Babies Bring New Costs -- but Some of Those Expenses are Unnecessary

Author: Christy Bieber | June 05, 2018

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Money-saving tips for new parents

So, you're adding a new member to your family. Congrats! Babies bring lots of joy, along with more than a few sleepless nights.

Unfortunately, your new bundle of joy also brings a lot of new expenses into your life. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates child-rearing expenses total around $12,680 during the first year of a baby's life -- and some estimates put that number much higher.

The good news is, you don't have to spend a fortune to give your baby a safe and loving home. In fact, there are plenty of ways to save money when having a baby. In fact, here are 30 tips to save big when it comes to prenatal care, delivery, and your baby's early years.  

ALSO READ: 4 Financial Moves to Make When You Have a Baby

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1. Get the right insurance coverage

Prenatal care and delivery are some of the biggest costs new parents incur when welcoming a new baby into the world. Getting the right care is important to ensure your baby is healthy, but costs of prenatal care could total around $2,000 if you don't have insurance coverage -- and the cost of delivery could be 10 times that or more if you have a complicated delivery or cesarean section.

The good news is, under Obamacare, insurance policies are required to provide prenatal and maternity coverage. If you're planning to have a baby, make sure you have an Obamacare-compliant policy provided by your employer or purchased privately. If you buy on Obamacare insurance exchanges, you may be eligible for subsidies to help you afford premiums. If insurance is too expensive, you could also see if you're able to qualify for Medicaid.

When you know you're planning on having a baby, it often makes sense to buy a more expensive policy that provides very comprehensive coverage. Many parents are surprised to find an anesthesiologist or other doctor on their care team is not a participating provider with their insurer -- even if their ob-gyn is in-network. Having a policy with a low deductible and at least partial coverage for out-of-network care can help you avoid surprise expenses. 

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2. Avoid extra hospital charges

While good insurance should cover many costs associated with delivering your baby, there may be “extras” insurance won't pay for.

For example, if you opt for a private room instead of a semi-private room, you could be left to foot the bill for the extra costs. Some hospitals also charge for little things, such as TV service if you turn on your set. Make sure you find out in advance what your insurance will pay for and what upgrades you'd have to cover and decide if they're worth it. 

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3. Take advantage of special deals for moms and dads

While having a baby necessitates new expenditures, there's some good news... companies want to capture all of the dollars you're spending so coupons and special incentives are frequently on offer.

Take full advantage of these programs. Sign up for family-geared services and opt into deals offered by baby goods manufacturers. Formula makers, diaper suppliers, and purveyors of other baby items are eager to give you discounts if you just provide your contact information.

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4. Consider cloth diapers -- especially if you have hand-me-downs or are having multiple kids

A new baby uses in excess of 2,700 diapers in year one alone, so your diaper bill could total more than $550. Cloth diapers can often provide savings, although there can be high startup expenses.

If you're planning on having multiple kids, you can reuse diapers so your one-time initial investment should pay off big. If you're a one-and-done family or aren't sure about bringing home multiple babies, see if any of your friends might be willing to lend diapers their little ones have outgrown. 

ALSO READ: 5 Tips For a Smooth Transition Back to Work After Having a Baby

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5. Buy in bulk

If you're planning on using disposable diapers, buying in bulk often provides good savings. You can join a club such as Walmart's Sam's Club, Costco, or BJs, but you don't have to in order to benefit from bulk buying.Instead, just buy a lot of your brand when diapers go on sale, which usually happens on a six-week cycle.

Stocking up on diapers not only allows you to buy when the price is at its lowest, but it also means you'll make fewer trips to the store and are less likely to find yourself in a situation where a diaper emergency arises and you're out. 

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6. Comparison shop carefully

When buying diapers, formula, and everyday baby products, don't assume any one particular store, like a warehouse club, will always offer the best deal. Comparison shop among different local grocery and drug stores to see which prices are the cheapest.

You should be sure to compare prices on big purchases too. Once you've figured out a brand of car seat, stroller, or beast pump you want, search the model number online to find the best deal. 

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7. Use free services to learn parenting skills

Many parents pay a lactation consultant or other experts to help them get the hang of new parenting skills.

While you may need these services, check with the hospital and with local parenting organizations in your area to see if you can get them at no cost. Some hospitals, for example, offer access to free breast feeding support groups even after you've delivered. 

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8. Breastfeed baby if you can

Speaking of breast feeding, it can be a lot cheaper to breast feed than to buy formula. In fact, buying formula could cost you more than $1,700 during your baby's first year of life, while you'd pay nothing for breast milk.

Many medical professionals think that breastfeeding also has health benefits for babies, although what's most important is making sure your baby is eating enough to gain weight -- so don't feel like you must breast feed if it is not working for you. 

ALSO READ: 8 Tax Breaks Every Parent Needs to Know

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9. Consider powdered formula if you don't breast feed

If you don't want to breast feed or can't nurse, powdered formula is typically cheaper than liquid formula. In fact, powdered formula costs around half as much as liquid formula and there are also more generic options for powdered formula products.

