Author Stacey Bradford
A cliche, but true: Nothing your friends or parents can tell you about having kids prepares you for the massive disruption they cause in your life. That goes double for the chaos they bring to your finances: equipment and clothing that's quickly outgrown, constantly hyped toys and "kid" food, and your own dangerous "nothing's too good for my kid" attitude.
The only solution (and it won’t be the last time you’ll need this as a parent) is to exercise a little discipline — over both your impulses and theirs. As this excerpt from CBS MoneyWatch.com Family Finance blogger Stacey Bradford shows, a little realism and creativity can get you through your child’s early years with both your bank account and your sense of humor intact. That’s good — because you’ll need both to save for college.
Pregnancy and baby’s first year
- Don’t be shy. Friends and family want to buy gifts for your baby. Make it easy for them — register for all those items you need.
- Hospitals and pediatricians’ offices are overflowing with formula samples. Take as much as they’re willing to give you.
- New parents go through hundreds of diapers and wipes during an infant’s first year. Buy them in bulk from either a warehouse club or online at Amazon.com. While a typical drugstore may charge around 40 cents a diaper for Pampers, you can get them at Amazon (when you buy a value pack) for 22 cents.
Savings: Hundreds of dollars
2. Snag some formula
Savings: At least $50
3. Buy in bulk
Savings: At least 10 percent
- There’s no need to spend extra money on toddler foods in cute packaging. While the boxes may appeal to your little one, they cost more than the adult version and may contain more sugar.
- Don’t waste money buying a brand-new tricycle or kitchen set when you can go to a consignment shop and get one for a fraction of the original cost. Give the wheels a good scrub and they’ll look as good as new.
- A trip to a restaurant can get pretty expensive — and frustrating — when you’re buying an entree for a toddler who may not eat. The solution: Look for kids-eat-free nights at places like Lone Star Steakhouse and Applebee’s.
4. Avoid special ‘toddler’ foods
Savings: Up to 50 percent
5. Frequent consignment shops
Savings: 50 percent or more
6. Kids-eat-free nights
Savings: $10 or more a meal
- If you’re going to spring for a cell phone for safety reasons, get a family plan and share your minutes. At Verizon and T-Mobile, you pay one slightly cheaper price for two people to share minutes on one plan. But if you want to add a third phone for your child, then you’ll see real savings, since it will only cost you an additional $10.
- It’s great to encourage your kids to play tennis or pick up the violin. But there’s no reason they need pricey private lessons. Share the hour with a friend and your child will now have someone to practice with between sessions.
- If you share a hotel room (get a room with two double beds) while vacationing, you can save a bundle. Once your children hit elementary school, you won’t have to worry as much about tiptoeing in the dark after the little ones are in bed.
7. Get a family plan
Savings: $30 or more per month
8. Semiprivate lessons
Savings: Up to 50 percent
9. Share a hotel room
Savings: $150 or more a night
Reprinted from the book The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents by Stacey L. Bradford. Copyright 2009 by Stacey L. Bradford. Published by Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc.