If I had a chance to go back and relive my new parenting days, I wouldn’t change a single thing, except my spending habits. According to some sources, raising a baby will end up costing over $200,000, and that’s only if your financial responsibilities end at age 18. Even if you saved only 10%, that would be an extra $20,000. It may not seem like much now, but 20 years from now that amount will either be a blessing to your child’s college fund or to your own retirement planning.
1. Buy Used: Except for car seats and cribs, everything from toys to clothes should be purchased used. Babies grow up way too fast. That cute $40 pair of sneakers on sale for $20 is probably only $5 at your local thrift store or child consignment shop. Considering that your child will only be able to wear them for several months at most, don’t indulge yourself on these cutesie items that don’t last. Take it one step further and acquire hand me downs from your friends and family. Return the favor when you can.
2. Breast Feeding: The only reason I didn’t breast feed all my children was because I worked a full time job. At least, that was my excuse. Invest in a breast pump if you work. Formula is expensive, and this will save you around $5000. On top of that, this will save you in medical expenses. My youngest son did not get sick even once while I breastfed, though my other children were plagued with colds and ear infections.
3. Movies/Books: With 4 children, my movie collection is probably worth about $50 even though it probably cost me a thousand or two. Except for movies that you LOVE, you shouldn’t pick up that DVD just because it’s on sale for $2.99. Most movies, if they’re good, get watched for a week or two and then are long forgotten. The same thing happens with books. Except for your personal childhood favorites, get the books (or even videos) from the public library. For newer books, plan outings to the bookstore and read to your child there.
4. Battery Operated/Electronic Toys: All those twinkly lights and sound effects that you find appealing are exactly that, appealing to you. Your child will probably get more enjoyment with the box it came in. You don’t need to spend a lot to know you have a good toy, and you’ll save yourself from having to buy an excessive amount of batteries.
5. Pictures: Baby pictures are adorable, and you want to capture these memories. Many superstores offer 50 pictures for around $10. Don’t get caught up in buying the $300 package. Sure, your baby is adorable in that plastic tub prop, but 10 years from now, the majority of that photo package will end up in a box in the attic. Don’t get me wrong, you should have some studio quality photos, but you don’t need these every two months. Or if you feel like you do, just stick with the basic package or make the bulk of your own photo albums with your own digital camera.
6. Water: My friend’s daughter thinks soda and fruit juices are way too sweet, and therefore, disgusting. She prefers water. This is something I wish I could have instilled in my own children, but I was a soda-holic myself. If you can, make water a drink of choice for your children, as well as yourself. Not only will this save a lot of money over the next eighteen years, it’s also healthier for your whole family.
7. Diapers: Using cloth diapers will save you thousands. They now have disposable liners that you can use that will give you all the convenience of disposability for a lot less.
8. Tantrum Toys: Learn to say no at the store. And never give in to your child’s tantrum over a toy or candy bar. In fact, that’s the worst time to get your child any surprise “treat” because they’ll learn throwing a tantrum is the best way to get what they want. You will not remember any particular gut-wrenching tantrum no matter how stressed you think you feel, nor will your child remember that toy, especially if you get it for them. In the end, most tantrum toys are forgotten by the end of the day and will end up in the garbage can. Even if it’s a $1 toy, opt to put that dollar into a college fund. You, and your child, will appreciate this 18 years from now.
9. Furniture: When decorating your nursery, make sure to get good, solid furniture that will be useful beyond that first year. Avoid baby themed furniture. Buy dressers that are solid and durable, that can be used for the entire 18 years if necessary. Buy cribs that can be converted to a toddler bed. I’ve always thought changing tables were unnecessary and unsafe after the first several months, but some mother’s swear by them. Some breast feeding mothers say their rocking chair was a must have, but I found my couch more comfortable.
10. Savings Fund: Start your child’s college savings fund now for those college expenses that go beyond tuition or room and board. No matter your income level or budget, it’s possible to save $5 a week. In eighteen years, that will become $4320 (probably closer to $5000 with interest). Sure, $5000 won’t put much of a dent on that college tuition bill, but it will go a long way in regards to a mini refrigerator, microwave, a laptop and other away from home necessities.