If you opt to save money by buying less costly powdered products, prepare the powdered formula carefully by following CDC instructions, including warming water to at least 158 °F and shaking, rather than stirring the formula. The CDC warns that very young babies could be susceptible to a very rare cronobacter infection that can be spread through powdered formula, so you may want to wait to use this trick until your child is a few months old.

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10. Register for practical shower purchases

When you have a baby, your friends and loved ones will likely want to give you gifts in celebration. Making a baby registry is a good way to ensure these gifts are useful.

While it's tempting to load up your registry with adorable outfits, fancy crib bedding, and other cute baby paraphernalia, registering for practical purchases makes far more sense. Chances are good that at least some people will buy the adorable baby stuff anyway, but you should get some items you really need. The more that other people provide, the less you'll have to spend. 

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11. Take advantage of offers for help

If family and friends offer old baby clothes, ask if you need a meal cooked, or are willing to babysit, take them up on their offers to help.

You don't have to be a super mom or dad and taking time for yourself to rest and relax can help you to be the best parent possible. When you get help from others for free, you won't have to pay a babysitter for a break or order takeout and your loved ones will be happy to make your life a little easier. 

Plus, once your baby gets older, you can pay it forward by doing something nice for the people who gave you a hand. 

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12. Skip the fancy baby clothes

There are endless adorable outfits you can dress your baby up in, but you're likely to find out very quickly that those cute designer onesies end up covered in baby vomit or worse. 

Babies don't need expensive clothing, and they're likely to ruin it or outgrow it long before you get your money's worth. Instead of buying your baby a wardrobe that's fit for the red carpet, buy inexpensive and durable baby clothes that you can wash easily and that are comfortable for baby. 

ALSO READ: 5 Ways to Prepare Financially for Parental Leave

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13. Let your baby go barefoot

Baby shoes are another adorable but useless product. Your baby isn't going to be walking outdoors for a long time and doesn't need shoes to be carried around. 

And, once your baby starts walking, it's better for your child to be barefoot or in socks with rubber dots to prevent slipping.

Save the cash you'd have spent on baby shoes and use it for something more practical. You'll be buying shoes soon enough and your child will outgrow them faster than you care to imagine.

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14. Forego the fancy nursery furnishings

Nursery furniture can be really cute, but you're probably noticing a trend here -- all of these baby items designed to make parents say “aww” are not items you should be investing in.

Babies don't really know what their nursery looks like and they're going to outgrow that cute pastel paint or fancy mural you commissioned before they're old enough to care.

Instead of going all out on kitschy decor, get practical and useful furniture that can grow with your child. The paint color that's already on the walls is probably fine too, so don't feel like you need to turn the room pink or blue. 

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15. Don't buy tons of baby products you haven't tested first

Before baby comes, you may want to stock up on diapers or bottles your parenting magazine recommended. The problem is, reality often doesn't match expectations when it comes to parenting. Those diapers could leak on your daughter or your son might refuse to take the bottle.

Until you've field-tested baby items, buy just one or two. Once you've found brands that work, that's when it comes time to buy in bulk. 

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16. Forego unnecessary baby gear

There's an almost endless list of products new parents think they'll need but that won't get any use in the end. Wipe warmers, diaper stackers, specialized changing tables, baby timers, and bassinets are just a few of the items you'll find turn out to be entirely unnecessary.

Parents survived without all this fancy baby gear since the dawn of time and tons of products on the market only exist to help manufacturers make money. Talk to parents who've already raised babies to find out which products they actually found helpful, and don't buy much until you've seen how your baby interacts with the world. 

ALSO READ: What Will Being a Caregiver Cost You?

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17. Don't go all out on toys

Buying tons of toys can also be a big waste, as many babies are very happy doing simple things like staring at a ceiling fan or playing with your wooden spoons.

You can invest in a few carefully chosen toys designed to stimulate your baby's imagination and help your baby to develop new skills, but keep the purchases to a minimum. And, any toys you do buy, make sure they're appropriate for your baby's developmental stage and always check for product recalls. 

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18. Borrow whenever you can

Unless you're planning to have tons of kids, there are some products you'll use only for a short time and never look at again. This can include everything from a breast bump to a pack-and-play. If you have friends with this baby gear that they don't need, borrow the essentials and buy very little.

Your friends and family may be willing to offer up their items, or you can put out a call on social media. Just be sure anything you borrow is newer to meet modern safety standards, well taken care of, and hasn't been subject to a product recall. 

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19. Buy second hand when it's safe

When you can't borrow, buying second hand is also a good way to save a fortune.

You can find baby clothes and other baby paraphernalia at thrift stores and yard sales. But, if you're buying products that could put your baby at risk of injury, always check to see if the item is new enough to comply with updated safety regulations and if it's on any recall lists.

You may also want to avoid products such as used crib mattresses that could have bed bugs, unless you buy them from a trusted friend. 

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20. Get free medical advice before setting up appointments with doctors

New parents are often concerned about every little hiccup. If you're constantly running to the pediatrician,  however, you could end up with big medical bills even with insurance since there's usually a copay.

In many cases, however, doctors, nurses, and hospital helpline staff are willing to answer questions via phone or online at no cost. Find out if you have access to a phone service where you can get your questions answered without making an appointment you'd have to pay for. 

