Mrs. Frugalwoods has managed to parent frugally. Here’s how her family pared down childrearing expenses.

Children are wonderful, but they do stifle the bank account. However, I’ve found kids are not as expensive as conventional wisdom touts. The secret? Advance planning.

Find Used Baby Toys, Clothes, Books, and Furniture

Before becoming a parent, I assumed baby clothes, furniture, strollers, car seats, toys, swings, and books would gobble up huge sums of money. But I was pleasantly surprised: Just about everything a baby needs can be acquired secondhand for either very cheap or even free. As soon as I announced my pregnancy, my friends with older children came out of the woodwork to offer hand-me-downs. My husband and I were thrilled to take a cast-off crib, high chair, changing table, stroller, bassinet, and more.

It was a wonderful boon for us and helped our friends clear out unneeded baby stuff. There’s a myth that you can’t—or shouldn’t—accept certain baby items used, but with due diligence, there’s no reason not to.

We made sure our items came from trusted sources and knew their history. For every item we received, we looked up serial numbers and manufacturers online to ensure there hadn’t been any recalls or other safety concerns. Our hand-me-down highchair did have a recommended safety update and we were able to order the necessary parts—free of charge—from the manufacturer and fix the highchair to meet current safety standards.

Since kids cycle through things so quickly (especially clothes), taking used items is a great way to save money, keep perfectly good products out of landfills, and then pass them along when you’re finished using them. My husband and I didn’t buy any brand-new baby gear; we felt we’d be better off saving our money to pay for things that aren’t possible to source through hand-me-downs, garage sales, and thrift stores.

Frugalize Baby Necessities

For every baby product we couldn’t find used, we planned ahead to learn exactly how much we’d need to spend.

Health care
Covering health-related expenses for kids is unavoidable—and it starts before babies are even born. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I called my health insurance company and asked them to walk me through what they would and wouldn’t cover for my prenatal care, the baby’s birth, our hospital stay, and our daughter’s pediatric care. I wanted to know upfront what co-pays we’d have and how much they’d be.

During this call, I learned I could get a discount on our co-payment for her birth if I paid in full in advance. I happily paid ahead of time and took advantage of the discount. I also learned my insurance would cover the cost of a “preparing for baby” class, so we enrolled in one with the midwives at our hospital.

As it turned out, we had a somewhat complicated birth and ended up staying in the hospital for a week. But since I’d spoken with our insurance company in advance, I knew the stay was covered and didn’t stress about the cost while in the NICU with our daughter.

Since newborns typically need to visit their pediatrician several days after birth and then quite a bit over the course of their first few months of life, I lined up her pediatrician in advance and confirmed with our insurance company that the doctor was in-network and that the visits would be covered.

It didn’t take me long to research this information with my health insurance company, but it provided an enormous sense of relief to know I’d taken care of logistics before my daughter was born.

Some folks love cloth diapers because they’re reusable, and you won’t need to buy disposable diapers every month. However, cloth diapers aren’t necessarily cheaper overall because they can be somewhat expensive to purchase. Also, note that cloth diapers must be washed and dried regularly, which can run up bills for water and electricity, plus buying detergent.

My husband and I use disposable diapers and we’ve found a few discount brands that work just as well as pricey name-brand options. Both Costco and Wal-Mart sell excellent, inexpensive generic diapers. To save on name-brand diapers, I always check my grocery store’s “scratch and dent” section, as sometimes diaper boxes are crushed (which doesn’t impact the diaper quality) and then marked 50 to 75 percent off. Rather than buy expensive overnight diapers, we’ve found using a diaper one size larger than our daughter’s current size does the trick for a fraction of the price.

Baby Wipes
Wipes also come in reusable and disposable options, and we use inexpensive, fragrance-free, disposable wipes. BJ’s sells generic store-brand wipes that go on sale every few months—and I stock up when they do!

Baby Vitamins, Medicine, Lotion, and Food
To economize on baby vitamins, medications, diaper rash cream, and food, I price compare between stores and online to find the cheapest option per ounce. I also check ingredients of brand-name products against generics and often find they’re identical. I also don’t buy baby food, since it’s much more expensive than regular food (yet has the same ingredients). By seeking out the least-expensive option for my daughter’s consumables, we’re able to keep our baby-related costs quite low.

Save for The Future

In addition to regular expenses, it’s important to plan for our daughter’s future, especially saving for college. Many folks like to utilize a 529 plan for college savings. 529s are tax-advantaged savings accounts, administered by states, earmarked for higher education expenses. In addition to tax savings, another plus of 529 plans is parents can request grandparents and other friends and relatives contribute to a child’s 529 in lieu of gifts for birthdays and holidays.

Kids Cost Less than You Think

While it’s more expensive to have a child than not, I’ve found it’s entirely possible to spend far less than anticipated. By finding used and free hand-me-downs for everything reusable and scouting out the cheapest options for consumables, my husband and I have been able to maintain a high savings rate while adding a bundle of joy to our family.

Mrs. Frugalwoods writes at
about her journey to financial independence by age 33
and a homestead in the woods with her husband, daughter,
and greyhound Frugal Hound.

Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.

While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.

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