How to save money when raising a baby or toddler

April is National Financial Literacy Month, so in honor of that, I’m taking a look at the little ways we save money to get big results.

My husband and I are still working on our finances. We’re mostly on the same page now, and spending much less than we were soon after getting married. That’s partly thanks to my natural tendency to save. But even though my husband is a bit “spendier,” he also sometimes points out if I’m being unreasonably frugal.

It’s also partly due to reading good blogs and other sites, and using a few financial tools I posted about two weeks ago.

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I grew up listening to The Dave Ramsey Show and Crown Financial. My husband was familiar with Ramsey. I read Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, as a refresher a few years ago and gave my husband the highlights to try to get us on the same page and emphasize why saving is so important to me.

Together, we’ve worked on saving money in several categories, ranging from car care to children and outdoor recreation to groceries. We’re also trying to teach our toddler daughter to save, invest and to be a giver, which includes tithing on her increase. We also¬†manage a small Stockpile investment account for her.

Don’t scrimp on safety

While we’re eager to save as much as we can, we don’t compromise on safety, especially when our toddler is involved. We recently made several bike safety purchases to boost our safety, including upgrading my old bicycle helmet to a Giro Chronicle with MIPS and getting our daughter a Giro Scamp with MIPS. Those helmets are little more expensive than non-MIPS helmets, but there’s significant reason to believe in the benefits.

Toddler wears a blue bike helmet in a bike trailer.
My toddler wears her Giro Scamp MIPS helmet on bike rides. It seems comfortable, and she hates taking her “hat” off.

Spending a little extra money is cheaper than paying for expensive healthcare– or a funeral.

Much more importantly, you and your kids need to make it home in one piece.

Even in non-safety issues, we try to make sure we purchase good quality items that we shouldn’t have to replace again soon. It doesn’t save money to buy the same cheap item over and over if we can buy one reasonably-priced item and not have to worry about it for awhile. There are plenty of areas to save without wasting your money in a misguided effort. Identify what you should invest it and where you can buy discount items or store-brand.

Save money with a baby

One of the biggest ways we “saved” with our baby was by breastfeeding her. I wrote “saved” only because breastfeeding worked very well for us and formula was never a consideration, so it seems odd to call it savings. Still, it was money we didn’t spend.

I completely understand that not everybody will choose to breastfeed, and that not everybody can. I’m simply listing ways we saved.

We also saved by using a lot of cloth diapers instead of solely disposables.

Cloth pocket diapers and inserts dry on a clothesline
I love seeing cloth diapers hanging on our laundry line!

Unfortunately, we’ve ended up using a lot more disposables than we wanted to because we worked two full-time and one part-time job with no childcare for the first year of my daughter’s life. We’ve also had health issues and other factors that made full-time cloth diapering difficult. But we still get a LOT of use out of our cloth diapers.

Our toddler loves them. We found that while there are great benefits to pricier brands, the LBB diapers work well for our needs and are very reasonably priced. Our kid loves to pick out the print she wants to wear, woofing at dogs or hooting at owls.

We purchased a lot of items from our baby registry using our registry completion discount offered by Amazon. Once others had made their purchases and the baby showers had come and gone, we waited until we could use the gift cards and cash we’d received, then spent it on Amazon items with the completion discount. We ended up saving a lot of money by waiting to get those items with the gifted money and discount.

Shop Amazon – Create an Amazon Baby Registry

We didn’t get items like a changing table or wipe warmer. Instead, we got a changing pad (similar to this one) that we put over the top of our daughter’s dresser. She got used to cool wipes.

Instead, we invested in items like cloth diapers, a Dekor diaper pail, reusable cloth diaper pail bags, and other items we thought were either necessities or that would save us money. We got a few fun items, but primarily spent our money on items like those.

Amazon sent us a baby registry welcome box with free product samples and coupons. The contents of the box change every little bit, but I received disposable breast pads, an adorable Skip Hop hedgehog toy our daughter loves, one or two Huggies diapers and several other items.

We received a lot of clothing as gifts and didn’t have to buy much. Our daughter was even smaller than expected and fit preemie clothes, which we had none of. My husband found a few preemie socks at Walmart, but nothing else, and no other stores in our area carried preemie clothes.

Luckily, it was very, very hot that year, and since our daughter had jaundice, we were instructed to take off as many clothes as we could and keep her in the sun during the warmest parts of the day. When we dressed her, she wore Gerber’s infant t-shirts to avoid irritating her umbilical cord stub. She also wore extra-tiny newborn hats and too-big newborn onesies and pants, but was comfortably swaddled in a few tiny second-hand swaddlers. (We made sure none of the clothes posed a hazard.)

Save money with a toddler

Like when she was a baby, we buy most of our toddler’s clothes and shoes at consignment shops. We have a couple of options in town. My favorite one has almost exclusively lightly-used or never-used items. I know I can find good-quality items when we stop there.

We’re holding on to most of our baby clothes and other items in case we decide to have another child. Items we know we don’t like or probably won’t use again go to consignment. It lets us downsize a bit and earn credit for new toddler clothes at the same time.

When we’re there, I look at their other items. I found a like-new infant PFD for about $8 once. We bought a big wagon filled with Megablocks for about $20 or so, and an adorable rocking dragon in like-new condition for about the same price. The wagon was gifted to our daughter for Christmas several months later (we made the purchases in the spring) and the dragon was a first birthday gift. It’s still one of her favorite toys!

Even though her birthday and Christmas are both still months away, we went ahead and bought her a gift for one or the other immediately after Halloween.

When Halloween costumes went on sale, we found some that retailed for $15-$20 for just a couple of dollars each. I wish I could remember our total, but it was very, very low. We’re still not sure whether the costumes will fit her on her birthday or closer to Christmas, but we’ll judge when to give them to her later on. In the meantime, we were able to get a great deal on items we think she’ll love.

Toddlers and babies love those little food pouches. They’re apparently yummy, some brands don’t have sugar or dyes, and they’re convenient. They seem great. We use them, but mostly for traveling or doctor’s appointments. I like having the option of using them, but they’re not our go-to for three main reasons: cost, environmental affects and wanting our kid to eat fresher food.

The pouches don’t seem expensive. And if you get them at Big Lots, you can often find them for $0.50 or so each. But if you’re feeding them to your child regularly, those costs can add up.

So does the plastic. I’ve never seen anyone recycle one of those pouches after finishing them. Almost all of them go to the landfill. I just don’t feel comfortable using a lot of them when the plastic problem continues to build up.

And even if they are only full of veggies, fruits, whole grains and yogurts, they’re still not as fresh as what you’d get from your garden or grocery store produce section.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot of other little ways you can save. You could vacuum and wash your car out yourself instead of going to the car wash. You can put plastic up over your windows, add weather stripping and put insulating pads in your outlets. There are tons of options.

I listed just a few above. I already wrote about some ways we save in other posts, including one on the cost of raising a child, and will probably write about more in the future.

How do you save money when supporting a child or children? What age groups were the hardest for you to save during?

 

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