Friday, 19 April 2013

Saving Money in Your Baby's First Year

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There are articles all over the internet telling you how much it costs to have a baby, and most of them don't give very low figures.  One source states that the average US citizen can expect to spend $12,000  in their baby's first year, and $12,500 in the second.  I'm not sure if articles like these are meant to discourage people from having babies (which would be silly, since we are in a population decline), but that's what seems to be happening.  One of the most common reasons people give for not having children is that they "cannot afford them". 

We want to be a light in all this darkness and tell you that a baby doesn't have to be as expensive as "they" tell you.  Our little guy is now 15 months old, so we've just come out of that 1st year, and thought we'd share some of our money saving tips for your first year with a baby!
  • Firstly, get over the idea that you need all the stuff they say you need, and especially that you need to get the COOLEST stuff.  It's not true.  Ask some wise moms you respect what items they say are the "must-haves"
  • Don't be afraid to ask around for stuff you can borrow.  Many parents are happy to lend out those big ticket (and normally more expensive) items, which are usually only used for a short time.  Baby swings, exersaucers, jolly jumpers, play pens, etc.
  • When people offer you secondhand items for free - take them!  I've heard numerous moms tell me how they were surprised who came out of the woodwork with items for their baby and I've experienced it myself.  People know that babies can be costly (but again, don't have to be), and are generally more than happy to help out!  The cycle continues when you remember all the people who blessed you and and pass on some of your used items to another new mom.
  • Buy secondhand.  This tip obviously extends beyond the first year, but especially since babies grow so quickly, most of their clothes and other items haven't been used for very long.  You can find plenty of baby clothes and toys in secondhand stores, and they are usually our first stop.  We also like to use E-Bay and Kijiji, especially for bigger items like car seats or highchairs.
  • Breastfeed.  Free except for the cost of the extra calories for you for the first 6-9 months!  Plus wonderful bonding time and really lovely once you get over those difficult first few weeks. 
  • Make your own baby food.  Just puree up some steamed vegetables, soup, or whatever you're having for dinner, and freeze in ice cube trays.  Pop out and put in a plastic bag and you've got meals galore - for dollars less than you would pay for jarred baby food.  Plus it's healthier, easy, and you know what is in it.
  • Plan for mom to stay home! This will not only cut costs in daycare, but also food, and possibly vehicle expenses.  And the non-financial gains are immense.
  • Use cloth diapers.  We intended to do this, but for reasons I won't get into, didn't.  However, we can tell you that disposable diapers were our biggest cost throughout the year.  We did try not to buy them unless they were on sale, and you can bring the cost down significantly that way.
(Maybe you're still thinking "Well yes - a BABY isn't that expensive - but what about when they're older?  I'll have to pay for sports leagues, and birthday parties, and new clothes ... and college!"  Great question! Check out these two fantastic posts by women who can speak from experience to that issue: The Expense of Children & We Couldn't Afford Children.)

Have your baby's cost more or less than you imagined they would?

What are YOUR tips for saving money in the first year? 

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  1. I agree with everything except buying a second hand car seat. In Canada, it's illegal to sell a used car seat, and most car seats expire. This is due to specific safety reasons. Over time and exposure to sunlight the plastics start breaking down, becoming brittle and structurally unsound. Also, once a car seat had been involved in an accident, it develops stresses in the plastics, leaving it structurally unsound, and these seats have been proven not to be able to meet safety standards. It's unnecessary risk. If you are going to get a used car seat, make sure is coming from a trusted friend or relative, where you KNOW the history and know and trust the previous owner.

    1. Hey Andrea! glad to have you here! Super good point about not wanting to use a car seat that has been in in an accident, or that has expired. However it doesn't seem to be illegal to sell a used car seat if it meets the current safety standards, as per this article by health Canada.

      Awesome idea about upcycling clothes!


  2. Another idea: when I was on mat leave, I up-cycled old worn out adult clothes to sew clothing (mostly pants and pajamas) for my little guy.

