Children’s book shower. I thought it was a great idea. I wish someone would have done that for me when I was pregnant.

    Being on mat leaves you have lots of time to use the internet to your advantage to get freebies, look for sales on needed baby items and find free activities to do with other moms.

  10. I remember my daughter telling me that of all the second-hand things to buy, a car seat was NOT one of them. Apparently, if they are dropped even once, the integrity of the seat is compromised and shouldn’t be used again. And of course, you’ll want to check the current code for cribs too since that can change as well.

    The best piece of advice my husband and I were given 42 years ago was not to buy a second crib for our expected twins because two babies could fit in a single crib if both ends were used for the first weeks. Good thing we listened since our “twins” ended up being just a very large baby, who now is 6 feet 9 inches tall!

  11. We bought used a lot for our first and only child (now 2 years old). Unfortunately we don’t have anyone in our network that could do hand me downs as they were all in the very beginning of child rearing years but we went to consignment stores and sourced Kijiji and local buy swaps on Facebook. Some things we did borrow from friends in between babies. A couple things are regret skimping on was a stroller. I really wished we would of had a better stroller carseat combo that protected newborn from the elements and we could of gone outside a lot more (a simple blanket didn’t do the trick) and a better pack n play.
    Costs we didn’t anticipate having was formula and special cream for babies skin.
    I had to go on meds shortly after giving birth where I could not breastfeed so I had to give my baby formula which isn’t all that bad but then we learned he needed the organic hypoallergenic formula as he wasn’t able to digest and thrive on the others. That worked out to be about $350-$400 a month till he was about 9 months old. And then he developed severe atopic dermatitis. The poor thing was so itchy all.the.time I probably spent about $500 on different creams and routines and diets trying to find something that would help. Once he turned one years old and outgrew the dermatitis things got a whole hell of a lot cheaper. It was a good thing we were so financially prepared.

    Oh and baby food! Don’t waste your money on baby food. Research baby led weaning. Its basically feeding them what you eat but in a baby friendly manner. I never fed my son a puree in his life. So easy.

  12. Great post – again, Gail.

    I was told about the ice cube food thing. I did foods I personally wasn’t so keen on but that I knew held real nutritional value (having my baby be smarter than me wasn’t a threat, but a promise:)

    She is now 16…and chants “nutrition” at me: I’ve created a monster! :)

    I learned all the lessons you talked about…and you’re so bang-on-the-money! Unfortunately, I was slower to catch on re: savings and RESP’s, etc. I confess that I do feel a bit of poverty of spirit…and it’s rubbing off on my kids. I’m thinking really hard about my values today. I don’t ever want to be afraid to change. Your book, “It’s Never Too Late” is something that is true on many levels…

    I just think you’re the Cat’s Meow.

  13. Its true that you should never buy a used car seat. I also had no luck with used strollers and ended up buying new. But strollers and car seats are just like clothes in that they go in and out of fashion. The time to buy them is February to March when they go on clearance. I think that some stores (like Walmart) even have some of their stroller/car seats go on clearance in the fall (along with the spring/summer clothing clearance).

  14. Breastfeeding is free! One of the healthiest and most economical things you can do for your baby and yourself.

  15. avatar Gail Thompson Says:
    March 10, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Breastfeeding is great – healthy, but not free. When I was doing it, the quantity of extra food I ate (I was constantly hungry) probably cost as much as formula would have. Those calories for the baby have to come from somewhere.

    I recommend breastfeeding, but not as a cost-saving measure.

    Another Gail

  16. I work for a really big retail store and learned about the baby furniture, car seats and strollers, and what I learned is, always go for the convertible. You know the baby will need a crib, and then they’ll need a toddler bed, and then they’ll need a bed. You just need the rails. It may not be a sports car toddler bed, and you’ll definitely want to be happy with the look of it so it can last the child into adulthood (or if you have another baby, you can buy a new bed and use the convertible crib for the new babe).

    You want the all in one car seat and stroller that can GROW with your baby. Each baby is different and they don’t always follow the exact guidelines of each stage of the car seats. By buying one that is meant for Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 you know you are covered.

    With strollers make sure you buy for your needs. If you like to jog, get the appropriate stroller, but keep in mind that that stroller may not be suitable for cruising around in a store. And if a store is willing to sell you a display on any baby furniture, do NOT buy it, even if it saves you money. No baby furniture or car seat displays are allowed to be sold.

    Also check with stores that allow you to set up a registry for all your baby needs, this will cut costs for you as well as you can have friends and family come in and buy them as a baby shower gift. Also check with places that allow you to win your registry if you can guess the due date. It’s a good way to save!

