Saving Tips For New Parents: Get Ready For Baby!

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-07-2823

Julius, from the TV show Everybody Hates Chris, has the ability to instantly calculate how much anything is costing him, from 11 cents of tape to how much electricity his three kids are wasting. So when the USDA determined that it would take middle-income parents $226,920 to raise a child who was born in 2010, I could imagine prospective parents like him fainting away. Can you afford to have a baby?

What I’ve noticed though, is that these totals all seem pretty variable. For example, around a decade ago, I noted that the costs of raising a kid was designated as almost half a million dollars, and that figure included tuition as well. It has been pointed out by the USDA that variability does exist on costs incurred by families — so for example, a family with income that runs under $57,600 is expected to dish out $163,440 (in 2010), while a family that earns almost $100,000 annually will spend more than twice that on ONE child (at $377,000+). It’s interesting that we all seem to adjust our expenses based on our income, right?

So what costs are we including here? Your immediate major expenses for having a child will tend to be housing, transportation, food, health care, and essentials like cribs and clothing. And as mentioned, later on, you’ll need to factor in the costs of items like child care and education. The USDA’s breakdown looks like this:

Percentage of Budget
Child Care/Education
Food 16%
Transportation 14%
Health Care
Clothing 6%

Cut Costs for Baby by Planning Ahead

How can you curtail some of these expenses? If adding to your family means finding a new home, then you can use resources like Zillow or Trulia to seek out real estate deals. It might even be worth it in the long run to relocate to a less costly region. For instance, homes in southern states like Georgia or South Carolina may cost less than homes in the Northeast, and especially, California. With the minimum budget that you need for a family of four in California running much higher than what you’ll need in other states, it makes sense that you can lower child costs simply by living in a low cost region. Of course, income is typically affected by geography as well (unless you have location independent work), so this is something to consider when deciding where you want to base your family.

Baby Stuff

As for child care, you can compare the costs of day care centers to babysitters or see if your employer provides a child care facility. Later, if you’re envisioning private school for your child, then check around to find out what kind of tuition different schools charge — and if they offer scholarships. Education takes a big bulk of expenses, as we’ve detailed in this analysis.

But let’s focus on that $226,920 figure. A glance at the Baby Registry Checklist at Babies “R” Us might convince you that it takes most of that amount to welcome baby. Rather than automatically buying the high end furniture and goods for baby, you might end up with getting better value by doing some serious comparison shopping. It’s never good to pay a lot for a diaper bag that will fall apart in two months, after all. Besides, you might end up deciding that your rugged hiking backpack is a better choice.

It takes a bit of effort, but price checks and going over reviews can get you a long way. In my case, as soon as I found out that I was expecting, I began to prepare a binder of material that held a checklist of things I needed for the baby. I scoured online stores for price info and options, and if there was something that caught my eye, it would go into the binder.

Compare Prices for Furniture & Diapers

For car seats, cribs, and clothes, I visited and for a lot of the selections. These days, there are comparison sites on almost anything, which you can find through a quick web search. If the $950 crib doesn’t suit your family, one that’s hundreds less may be more appealing. Of course, it’s usually easy to find good quality clothes and toys on Craigslist, eBay, and even at thrift stores. If you can believe it, I was able to purchase a box of baby clothes off Craigslist for $20! Better yet, if you have family or friends with older kids, make sure to tap them for possible hand-me-downs. I’ve had great luck using this approach — I’ve got siblings who are fashion hounds who end up buying a lot of high end items which eventually find their way to us! At the very least, if you’re a new parent, find out if family and friends can pitch in with baby showers and gifts for that crucial first year.

For formula and diapers, see if you can pick up coupons from your favorite manufacturers and stores. Buying disposable diapers in bulk can certainly save money! Cloth diapers can cut your expenses, but may be less convenient to use. If this is the case, then see if a diaper service fits your budget.

Luvs Ultra Leakguard, 204 ct. Size 4 $32.29 with Amazon Subscribe & Save
Gerber Organic Cloth Diapers, 6 pack $10.96 at Walmart
Pampers Baby Dry, 128 ct. Size 4 $29.99 at Target

Other tips? Compare prices of baby food from the store versus pureeing your own meals. Libraries and bookstores carry books on how to make your own baby food too, so it’s something you can think about. There’s also Amazon Mom, which is a service that offers amenities like 2-day shipping, discounts on diapers and wipes, and email offers.

