So you’re about to become a parent for the first time. Congratulations! Are you in sticker shock yet? According to the USDA, parents in the US spend over $12,000 on average per year on child-related costs for that precious little bundle of joy! (Use the calculator here for your own customized reality check.) And that’s not counting all the stuff you need to get before Baby even takes up residence! All of which may have you wondering how to save money on baby stuff.
We were totally unprepared for the financial ramifications of all that gearing-up-for-Baby. While we did use some of these strategies, others are things I only figured out later.
So if you or a friend find yourself in this boat, read on to learn
How To Save Money On Baby Stuff
1. Set up registries
Even if you don’t expect to have a baby shower, setting up as many online-only and store-based registries as you can often pays off. You don’t even have to go to the store; you can set everything up on your computer from your own home. But only put the things you really NEED on them. Extra stuff you don’t need will end up as clutter in your house if Great-Aunt Lola decides to send you a gift.
Think outside the box when setting up a registry. Will you need room-darkening curtains for Baby’s nursery? Don’t forget to register for the curtains, rods, and any hardware you’ll need to install them. Will Baby need an alarm clock to get up for school someday? Getting a digital clock now will help you track time during nursing or bedtime.
Why set up registries if you don’t plan to use them? Simple: Many places give out free gifts/samples when you set up a registry. And many others will send you a “registry completion coupon” a month after Baby’s due date, so you can get a discount on everything else you still need from your list.
What you’ll save: 10% or more with your “registry completion coupon”; 100% on gifts from your registry
Other considerations: Great way to get non-“baby”-specific gear you’ll need for your home. Everything will be brand new, so no safety concerns.
2. Skip the stuff you don’t really need
Do a quick online search for “baby stuff you don’t need.” You’ll find tons of advice from experienced mamas, product reviewers, and parenting magazines on what you can live without.
Most mamas I know would stick wipes warmers and bottle warmers in this category (though others swear by them, of course). If you’re really short on cash or space, add changing table and even crib to your “skip” list (more on gearing up for Baby in a small space here, including how to get by without these). And bumpers, blankets, pillows, and crib toys are unnecessary at best, and downright dangerous at worst.
But also consider the long game before deciding you need Baby-specific items. Suppose you plan to make baby food from scratch (which is another great way to save money, BTW). Do you really need a baby-food-making machine and separate baby-food-freezing containers? We managed fine with steaming food in our microwave, mashing it with a fork or puréeing with a blender, and freezing 2-tablespoon portions in ice-cube trays. These were all items we already owned, and continue to use long past baby-food-making days.
While we’re talking food, I’d argue that conventional high chairs are also a waste of money (not to mention space). For the amount of time you’ll use it, you’re better off getting a sturdy, compact booster that will serve Baby from first bite through a booster at the table. Or if you must have a fancy chair, get one that they can use at their homework desk down the line, and on into adulthood.
What you’ll save: 100% on things you skip outright, savings vary on things that serve multiple purposes over time
Other considerations: Ask your mama-friends what’s on their “waste of money” lists, and why, as you make your own list.
3. Look for sales and other discounts
With months to plan for Baby’s arrival, you’ve got time to price-watch. If Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up, see if any of your bigger-ticket items go on sale. Try to figure out when your favorite store changes its inventory, or your favorite brand releases its new lines. Watch for discontinued colors or patterns; that was how we got a steal on the highchair/booster seats that have grown with our girls.
Also put things in your online shopping cart but don’t buy, and wait to see if the price changes. This works for many chains, not just Amazon, so long as you’re a registered user and logged in when you add items to your cart. I regularly do this to save myself from impulse buys; often, within 24 hours I’ll get an email with a discount/coupon code to entice me to buy the item.
And as I’ve also noted before, it pays to look for “used” items on Amazon (or elsewhere) that you’d think would only be sold new. That “used” box of diapers is almost certainly not a partially-used box; it’s an Amazon Warehouse Deal. This means that the box itself got damaged, or was a customer return. This is a great way to regularly save 25% or more on stuff you would buy anyway!
What you’ll save: Varies widely, from 10-25% to 50% or more
Other considerations: Be careful with items that expire, like carseats, and ALWAYS check manufacture/expiration dates. That super-duper 5-100 lbs convertible seat is not such a good deal if it’s on clearance because it was manufactured 18 months ago, and you’re not due for another 6 months. It will expire long before your child is done using it!
4. Shop children’s consignment stores
I didn’t discover these until Kimmie was a year old. Children’s consignment stores sell new and gently-used baby and children’s clothing, gear, and accessories; they’re also a great way to upcycle kid stuff when you’re done with it.
This is how consignment stores work: Consignors bring in stuff they want to sell. The store staff selects the best items (those that are newest/most current, from the best brands, in the best shape, aren’t missing pieces, are most likely to sell, and haven’t been recalled). The store then sets a price, and displays items for sale. When someone buys something, the store keeps a percentage of the sale price and gives the rest to the consignor.
Consignment stores are a great place to stock up on clothing/shoes at bargain prices. They’re also super for scoring big-ticket items at a fraction of retail. Quality is generally top-notch, because stores know that customers expect this in a boutique setting. And because the store cannot legally sell recalled/expired items, they won’t let those items hit the sales floor – meaning you can trust the safety of whatever you buy.
What you’ll save: Roughly 30-50% or more off larger gear. 50-60% off clothing and smaller items (up to 90% or more if something’s on clearance)
Other considerations: Consignment stores follow the same seasons as the retail world; back-to-school and fall items will appear starting in mid-summer, and summer items will show up in spring. Quantity and range of selection varies widely from store to store, and day to day; space limitations are the biggest factor. Sign up for store email lists for email coupons and sale alerts; follow local stores on social media, since some will use social media to post new arrivals each day.
5. Shop at children’s resale events (aka consignment sales)
Consignment pop-up sales (sometimes called “children’s resale events” by those in the industry) are like a children’s consignment store on steroids. The ones in which I participate several times each spring and fall have 500-700 consignors selling hundreds of thousands of items over the course of a few days.
Many consignment sales take place twice a year, spring and fall. (Check the Consignment Mommies online directory to find an event near you. Then double-check the event’s own website to confirm times/dates the sale is open to the public.) While the limited timeframe (usually 1-4 days) for these pop-up events means you can’t just stop in whenever you want, the largest ones have one huge advantage over consignment stores: more floor space for more inventory. This means you might have a choice among twenty or more baby swings. play yards, double strollers, booster seats, or whatever larger-gear-item you’re seeking.