Budgeting for baby

Guest post by Courtney Velek, marketing manager and new mom.

I consider myself good with my money. I work for a credit counseling agency for goodness sake! I manage our household finances and put money in savings and retirement every month. I rarely buy things I can’t afford. I follow the rules.

When I found out I was pregnant, the rules flew out the window. It was like a new me took over, and I was obsessed with everything baby. The baby business has become a multi-million dollar industry and you get sucked in…FAST! Your hormones kick in and you covet a diaper wipe warmer like it’s the Holy Grail. I was living in a world filled with thoughts of CaCalo, Munire, Banana Fish, Glenna Jean, Da Vinci, and Chicco. However, I have since learned that, like everyday life, you have to budget for a baby too. Careful planning and smart thinking can turn major expenses into manageable ones.

Following are a few tips/words of advice that might help you along the way:

1. You don’t have to have best of the best. This might be a generalization on my part, but I found that in many cases the “best” equals a higher price tag. Name brands are okay, but do your research. A less expensive brand might actually be a better fit for you. The cost of baby furniture was a real eye-opener for us. The big name brands are very pricey, and you can get the same look at JCPenney for half the price. Cribs have to undergo the same safety standards regardless of where they are sold so ultimately you’re paying for a name. (Note: Not the case for all baby items, so do your research.)

2. Make a list and stick to it. There are great online lists that give you an overview of everything you’ll need and how much things will cost. Divide the list into “must-haves” and “things I want.” This will help you stick with your priorities. Buy the must-haves first and then prioritize the wants. Try waiting until the baby is born to see if you need any of the things on your “want” list. You’ll probably find you can do without a lot of those items.

3. Don’t let your hormones make the decision for you. I almost spent $700 on a rocking chair. If you can rationalize paying for something, then do it. But, think long term before you buy and don’t let your emotions make the decision for you. Would I rather spend the money on a fancy chair than an investment account for college? Ask yourself which would benefit your child and your finances more in the long run?

4. Use coupons. Sign up for mailing lists at your local baby store. Saving 10% on a couple big purchases can add up. Search sites like RetailMeNot.com or Coupons.com for coupons.

5. Bargain shop. Look at flea markets, resale shops, garage sales and Goodwill for accessories and other furniture you can repurpose. A coat of paint and a new knob can have a huge impact on an old nightstand. Craigslist is a great resource for second hand items. (Note: Do your research if you buy second hand – make sure it’s safe and hasn’t been recalled before you buy.)

6. Ask friends and family for recommendations. In a matter of five minutes, I had more advice than I needed. Your friends will tell you what they use and what’s not necessary. Don’t have any friends with kids? There are a ton of online message boards about all things baby. My favorite was TheBump.com. Post your thoughts or questions – you’ll get very open and honest feedback. There are a lot of things out there that you don’t really need. Think carefully about your decision and weigh your options.

7. Set up a bank account for baby. I used all of the baby cost calculators and determined how much I would need to set aside each month. I set up a bank account strictly for baby purchases so we could buy something when we needed it and not be strapped for cash to buy groceries that month.

8. Breastfeed. Plain and simple—breastfeeding saves money. When your child is eating solids, making your own baby food cuts costs. Check out a few cookbooks on Amazon.com.

9. Share. Ask a friend if you can borrow her maternity clothes. Offer to pay a small rental fee if you feel rude asking her. Check out garage sales for bags of maternity or baby clothes at a discount price. Once your baby grows out of his or her clothes, offer them to a friend.

At the end of the day, the baby budgeting rules are the same as your everyday budget. Stop worrying about what everyone else will think. Live within your means. Buy what you can afford and weigh your options. Good luck!

Tell us about how you save money on baby expenses. What was the biggest financial shock for you? What tools and resources do you use?


Courtney Velek is a former marketing manager at MMI.

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