The USDA report also notes that families with three or more children tend to spend less per child than families with two children. That’s because expenses can be reduced thanks to sharing rooms as well as buying in bulk for food and other necessities. The use of handed down items like clothes and toys can reduce the expenses of bigger families, too. More possible benefits for bigger families: discounts for child care, enrichment classes, and schooling. This Cost of Raising a Child Calculator from the USDA can help you estimate your own expenses. You can print your results or export them as an Excel file.

In addition to the expenses a new member of the family brings, you should consider the possible loss of income when one or both parents take time off from work. Along with the cost of education, this eventuality tends to impact a couple’s lifestyle the most. For short term breaks, parental leave may assist with the initial adjustments you’ll make when dealing with a new baby. But note that while parental leave covers a large number of workers in this country, it’s not offered by every employer. And if you run your own business, you may need to build up savings before you take time off. It’s also quite common for families to decide to focus on reducing to one income when children arrive.

The $226,920 cost to raise a child is an estimate, not an absolute figure. Also, Bloomberg Businessweek cites a Canadian study that found that parents prefer to emphasize the joy of parenting over the enormity of the costs. If you’re interested in adding to your family, there are a number of strategies you can pursue to lower your overall costs. By lowering expenses for categories like housing and supplies, it may be possible for you to afford to have a baby sooner than you think.

So if you’ve got kids, what kind of financial arrangements are you making?

Created September 14, 2007. Updated July 28, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Aunt Mommy September 14, 2007 at 8:05 am

Or spend about $200 on basic cloth diapers and the same amount washing them (or so) for the life of the diaper-days.

david September 14, 2007 at 9:48 am

Those are some great saving tips which I apply to some. Another saving tip would be to limit your cash and credit. Put less money on your wallet so you would have to think before buying. Limit your credit cards or credit so you can’t overspend. Limit yourself to be creative and resourceful when it comes to spending and you shall have less debt in due time.

Sarah September 14, 2007 at 6:07 pm

Buying quality baby clothes on sale is a good start. There are a lot of newborn and children’s clothes that hold up. Try!

Silicon Valley Blogger September 15, 2007 at 9:25 pm

I think my best ever savings came from buying and selling a lot of stuff using And even when I bought brand new materials, I was able to sell them successfully in the second-hand market.

I was somewhat surprised when I discovered that women were willing and eager to buy second-hand pumps. I suppose just as long as you buy your own bottles and filters, it should be fine. Pumping kits can be very pricey at a base price of $220. Maybe I was wrong in assuming that manufacturer’s recommendations suggest the purchase of these pumps as new (for health and hygienic reasons)?

Dr. Frugal September 19, 2007 at 7:27 am

I think the biggest tip on this I can offer (2 kids) is that for the most part, there’s very little you actually have to buy–most other families we are friends with still had tons of baby-everything and were more than happy to part with it. Once our youngest gets a little older we’ll be passing it down the chain as well. No baby couture here but we’ll take money in the bank any day.

SAHMmy Says September 25, 2007 at 3:15 pm

An article close to my heart! Great tips on online shopping and coupon codes–I used the interned almost exclusively when buying for the new baby. After I found everything my little heart desired, I could quickly shop around for used items, coupon codes, and free shipping to get the best for less! Do keep in mind the resale value of your purchases–take care in cleaning and maintaining your baby gear and clothes and you can almost break even after baby outgrows the items.

Kathryn October 22, 2007 at 6:09 am

I am all for sharing. Our homeschool group has lots of boys all a different ages and sizes – we are constantly passing clothes around.

Also, don’t forget the baby shower. If someone offers to throw you one then be honest about what you need or want. And don’t buy anything yourself until AFTER the shower. And don’t be afraid to return multiples to the store.

Alan Murray August 18, 2008 at 6:15 am

Saving for a baby is very important however you will be surprised about how much help you will get from family and friends. Also remember your social life will be cut so plenty of money saved there!