  3. It's true! Kidlets take money, but there are ways to cut back. Big things that helped us... Take advantage of borrowing from others, and always shop second-hand (especially at a young age when they grow out of clothes do darn fast and if you're picky can find basically brand new), we ADORE Once Upon A Child... Find free resources in your community to be a part of (ex. For us it's library time, parent and family literacy centres, early years, etc), so you're doing great things with your kids without a cost (at $40/year Momstown is pretty incredible too)!
    Our way to save for our kids future is to put the money we receive from the government straight into a savings account (we don't see it), and ONLY use it for investing in them (may use it for a swimming class etc., but do far, untouched). You never had that money before kids, so we live like we still don't.
    Hard thing we're dealing with is the impossibility of me staying home after this mat leave... We do need the money (or desperately find a way to work from home)!
    Sorry for the babbling... I haven't changed much :)

    1. Hi Cassie, love your tips! We love OUAC too. :) You mentioned looking for a way to work from home, and I wanted to pass on some info regarding being a Norwex consultant. I just started in January and have found it to be a great way to make money while being able to stay home with my three boys. I go out in the evenings so my husband is able to stay home with the kids, so it's a win-win.
      If you haven't heard about Norwex you can check out and also Stephanie's blogpost/review all about her love for Norwex! :) You can email me at or call me at 905.317.1042 for more information too. It's free to start up, and you can work however much you want - part time, fulltime, etc.

    2. Hey Cass! So glad to have your input! Great ideas - I also love library and the early years centre. I also love the idea about putting those cheques right into a savings for the children.

      I do hope you can find a way to stay home with your little ones! I'll be praying for you! :) Would love to have you over again sometime!

  4. For my babies, I dress them mostly in sleepers. They are comfortable for the babies and 'comfortable' for my budget too... at the consignment store they are far cheaper than all those adorable duds (that sometimes slide up their legs or bellies or are too tight or loose on their waist). Some of the sleepers are really adorable too.

    Great post! I like the sites you linked to also.


    1. Good idea Christine! Those sleepers are so cozy and they look so sweet in them!

  5. Our younger children had cot sheets made from worn out full size sheets. If you are young, you might not have worn out sheets but your mother/aunt/older friend might.

    Hang onto large items if you hope to have more than one! Our pushchair lasted all five of our children. It looked a bit old fashioned by the end but still carried children and shopping.

    Helpful tips.

    1. So creative! Thanks so much for sharing that sheets idea! And certainly true about holding onto things!

  6. I get tired of people saying how much kids cost too! All those estimates are crazy - they must be based on buying everything you could possibly desire at full price! We have three children ages 5 and under and spend very little extra on them. My tips:

    Clothes: Ask around for hand me downs (if you don't get inundated with offers without asking - I have to turn people down we get so many offers!). I'd suggest trying to find someone with a child about a year older than yours who doesn't plan on having more children. That's the situation we have for my older son and so 95% of his clothing needs are met with the clothes that are passed on to us (and then those are passed down to my other son). Occasionally, we'll have a shortage on pajamas or need a pair or two of jeans in good shape, so we keep our eyes open at garage sales or on Craigslist or the clearance racks at stores. Sooooo much cheaper than Goodwill or a consignment shop - I'm constantly surprised when people suggest those places as good ideas to save money. Sleeper pajamas (in perfect shape!) at a good garage sale are usually $1 and I've found onesies for 4/$1! Also, on Craigslist you can often find huge lots of clothes in one size for one low price which is great if you are starting from nothing (that’s also a great way to buy maternity clothes!). Finally, I often buy my kids' holiday (Christmas, Easter) outfits the year before when they go on clearance after the holiday is over (i.e. 50-70% off!). You have to think ahead to what size they might be in a year which can be little difficult, but I haven't had a total fail yet (had to hem a couple pairs of pants, but that's it! Dresses are especially forgiving in the size).

    Baby Gear: Similarly, get hand me downs and save everything for your next child and keep your eye out for good deals at garage sales and on Craiglist. You don't need a ton of stuff - believe me, it will just clutter up your house!

    Activities: There are soooo many free family activities to take advantage of once you start looking - you're children need not feel left out just because you don't have a lot of money. Libraries have many free events, there are tons of festivals and events in your local area, most museums have a free day (just check their website) or you could consider purchasing an annual family museum membership that will let you get into tons of reciprocal museums for free, check out or to find half off deals around your town, go on hikes and visit all the parks in your town, etc. There are soooo many fun free things to do if you just research a little. Oh, and don't forget to bring a sack lunch - those meals at museum cafes and such are total rip offs!