  17. I actually won the the equivalent amount of my registry in coupons as a result of guessing my due date. It was the best thing ever. Four years later I am still using some of the coupons to buy clothes and baby items for my kids as well as for baby shower gifts.

  18. We have a almost 4 year old and he was a pretty cheap baby. The most expensive thing we bought were cloth diapers. He was in the from the time he was 3 weeks old until he potty trained just after 3 years old.

    I breastfed him, made the majority of his baby food and the reusable diapers saved us a ton of money.

    We were given most of his clothes when he was younger and even now the grandparents tend to keep him clothed and we just have to buy the odd piece of clothing here and there.

    Thirft stored and Kijiji are fun to find toys on.

    We put his $100/month child taxes from the government into his RESP every month.

  19. avatar Charlotte Says:
    March 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Excellent advice! We didn’t have 2 sticks to rub together when our first child was born, and were grateful for hand-me-downs.

    My daughter wore lots of hand-me-down clothes from friends and relatives. She slept in a hand-me-down portable crib until she was 6 months old and I was able to find a really nice used crib for $100. That crib lasted through her, her 2 sisters and our friends’ 2 children. It’s just been passed down to another family.

    The list of what we didn’t have for her is a lot longer than the list of the baby equipment we did have.

    She’s 19 now and not scarred in any way due to the lack of a themed nursery w/ matching furniture and bedding.

  20. That’s really awesome Janine. I’m usually surprised by the amount of new parents that come into the store that don’t realize that it is an option. It’s a fantastic way to save money.

  21. I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant with my 4th. We have 3 boys and this one is supposed to be a girl. I knew everyone would want to go clothes crazy for newborn stuff, but sorting through my boys’ old stuff made me so sad to know that even with them having gone through 3, most things were only worn a handful of times. I told everyone to save their money since there will be 18 years (at least) of being able to spoil her. I know cute tiny frilly baby dresses are cute, but with this being my 4th I know that practical is the way to go for at least the first year.
    My 2nd son was a summer child and we actually rarely put clothes on him at all. The judgement from other people can be terrible, but the savings in energy, comfort and cost are more important than what some relative thinks.
    The one thing I would never do us make my own baby food. Working full time and having multiple children it just isn’t practical for me. Last thing I want to do is worry about that mess! But when the stuff goes on sale (and with points!) I special order in bulk at the store and use coupons. If I was home just me and one little baby that naps then I would probably attempt to make my own. But in my chaos there is barely time for me to eat sleep and pee, so making gourmet baby food in my kitchen is just never gonna happen!

  22. I totally agree. I didn’t buy much at all for my two kids. But I know that some would ask, ‘Why then did you have kids if you don’t provide for them?…’ Also in public places (malls, stores, public transit, etc) where women with young children are looked down on, moms with not too fancy baby gears and clothes will especially be made feel that way. Hmm…
    I also heard that children start to feel deprived and teased (you know children can be very mean…) if they wear second hand clothes. Does anyone have an idea at what age they start to feel that way??

  23. I would definitely buy organic milk for baby. Perhaps goat or sheep milk. That’s one area that I don’t want to cheap out on because of all the hormones and antibiotics in regular milk. With that being said, I will be breastfeeding (pumping too as I work full time) possibly up to 2 years. Yes I eat more food, but I can’t imagine how much more I would have been paying for formula all this time!! 15 months and still going.

  24. Breastfeeding may be much cheaper but not always an option for everyone.
    I switched to formula.. the one thing I absolutely recommend is a bottle sterilizer. I actually asked for one for my birthday so I could stop boiling them in a pot. Too time consuming. They’re only about $25 but seemed expensive while on mat leave. It is one of my most used baby items.

  25. We have an amazing consignment boutique in our neighbourhood. When my son grows out of clothes that are still in good condition, we bring them to the shop. We have also received many gifts of clothes that are out of season or not worn at all. When we are done with toys or other baby gear, we bring it all in. We get 40% of the selling price back in cash or store credit (which ends up being more than I would likely receive if I sold the item myself) and I use the credit to buy clothes and gear for the next size at very reasonable prices.
    I have raided garage sales (items often 0.50 cents apiece), and purchased shoes in almost new condition from other moms on kijiji – for as little as $5.
    Why anyone would buy children’s clothes at regular price is beyond me.
    With regards to diapers and formula, I use coupons and take advantage of points events at Shoppers Drug Mart. When on sale, the price of diapers may be one or two dollars more than competitors, but I have redeemed over $800 of free products (more diapers) since my son was born 16 months ago. Well worth it!

  26. Marie: Canadian milk does not contain hormones or antibiotics as per Canadian regulations. The difference is the cows are fed an organic diet.

  27. In buying baby stuff for sale, we should be wise. We think of the needs first before we buy what we want.

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