We’ve all heard that having a child from 0 to 18 will cost you a whackload of money – according to the Huffington Post, approximately $235000. Is the cuteness and general life changing joy of having a tiny person of your own with your DNA worth a quarter million dollars? Most parents I know (myself included) would say yes. While I recognize that the sticker shock may be making the hair on your eyebrows stand on end, it isn’t as bad as it initially appears.
A lot of those expenses are gradual, and some of them are optional. The three major child expenses are diapers, food and STUFF. (Note: This presupposes that you are Canadian and will be on maternity leave for a year and do not have any additional health care expenses due to universal health care, so daycare and health costs are not noted here).
Let’s deal with diapers first: a lot of the data I read had quoted me up to $100 a month for the first year for disposable diapers, and the outlay for cloth diapers ran about the same (taking into account the initial costs for the diapers themselves). While the tiny environmentalist on my shoulder cried a little with each disposable I used, the first six months were just so overwhelming that I couldn’t add anything else to it. Particularly when that ‘something’ would have entailed rinsing out cloth diapers in a sink in our 700 square foot apartment while pumping, feeding and trying to have the odd shower myself. So disposables it was. I’ve tracked our diaper cost at between $35 – $50/month, with the average being about $40. How does this happen? There’s a variety of factors that come into play…primarily combining coupons and sales, and early toilet training. The latter will depend entirely on the child – I have a girl, and apparently they train more quickly and earlier, so I expect her completely out of diapers a few months after age 2.
What I did was chose a points program that worked for me (Shoppers Optimum), always used the same brand of diapers (Pampers) and ensured that I made all of my purchases there, always on sale and on double points days. I would save up the coupons I would order online from PG Brandsaver, wait for a diaper sale day, and then stock up using the coupons on the sale price, getting roughly 120 diapers for $35. This would make it equivalent to the price of the cheapest box store, but would come with the bonus of getting points for it. Once every three months, I would have enough points to buy $100 of baby supplies and other items completely FREE (although you do still have to pay the taxes).
If you register for the e-club of the points program of your choice, you’ll also get bonus coupons that will give you more points when you buy items that were on your list anyways. And depending on what type of diapers you use, they’ll often have loyalty rewards too.
Food for infants and babies is a fairly hot button issue. Obviously, a big piece of this is whether or not you’re able to/choose to breastfeed, as the first six months is nearly a complete liquid diet. If you’re breastfeeding only, obviously that issue solves itself. I would recommend a double electric breast pump to get some additional milk to freeze so that Elvis can occasionally leave the building, or in case of an emergency if you need to be away – having milk available will mean one less stress if a situation pops up. If you’re doing a hybrid of formula and breastfeeding or completely formula feeding, either by choice, not enough milk or just pure sanity, you’ll need to purchase formula. I’m not going to get into the enormous (and in my opinion, judgey and unjustified) political debate that surrounds breastfeeding/formula feeding. I assume that you, reader, are making the best choice for you and your family and that’s good enough for me! Formula feeding requires bottles and formula (obviously). Once again, use your points program and use it well. Choose a formula based on your particular infant, and then sign up with the company to get coupons and samples sent in the mail. Generally speaking, once you’ve found one that works for your baby, you probably won’t change, so when you see it on sale and have coupons, stock up!
I started our daughter on people food at just over four months (the health folks changed it to six months about a year ago, but four months worked fine for us! If you start too early, babies have a tongue thrust reflex that means they’ll just spit it back out at you – it’s a survival instinct). I gave her infant cereal, but also started her with pureed fruits and veggies right off the bat. Most other countries start babies on real food immediately once they’re able to process solids, and it seems to be just North Americans that have this whole ‘only cereal for a month’ thing. We did about half and half jarred versus homemade…essentially, you just steam stuff and blend it. Easy, yes? Soon enough, they’re eating whatever you eat, and your baby food expenditures just get lumped into general groceries.
Oh, baby gear. The baby is so small, yet the gear is SO LARGE. There are a ton of people and places and institutions who solely exist to SELL YOU RANDOM CRAP.
Get what you actually need. Not what the fine folks at Babies R Us say you need. Or the shiny new baby store in the posh part of town says you need. But what you ACTUALLY need. The basics for the first six months (according to me) are:
*onesies and pants (weather appropriate)
*hats (sunhat if summer, fuzzy hat if winter)
*jacket, coat or baby bunting suit for winter
*somewhere for the baby to sleep (bassinet? crib? Etc). Buy used.
*a baby monitor (depending on the size of your house. We had a teeny apartment and didn’t need one right away)
*bottles (if formula feeding, and also if breast feeding, so someone else can feed with pumped milk and you can escape for a few minutes. Seriously. Leave. It will be better for everyone for you to walk around the block once or twice every day).
*diapers (either cloth or disposable)
*wipes (or cloths, whatever you prefer)
*carseat (be aware that you cannot buy this in the US as it will not have the Transport Canada approval stamp. This means that if you were in an accident, you could lose coverage. Don’t do it. That level of risk is NOT worth saving a few bucks).
*stroller (always buy used or on a really good sale)
*baby carrier (also known as a sling, or at my house, the ‘baby hands-free kit)
*soothers (some people would argue that this is not a need. They did not have my daughter)
*high chair (also buy used)
Some of what *I* considered fairly essential:
*swaddling sleep sack (that’s a lot of alliteration!)
*mobile (this kept her contented for AGES)
*Bumbo (the baby got to sit up! Without me holding her up all the time! This was genius. The usual common sense rules of ‘don’t leave child unattended on high surface’ and ‘wait for head control apply’).
*double electric breast pump and freezer bags (I liked the Medela freestyle). (NB: I pumped exclusively for the first five months, so this was something I used six times a day and I got the most expensive one possible that suited my needs).
*dangly toys and books for the stroller and to play with on the floor.
*diaper genie. Enough said.
*glider to rock the baby in…also for you to snooze while rocking said baby.
*exersaucer to keep her busy so that you can make a variety of pureed items which will all look slightly gross, no matter how delectable the actual food itself is.
What you DON’T need:
*those weird wedge things that keep babies on their backs. Come on people. They can’t roll over for the first while, and once they can, it’s a bit of a moot point.
*a fancy layette set. Blankets in cribs aren’t recommended anyways, so really? A couple of hundred dollars in bedding that isn’t recommended?
*bottle sterilizer. Use your dishwasher. End of story.
*shoes. I know I’ll get flack for this, but Kate didn’t wear shoes until she was starting to stand. Why? Because she wasn’t going anywhere.
*crazily expensive cribs/strollers/etc. If it goes into the higher three digits, and definitely into the four digit range, it’s just crazy talk. The child will chew on the $2000 crib the same way she’ll chew on the $400 one. Stop the madness.
*those things that tell you if the bathwater is too hot. Use your elbow. It’s free. And presumably, you won’t lose it amongst the other random baby items.
What weird stuff did you get for the baby that you never used? Or what did you consider essential that isn’t listed?