    Eating Out: We are astounded at how often other families eat out and waste so much money on it! But you don't have to stay away completely - sign up for restaurants that offersa free birthday meal, use a really great coupon and combine it with their special, go to restaurants (like IHOP) where kids eat free on certain days, and whatever you do DON'T order drinks as they are the biggest rip off on the menu (with desserts close to follow!). Water works just great (ask for lemon if you want) and then you can fill up on the yummy food instead! :o)

  7. (Part Two)
    Gifts: Buy Christmas and birthday gifts ahead of time when you spot stuff on clearance or at garage sales. But don’t go overboard – the more kids get the less they will appreciate and the more consumer-minded they will become!

    Food and Household Supplies: Couponing!! You will save so much money on everything from canned beans to diapers to salad dressing to deodorant. Check out couponing blogs like for tutorials on how to match up coupons with store deals to get the most bang for your buck. It takes some time, so it's not always possible to do (like when you have a newborn!), but you can create quite a stock pile to last you through times when you can't coupon.

    Make Your Own Stuff: Eat home-cooked meals as often as you can as they are usually healthier and cheaper than the alternative. Make your own laundry detergent (you can find a good recipe here at - it's simple and very cheap! Make you own baby food - again, very simple and cheap! My favorite book about that is Blender Baby Foods and the recipes are so delish that a couple of them have become part of our regular family meals (not blended, of course :).

    Vacations: Who says you have to go to Disneyland or on a cruise? We've done many incredibly fun family vacations for only a few hundred dollars or less. Camping, staying at a friend's timeshare condo, road tripping, staying at a relatives, explore national historic sites and parks - these things are about making memories as a family, not about spending wads of cash.

    Barter: You have a friend that teaches piano lessons but you can't afford them for your child? Ask if she'll trade for something - maybe fresh produce from your garden each week, or weekly house cleaning, or a quilt you've made, etc. Be creative! My husband is a commercial fisherman and so we've traded albacore tuna for a quarter of beef from a friend who raises grass-fed beef. We've also traded fish for frozen pizza (from a friend who is a pizza distributor) and for family pictures from a photographer!

    Babysitting: If you have family nearby, ask them to babysit for free! Grandparents are the best of this. :) If not, find a friend that you can swap babysitting with so that you don't have to spend any money on it.

    College: As your kids get older, try to involve them in a family business where they can put money away for college that they have earned themselves. That is our intention with our online canned tuna business, I know a family that the kids all ran an online website where they shipped specialty marbles all over the country and that made enough to send the family on a trip to Hawaii!

    Final Miscellaneous Tips: If you frequent Starbucks all the time for $5 drinks, then stop! :) Consolidate and refinance loans and get them paid off. Don't buy a house bigger/nicer than you can really afford. Don't remodel and redesign all the time. Make do with less. Cut your children's hair yourself. If you are in a real financial difficulty, as your doctr or hospital if they will write-off your delivery bill (yes, they do this occasionally even if you do have insurance!) or at least get put on an interest-free monthly payment plan with them.

    1. Thanks Sara! Even with baby #4 on the way, some of these tips are new and will be very helpful! I agree completely with your tip on Vacations. We stopped flying as a family years ago, so our kids love the idea of piling into the car for an "Adventure", even if it's just to the grandparents' house.

    2. Wow Sara! Thanks for sharing all these great tips! :)

  8. Pinned this!
    PS I do a Friday Linky party if you want to link up!

  9. We did all of these things with my little girl and wound up not spending much at all. I love cloth diapers, making nutritious baby food, and borrowing even big ticket items like our crib & car seat. People have really blessed us with baby items and I'm looking forward to seeing how God provides for us when baby #2 comes along in late July. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Congratulations, Jelli! How wonderful to be blessed with another child :)

  10. Thank you!!

  11. Good to know that it can be done! Congratulations to your little bundle of joy.

  12. I agree babies do not cost that much. People do not give a thought to expensive car payments. We just had our fourth and live on one income.

  13. Totally agreed. Parenthood brings a lot of excitement and passion in our lives resulting in us spending extra money on items that may not be needed at an early stage. My husband and I overbought clothes for our baby and now what I do is keep my baby in sleepers as they are much more comfortable and quite affordable.

    But, the best purchase decision we made was when I ordered an exersaucer online on Amazon which costed me only $70. Our little angel has been using it since months and it’s still in a very good condition despite the way kids handle such stuff.
    So, my advice to all young parents is to think twice before you dump in money into extra stuff, but yes, always buy the right exercauser for your kids.

    Btw - great post! The right kind of information we need :)