Having a baby can be expensive. Between medical costs, childcare, baby gear, food and diapers, baby costs can easily run up to $70,000 or more in America. Below, we list five ways to save big on a baby. New parents and parents to be can save by making use of baby showers and hand-me-downs, practicing smart buying, prepaying for childbirth costs, having health insurance, and opening flexible spending accounts.
1. Make Good Use of Baby Showers and Hand-Me-Downs
Typical costs of all the “stuff” that comes with having a baby can range from $70 all the way to $3,500. For people who buy the best, the costs of baby gear can easily run to $10,000 or more. For instance, a decent car seat runs from $66 for the Graco Snug Ride up to $190 for the Chico Key Fit 30. Even costlier brands are available for $600 plus. Then there are co-sleepers, cloth diapers, baby clothes, bottles, breast pumps, cribs, changing tables, dressers, sterilizers, nursing pillows, swings, chairs, play gyms, monitors and more. The list is almost literally endless.
While many parents think they need to buy these things new, the reality is the cost of most or all of these items can be completely erased or at least greatly reduced by making a few smart choices.
Second-hand clothing and other merchandise doesn’t make a lot of sense when it comes to adults. By the time an adult outgrows a pair of pants or a shirt, the item might be four years old. With newborns, however, it’s a different story.
Newborns grow fast. The typical baby grows 5 to 7 ounces a week in the first six months and will triple their birth weight by their first birthday. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, there are 4,000,000 babies born in the United States each year. That means there are around four million vibrating chairs outgrown each year, four million sets of jammies and onesies looking for a home, four million infant play gyms no longer being used. Most baby outfits have been worn for only a few weeks before they no longer fit their owners. Many items never get used at all.
With that kind of a glut of new and slightly used baby gear out there, is there any reason to buy any of it new unless you really want to?
In many rural and suburban areas, friends and relatives will be only too happy to unload their closets and storage spaces on new parents. New moms and dads can often pick up just about everything they need from other parents with children who’ve outgrown the newborn stage.
In urban areas, hand-me-downs may be less of an option. Some parents may feel funny about asking for used baby items, and some would-be donors may not want to insult their friends by offering to donate. However, even in cities, new parents and parents-to-be can make use of the second hand baby gear supply by putting a shout out on Facebook or Twitter, letting friends and relatives know they’re open to receiving baby products that have outlived their usefulness.
Baby showers are another great way to cut the cost of baby gear. Relatives and friends love to be a part of welcoming a baby to the world. New parents who want to make sure they don’t get six wipe warmers or twelve teething rings should register at their favorite store. A list of wanted items at the store of the expecting parents’ choice can help well-intentioned loved ones buy something in their price range that’ll actually get used.
No Used Car Seats
The only item any parent ever really needs to buy is a car seat. Second-hand car seats aren’t considered safe.
Related: Take Control of Your Money: 4 Steps to a Master Budget
2. Practice Smart Buying
Smart buying means two things: Waiting to buy and finding good but less expensive versions.
Some parents think they need to buy all their baby gear in advance, or that they’re bad parents or unprepared if they wait to buy things for the baby. However, every baby is different. Nobody can really tell a parent exactly what items they’ll need before the baby has been born. Likewise, it’s hard for new parents to know precisely which things they’ll want until they’ve gained a little experience. Digging through lists of “necessary” baby products can be exhausting and confusing. A good way to manage the uncertainty and stress is to adopt a “wait and see” approach.
Will a wipe warmer help at changing times or is it frivolous? Is a nursing pillow a necessity or something a parent will stick in a closet and never use? Some parents say they never used a portable crib, while others swear by them.
Stripped down to basics, products are really just solutions to problems. An electric swing can solve the problem of a cranky baby who won’t sleep, but some babies sleep very well. A wipe warmer can solve the problem of a baby screaming at changing time, but some babies don’t mind cold wipes. The trouble is, parents don’t really know which problems their baby will bring to the table until they’ve got the baby in their arms. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy (or collect) only the bare essentials first.
Car Seats Again
A car seat is the one thing expecting parents absolutely can’t wait to buy. It’s the only way to get the little one home safely from the hospital!
Shop Selectively for Baby Gear
Parents who need the very best of everything will pay a lot more. For example, look at three wheeled jogger strollers. They’re a great invention. They let parents take the baby out for walks and get fresh air and see new sights. Since many sidewalks and public trails have uneven, bumpy surfaces, the big-wheeled strollers can access places small-wheeled, four-wheeled strollers can’t. But the prices and quality levels vary greatly.
The best reviewed jogger strollers on Amazon have prices from $370 to $550. But parents don’t need to pay that much. The smart shopper will do a little more digging and see that the Graco FastAction Fold Jogger still gets four stars and costs only $140. That’s a savings of 62% to 75%. The stroller is a little heavier than “the best” but still gets great reviews and is an excellent, well-designed and ergonomic stroller.
Digging a tiny bit deeper, choosing a less popular color knocks the price of this stroller down to $119, with free shipping.
Making smart choices like this on every baby item can save parents a lot of money on a baby.
3. Prepay for Childbirth Costs
Most hospitals offer a discount of up to 35% for expecting parents who prepay for their childbirth costs. There are even hefty discounts for parents who pay upon admission.
Even moms who are covered by health insurance have deductibles and other out of pocket costs, and prepaying usually gives a big discount on those costs.
Jessica Stout of West Virginia says she saved big on her out of pocket costs by prepaying.
“I had pre-registered and the hospital contacted me seeing if I wanted to pay then. I saved 35% by doing it then over the phone and would have saved 30% if I paid when I came in for delivery,” says Stout.
Hospitals offer the prepayment plans because they make more money that way. Parents who prepay, pay. That generates a lot of security for hospitals, and that means real money. At some hospitals, the cost savings for prepayment is as high as 50%.
Related: How to Tell if Your Doctor Takes Money from Big Pharma
4. Get Health Insurance
Health insurance drastically reduces the cost of having a baby.
Maternity coverage used to be a relative rarity. It used to be that only companies with 15 or more employees offered maternity care. The self-employed and employees of smaller businesses were traditionally left to pay their own childbirth costs. However, the Affordable Care Act made it mandatory for all health insurance plans to carry maternity coverage. This change has slashed maternity costs.
The typical cost of childbirth in America sits at about $18,000. Those with health insurance and maternity coverage pay an average of just $3,400 out of pocket.
The Affordable Care Act has increased the number of Americans who have health insurance from 82% to 87%. However, there are still roughly 30 million Americans without health insurance. For those 30 million, signing up for a health plan through the Act can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in medical costs from childbirth.
5. Open a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
A Flexible Spending Account can reduce baby costs dramatically.
The typical American parent spends almost $1,000 a month on child care, but costs can reach double that in cities like San Francisco and Boston. Married parents who file their taxes jointly can contribute up to $5,000 a year to an FSA. Since FSA contributions are tax deductible, that can mean a $5,000 reduction to a family’s taxable income each year.
While FSAs are known for their use in healthcare situations, the money in them can also be used for child care.
For more info on FSAs, check out the IRS page on FSAs here.
Prepay for Maternity Care, Save Money – MoneySideOfLife.com
The royal birth cost $15,000. The average American birth is billed at $30,000. – Washington Post
How Much You’ll Spend on Childcare – BabyCenter.com