You’ve heard the stories. How raising a child from birth to 18 years of age will cost the average family $245,000. The expensive gear you absolutely need to keep your baby safe and comfortable. The childcare, the formula, and the zillions of diapers. Is there a way to avoid the financial trap of raising kids? It’s times like these frugal tips for moms become most useful.
Frugal tips for moms
I had already been a saver even before my kids were born. So when I learned I was expecting my first, I knew my frugal habits would serve me well. Still, I needed to save money during those first few months before and after the baby was born.
Below are 10 frugal tips for moms that actually save you money.
1. Forget themed nurseries—go for practicality
A coworker once asked me what the theme to my baby’s room would be. “Um… beige?”
I eschewed the firetrucks and the safaris and the Winnie the Poohs. Instead, I just ordered a good-quality mattress and a tight-fitting beige sheet. No paintings, no special blanket, matching diaper bag or decals.
Unless you enjoy decorating rooms, don’t worry about fixing your baby’s room with themes. Babies won’t notice them, and most moms I know have had to re-do the room once the baby outgrew the decoration.
Instead, buy what’s necessary: a crib and a mattress. And get a changing table so you don’t break your back every time. Diapers can go into cubbies and shelves, and your baby won’t need bumpers or blankets just yet. (They’re safety hazards anyway.)
Once you’ve got the basics, buy as you go along. Maybe you realize your baby would like a mobile. Or that middle-of-the-night feedings are much easier with a rocking chair. Point is, don’t buy these all at once. You may find you’ve instead avoided buying another “must have” that you didn’t need.
2. Use hand-me-downs
Avoid buying new items by using hand-me-downs from friends and family. Once you’ve announced your pregnancy, fellow parents will unload gear their kids have outgrown.
Me? I’ve received a baby carrier, baby chairs, books, toys and clothes among other things. And I’ve given away a bathtub, maternity clothes, baby food storage and more.
These things add up! For two years, we didn’t buy clothes for my eldest thanks to generous hand-me-downs.
3. Buy items in bulk
Costco will be your new best friend. I buy recurring items like formula, diapers, wipes, baby lotion and other daily items. And stock up when they go on sale (because you know you’ll always need them anyway!).
4. Save now before going on maternity leave
If you’re like most of us, you’ll have reduced pay when you’re on leave. The figures vary, but expect to receive less than your normal pay for a chunk if not all your maternity leave.
Secure yourself a nice cushion by saving as much as you can now while you’re still working:
- Pack your lunch to work.
- Borrow movies, CDs and books from the library.
- Set a budget for flexible purchases like clothes and entertainment.
- Slash your grocery budget.
- Start a savings account to dip into during your maternity leave.
5. Save gift cards for later use, too
Did you receive tons of gift cards during your baby shower? Before running to the store and buying everything now, save them for after the baby is born. Pace your spending so you have some cushion after delivery when you may be more strapped for cash and time.
Place them all in the same envelope so you don’t forget you have them. When the time comes to buy six-month-old clothes or you’re out of diapers, they’ll come in handy.
6. Freeze meals now or rely on others’ donated food
With little inclination to cook, you’ll order food pretty often during those first months, and restaurant food adds up!
Beat the cost by freezing meals now and storing them for later use. Or, if your family is like mine, expect to receive tons of food during those first few weeks. This saves you the time, money and trouble of finding your next meal. When people ask how they can help, bringing food is often on the top of the list.
7. Open a college or savings fund for monetary gifts
Get a head start on your baby’s college savings fund and open one up now, however small the amount. Any monetary gifts your baby receives can go in there.
While this tip doesn’t reduce your spending, it increases your opportunity to save. Child-related costs will tie up your extra cash. But at least you can still set aside a few dollars here and there for your child’s long-term goals.
8. Shop at consignment stores
I know, I get it. They’re used clothes, and you have no idea what kids have done to those clothes before. But having sold clothes to consignment stores, I can tell you they only take the highest quality. I now buy clothes from consignment stores, using store credit I earned from selling to them.
Sure, some things I still won’t or can’t buy at consignment stores like socks and underwear. But you’ll find some great picks at much lower prices. This is also a frugal option for one-time-use items like snow clothes or heavy coats you won’t use often.
9. Buy life insurance
Not the most exciting tip, but probably the most money-saving of them all. You should both buy life insurance to cover the remaining spouse or children should one or both of you die.
10. Make your own baby food
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Once the little munchkin is ready and able to eat solid food, save a ton of money by making your own. It’s so easy to prepare, store and use baby food than buying their jarred or packaged versions. Plus, they’ll be fresher and healthier.
Save jarred food for when you really don’t feel like cooking or when you travel. The baby food cookbook I used was Petit Appetit by Lisa Barnes along with many more. And for storage, these Oxo food containers were the best I found.
You can also plan ahead for your monthly expenses once the baby comes! Download my FREE Printable Monthly Expenses Worksheet to estimate recurring expenses and typical costs of raising a baby. You’ll have a better sense of how much to expect to spend:
Bonus reader tip: Breastfeed
Jessica mentioned in the comments below one tip I had forgotten: breastfeeding! (She also mentions cloth diapers which is another great tip, but one I didn’t myself do and can’t share my experience about. But definitely check it out!)
I’ve breastfed and formula-fed my kids and crunched the numbers. Even with renting a hospital-grade breast pump, breastfeeding was more economical than buying formula (even when I bought them at discount prices!).
Here’s what I learned: financial doom isn’t inevitable just because you’re going to be a new mom. You can still spend where it matters and save on those that don’t. You don’t have to fork every penny over. You can still save money, especially if you follow these tips.