When we first found out we were pregnant, all we heard was how expensive a baby is. Having not planned our pregnancy, we were quite overwhelmed by the numbers we were hearing. It didn’t hit home until we went to register, and after noticing the price tags on everything we were scanning into the registry, we came home really discouraged. There’s NO WAY we can afford to have this baby. What are we going to do?
Without having to get too creative, we found some great ways to save money. According to Baby Center, the average cost of a baby per year is roughly $10,158. Imagine our panic when this was the number being tossed around for 9 months. When broken down, $8,100 of that is on-going costs (baby food, clothes, toiletries, childcare) based on a monthly budget and $2,058 of that is for one-time costs like baby gear, furniture etc). Wow. After plugging in the numbers on their cost-estimate tool, I was able to get a close number to what we actually spent our first year with Ava. Our total on-going costs were $6,700 and our on-time costs were $874. Not too shabby, eh? Here’s how we did it:
The wonderful family that I nannied for in college was going through their baby things, and offered us a crib, high chair, and car seat. We ended up trading in the car seat and high chair for a Babys R Us trade in sale where you get 20% off a new item just by recycling your old ones through them. We bought a forward facing car seat and convertible car seat for Ava when she grew out of her infant carrier. We kept the crib which just happened to be white and matched our guest room furniture. My dad built a case for the diaper pad that we put on the dresser saving us the money we would have spent on a separate changing table. The bookshelf and nightstand were in the guest room, and now we use them for the nursery. Our recliner was a super sale at kohls, and it was given as a gift to us after we picked it out.
Ava's current nursery arrangement- everything is used except for wall art and bedding!
We were blessed with family and friends who threw us THREE showers! We received most of our big baby gear supplies at our showers, so that really cut down our one-time costs. We got the travel system stroller and infant carrier. That cut down the cost of buying a separate stroller and car seat. It was pricier at first, but the snap-in snap-0ut feature of the carrier was SO convenient. Especially in our MN winters (Ava was born in November so it was perfect)! We also got our jumper, diaper pail, tons of infant toys, books, and movies for our showers. We borrowed a swing from one of the Hubby’s co-workers just to see if Ava would even like a swing. After a few months, we decided to invest in our own. Instead of high chair, we got a Chicco travel chair that just attaches to the table- saved space and money (and it’s easier to take apart and wash)! We don’t have a monthly budget for toys because Ava has TONS just from birthdays and holidays. Sometimes we will pick up something special for her, but she really doesn’t care for fancy toys right now. She L.O.V.E.S. books, and that has been our weak point. We buy kids books from the Bargain sections of bookstores, and we go to our Library almost weekly.
Chicco Travel Chair- LOVE this chair
Aside from clothes from our showers, we only buy outfits at full-price for special occasions like baby dedication and holidays. Otherwise, we found an AWESOME second-hand store around here called Once Upon A Child. It’s lightly used name-brand clothes for all kids sizes! I’ve found amazing deals on GAP, Old Navy, and Ralph Lauren outfits! I’m talking barely used GAP jeans for $4.00, a Ralph Lauren dress for $2.50, and other miscellaneous pants, shirts, and sweaters. We also get a lot of clothes at garage sales (which I highly recommend. You don’t have to settle for worn out clothes, and you can sometimes bargain for even cheaper prices) Does this kiddo look poorly dressed?
garage sale dress and Target clearance hat!
Food and Toiletries:
I breast fed for the first 4 months of Ava’s life. I intended to go longer, but Ava had a big appetite, and the time I was given at work to pump wasn’t long enough to keep up with her growing appetite. We got our pump from the family I nannied for. It was cleaned and sterilized several times before I used it. The pump alone saved us roughly $400.00. The Hubby and I took a marriage retreat over Valentines weekend, and 2 hours into our trip to the babysitters, I realized I left days worth of pumped milk in the freezer. Ava had formula the whole weekend we were gone, and when we got back, she didn’t want to nurse anymore :-( since I couldn’t pump enough, we decided to go to formula. At first we were buying an expensive brand of formula. After a few months of paying $100.00 out to formula, we decided to check with our pediatrician about giving her an off-brand formula! He totally okayed it, thus began our saving $50.00 per month extra just in formula. (btw, the brand was Target’s Up and Up). Whens she started on solids, I used coupons like a mad woman. We didn’t get a lot of the fancy baby treats. And when we did, (like Gerber puffs), we kept them in the diaper bag for traveling. We also bought the grocery store brand baby foods, and around 9 months, Ava started table foods. We had to adjust our grocery budget for less processed food and more healthy meals that would give Ava rounded meals.
We received tons of diapers in every size except NB for showers. So except for buying about 6 weeks worth of nb diapers, we were pretty well supplied until around month 7 or so. After that, we started buying the off-brand diapers as well. The only time we buy expensive diapers is when Ava is getting a rash on her bum. We go with “Stay Dry” types to help heal her bottom. We could cloth diaper, which I understand saves a ton monthly and is also better for the environment, but to be honest, it’s just not for me. I’ve seriously considered it and done some research, and I just don’t want to. Baby care products were given to us for showers, and we still use them: nail clippers, comb, travel supplies. We buy wipes in bulk, so we don’t even have to buy them monthly.
Things that cost us more:
Baby bath and lotion has been a little of a challenge for us since Ava has very sensitive skin and chronic eczema. We had to go through a few different lotions and soaps before we settled on a more expensive vanilla oatmeal wash. We also still use Dreft detergent. We tried going to regular detergent when Ava turned one, but her eczema flared up really bad. There are ways to make your own hypo-allergenic detergent, and I’m looking into that for when our current Dreft runs out.
We went through pacifiers like crazy! Whether we lost one while we were out, or the dog ate the nipple off of one, we were constantly buying pacifiers through her first year. And, we bought the nice pacifiers, so we paid more than the average. However, we broke Ava of her pacifier cold-turkey the day after her first birthday.
It took about 4 different brands of bottles before Ava finally settled on one type. We went from cheapest to most expensive, and she liked the in-between bottle the best! But, it was costly to buy a ton of different types for her to refuse drinking from it.
The most important thing for us over the first year was to set a budget to follow. We laid out all of our expenses and figured out exactly how much we could afford to put towards things. Because we spend more in some areas (lotion, detergent), we had to skim in others (diapers etc).
It felt really nice being able to adjust the average amounts that Baby Center automatically put into each category to lower costs. Having a baby wasn’t quite as expensive as we were told or anticipated. We didn’t go all out, and we use a lot of hand-me-downs, but Ava doesn’t know, the average person doesn’t know, and more importantly, we’re able to provide more financial stability for Ava to allow for other things like savings, bigger gifts around the holidays, and once-in-a-while random surprises!
Don’t be so overwhelmed by the costs of your baby’s first year. Take a look at the numbers, and if they ARE overwhelming look at what you can adjust and where you can sacrifice!