If one thing about kids is constant, it’s that they’re expensive — and despite the jokes, diapers (at as low as $20 per one month supply) are often the least of the expenses you’ll incur.
According to the USDA Consumer Expenditures Survey, in the United States, a married, middle-income couple can expect to spend more than $230,000 by the time their child turns 18 years old, with the biggest costs being housing, food, childcare and the cost of education.
The good news?
You’re not shelling out that six-figure sum as soon as you come home from the hospital with your newborn, and you may have likely accounted for some of the largest expenses — like moving to a larger home, creating an emergency fund or setting up a college savings plan — already. Not to mention recurring expenses like housing (especially if you live in an expensive city). These larger expenses may be hard to swallow, but they’re easy to anticipate.
But the smaller expenses — a Mommy and Me class here, a birthday party there — can put your budget off kilter, and make it tough to reach your savings goals.
Since you already know you’ve got to splash out plenty of cash for your offspring, here are 6 things you should cut out, guilt free.
From strollers to cribs to bouncers, baby gear is adorable … and expensive. And while a swing or a bouncer may be a “can’t live without” in month 1, it’s going to be an oversized piece of clutter by month 11.
The best option? Buy used, or ask friends to borrow this type of gear.
Chances are, they’ll be happy to get it off their hands, then you can pay it forward by passing it off to the next parents-to-be in your neighborhood. Joining local parenting groups or buy/sell/trade groups on social media a few months before your due date can be a smart option for parents-to-be.
Car seats can also be a smart thing to source second hand, but only if you know and trust where the seat is coming from; car seats lose their safety efficacy if they have previously been in a car accident. This, among other reasons, is why Consumer Reports suggests parents set the bar high when assessing a secondhand car seat.
In some areas, classes designed for the under-one set can cost nearly $30 a session. While these can be invaluable for socialization, consider doing a DIY option and inviting a few close friends over to a central place to sing songs, play with toys, or just have the babies crawl around and socialize.
Getting to know new parents who have children the same age as your own children can give both you and your baby some time for much needed socialization — without breaking the bank. And trust that your child has plenty of time to develop into a musical prodigy, regardless of whether or not they took a tambourines for tots class!
Infant clothes are adorable — and expensive.
Instead of buying outfits, ask your friends and family for hand me downs. As your child becomes older and develops his or her own sartorial taste, they can choose what they’d like.
For now, treat them as they are: pieces of fabric that will inevitably get stained and spilled on.
Travel is expensive, especially with a family. But infants are free on laps up until age 2, except on international flights, where parents have to pay a percentage of the full ticket price to cover taxes (usually around 10 percent). Take advantage and have your tot sit on your lap.
Yes, traveling with kids can be difficult, but the savings will be so worth it.
From diapers to formula to baby shampoo, it’s easy, as a new parent, to feel like more expensive equals better.
But that’s not the case — for example, infant formula is regulated by the FDA, and while there may be minor differences in ingredients between different brands, they must all meet certain nutrition requirements.
When it comes to these sorts of everyday items, trying a few different brands and picking what works best for your baby may be your best option. And you may be pleasantly surprised that it’s not the most expensive item on the shelf.
Eventually, of course, your child may want a bedroom and their very own door to slam when they have a disagreement with you. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends an infant share a room with parents for the first six months of their lives, if not the entire first year.
Because of that, and because of an infant’s unpredictable schedule, there’s no rush to get a larger pad ASAP. An infant can happily thrive in the corner of the living room, giving you a chance to shore up savings.
And a bonus #7...
The cost of gifts can really add up. Less is more, and you may be surprised how entranced your infant is by everyday objects like plastic cups, tennis balls or crinkly paper.
Not only that, but toys are also a go-to gift from friends and family members, so making the decision to not spend in this area can be a smart way to save for bigger financial goals.
Of course, it’s sometimes hard to resist the siren song of a perfectly tiny pair of baby moccasins, or you may feel like the photo opps in baby yoga alone make the cost of the class worth it. And that’s totally understandable.
But by realizing where you can cut costs, you can budget for the big ticket items, like daycare or a new condo, that won’t exactly show up as a baby shower surprise.
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Anna Davies is a writer specializing in personal finance who's written for Refinery29, Cosmo, Elle, Glamour, the New York Post, Conde Nast Traveler and others. When she's not working, she loves going on adventures and traveling with her 2-year-old daughter.
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