Confession: I’m a very frugal mom.
I don’t just like to save a buck; I find immense pleasure in it. It’s such a gratifying feeling knowing I can provide on a tight budget. It’s almost like I’m cheating the system!
It’s not like I can’t afford retail prices, but I don’t want to pay them. Kids go through clothes, toys, and gear so fast, why spend a pretty penny on ONE thing when you can get four things for the same price? And the best part? Kids don’t care if it’s a used outfit, a clearance toy, or a garage sale find. It’s a win-win.
Here are my go-to tips and hacks for saving money when buying baby/kids stuff:
We are so lucky to have a plethora of garage sales in the Cedar Rapids corridor area. City-wide garage sales pop up from April and go all the way until October. You’ll find baby toys, books, clothes, bedding, gear, life jackets, shoes, and more at a steal.
It’s easy to overspend at garage sales, so I take out the amount of money I wish to spend to stay within budget. Often times, garage salers will barter for the best price. When I shop, I spend no more than $1 on a onesie or blanket, $4 on an outfit, $5 on a toy and $20 on gear or equipment. Of course, sometimes I make exceptions, but it helps me set hard and fast rules for myself.
We have three great consignment shops for kids in the area (Stuff Etc., Polka Dots & Denim, and Puddle Jumpers and Rain). You can find brands like Baby Gap, Crazy 8, Gymboree, etc., for a fraction of the cost, and the clothes sometimes still have tags on them! And if you time it out right, you can find off-season clearance for 80-90% off (I stocked up on summer clothes for next year for $1 each!). The stores allow you to drop off a tote or two of gently used clothes, toys, gear, and accessories and give you about 30% of the sales back on your account. I use this money to shop for the next size up or let my daughter pick out a toy when we stop there.
The most difficult part of buying disposable diapers is knowing what package to buy and what is really a deal. Whether you’re in search of generic store brand or Pampers/Huggies, there are some hard and fast rules to get the best bang for your buck. Here are the ranges you should shoot for:
Newborn: .13 to .16 each
Size 1: .11 to .14 each
Size 2: .14 to .16 each
Size 3: .16 to .19 each
Size 4: .19 to .22 each
Size 5: .22 to .26 each
Size 6: .26 to .30 each
Most moms think the bigger box is the better deal – that’s not always the case (no pun intended)! Most of the packages of diapers I purchase are the jumbo packs, not the boxes. I’ve been using these price ranges ever since my baby was born. It IS possible! Seriously, check out Aldis. They’ve just started carrying a new line of organic baby products, including diapers, and they’re cheap! By clipping coupons, redeeming reward points, watching for store specials, and buying off-brand, you’ll end up saving significantly. Just do the math: the price divided by the number of diapers.
For even bigger savings, give cloth diapering a try!
When your baby starts solids and purees, it’s convenient to grab a jar or pouch. While most of the options are under $1, they certainly add up as baby eats more. Making your own baby food is super easy and cheap. All you need is a blender, water, formula or breast milk, and frozen/fresh veggies and fruits. Steam or boil what you’d like to make, blend, and add into ice cube trays. Boom. 12 perfectly portioned 1-ounce cubes for under $2. No need for fancy machines or pouch filler-uppers. Not only does this save you money, but it’s healthier and saves you a trip to the store.
Also, when it comes time to switch to finger foods like Puffs, Cheerios, and freeze-dried fruit bits, the generic brand is generally the same thing and much cheaper. I personally shop at Aldi for all of my finger food needs!
If you’re not lucky enough to have family in the area to watch your little ones, try doing a babysitting swap with other trusted parents. You watch their kids, and they’ll return the favor by watching yours. You’ll both get free babysitting and enjoy the general frivolity. Babysitting swaps are not for everyone as it takes some management, flexibility, and time, but they are a great option for free (or low cost) babysitting.
Coupons and Promo Codes
I always scour the web for promo codes and coupons before I shop. It’s a must. I’m not sure why companies keep these nuggets so secretive, but they’re serious jackpots! If you type “coupons for ______” in Google, you’ll likely find some kind of promo or coupon code. From free shipping to 50% off, you’ll be able to save significantly by taking the time to pursue discounts. Sometimes signing up for newsletters or emails from the company will also give you discounts. By subscribing to emails (I know, more spam!), you’ll often get deals and discounts sent straight to your inbox or phone, which makes it easier when it comes time to shop!
Also, many super markets or retailers have set days when products go on sale and have clearance codes on their discounted items. For example, at Target, clearance price tags ending in $0.06 or $0.08 means the item will be marked down again during the next markdown cycle as long as there is inventory in the store. By knowing and understanding what these codes mean and what days to shop, you could save even more money.
From door latch covers, pumping bras, and crinkly toys, to décor, crochet animals, blankets, hair bows, and burp rags, doing it yourself has never been easier. (Thanks, Pinterest and YouTube!) It may not save you time, but it saves some serious dough. There are how-to videos for just about everything. I promise you that you CAN do it. I’ve made hair bow holders, tie blankets, closet organizers, an ombre mobile, burp rags, hair bows/bands, and homemade toy cleaner. It’s really gratifying making things yourself, in my opinion. You don’t even need to be crafty!
You may have seen book exchanges going viral on the Internet. Instead of buying new books at full retail or selling old books for a fraction of the cost, a book exchange is an environmentally (and budget) friendly way to grow your child’s library. Go through your child’s bookshelf and find books he/she is no longer interested in. Add those to the ‘book exchange’ pile. You can either find a friend to swap books with or find social book exchange websites like BookMooch.com, Swaptree.com or Whatsonmybookshelf.com.
What are your favorite money saving hacks when buying baby/kid things?