Thanks to a tiny and cute miracle joining our family 11 weeks ago, I have acquired some totally badass super powers:
- Stringing words together to form semi-coherent sentences while running on 3.5 hours of interrupted sleep
- Maintaining a poker face throughout the diaper changing process
- Typing three-paragraph emails with my right hand (my other hand has been taken hostage by the baby, of course)
It’s totally a matter of time before The Avengers will come knocking on my door begging me to join their fight against the most fearsome baddies in the universe – or screaming babies. Whichever. I have no preferences.
Until Captain America shows up on my doorstep, I’m going to do my best to help expecting parents and fellow new parents navigate the bittersweet world of parenthood with what limited wisdom I wield.
First things first, a quick reality check: being bitten by the baby bug comes with a hefty price, both mentally and financially.
I coped with my postpartum mood swings by eating copious amounts of carbohydrates and shouting “THIS IS SPARTA!” in the shower, so you’ll agree that I’m much more adept at doling out financial advices than being a role model for sanity.
Speaking of finances, my husband and I have spent more than $7,000 on our baby so far, which is an anxiety-inducing amount of money to me.
According to my research, the average new parents spend way more on their baby’s first year than us based on our cost projections. But knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better.
I get it. We all want to provide the best of the best to our little bundle of sunshine, so baby purchases aren’t an area where frugality is usually encouraged or practiced.
But surely one could expect to prepare for the arrival of a baby without burning a hole in the pocket and without sacrificing their safety or quality of life?
After much reflections, I come up with 8 saving tips for first-time parents that I’m dying to share. Most of them are low-effort but high-reward.
Let’s dive in!
1. Ask for hand-me-downs
Because babies share the bizarro habit of soiling their cute onesies multiple times a week and growing a few centimeters every month, they need a lot of clothes for each stage of their development – newborn, 1-3 month, 3-6 month, 6-9 month, and so on.
(Let’s face it, in between baby cuddles and muttering “I got up last time” to your partner, we ain’t got time for doing multiple loads of laundry a week to keep up with demand.)
The dollar value for each piece of baby clothing isn’t outrageously high, but the sheer quantity is nothing to sneer at so the costs add up fast.
On average, you’d probably change your baby’s clothes once or twice a day, so a minimum of 7 day-time outfits for every development stage is needed just to get by, on top of an assortment of sleepers, hats, socks, coats, and frivolous baby garments that are just too cute to resist.
Using the conservative estimate of $25 per piece of clothing, it’s not unthinkable to spend more than $2,500 on one year’s worth of brand-new baby clothes.
Noticed I wrote “brand new”.
There’re some baby items you definitely wouldn’t want used – crib, car seat, diapers, just to name a few – thank God, clothing isn’t one of them.
Got friends and relatives with toddlers? It is totally fine to get hand-me-downs from those who’re willing to part ways with clothes their kids have outgrown. You just need to show up with freshly baked goods and ask nicely.
Asking for hand-me-downs from family and friends is a great way to save money without sacrificing your kids’ comfort.
Thanks to my cousins and sisters-in-laws who have generously donated their children’s baby clothes to us (in exchange for eternal bragging rights for their impeccable sense of baby fashion), we have saved around $2,000, and my son Leo has a fancier selection of clothes than his dad.
2. Let grandparents pitch in
If your parents and in-laws are in decent financial shape and want to spoil their grandchildren with gifts, why not indulge them?
I’m sure it’ll make them feel happy and proud to see your little one wearing, using or playing with whatever baby items they’ve purchased. Just remember to take photos!
Shout out to my mom (aka The Overbearing First-Time Grandma) who gifted us a ridiculously comfortable nursing chair (I realize this purchase is more for me than the baby, and I’m incredibly grateful), a baby bathtub, and a whole lot of picture books and toys. That’s $600 right there that my husband and I didn’t need to spend.
Among all the wonderful gifts my in-laws have sent us for the birth of the baby was a watercolor painting. I like my in-laws so I haven’t teased them about their stereotypical Frenchness, but believe me, the temptation is strong.
3. Throw a baby shower
You know what’s great about throwing a baby shower? Celebrating your pregnancy with loved ones, of course!
You know what else is awesome about baby showers? Practical gifts that you actually want to keep.
If my own list of baby expenses is any indication, most infant essentials land somewhere between $20 to $50, which is a socially appropriate price range for gifts.
Your guests will each spend a reasonably low amount, but collectively your savings could be massive.
Want to avoid duplicate gifts and spare your guests the hassle of searching for gift ideas? Feel free to create a baby registry.
