How to Save Money Your First Year of Parenthood

A few days ago as of this writing we celebrated the our daughter’s first birthday. I can hardly believe that it’s already been a whole year! The past 12 months have seen many big milestones: first child, first steps, first words, first diaper, first sleepless night, etc. It has definitely had its difficult moments, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world. There is nothing I am more proud of than my family and becoming parents has required Caroline and I to be more strategic in our time, travel and spending.

As any parent will tell you, having a child can be very expensive. The birth alone can costs you anywhere from $2000-$5000 depending on your insurance. After that comes the costs for healthcare, clothes, food, furniture and eventually toys. The USDA says that families spend almost $13,000 a year per child. These expenses can pile up really fast and eventually take over the monthly budget. Therefore, it’s very important to take advantage of every opportunity possible to save money where you can. I like to think that we did a good job of this over the past year, and below are the main ways we have saved money raising our baby during her first year.

Nursing vs. Formula

Breastfeeding can be a great way to save money on a newborn. I didn’t know this at first, but formula is actually very expensive, costing you over $3000 in that first year. My wife knew from the very start that she wanted to breastfeed for the bonding experiences alone, but that didn’t stop me from being very appreciative over the financial benefits that came with it. Something else most people may not know is that the typical health insurance plan will provide you with a free breast pump. I know this option for cost savings isn’t always available to all new mothers, but if it is and you are still considering what to do you should know how much money you can save by foregoing baby formula in favor of nursing.

Don’t Buy Any New Furniture

There were three pieces of furniture that we needed before our girl was born: a crib, a changing table and a co-sleeper. These items alone can easily cost you more than $1000 if you buy new, which wasn’t an option for us. We couldn’t afford to spend such large sums of money on furniture in addition to everything else. We made the choice to buy used furniture when we could and build everything else.

My wife has recently fallen in love with Facebook MarketplaceĀ and Craigslist. We have used these platforms mainly to purchase furniture, and they really came in handy when preparing for the birth of our baby. The first thing we needed to buy was a crib. I was very excited to get the crib, seeing it as a big symbol of the change coming to our family. Naturally, I wanted to go all out without sparing any expense. The crib I had my heart set on was this one, which is basically one of the nicest ones Buy Buy Baby sells. My wife was convinced that we could get a crib that was just as nice for much cheaper if we bought used, and she turned out to be right. After only a couple weeks of waiting we were able to get this used solid wood Pottery Barn crib for only $120. This same method got us a cheap co-sleeper that our daughter absolutely loved.

All that this left for us to acquire was a changing table. This was the item we struggled with, since nothing good was coming up online for us to buy. Luckily for us we had a local friend whose favorite hobby was building things. He had an entire wood workshop that he used to build desks, kneelers, etc. He was kind enough to offer to help me build a changing table for our child. He showed me this design that he found online, and after a trip to Lowe’s we got to work building it. After a couple weeks it was finished, and we had a solid wood high-quality changing table for no more than the cost of the wood and paint. If you have the tools and a place to work, I highly recommend taking advantage of DIY projects. It’s easy to find designs online and it will save you so much money.

We Don’t Buy Many Toys

As a new father I very quickly felt the temptation to go to the nearest Toys R Us and buy everything I could for my new child to play with. Everybody feels tempted to spoil their kids, but I would caution you to avoid this during your baby’s first year of life (if not forever). The reality is that during those first months an infant won’t really engage with any real toys, and by the time that my daughter got interested in playing she was far more interested in the random stuff lying around the house than the expensive toys that her grandparents, aunts and uncles bought for her. I’ve seen her spend a lot more time playing with the two large wooden spoons from the kitchen than anything else in her play room. Take it from me, save money during your first year of parenthood by not buying many (or any) toys. The reality is that your baby will be much more interested in the random items around the house ranging from socks to books to spoons.

We Buy in Bulk

After clothes the biggest expense you will have after the birth of your child will most likely be diapers. You might spend more than $500 in your first year on diapers alone. Wipes will cost an additional $20 per month. Once we discovered this we switched from buying weekly (during our regular errands) to buying in bulk. We accomplished this through a Costco membership, and have saved a lot of money by doing this.

We Buy Used Clothes

This has perhaps been our biggest money saver after the furniture segment. Clothes are a huge expense during a child’s first year. First let me tell you a little secret: baby clothes sizes don’t mean anything. My daughter was wearing outfits ranging from 9-18 month sizes when she was 7 months old and wears sizes between 12 months-2T now that she is one year old (different brands have different sizing). A baby can grow so fast that you’ll probably find that most outfits you bought did not even get worn before you had to upgrade to a larger size. After blowing huge sums of money on clothes that only got worn once if at all, we decided to start buying used. You can save a lot of money by doing this. When we buy used we can get as many as 5 regular onesies for only $5. For context, 3 white onesies from Walmart can cost you twice as much. While I totally get the desire to want nothing but brand new outfits for your kid, it’s just not worth it during that first year. Some used clothes you buy may not have even been worn before; many of the used outfits we bought still had the tags on them (remember- babies grow so fast, many outfits go unworn). Choose the cost-saving method and invest money in new clothes when they stop growing one size per month.

These are the main things that Caroline and I did to save money during our first year as new parents. Using these methods we were able to cut costs for food, furniture, toys, clothes and diapers. I hope you found some of these items helpful! If there is anything you did to save money on your new child that wasn’t mentioned above, please tell us about it in the comments!

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