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When we first found out my wife was expecting, we were elated. We had spent the previous eighteen months patiently trying to get pregnant to no avail. When we were least expecting it, my wife became pregnant. Isn’t that how it always happens, though?
When thinking about our first child, of course, I thought about all the activities that we could do together. I couldn’t wait to coach his little league team, rough house with him in the basement, and teach him the finer points of life.
Then my finance background kicked in, and I started to become a little nervous. I have read over the years that raising a child costs $250,000 or more with inflation. That equates to almost $1,000 extra a month. I knew at that point that we would need to figure out a way to reduce some of those costs.
One of the first things that we did was check Craigslist for discounted baby items. We set alerts for baby items that we were needing or wanting. The craziest part is people sometimes just give away their baby stuff for free! I couldn’t at first understand why people would put a trash bag full of baby clothes or toys on the curb.
Free or Heavily Discounted
I now understand. With a kid, it’s a lot easier to set something on the curb than to orchestrate a transaction to sell it. We have picked up multiple Pack n Plays, toys, clothes, and even two Maclaran strollers for free via Craigslist. We will not need to buy our kid clothes until he’s in kindergarten between Craigslist and gifts.
Here’s the other aspect of Craigslist that I love. You can buy really great stuff for deep discounts. We were able to buy a gently used City Mini stroller for $100 because the owner decided she wanted a different stroller. We were also able to find some really great baby furniture, like a changing table and rocking chair for very low prices. Even if the furniture isn’t in perfect condition, I figure we will get our money’s worth by the time we are done using them.
About a week before my wife gave birth to our son, we talked about cloth diapering instead of disposables. A friend at work was raving about how much money he saves by cloth diapering his kids. Our initial thoughts were cloth diapering was gross and not really for us. My wife was unsure about having to do extra laundry with a newborn baby in tow. I was mainly concerned about the complexity of using cloth diapering versus the ease of use by disposables. There I was as a first-time parent, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to add one more thing that I needed to do. However, once I watched a couple of videos on youtube of dads using cloth diapers, I thought it can’t be that hard. It really isn’t.
I then did my own research and saw that there could be some substantial cost savings if we did it correctly. Depending on the number of diapers in a pack, the pack of diapers usually last a week or two. Through my research, I found that a child goes through about $60 of diapers a month. That’s roughly $0.20 a diaper based on a child needing about seven diapers a day.
Before we took the plunge by investing in a lot of cloth diapers, our kind friends with twin girls let us borrow their newborn stash. So, we were able to test everything out before we took the plunge. While it was a little more work to get use to, we decided to take on the “challenge”.
Soon thereafter, we bought $200 worth of used cloth diapers from Craigslist. We made sure to do the best research we could to ensure high quality items. This included the brands such as Blueberry, Flip, bumGenius, and Bambino Mio, and we bought enough so that my wife only technically needs to do cloth diaper laundry once a week (although they get washed more frequently since the stink is real).
We have since monitored our water and electric bill and have seen an uptick of around $20 total each month based on our water and electric usage. With an initial outlay of $200 spread out over a minimum of two years, we expect that we save around $30 each month from our son wearing cloth diapers. If and when we have any additional children, that should potentially further spread out the costs that we initially incurred.
Tips for Buying Used Diapers
I recommend avoiding velcro and going for snaps when purchasing diaper covers. The velcro seems to have a shorter lifespan before needed to be replaced. Also, always check elasticity of diaper covers. If the elastic is too worn, those covers will not do a good job at keeping the mess inside of the diaper. Finally, make sure the people who used the diapering items before you properly washed and cared for them. That makes a huge difference in terms of longevity. There are countless websites with tips like these to ensure optimal cloth diapering success.
Homemade Baby Food
It sounds much more involved than it really is. My wife is super nutrition-conscious, so for her, this wasn’t even a question. She wanted to ensure that our little guy would get the healthiest stuff possible as his body and brain grow rapidly. At six months old, we simply started with foods like oatmeal and sweet potato. My wife would either use a blender or a hand-masher to create a purée consistency. It was as easy as that.
After a couple months of purées, our baby wanted to feed himself. So, now feeding him is even less-involved for us. We stock up during sales on frozen organic vegetables and buy fresh fruits and veggies whenever we can. Eggs are also a common staple, which are always very cheap at Aldi grocery store. We regularly prepare organic chicken or grass-fed beef for ourselves, and our baby enjoys these meats himself as well. We aren’t necessarily against prepared baby foods but hope to continue feeding our little guy whole foods, free from any sort of added sugar, artificial flavors, or preservatives.
Preppiest Baby on the Block
My wife can be pretty particular when it comes to clothes, especially for her little baby doll. Even though we got a good amount of clothing through Craigslist or gifts, she uses a lot of those clothes as “play clothes”. For dressing up or outings on the town, she loves Ralph Lauren on our little guy. If you look at what this brand retails their baby items for, they aren’t cheap. Both her and I were in agreement that we didn’t want to spend $25 on a polo shirt that he might wear once.
My wife found the perfect compromise. She started hunting for Ralph Lauren and other “designer” baby clothes at thrift and consignment stores. A few times she was able to find great pieces for only $.75 each (thanks to Salvation Army extra savings on Wednesdays). Of course, she always checks the condition of the clothes, and typically, they are really in excellent shape. It was a win/win for me. She was able to have her preppy baby, and I was able to save beaucoup bucks on items that she may have otherwise been bought.
Now, I don’t want you to think that we only bought used items for our son. When it came to items with safety standards, we bought brand-new. These items included car seats and a crib to ensure that they met current safety regulations. While there are some things in life to be frugal about, safety is not one of them.
What are some ways that you have saved money raising your child? What are some advantages and disadvantages to buying used baby items? Share your thoughts below.