Babies & your budget
I’m not a parenting expert, or any sort of expert, really. I just have two little kids (Jonathan was born Dec. 2008 and Vivienne was born Dec. 2010, and baby #3 is coming fall 2013). They’ve taught me a lot: Lessons on life, parenting, money, and everything in between.
I put this page together to serve as an archive for baby-related things that have come through my blog over the years.
I hope this page can help you find my baby-related content. I’ll update links here when relevant.
- The right time to have children is whenever you have your children. I know I’m going against the grain here, but I don’t think you necessarily have to wait until your finances are perfect before having kids. This post offers some things to consider, and the comments are good.
- It doesn’t have to cost that much to have a baby! Truly, it doesn’t. Some creativity, some second-hand purchases, and a little know-how and you’re good to go. In fact, with the child tax credit, we were breaking even or possibly even coming out ahead for awhile.
- You say it costs $204k to raise a kid? I don’t buy it.
- How to make sure baby #2 costs as much as baby #1 A little bit tongue-in-cheek there.
- Creating a savings account for baby’s needs — We created a savings sub-account to gradually save up for ongoing baby expenses. Gear, clothes, toys…things we hadn’t yet purchased but will need to purchase someday.
Hypnobabies — When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I did the Bradley childbirth method. With my second, I wanted something different. I did the Hypnobabies home study and loved it. I plan to use it again for future hypothetical children. I blogged my way through the course and have listed all the posts in the sidebar of my personal blog. If this method interests you, note that it is not the same as Hypnobirthing.
Before the baby comes
- If you give birth in a hospital, did you know you can opt out of the phone and TV service? Keep it if you want it, but if you don’t, you can save on your bill.
- Strategies for saving on maternity wear And you know what? If both of your children are due in the same month, your maternity wardrobe should match up with the correct season for your second pregnancy. Both of my babies came in December and that helped my maternity wardrobe! WIN!
- Things to ask your insurance company before you have a baby
- Check to see if your insurance company will reimburse you for childbirth classes. They might also reimburse for infant CPR/first aid.
- I asked for a crib recommendation. Readers helped me sort through it. We bought a nice crib, and it was recalled later because it had a drop-side. Neither of my kids like the crib. It’s been our most unused baby item.
- When to keep and when to purge baby items
- How much we’ve spent on baby gear, when I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first baby
- Making a free, homemade baby poncho for your baby to wear in the car. Did you know you’re not supposed to leave them in their heavy winter coat and then buckle them in? They’re not in as snugly and it can be dangerous in an accident. We used this poncho to help keep him warm, since I could put the car seat straps underneath his poncho.
- What we’re buying before baby is born. Our minimalist list with Johnny…followed by Buying more baby gear this time to make life easier with Vivie, and stuff for our second baby. As a first-time mom, I made things harder on myself simply out of pride. I thought I didn’t need all those baby gadgets. I needed to be kinder to myself.
- Baby stuff we’ve retired by Johnny’s 6-7th month (to use again for Vivie later)
What to buy before baby is born
I skipped the infant seat with Johnny and opted to save money by only purchasing a convertable seat. You could use it from 5-65 lbs. Did I mention he was born in December? It would have been way better to have an infant seat for him. Rookie mistake, and you can read my process here.
We got an infant seat for Vivienne: The Chicco Keyfit 30 (and available at Target). I wanted the upper length and weight limits so we’d get more use out of it. The length is more likely to be reached before the weight limit. This seat is so easy to install in many vehicles, as the base is adjustable. Awesome. Tightening and loosening the harness is simple. This model is more expensive than other versions you can find, but I think the price is worth the value you get with this seat.
We purchased this convertible seat for Vivienne and like it a lot. It seems comfy for her, and she likes the two built-in cupholders for storing toys. Easy to install and adjust.
