Monday, September 2, 2013

Baby on the way? How we saved $10,000 our first year as parents

money saving tips for moms
Original photo by Lott Photos, Austin TX.

I'm really glad I didn't calculate the costs of raising a child before I got pregnant. Call me naive. Call me irresponsible. But you probably wouldn't be calling me Mommy if I had known the financial realities of bringing our Marshall into the world.

Huddled inside our little Princeton, NJ apartment during a January snowstorm, Daniel and I poured over the baby-cost online calculators, while a little peanut-sized Marshall wreaked havoc on my appetite. We quickly concluded that $12,000-$15,000 during one year was not a possibility we wanted to entertain, so we searched for ways to cut that budget in half, and surprisingly, we did even better than that.

Here's what we did to save $10,000 during Marshall's first year.

We used cloth diapers. 

For about $200, we purchased a dozen Fuzzibunz Cloth Diapers , in assorted colors. They are adorable, they are environmentally friendly, but they are (obviously) more high maintenance than disposables. For wipes, I used wash cloths I found on sale at Target and an olive oil/baby wash/water solution I found online. I was not brave enough to go exclusively cloth, so we used disposables when we went out of the house or on vacation. And a bonus--I sold the diapers on Craigslist for $100! 

Total estimated savings for the first year: $700

We breastfed.

I would not necessarily call myself a "lactivist"--I think formula was invented for a reason--but we felt strongly about breastfeeding Marshall for his first year. It was the healthiest option, and it was FREE. We delayed solid food for 6 months, so from July-February, we did not spend a cent on his nutrition, other than the multi-vitamin our doctor recommended.

Total estimated savings for the first year: $1200

We were creative about childcare.

I had always assumed that I would keep working full-time after Marshall was born. My mom was working full-time and going to school when I was born, and I thought she ruled the working world. When Daniel and I were crunching baby budget numbers after we found out Marshall was on the way, we discovered that with the staggering cost of childcare, I would basically be breaking even. So, we decided that I would work around Daniel's schedule. It meant I taught less, and it meant that I worked strange hours with my arts administration projects (starting at 6AM and then working during nap times and evenings). However, we were able to make it work with very little childcare, especially in the first year. 

Total estimated savings for the first year: $7,200

We bought less and washed more. 

Let's face it. Baby clothes are cute, and it is tempting to buy a lot of them. But, babies grow out of those clothes really quickly, and we could not justify the expense of a child with a wardrobe twice the size of his parents. So, we used what we were given from family and friends, bought what we absolutely needed, and did more laundry. We were able to recoup some of the cost by selling back what we didn't use, either on Craigslist or Once Upon A Child

Total estimated savings for the first year: $500

We separated what we really needed from what the baby industry said we needed.

I remember leaving my first baby shopping experience in tears. There were so many products, and all of them seemed to carry the same merchandising message: "If you want to be a good mother, you will buy this for your child." 

We didn't buy it. Mainly, because we couldn't afford all of those things. 

We tried our best to only purchase what we really needed. For instance, Daniel's specialty-running-guru colleagues got together and bought us a BOB Jogging Stroller . We bought the Infant Car Seat Adapter for $60, and that was it. No umbrella stroller. No travel system. That was one of the best decisions we ever made, mainly because the BOB can literally turn circles around any other stroller. (Try it! You can turn it in circles with one hand!)

Total estimated savings (just on the stroller) for the first year: $400

Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that these ideas should be followed, just sharing what worked for us. Sometimes breastfeeding and cloth diapers are not options. Parents cannot always put careers on hold, and not all parents-to-be have a group of marathon-runner friends waiting to buy them jogging strollers.  

Nor am I suggesting that this strategy was easy. During Marshall's first year, I was either working, nursing, or washing something--sometimes all three. 

What I am suggesting is that we take some time to consider that the "accepted" norm for what we should buy for our children, how much we should spend on our children, and how we should raise our children for that matter, is not necessarily what we should accept for our own families. What is "accepted" is not always acceptable. 

In other words, I didn't buy Marshall as many clothes during his first year as society thought I should. I don't think Marshall noticed.

Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and buy the product, the price is the same for you, but I get a small amount of commission. Rest assured, I only include links to products and companies that my family has personally used. (Translation: They get a thumbs-up from Marshall.)


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