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Six ways to save money raising young children

Posted by Jamie Downey  July 22, 2009 07:25 AM

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I was recently looking through one of my wife’s magazines (obviously it was not a very exciting day in the Downey household). One of the articles I came across noted that it cost over $6,700 to raise a child in his or her first year of life. My daughter Madeline just turned one so I had a bit of knowledge on this subject. At first I thought the number was quite high, but as I started adding up the numbers, to my chagrin, I realized we had probably exceeded the $6,700 annual cost.

As first-time parents, we erred financially in many ways. However, we have learned a bit during this first year, and if the Lord blesses us with another child, we now know of a few areas where we can save some dollars. Here are some areas I think parents can save some money in the first year of a child’s life:

Diapers – My wife wants nothing but the absolute best for our daughter, as do I. However, my wife is completely hoodwinked when it comes to name-brand items, and believes the branded item is always better quality. For Madeline’s first ten months, my wife would only buy expensive name-brand diapers. However, a friend of ours informed her that the BJ’s brand of diapers, Berkley & Jensen, was actually made by Proctor & Gamble (P&G). P&G also makes Pampers. Based on this information my wife tried out the Berkley & Jensen diapers and actually liked them better. So for the last couple of months we have converted, and the savings is pretty significant, probably over 40 percent cheaper than buying the name-brand diapers.

Baby gear – All this stuff adds up - strollers, car seats, high chairs, etc. When our daughter was first born we went out and acquired everything we thought we would need. Each of these items cost in excess of $100, and the numbers add up quickly. One day my brother gave me a used jogging stroller. My wife was hesitant, as she did not want hand-me-downs. Just a genetic flaw on her part I guess. Anyhow, she tried it out and she loves it. This little act converted her to the idea of accepting used stuff. The great thing about getting used things is that if you or the baby does not like the item, you can either give it back, or throw it out. Something you are a lot less likely to do if you shelled out over $100. (Quick story – we shelled out something like $200 for a stroller. Although we like it, it is the size of a small World War II aircraft carrier. This makes it almost impossible to cart around since it takes up the entire trunk of our car. Had this been given to us, I would have no problem getting rid of it.)

Formula - We only used name-brand formula and the stuff is not cheap, even when you buy in bulk. Not too long ago I read that generic formula has the same ingredients as the name-brand formula, as the product is regulated by the FDA. Although we did not put this idea into action, child number two will be on the no-name product. I understand it costs about 30 percent less than the name-brand varieties.

Clothes – We stocked up on baby clothes prior to Madeline’s arrival. Then when she was born, we received a hoard of gifts from family and friends. Most of the gifts were clothes. Little did I know that a baby actually grows in those first few months. Unfortunately, most of the clothes we have for her were never used. When it comes to clothes, keep it limited and to the basics. You will save some money and a significant amount of storage space.

Toys, books etc. – Keep things small, limited, and simple. More importantly, think secondhand. The baby will have a blast just playing with a wooden spoon. No need to spend money and clutter your home with items the baby will not even play with. Madeline has received over 25 stuffed animals from friends and family. I do not tell any of the donors, but Madeline has not picked one of them up.

Stores – Discount box stores such as Target, Walmart, BJ’s, and Costco have everything you need for child-rearing, and are reasonably priced. Keep away from children specialty stores, or your wallet will be drained significantly.

Fortunately Madeline has not spent any time in day care at this point. However, that is going to change starting in September. Part two of this story will be written then once I ascertain all the ways we erred in that department.

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ABOUT MANAGING YOUR MONEY
Local finance professionals share insights and advice on issues such as budgeting, managing debt, and retirement planning.

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D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit www.morganstanleyfa.com/ringer
Financial Planning Association™ of Massachusetts has 900 members who specialize in the financial planning process. Many of its members engage in philanthropic pro bono work in their communities, recommend legislation, elevate public awareness, promote financial literacy, and advocate for sound economic and tax policies.
Odysseas Papadimitriou is the founder of CardHub.com, a credit card and gift card marketplace, and WalletHub.com, a personal finance site. He has more than 13 years of experience in the personal finance industry, and previously served as senior director at Capital One.

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