However, I do not like the convertible seat we got for Johnny, the First Years TrueFit. I should point out this make is their older version and they do have a fancier model out now. When rear-facing, the harness adjuster was extremely hard to access in our car. It would be optimal if it was higher. It was hard to adjust, and that’s a safety issue. It was neat that the top headrest can come off, making more legroom for the front seat. But, you have to put the head rest back on while they are rear-facing and taller, so what’s the point?
Adjusting the seat forward-facing is fine. We still place him in this seat in our van.
Did you know that rear-facing your child’s car seat is the best way to go, for as long as you can? Rear-face your child until they are 24m and 35 lbs, or reach the upper limits of your seat. Turning your baby around at their first birthday, while legal, isn’t the safest position for them to be in, should you have a crash. For more info on car seat safety and to choose a seat that best suits your vehicle and child, check out this amazingly helpful forum, car-seat.org.
We have a forward-only seat that we use for Johnny when he’s in our car, since he’s now 36+ months and weighs 35+ lbs. The Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 seat (link for Target version, sometimes cheaper)works as a 5-point harness, belt-positioning booster, and also a backless booster. Great seat, but don’t buy this before your baby is born. Car seats do expire after a certain number of years (5-9 depending on the seat). It’s one extra thing you’ll have to store.
Instead, get a convertible or forward-only seat when your child is getting close to outgrowing her infant seat. That way, you won’t have to store it as long and you can pick the model that will fit your child and your car the best.
Update: We still have the Nautilus. But, we also have a Britax Frontier 90 with “click tight” and WHOA it is the most amazing seat. SO easy to install. The engineers knew exactly what they were doing when they made this seat to be user-friendly. Highly recommend, way more than the Nautilus.
I love my Baby K’Tan (I have two, in different colors!) and with Vivienne I liked the Ergo, which I purchased used. Johnny loved the K’tan and would have me wear him all day, if I could. I used it to nurse, hands-free while walking around a store. No one knew! I love this carrier so much because it is washable and there’s no wrapping, like you’d have to do with the Moby. Check the instructions here to see the variety of holds you can do with it.
Johnny was a long, lean baby and I wore him in the K’tan well beyond 20 lbs.
Vivienne didn’t like the K’tan as much, to my dismay. Her personality and chunkier size was more suited for my Ergo (also available at Target). Interestingly, I did not like the Ergo for Johnny and he didn’t, either.
Sometimes you have to use different carriers for different babies. Roll with it! Search craigslist or ebay for discounts.
I didn’t use a stroller for my kids while they were infants. They just were in my carrier slings or in an umbrella stroller when they were old enough to sit on their own. I picked up a cheapo umbrella stroller and it works fine for our needs, and I also grabbed a double umbrella stroller on craigslist so the kids can ride side-by-side. We aren’t big stroller users.
I struggled with choosing a high chair and returned several before I came across this great seat. The Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe booster is great because it’s easy to clean and extremely portable. We take this seat to restaurants before our babies are old enough to sit in the more rickety restaurant high chairs. It’s great for taking along to grandma’s house, too. Check Target for an in-store purchase or to add it to your registry.
The bummer with this chair is since it straps onto your existing dining chair, well yeah, it’s using up a chair that you can’t offer to guests. Sometimes that’s not an issue. The other bummer is it has a 3-point harness instead of a 5, so if your kid is especially squirmy you might prefer a seat that holds them in better, like this one.
If you’re nursing, you might like to wear a nursing tank. I LOVE the Gilligan & Omalley long, full-sling nursing tank. The key is to locate the “long” ones. I have the regular, and they are too short to keep my belly comfortably covered (I’m a tall gal, 5’10”). The long ones have nice extra length, and the “full sling” means your bosom has a little more coverage than the side sling. You’ll need to see them in person to know what works best for you. I own 7 tanks in various colors and wear one every day. For years. Makes the cost per wear pretty low.
Some moms prefer a regular tank and a nursing bra underneath.
