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Raising a baby isn't cheap! (Check out our Baby Costs Calculator to see how it all adds up over the first year.) Luckily there are plenty of ways to save money. Below you'll find the top baby expenses our site moms reported to us and what you can do to lower them.
Cost: $70 to $250 per month for powdered formula (for a baby fed formula exclusively)
"I never realized how expensive it was [to formula-feed] until I had to start supplementing and then transition completely to formula," says one mom. And monthly formula costs could be even higher if your baby needs a special formula due to feeding problems, for example. "My son needed hypoallergenic formula. At the most expensive [point], we were spending $400 a month," says another parent.
Ways to save: Breastfeed for as long as you can. If you're not breastfeeding, use powdered formula, which costs less than ready-to-use or liquid concentrate. Consider purchasing store brand or generic formulas, which meet the same federal nutrient requirements as brand-name formulas but are less expensive. If you do buy brand-name formulas, sign up to receive coupons on formula manufacturers' websites. After you're sure that your baby tolerates a particular formula well, buy it in bulk at warehouse stores, instead of at drugstores, where it's usually more expensive.
Cost: $70 to $80 per month for disposable diapers
"I was surprised by the range in price for diapers depending on where you purchase them – at a supermarket, pharmacy, or superstore," says one mom.
Ways to save: Using cloth diapers and washing them yourself is gaining popularity with many budget-minded parents. According to one mom, who says she saved $2,000 by going this route, "You'll be surprised by how cute, easy, and convenient cloth diapers are." If you prefer disposable diapers, buying them in bulk online or at warehouse stores is the best way to save. Sign up at diaper manufacturers' websites to get coupons, and stock up when diapers are on sale.
Cost: Varies according to which type of childcare you choose: daycare center, home daycare, or nanny care
"Babysitting is $10 an hour where we live, and daycare averages $1,000 a month," says one mom. "We constantly feel in a bind financially."
Ways to save: For full-time care, consider asking a relative or friend who may charge less than a traditional center. Home daycares and nanny sharing can also save cash. For occasional babysitting, trade time with a trusted neighbor or friend, or hire a responsible student. If possible, coordinate work schedules with your partner so you can each cover some of your child's care. Finally, consider enrolling in a flexible spending account for childcare expenses if your employer offers one.
Cost: Varies according to which items you buy
"Everything [seems to] cost about $100," says one mom. "After a while, that seriously adds up!"
Ways to save: Create a registry so friends and family members can help with the big purchases. Start with the basics – a good car seat, stroller, and bouncy seat, for example – and wait to buy other things. You may be able to try out a friend's activity center or swing to see if your baby likes it before buying one. Although it's important to buy your car seat new, check for other items at garage sales, community websites, and secondhand stores. "I wish I'd bought more used gear," says one mom. "It wasn't until my baby was a few months old that I figured out how many moms would love to sell their barely used baby equipment."
Cost: $20 to $50 (or more) per month on average
"There were times I went to expensive stores and spent $40 on just one outfit," says one mom. "A couple of weeks later, it wouldn't fit anymore."
Ways to save: Many first-time parents find they receive enough gifts to keep their baby clothed for the first few months. After that, watch for store sales and online deals, and accept hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. Get gently used items from consignment stores, thrift shops, community websites, and garage sales. Finally, treat your child's soiled clothes with stain remover or a laundry booster so they can be worn again!
Cost: $50 to $100 per month (after your baby starts solid food)
"At one point, my daughter was eating five jars of organic baby food a day at nearly $1 per jar," says one mom. "Baby food is ridiculously expensive," says another.
Ways to save: If possible, make your own baby food. "A good quality hand blender will pay for itself in about a month," says one mom. You may find that your child likes homemade food better than jarred, and you can often make baby food out of what your family's already eating for dinner. Clip coupons for those times when you do buy prepared baby food. As one mom points out, "Portability and speed are worth something!"
7. Toys and books
Cost: $30 to $50 (or more) per month on average
"Some toys are priceless, but you can't know which ones your baby will love," says one mom. "I found that my baby really only loves three toys out of the 20-something I bought," says another.
Ways to save: Let your child play with safe household items. "The whisk is a big hit with my little one," says one mom. Buy toys secondhand, borrow books from the library, ask friends for hand-me-downs, and consider setting up a toy and book exchange with friends or neighbors who have babies around the same age.