How new parents can save money
By Anya Kamenetz, Tribune Media ServicesThe Savings Game
January 17, 2012
The dark economy has put a damper on Americans’ parental urges. Since reaching a record high of 4.3 million in 2007, U.S. births have dropped each year to just under 4 million in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there are ways big and small to lessen the financial blow of having a child, and some of them have other benefits as well. Here are some ideas to think about.
1) Get creative with childcare.
The cheapest childcare option, of course, is to have a grandparent or other relative who is willing to pitch in for free.
Also free: a babysitting co-op, in which a group of families in a neighborhood agree to swap time watching each others’ children. This works best for evenings, weekends or occasional needs. You can find or start a co-op nationwide at the website Sittingaround.com.
The next cheapest option is usually an in-home neighborhood daycare. The average annual cost for full-time care in a family child care home for an infant in 2010 ranged widely, from $3,850 in Mississippi to $12,100 in Massachusetts, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). Full-time care in a center ranged from $3,900 in Mississippi to $14,050 in Washington, D.C.
Many families who might otherwise have hired a full-time nanny are choosing a nanny share. A nanny share can work in two ways: Two families can each take a few days a week, or the nanny can watch both families’ children together in one home or the other (for a slightly higher rate than one child alone), giving the bonus of socializing the young ones.
2) Share, reuse and buy used gear, clothes and toys.
The sheer amount of stuff marketed to new parents, from $900 strollers to electric wipe warmers, can be overwhelming. At the same time, babies differ widely in their preferences, and they grow so fast that their needs can change from week to week. The obvious solution is to share and pass along gear to other families. Many cities and neighborhoods now have parents’ email lists or bulletin boards that are rich sources of all kinds of information and support as well as hand-me-downs. Thredup (www.thredup.com) is a national exchange dedicated to buying, selling and sharing children’s clothes, books and toys. Freecycle andCraigslist are good places to look, too.
Note that there can be safety concerns with certain pieces of used gear, particularly car seats and cribs. Check the latest safety guidelines on all gear at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov). Car seats actually have expiration dates stamped on their bases. Other used items must be washed and sanitized thoroughly.
3) Consider the costs of diapers and bottles.
Cloth vs. disposable diapers and breast vs. bottle feeding are very personal decisions for most families, but economics do come into play. According to the excellent book “Baby Bargains” (which was passed on to me by two different families!), the cheapest possible option is no-frills prefold cloth diapers — about $100 worth, plus another $240 for covers — laundered at home. But store-brand disposables bought in bulk are not much more, about $400 to $500 for the first year.
As for feeding, exclusively breast-feeding will save some money over formula (about $525 for six months), but if Mom has to go to work, she will need to buy or rent a breast pump for around $250 for three months — although this is sometimes covered by health insurance.
4) Be a bulk shopper.
Once you get your routines and favorite brands established, it makes sense to stock up on baby basics in bulk. The big box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club are good places to try. I also like Amazon‘s Subscribe and Save and Prime programs. Prime offers free shipping for a $40 a year fee, while Subscribe and Save offers discounts of 15 percent or more if you sign up for recurring deliveries every one, three or six months. This is a terrific timesaver as well — and we all know new parents can use more time. Diapers.com is another good online resource for cheaper baby items.
(Anya Kamenetz’ latest book is “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.” She welcomes your questions email@example.com)