I have a Vera Bradley baby bag to use as my diaper bag. The thing usually lives in the van, but it’s handy to have. I looked at cheaper diaper bags and found that they weren’t THAT much cheaper than this model (wait for it to go on sale, if you can, and check their site directly). Also, the bag has plenty of pockets, is washable, and comes with a changing pad. There’s a lot of different patterns and while I’m not really a big diaper bag person, this one is nice. The dads probably wouldn’t want to carry it, so keep that in mind. If you like this model, find the best deal by going through Ebates, searching Vera Bradley, and getting usually 3% off your purchase. Search for coupon codes. Then, on the VB site, look under sale items. I’ve seen these bags sell for as little as $49.
I keep a change of clothes for each kid in the bag. I pick white t-shirts, or otherwise “ugly” shirts that I don’t usually dress them in. For my baby, I put a t-shirt instead of onesie in case she outgrows the onesie before I update the spare set. And, a t-shirt instead of a longsleeve in case it’s winter. T-shirts are more versatile like that.
Also: wipes; several diapers; a cloth diaper to use as a changing pad/spill rag/nursing cover/etc; diaper cream; small toy; snack.
- Stocking up on disposable diapers before your baby is born. Work those drugstore deals! You can exchange unopened packs of diapers with your baby’s correct size if you need to.
- Our diaper usage up to Johnny’s 4th month. He was a skinny lil thing and was in newborn sizes for awhile. Vivienne was born 2 lbs. heavier, and was out of NB size in like a week. Yes, I made a spreadsheet tracking diapers. I am a nerd.
I participate(d) in the Amazon Mom program, where I could “Subscribe & Save” 30% on diaper purchases. I stacked that with coupons I found in parenting magazines and used Amazon gift cards earned from Swagbucks to make my savings go even further. This program is changing (effective Jan. 2012) and it’s not the deal it once was. Subscribe & Save discounts are capped at 20% now, but only if you are a Prime member. I haven’t seen a coupon in a long time. Run the numbers on the price per diaper and compare with what you can find on sale in a store.
Check Baby Cheapskate’s weekly guide to the best deals on diapers.
I’ve used cloth and disposable diapers with both kids. We tried cloth for overnight for awhile, but found that we preferred dispsoables for overnights. Luvs is my go-to cheap brand since they’re cheaper than Pampers or Huggies and they work well for my kids. You’ll have to try others to find out what works best for your baby.
My favorite wipes are the Target brand. They feel almost cloth-like, are low-price and work well.
- While pregnant, I questioned whether I could still use cloth diapers for my newborn, despite not having our own washer/dryer. I claim pregnant, new-mom brain. The comments are great on this post.
- Using cloth diapers when you don’t have your own washer or dryer — You can do it if it’s extremely important to you, but I don’t know that it’s worth the hassle.
- Running the numbers on whether it’s cost-effective to use cloth diapers if you pay per wash.
- Here I am, preparing to start using cloth and sharing some resources
- Are newborn cloth diapers worth the cost? I ended up borrowing my friend’s stash and I’m glad we did. But I don’t know that I’d go out and pay for a bunch of newborn cloth, unless I was sure I could use them again later or resell them. I still have most of my newborn stash and I want to sell the ones we never used on diaper swappers.
- Early impressions of our cloth diapers
- Smartipants cloth diaper review
Preparing for your child’s college education
- Ideas for researching and choosing 529 plans Most states offer some sort of tax deduction or credit.
- Opening our Indiana 529 plan, and UPromise . If you are an Indiana resident, I cannot stress enough how key it is to get the state’s 529 plan. If you get another plan, you won’t get the sweet 20% tax credit. It’s basically getting a huge return on your money. Open the plan. Contribute. Do it.
- How much to save for a baby’s college education? While saving more is better, I think it’s great for kids to pay a portion of their tuition themselves. Also, be sure your retirement accounts are progressing as they should, you have an adequate emergency fund, and you aren’t carrying consumer debt. Take care of these key points before worrying about your baby’s college fund.
Books I recommend
Disclosure: Many links to products featured on this page are affiliate links. See my complete disclosure policy.