I've written before here about how to have a baby on a budget. But since we are on an even tighter budget right now, and have two kids instead of one, I've had to be even more creative lately. I thought I'd share exactly what we do in our home to save money. Here are just 5 ways. There are plenty more that I will share later.
We've talked about this before, so I won't spend a lot of time on it, but this one thing is major. Instead of spending $30, $40 or $50 on a box of diapers over and over and over again, you just need to spend that or a little more on your initial diaper investment and you are done! Add in the cost of laundry detergent, vinegar (if you use it for rinses), water, electric/gas (unless you line dry) for washing and drying the diapers and it doesn't compare to what you spend on disposable diapers monthly. If you want to really get into it, consider using fabric, re-usable wipes too!
We cloth diapered Isaac only part-time which meant he still wore a disposable at night and when we were out and about (specifically at church or if he was with a sitter). With Eli, because of our current budget, we are now a full-time cloth diaper family. We have not had a disposable diaper in the house in months (he wore them as a newborn because I don't have any newborn cloth diapers, but he didn't stay a newborn for long!).
For detergent, I use All Free and Clear. I get the big container at either Costco (which has a Kirkland detergent that is exactly the same) or Sam's Club. It's much cheaper than a fancy cloth diaper detergent and works just fine. You simply have to rinse the diapers once or twice more after they're washed to make sure it's completely rinsed off. You can read more about cloth diapering here.
when you can, buy secondhand
This one is kind of an uh, duh tip. But with thrifting becoming so trendy, I want to point out that just because something is at a thrift shop, for sale on ebay, craigslist or at a yard sale, that doesn't mean it's a good price, a good deal or worth buying. I cannot get over how expensive Goodwill has become. I don't care how nice something is or what name brand it is, it's still secondhand! Don't "get tricked by biz-niss".
But, many, many times, you will pay a fraction of the price for something if it's secondhand. And the wonderful thing about baby clothes secondhand? They have usually only been worn a handful of times so they end up being in great condition! My rule with kids' clothes?: Never spend more than $2 on any item (shoes and coats included. yes it's possible. now you think I'm cheap right? I call it frugal).
If you are thrifting, always look for sales. If the sale is "orange tags 1/2 price" then I won't even look at items with any other color tags. My goal is to find what I need and find it for cheap. If you are yard sale-ing, haggle. Grab a handful of clothes and offer $2 for all of it (or whatever you feel is fair).
Also, be on the look-out for hand-me-downs. I can't even tell you how much money we have saved from taking other people's used baby stuff that they don't have a need for anymore. Or borrow. We have borrowed several baby items that are often considered must-haves like an exersaucer, swing, bouncer and even clothes. Just be sure to take excellent care of borrowed items and return them as soon as you are finished with them. In return, allow others to borrow your baby items!
potty train early
Isaac's doctor in Texas told me to start thinking about potty training as soon as he turned 18 months.We waited until he started showing the signs: dry diaper after naps, could tell me when he needed a diaper change, could follow a simple command. I watched for them and would you believe it, by 20 months I knew he was ready.
We bought him a little potty when he was around 18 months just to give him time to get familiar with it. He learned what it was and what it was for. Then, one day, we just jumped in and did it. (We used this one-day method and I swear by it). At 20 months, my toddler was potty trained! (Full discolsure: he is still wearing pull-ups at night because I think he is a little young to sleep through the night without wetting the bed, but we'll be working to change that soon!).
Oh my goodness does this save money on diapers! We still use one at night, so that's 1 diaper a day instead of 4 or 5. Yes, it's very hard work in the beginning. Yes, there are lots of accidents. Yes, there is more laundry because of dirty underwear (although it ends up being less laundry if you were cloth diapering). But in the end, it's a super money saver. And the real thing that motivated me to do it so early was that I refused to have two in diapers. I just won't do it!
Isaac turned 2 a month ago. He uses the big potty all by himself (he won't even let us touch him and most of the time tells me to go "way!"). It is possible. If you are considering potty training, but aren't quite sure if your kiddo is ready, I say it's worth a try! It will at least get them familiar with it and hopefully they'll train sooner rather than later. We used the one day method.
don't buy it unless you absolutely need it (and cut back on what you don't need)
This one requires lots and lots of self discipline. This means not walking aimlessly around Target. This means weighing out what you really need for the kids. This means borrowing items if you can. Also consider borrowing an item for a week or so to decide if you even like it before buying it.
There are things my kids don't have and I will never buy. We won't spend money on something that we don't think they need (as I said before, this doesn't stop me from borrowing these items. if someone is willing to lend them out, I will gladly take it!). But we all know that the baby item market is ridiculous. We are told that our kids need everything. Everything. But that is just not the truth!
If you are pregnant, I suggest making a list of everything you think you will need or that you want. Talk to other moms about what they used and didn't use. Try to narrow down your list as best you can. Believe me, we all have things we purchased that didn't get used as much as we expected. Try not to make that mistake. If you can, wait until after baby is born to be absolutely sure you need it. And then buy it.
As far as non-baby items go, consider what you use around your house now that you could do without altogether. Not only will this free up money to purchase what you do need, but it also frees up money to put away for later. An example in our home is fabric softener. I had always used the sheets because that's just what you do. I had seen on Money Saving Mom that someone recommended cutting them into 3's to get more out of a box, or using the same sheet multiple times. Then Crystal tweeted me telling me she didn't use them at all. I had never even thought of that as an option! But when I stopped to think about it, it made sense for us to not use fabric softener. One, it saves money. And two, it's one less thing adding chemicals and toxins to my children's clothes, sheets and the air they breath. And while not buying a $4 box of fabric softener every few months doesn't safe a whole lot of money, together with other cuts we've made, it adds up to quite a bit!
In our home, if it's not secondhand, it's made. This includes laundry detergent, bread, chicken/beef/vegetable broth, curtains, home decor, Halloween costumes, diapers and liners, blankets, quilts, clothes and toys. Seriously, you can make toys. Check pinterest. There is a tutorial for everything baby under the sun.
The secret to this one is that you don't have to be an expert to make something. And it doesn't have to be perfect either! It doesn't take a home-ec degree to sew a pair of pants or to boil some vegetables and chicken in a pot. All you have to do is follow instructions. Don't let fear of the unknown keep you from saving money for your family.
Also, when making clothes, curtains, bedding, toys, etc, consider buying fabric or old sheets secondhand. This will save even more money. It's like double the frugality! Fabric is often quite pricey and it can end up costing you more to buy all the supplies to make something than it would to just buy it at Walmart or Target. Be creative! If you do buy fabric from the store, buy it on sale or use a coupon. Many fabric stores will price match or take competitor's coupons.
So tell me, how does your family save money with babies in the house??