Mamalachapelle November 20, 2008 at 8:52 pm

Babies are a blessing, so don’t sweat it! Having a baby doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Nobody will ever know if you buy “gently” used things. What matters most is the love, encouragement, nurturing, and stability you will give to your baby.

Jules @ Money Feuds February 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Great article! Good advice. I’m keeping it tabbed for future reference : ).

Azun March 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm

The article surely could help the new parents like me. Thanks!

sandra March 24, 2009 at 5:50 pm

received a gift certificate for a personalized birth certificate blanket. i love it! this actually will be a keepsake.

baby daddy April 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm

We’ve actually organized clothing swap days at the daycare our kiddos attend. It really worked out great for everyone as there is such a broad range of ages that go there. We got some really great stuff, AND got got clean out our closets without waste.

Lindie July 4, 2009 at 5:28 am

I’m expecting my first child. My partner and I together earn a comfortable wage but from the moment we found out we were expecting a child have made a rule when it comes to buying stuff for the baby: ‘Purchase nothing new unless necessary’.

I’m one of the last of my friends to have a baby so I’m putting the call out for second hand baby capsules, cots, baby seats, car seats etc. Second port of call is op-shops. I’m looking forward to go on an ‘op-shopping’ spree and finding some great clothing bargains. Providing everything is in good condition I don’t see the point of purchasing brand new for the sake of doing so.

Blanket My Baby February 8, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Without preparation, it can certainly be scary to have a baby. But with a little thought and planning as well as help from family and friends, the fear begins to fade. Plus, blog tips like these are a godsend.

When shopping for baby blankets, we’d love for you to check out our store at We have a wide selection of blankets and our aden and anais line are becoming extremely popular.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen August 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

At the end of the day, having a baby will never shake out financially (you will always have more expendable income than if you were living with double income, no kids). However, there are plenty of unnecessary things that people can skip. Buy all the big toys and furniture used — baby will use it and outgrow/lose interest quickly, and you won’t “sweat it” when baby gets food (or worse) all over your plush $200 high chair. Also keep in mind that sometimes having a child SAVES you money, in the sense that you no longer have a need for a top of the line wardrobe, or ability to take lavish dinners and vacations.

Sam McEwan August 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Fantastic blog post. As a new parent it is rather nerve racking each payday to sort out what we need and to pay our bills on a limited income.

I think planning and budgets are a must for any parents and also for the future – schooling etc is something we need to think about now.

Also as we have done accept hand me downs from everyone… Not only does it cost nothing but as a previous commentator has said babies grow out of things pretty quickly and get bored of toys so don’t let pride get in the way.

Kosmo August 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm

“It has been pointed out by the USDA that variability does exist on costs incurred by families — so for example, a family with income that runs under $57,600 is expected to dish out $163,440 (in 2010), while a family that earns almost $100,000 annually will spend more than twice that on ONE child (at $377,000+). It’s interesting that we all seem to adjust our expenses based on our income, right?”

I haven’t delved into this, but have they normalized this for the locale’s cost of living? It might not necessarily be automatically adjusting expenses based on income. You may simply be in a higher cost-of-living area that also tends to push income higher. You might be purchasing the exact same “bundle of goods” (identical house, etc) and simply be paying more.

I know that if I moved to where you live, my income and expenses would like both rise sharply, even if my standard of living remained identical.

I’m not saying this explains the entire gap – just that it’s probably one factor.

Susan Shaw October 31, 2011 at 10:06 am

Some tips I’ve learned on my own journey as a parent:

1. Know when to go for brand items and when to go generic. Some items may lend themselves better to certain brands, such as infant nutrition (food, formula, etc).

2. Have a clothing exchange. Invite your friends and family for baby clothing giveaways or trades/swaps!

3. Don’t overspend on items that you won’t be using for too long or that won’t really last (such as changing tables, expensive baby toys, etc).

4. Spend on a good car seat. Make safety your #1 priority.

5. Make sure that the crib you purchase is safe and has not been subject to recalls.

6. Go for quality where it matters, and see what you can get for your money’s worth.

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