The cost of raising a child in the United States is considerably higher than it is in any other country around the world. Food is cheap here, but healthcare and education is not and both of these send those costs spiraling, with the average low income family paying over $150,000 to get that child from birth to 18 years old.
That’s a scary proposition for a family in debt, but there are ways that you can reduce that total spend without sacrificing your child’s health or happiness. In this guide we’ll look at ways that you can do just that, emphasizing the opportunities available to first-time parents in particular.
1. Ask for Interchangeable Clothes
Two things hold true where a baby’s wardrobe is concerned:
- There will be way more clothes than they can possibly wear and these will become useless before long.
- The vast majority of these will be purchased by friends and family.
The trick is to negate the first issue and make sure the second is to your benefit. Tell friends and family to buy single items of clothing as opposed to outfits. Rather than buying a cute dress or suit that will only be worn once, before getting vomit stains all down it and then becoming too small by the time it has been washed and ironed, ask them to buy several items of clothing with neutral colors. It’s easy to swap them out if they become dirty, and you don’t need to worry too much when they no longer fit.
Less is more here. A child does not need hundreds of outfits.
2. Buy Used
eBay, Amazon Marketplace, Facebook, Craigslist—all of these sites can give you access to some great used baby supplies. The vast majority of parents can’t bear the idea of giving their children something that another baby has worn, which is absolutely absurd. Not only can you save up to 90% without compromising quality, but in most cases it’s still brand new. There are a huge number of clothes that were never worn, toys that were never played with, and push chairs that were never used, because everyone goes over the top when buying these things in the first place.
3. Stock-up on Diapers
Reusable diapers are great if you can bear the idea of them and don’t mind taking the extra time needed to use them. They are low-cost and environmentally friendly. If you can't or won't use them, then you should look to buy large amounts of disposable diapers, or subscribe to a service that will deliver them to you when you need them.
Buying in bulk will help you to make big savings, and it will also help you to avoid those last minute dashes to the store, where you paying more money than you should for premium brand and also spend money on gas.
4. Make Your Own Baby Food
A lot of chemicals go into making baby food, and there have also been controversies regarding chemical contaminants making it into the supply chain. This is horrifying, and not something that a parent wants to consider. Luckily, there are cheaper options than sticking with the premium organic brands—just make it yourself.
New parents are like new kitten owners, always worrying about whether their baby can eat this or that, and constantly battling with the idea that a simple food stuff is going to somehow hurt them. You need to lose this mindset and start focusing on fresh and healthy foods that you can cook, mix and blend yourself.
There are many great recipes out there that you can try and this way you always know 100% what goes into the food that your baby eats.
5. Listen to Advice from Parents with Several Children
The ones who know best are the ones who have been there before. The average first-time parent is more inclined to listen to a friend of a similar age, who has also just had a child, than they are their parents, who have raised multiple children and have decades of experience. But contrary to what you want to believe, your parents really do know best, as do all the other parents who have raised multiple children from babies to adults.
They’ve made the mistakes and they can give you the advice you need to avoid making the same mistakes. Of course, there are generational differences to keep in mind, but these are a small part of a bigger picture and shouldn’t stop you from asking for—and taking—advice.
6. Set Precedents
Children expect what they have always had. A child raised on designer clothes, as many toys as they want and weekly trips to the theme park is a child that will come to expect all those things as they grow and will be difficult to deal with if they don’t get them. A child that lives frugally, going on a picnic instead of eating out; going to the park instead of the theme park, and getting Walmart clothes instead of brand names, is one that will be just as happy, but will impact less on your finances.
First-time parents want to spoil their kids, but this never works out for the best and there are many better ways to keep them occupied and happy without damaging your budget.
7. Take it Easy with Birthday Parties
Do you remember that lavish birthday party that you had thrown for you when you were two or three? Do you remember when you were the same age and you attended another child’s birthday party?
Of course not. No one remembers those early birthday parties, yet parents insist on having a big blow out and on making them as lavish as possible. If they were honest to themselves they would admit that these parties are thrown so they can look good in front of other parents, and not so their child can enjoy themselves. This “keeping up with the Jones’s” will land you in a lot of hot water and ensure you’re deep in debt throughout that child’s life.
Keep it simple, keep it cheap. By all means throw a nice party and snap some pictures so that you can show the child when they grow up, but don’t go overboard. A few friends, some nice food, and an evening drink for the adults is all you really need. You don’t need bounce houses, petting zoos, magicians, and a yard full of food. And you definitely don’t need clowns!