ALSO READ: Can My Children Get Money From My Social Security Benefits?

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21. Ask your pediatrician for ways to save

Talking with your pediatrician could also help you to find ways to cut costs on medical expenses for your new baby if doctor's bills or medication costs are adding up.

Many doctors are willing to help patients find ways to make care more affordable, such as providing drug samples or coupons for medications your baby may need. 

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22. Pre-cook some meals before baby comes

When baby arrives, you'll be focusing on your new son or daughter's needs -- but you still have to eat. You may be tempted to buy a lot of takeout during these crazy months when you're settling into life as a new parent. Unfortunately, the costs of convenience food add up.

To make sure you aren't wasting money ordering out, stock your freezer before your son or daughter comes. Having a bunch of healthy meals you can defrost and re-heat means you'll always know what's for dinner. And, bonus, if you're breast feeding, these meals can be formulated to provide more of the nutrients you need to help your baby become as healthy as possible. Takeout won't do that for you. 

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23. Avoid jarred baby food

Speaking of food, once baby starts eating, you could spend a fortune on those little jars of baby food that are specially formulated for infants. But, you don't have to. Making your own baby food is simple, quick, and affordable and you have more control over what your child eats if you prepare the food at home.

Alternatively, you could consider baby-led weaning. With baby-led weaning, you simply allow your child to try very small pieces of whatever food you're eating once your child expresses interest. Baby-led weaning may be the most cost-effective and simple approach to feeding your son or daughter, and it can also help your child to develop a love of lots of different foods before aversions develop. 

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24. Grab your books at library sales

Reading to your baby is very important and you want your child to have a full library of books. That doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune to get them though.

Many libraries have annual book sales where you can get discounted books for a very low cost. In fact, if you go on the last day of the sale, you may be able to fill an entire bag of books for just a few dollars when prices hit rock bottom. 

ALSO READ: 4 Personal Finance Tips for New Parents

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25. Stay away from brand names

Whether you're buying diapers, formula, or baby clothes, brand names come at a big premium and it's often unnecessary to pay extra for a designer label. Try the generic brand whenever you can, and definitely skip designer baby clothes that provide no benefits.

If you find brand name diapers work slightly better, consider reserving those for nighttime wear and opt for the cheaper generics during the daytime when leaks are less likely to occur. 

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26. Opt for reusable products instead of disposable

Buying disposable products can add up quickly, but you can often opt for reusables that cost far less over time. For example, you can use cloth breast pads that can be washed, and can use soft rags instead of baby wipes.

When you do need disposable products, see if general purpose ones work instead of specialized baby gear. For example, if you're pumping breast milk, zip locks could work as well as breast milk bags but will cost less. 

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27. Keep an extra baby bag in the car

Almost every frazzled new parent has had the experience of being out and running out of diapers or other baby essentials. Often, this leads to an expensive emergency purchase to get the missing item.

The good news is, you can avoid the added cost-- and the stress of not having what you need -- by doing one simple thing. Just keep an extra baby bag in the car. When you find you're out of something, it's just a matter of returning to your car to grab your spares. 

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28. Work out a daycare share with other new moms and dads

Daycare is one of the costliest expenses new parents incur. Finding ways to save can be a challenge because you don't want to compromise your baby's care. But, depending upon your family situation and social circle, there may be opportunities to reduce costs.

One option is a nanny share, where you and another family split a nanny to care for your kids. This can be far cheaper than daycare if you have multiple children, and can be way less expensive than having a nanny all your own.

If you and another mom work different days or shifts, you could also try trading off daycare. Or, you and your other friends with babies could watch each other's kids while you each have a date night instead of paying a baby sitter. 

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29. Skip the extravagant parties for babies who won't remember them anyway

Celebrating big milestones with your baby is one of the best things about being a parent. But, this doesn't mean that you need to have expensive birthday parties for a baby that won't remember them anyway. 

Don't buy a lot of unnecessary gifts, skip the fancy entertainment, and just have a simple celebration with loved ones. You can get the obligatory pictures of your baby with cake all over his face and make great memories without blowing your budget on a big event. 

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30. Claim your tax deductions

Finally, last but not least, make sure you take full advantage of any help the government gives you when it comes to saving money on your new baby.

There are plenty of tax credits new parents could be eligible for, including a child tax credit worth as much as $2,000 starting in 2018. Having a child could also make you eligible for the earned income tax credit or increase the amount of this credit, and you may be eligible to claim the child and dependent care credit to offset some of your daycare costs.

Be sure to update your accountant or the online program you use to do your taxes to claim all of the credits and deductions for new parents, because this money will definitely come in handy. 

ALSO READ: Parents: Tax Reform Just Opened Up a New Planning Opportunity

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Making an effort to save is worth it

Finding time to try to save money can seem impossible when you're immersed in the work of taking care of a new baby. Still, the less money you spend on unnecessary baby care items, the more cash you can put towards other goals -- like saving for that college fund you'll need

So, take the time to cut as many costs as you can when your baby is still little, as the costs you'll incur are only likely to get bigger in the future along with your child.


Christy Bieber owns shares of Walmart Inc. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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