Like so many others in southwest Ontario, our family was hard-hit by the recession. After a work injury forced my husband to seek employment elsewhere, he found himself caught up in the rat race of unstable restaurant work, along with temporary jobs that pay close to minimum wage. Throw our first daughter into the mix, who was born in the midst of this stressful time.
It has always been our desire that we would remain a single-income family, with me staying at home with our daughter. And yet, with all of the uncertainty, I found myself constantly questioning whether remaining a stay-at-home mom was even feasible for us, given our financial situation. However, we were determined to make it work, so I found myself doing everything I could to “cut corners”, so-to-speak, in order to stretch our dollars.
This is my first time contributing to the “Life With a Baby” blog. For my inaugural post, I thought I would share some money-saving ideas that have been helpful for us. If you’re looking to stretch your dollars as well (for whatever the reason), I hope you will find any of the following tips helpful:
1. Breastfeed! One of the biggest money-guzzlers during a baby’s first year is infant formula. The cost of formula feeding a baby for a year can vary anywhere from roughly $1,000 – $3,000 (depending on the kind of formula that you choose to buy). Breastfeeding, on the other hand, is FREE, and it’s convenient too because mother’s milk is already prepared and heated to the right temperature anytime it is needed. It’s also nutritionally better for baby, and provides powerful immunity against disease that formula doesn’t provide. What’s not to love? For free support, I highly recommend La Leche League meetings. I made some new friends and felt supported when I attended my local meeting. Also check local health units for free hotlines and clinics.
2. When it comes to kids, secondhand can be as good as new. I find that if I get my daughter’s stuff secondhand, it’s possible to find high-quality name brand items that look like they’ve been seldom used. I’ll never forget the time I was browsing the rack of baby clothes at a thrift store and found a brand designer dress (which still had the original tag) for a buck! Some of my favorite places to find bargains are yard sales (be ready to dig and barter), local thrift stores (especially when they have sales), and free online classifieds sites.
3. Switch to Cloth! When my daughter was 8 months old, I decided that we were spending too much money on disposable diapers, and switched over to cloth. I got the cheapest kind (cotton prefolds with 6 covers) for about $150, and have been using them for a year now. I also spent around $65 on diaper detergent for the year, and however much it was to do an extra medium-sized load every other day (sometimes every third day). Not bad, considering that I can use them until my daughter is potty-trained, and on any future children we might have. I bought my cloth diapers at a local store, but they can also be ordered online as well.
4. You don’t need everything they tell you. This one is for the first-time moms. When you go into the baby department of a store to make a registry, the catalog will show you countless “essential items”. The truth is, a lot of those items are not really needed at all. For me, the biggest one that comes to mind is my change table, which is currently collecting dust upstairs. I found that for changing my daughter’s diaper, any surface would do. A waterproof change pad for the floor, the couch, the bed, or even the top of the dryer was much more convenient (and cheaper) for me than going upstairs to use the table. Of course, it is different for everyone…some people would consider a change table to be an absolute necessity, so consider your individual situation. If you have any friends who already have children, ask them which baby items they found to be most useful vs. those they could forego. Leave unnecessary items off your registry so that you’ll receive more of the things you really need.
5. For entertainment, take advantage of free and discounted community activities/services.
I find that if I take my daughter to a free playgroup or drop-in center she has just as much fun as she would in a place where I’d have to pay. We do save the outings for special occasions (such as a birthday). Centres/groups (such as Life With a Baby) will often arrange group field trips to the places that charge, and you get a discount. In the summer, we frequent local parks and splash pads for free outdoor fun. Check your local recreation guide, because there might be days when your local pool offers free swimming as well! Ours do every Monday in the summertime.
Also, If you don’t have one already, get a library card! It’s worth it! Rather than spending money on expensive picture books, I check them out for free at the library. The huge selection of DVD’s at the library are also popular for free date night with the husband.
6. Make your own baby food. Making your own baby food is a lot quicker and easier than one might think. For fresh items (like bananas and avocado), I would mash on the spot and serve whenever I’d normally be eating the item anyway (that way nothing goes to waste). For items that require cooking (such as squash, potatoes, etc.), I’d do a big batch at once (for example, a whole casserole dish of baked sweet potatos), puree in the blender, and pour into ice cube trays to freeze. Once frozen, the cubes go in a zip-lock bag and I’d have enough to last me a while. I found it took up very little time to do this, since I could cook just about anything in the oven and go about my business. As my daughter got a little older, I started giving her small bits of whatever we eat (minus any extra spices, modified to make it safer for her to chew) .
7. Make friends with other moms! Obviously, your motive for making new friends is not going to be for saving money. But, an added bonus of having other mommy-friends is that you’ll always stay in the loop about the latest sales, or baby-related happenings around town. I find out about all sorts of deals/events from word-of-mouth. Sometimes, you’ll even be bestowed with hand-me-downs from mommies with older children who are looking to de-clutter.
These are just a few of the things that I have found helpful for our family. If anyone else has any great tips, I would love to hear them!