We all want to splurge on the new baby-to-be, but these days we simply can't! Here are great ideas.
Those calming breaths you may have practiced in childbirth class? They’ll come in handy in the baby superstore aisle! That’s because baby products are a $9.8 billion industry in the United States with hundreds of new products added to the line-up each year. With an increasing range of choices and seemingly endless options of baby gear online and in stores, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, buy more than you need and overspend. Keep in mind, though, that you can get good value and buy high-quality, safe products for your baby without bruising your bank account — or feeling deprived.
For starters, breast-feeding will save you $2,000 during your baby’s first year, which is the money you’d otherwise spend on infant formula. You’ll shave another $2,000 off the tab by using cloth, aka “reusable,” diapers compared to the cost of disposables. These days, reusable diapers are almost as easy to use as disposables and, of course, they’re great for the environment, too. Skip the designer clothes. Sure, they’re cute. But it’s silly to spend $75 on a super-stylish romper if your baby will outgrow it in a month or two. Want other ideas? Here are six more smart ways to save on baby:
Go with store-brand infant formula
Of course, breast is best. But if you want or need to use infant formula for whatever reason, definitely go with the store brand. Store-brand infant formulas, labeled with the names of retail-store brands, such as Target (Up & Up), Wal-Mart (Parent’s Choice), CVS (CVS brand), Babies R Us (Babies R Us), Sam’s Club (Simply Right), Kroger (Comforts), Toys R Us (Babies R Us) and Walgreen’s (W) have to be as nutritionally complete as national brand formulas as per FDA regulations, yet cost up to 50 percent less, which can add up to a savings of $1,000 or more per year if you formula feed your baby without supplementing with breast milk. Skeptical? Compare nutrition information on the labels of brand-name and store-brand infant formula and see for yourself.
Stock up November through January
The fall and early winter are when baby product retailers slash prices on inventory to make room for next year’s merchandise. So what if you buy a 2012 stroller? Chances are it’s not much different than the 2013 model, aside from a fabric update. If you’re in a store where there’s room to haggle, such as your local baby boutique, be sure to ask, “Is that your best price?” or “Would it be possible to mark this down even more?”
Shoppers tend to flood stores on the weekends due to work schedules. But you’ll often find the best deals on baby things during the week because retailers want to generate consumer traffic. Get on the e-mail list of your favorite baby stores, such as Babies R Us, and keep your eyes peeled for notices of cyber and in-store sales. Like grocery shopping, though, stick to your list. Impulse buys on stuff you really don’t need can wipe out your savings.
Do the legwork
Don’t just register online, products unseen. Go to stores and get familiar with strollers, car seats, cribs and gliders so you really know what you’re selecting. Be sure to list practical items, too, like diapers in the upper size, wipes, infant formula, breast shields and refills for the Diaper Genie. They may not seem gifty, but they can save lots of moolah down the line. For an idea of baby brands and products to avoid, check out saferproducts.gov. You’ll find good and bad reports from other parents about baby products they’ve had experiences with, which can be helpful.
Use a stroller frame for baby’s first stroller
Instead of shelling out hundreds for a baby stroller, snap your baby’s infant car seat into a bare-bones stroller frame, such as the Baby Trend Snap ‘n Go (around $50). The carrier frame will do the job until your baby outgrows his infant car seat (at about a year). It’s compatible with most brands of infant car seats. A stroller frame will buy you time, saving you from having to pair your baby’s infant car seat with a traditional coordinating stroller from day one. You’ll know so much more about your stroller needs once you’ve got some parenting experience under your belt.
Rent baby gear for travel
Instead of lugging a car seat, stroller and play yard or making Grandma shell out for her own set of baby gear, why not rent everything you need to keep you and your little one safe and content? These days, you can lease a crib, play yard, high chair, booster chair, car seat, stroller and even toys at a weekly rate that’s typically less than it would cost to check them at the airport. A basic Pack ‘n Play, for example, which can multitask as a crib, changing table and play pen, typically costs around $60 new and $100 to $130 to check at the airport. To rent one, you can expect to pay around $7 per day or $35 per week, though fees vary per rental agent.
Besides the cost savings, renting is a sanity saver. It takes the hassle out of traveling, which is difficult enough for adults these days. But as you may know, when you’ve got little ones and all their stuff, it can be a nightmare. Before renting baby gear, ask about safety and cleanliness. How have the products been cleaned? How old is the car seat? What happens if you lose or break something? Most rental contracts will stipulate that if the product is damaged, lost or stolen, you’re responsible for replacing it. To rent baby equipment and have it go smoothly, coordination is key. It’s great if the rental agent can meet you at your car rental or at the airport or pre-assemble the products where you’ll be staying, such as a vacation rental. Check Baby Travel Pros (babytravelpros.com) for links to baby gear rental companies in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France and Argentina. Baby Travel Pros members are committed to cleanliness, quality, and safety and follow the industry best practices. Rental prices, products and rental agreements vary per vendor.
Sandra Gordon is an award-winning writer who delivers expert advice and the latest developments in health, nutrition, parenting and consumer issues. Gordon’s most recent book is Save a Bundle: 50+ Ways to Save Big on Baby Gear (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2012). She also blogs about baby products at babyproductsmom.com.