Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Pay for Baby

Congratulations! A new baby is on the way!  Once the news of your impending arrival settles in, you may be overwhelmed by the finacial enormity of your little bundle of joy.  It is incredible how something so tiny can cost oh-so-much. Happily, there is a lot you can do to help save every precious dollar possible.

Here is a little bit of my own story: My husband and I hoped to start a family right away, so we began planning early. Although that may not be your situation, these tips will still apply. I didn't really want a baby shower and by the time my dearest friend as well as a sister-in-law offered, Baby already had everything. Yes, everything. We had all we needed and then some. We did it with a simple budget and did not sacrifice quality or quanity.  We actually did have one party when my husband's employer threw HIM the baby shower and I was tickled that Daddy got to be the center of attention! Let me add that loved ones, friends, and neighbors did contribute, but the majority of purchases fell to this new mom and dad. Our guidelines were simple: Incur no debt. We valued safety over 'pretty' so the crib and carseats were where we focused a lot of attention. The clothes did not have to be haute couture but had to be well made. Lastly, because of the safety concern, we wanted two carseats. We chose not to move the seat between our two vehicles for fear of being in a rush and not reinstalling it properly. We had months to save up so we felt comfortable with the decision.

These are the tips that helped us:

**1**  Begin saving dimes (or some other coin) strictly for the baby. Turn those into the baby's first bank deposit.

**2** Sign up for every Baby Club possible. You get tons of free items and coupons that will save you not only money but also time. My favorite grocery store Baby Club issued coupons for deli items and those were greatly appreciated on the days when we were brain dead from sleep deprivation.  We  saved hundreds (and hundreds) of dollars just doing this one thing.

**3**  Stock up on diapers in a variety of sizes. My own firstborn had more than a thousand diapers before he even arrived. At first, we were not brand loyal. We stocked up on just about every brand that was a great value.

**4** Also stock up on wipes, shampoos, lotions, etc. If  a certain brand doesn't work for you, it can be repurposed. My mom gave me a particular baby wipe that smelled medicinal. Tucked under the bathroom cabinet, they were perfect for wiping down counters and lasted for months. Shampoos can become shaving gel, etc.  Or just donate them to a shelter or another new mom.

**5** Indulge your inner junk foodie with a Kiddie Meal. Be sure to ask for a toddler toy and tuck those away in a zip bag. These are perfect for rainy days or when you need to keep Baby occupied in restaurants and doctor's offices. I craved the little hamburgers on a regular basis and those tiny toys saved my sanity on the days when my little one just couldn't be calmed with the ordinary distractions. Priceless.

**6** Shop the clearance racks. Certain items, such as burp clothes, socks,linens, onesies, and sleeper gowns, are pretty much seasonless. It's also okay to shop ahead for additional clothes if you are comfortable with that.

**7**  Start clipping coupons for everything. Diapers, wipes, food, games, photography sessions, detergent, spot removal, light bulbs, carpet cleaner (trust me) and formula will come in handy. If you choose to breastfeed, those formula coupons can be passed along to a friend. Don't forget battery coupons. You do not want the mobile or the swing to quit working!

**8** If ordering online, look for coupon codes and discounts on shipping.

**9** Thrift shops and yard sales are great ways to save on clothes and crib linens. For peace of mind and safety's sake, leave the carseats and cribs there. High-end consignment shops are excellent sources for many items including toys, books and storage options. We did this with our toddlers and saved a small fortune.

**10** Contact manufacturers and get on mailing lists. The freebies and coupons alone will save you hundreds.

Very often, time is money. Here are some tips that will save a few minutes here and there, along with a few dollars:

For the-mom-to-be, go out and purchase as many pretty pj's as you can. They should be cute, comfortable and the kind you don't mind answering the door in. This was the best thing I ever did. People understood completely when I answered the door like this. I got to stay comfortable. If  Baby spilled, I could be a quick change artist and best of all, if I wanted to lay down, I didn't have to change. You need to treat yourself those first days gently and comfort should be a priority.

Make sure you have some meals that are in the freezer and oven ready. This way,you,  Sweetie or Grandma can just plop it in the oven and dinner is good to go. I started doing this when I was seven months pregnant and had more than enough ready.

Try to stock up on anything you think you might need prior to the baby's delivery. Things like pantry staples, medicines, pet food, etc. Little by little, put things back. My husband is scared of the grocery store and was able to manage 'a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.' He would have run screaming in the other direction if I'd sent him with a real list. Make it easy  for those who will be helping you. In addition, my husband and I picked up two or three take out menus and gift cards to some places that were located near his job. We would pick a place, decide what to eat and before leaving work at the end of the day he would call in the order and pick it up on his way home. It wasn't anything too fancy, but it was great not having to cook.

If adoption is the blessing your family will be receiving, it may be challenging to utilize some of these tips. After all, you may not know the exact due date or exact age of your precious angel. However, there are some universal basics you can follow: All toddlers need sippy cups, soap and suncreeen. They need linens in classic colors. Trust me on this one: even if they are out of diapers, go ahead and buy wipes of some kind. Look for coupons for classic, gender-neutral games and toys.

Children are expensive. Joyous, but expensive.  The key is to do as much as possible as early as possible while spending as little as possible. However, I will offer a word of caution. There are many products on the market that simply are not needed. You will be the expert on your child and that means you get to decide what to purchase and what not to purchase. If you want a giraffe humidifier, then get one. Just try to get it on sale.

Congratulations on your newest family member.

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