Kids are expensive. Keep costs in check.
As a first-time parent, you’ve probably been warned about sleepless nights, feeding struggles and the persistent fear that you have no idea what you’re doing. But did anyone mention the temptation to buy a $30 Thanksgiving onesie that your baby would wear for about five hours?
It’s easy to overspend when you’re giddy and exhausted, but we have your back. When you get five minutes to yourself — OK, if you get five minutes to yourself — consider these money-saving techniques.
1. Shop clearance and off-season. Your wallet and future self will benefit if you buy clothes and other items off-season, says Cherie Lowe, author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon” and the blog “Queen of Free.” So scoop up that 80%-off sundress now, in the size you estimate your kid will be wearing next summer. When she’s invited to a birthday party in May, you won’t need to schlep to the store and buy a full-price outfit. As Lowe, a mother of two, puts it: “You’re going to be making better decisions if you already have stuff in the closet.”
2. Practice the 24-hour rule. Yes, that tiny cashmere sweater is adorable. And when you’re online shopping on three hours of sleep, it’s totally worth $40. Add the item to your cart, but don’t buy it until you’ve had at least 24 hours to consider the purchase. Within that time, Lowe says, “You gain a lot of clarity of what you need versus what you want.”
If the sweater (or whatever) still seems like a logical buy and fits within your budget, go for it. If you pass because your kid will fit into it for one month, and cashmere isn’t cute when it’s covered in spit-up, then save yourself the $40.
3. Assemble a capsule wardrobe. Those tiny, matching outfits are nice, but your 6-month-old doesn’t need 20 of them. She’s not Carrie Bradshaw, and she’ll grow out of them faster than you can post the cuteness to Instagram. Lowe suggests creating a “capsule” wardrobe — a limited set of basic items with interchangeable patterns and colors. “Inevitably, you’ll end up with stains on the top or the bottom and won’t have to ditch an entire outfit if something goes awry,” she says.
4. Scour Craigslist. Sara Andersen, co-founder of the personal finance blog Mustard Seed Money, has bought enough cloth diapers from Craigslist to cover most of her toddler’s needs since he was an infant. (She’ll reuse many of those diapers for her newborn.) She buys only “gently used, well-maintained” diapers on Craigslist, she says, which are usually much less expensive than new ones.
Andersen has also gotten plenty of free stuff from Craigslist, including two double strollers, several bags of clothes and many, many toys. “Our basement is a playground for our son at this point, and every time I go down there, I’m just baffled about how many of those things were free,” she says.
Andersen washes and/or disinfects Craigslist purchases and never buys safety-related items secondhand. You should buy new car seats and cribs, for example.
5. Subscribe to diaper-delivery services. Diaper runs are dangerous for your budget. When you need diapers, you need them now, which Lowe says often leads to a midnight run to a big-box store. “You’re in a weak moment…you end up wandering around like a lost toddler,” she adds. You get the diapers, sure, but three movies from the $10 DVD box somehow land in your basket, too.