4. Buy bulk items from wholesale stores like Costco
I’m sure you’ve seen this quote before:
“[…] in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” — Benjamin Franklin, 1789.
Allow me to rephrase it to more accurately reflect the reality many parents face:
“[…] in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes, and diapers, and more diapers, and OMG so many diapers.” – Flora Pang, 2019.
The amount of reusable diapers and wipes that we have already gone through is no joke. Without a Costco nearby, we might as well be wiping our baby’s butt with dollar bills.
Costco is good for more than diapers, wipes and powdered formula, but in my opinion, those are the most cost-effective baby items to buy at Costco.
Don’t sweat the $60 Gold Star membership fee, it will pay for itself if you shop there regularly and responsibly.
5. Shop from Amazon’s Subscribe & Save store
As exhausted new parents, making weekly trips to Costco is not always feasible. Don’t fret it. Amazon is a decent alternative.
Unbeknownst to me until recently, Amazon offers surprisingly great deals with their Subscribe & Save program.
What it is: this program allows you to schedule free monthly delivery of recurrent purchases like diapers, formula and baby food and save money at the same time. You’re free to cancel your subscriptions at any time.
In terms of savings, there’re 2 levels of discounts: the regular level (which everyone gets upon subscribing), and the extra level. The extra level discount can be unlocked once you have 5 subscriptions.
Not all Amazon products are available within this program, but the Subscribe & Save store does have a decent baby care section that more than covers the basics.
To discover eligible products, you can go here if you live in Canada, click here if you’re in the US, or simply search for “Subscribe & Save” followed by the name of the product you’re looking for on Amazon.
Let me tell you, having products automatically shipped to me at the beginning of every month and never worrying about running out of baby essentials is doing wonders for my mental health.
6. Leverage workplace and government benefits
Congratulations! You’re probably entitled to receive maternity and parental benefits, either from the government, your employer, or both. These benefits will make the transition from pregnancy to parenthood much smoother financially.
Let’s first address government benefits.
If you live in Canada, here’re some resources you might want to check out:
For my American friends, you’d want to look into Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Next up, workplace benefits.
As a freelancer, I get no benefits. Zero, zilch, zip, nil, nought, nothing.
Luckily my husband’s employer generously reimbursed parts of the cost of our private hospital room and gave us a generous bonus for the birth of the baby. Love them!
The best starting place to see if your employer provides any relevant benefits is to check your employee handbook, or email the HR person that you trust the most.
7. Make do with what you already have
I’d like to thank the previous owner of our house, whose peculiar taste in bathroom design turned a potentially expensive renovation project into a blessing once our son arrived.
You see, we have a *beep* ton of counter space in our guest bathroom. We can fit a changing station AND a baby bathtub AND all of Leo’s bathroom products on it, with a sink within arm’s length, making it easy easier to take care of Leo’s sanitary needs.
In the end, we saved $100-$300 by not purchasing a traditional changing table. I call that a win!
Perhaps you too, have house fixtures or furniture that you can leverage in this fashion.
Got an old dresser that’s obsolete? Move it into your baby’s room, it’s theirs now!
Got a laundry hamper that you’re no longer in love with? Turn that into a toy basket.
Have fun being creative in coming up with your own recycling ideas!
8. Save and plan ahead of time
Babies don’t usually surprise us with their birth – most of us know that they’re coming at least a good couple of months before they do. So save, save, save!
This is the most obvious and perhaps the most important advice.
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting your finances in order and saving before the baby arrives. Once the baby is born, it’s show time and your monthly outlays will permanently increase, making it that much tougher to save.
It’s important to get your finances in order and save before the baby arrives. Once the baby is born, your monthly outlays will permanently increase, making it that much tougher to save.
Also, if you save and plan ahead, you have the luxury of time to wait for things on your must-buy list to go on sale, instead of scrambling to buy everything at the last possible moment and paying top dollars.
Aim to set aside 5% to 10% of your take-home pay every month, put it into a high-interest savings account, and only take it out when a major baby purchase needs to be made. If you manage to save at least $5,000 pre-baby (outside of your emergency fund and regular investments), I’d say you’re in decent shape.
Onward and Upward
And that’s a wrap!
Being a parent is thankless, expensive but rewarding work. I wouldn’t swear it on my worst enemies, mostly because I’m afraid they’d enjoy it too much once they get past the initial hurdle.
Good luck and a virtual hug to anyone who needs it! I’m going to peak outside my window to see if one of the original Avengers has shown up yet.