The Best Budget-Friendly Baby Gear Buys
From a car seat and crib to diapers and daycare, little ones come with big expenses. In fact, American parents spend an average of $14,000 on their baby's first year. It's easy to feel overwhelmed in the baby superstore and fill up your cart with products you may not need or use. But these money-saving strategies can help you buy the best for your baby and gear up for less.
Think neutral. If you're planning on having more children down the road, register or buy gender-neutral-colored products now so you'll feel comfortable using that product again for your next baby. This year, purple is the new pink or blue. You also can't go wrong with lime green, red, orange, yellow, silver, black or green.
Try reusable diapers. If you use disposable diapers - like the majority of parents do even though reusable diapers are becoming more mainstream - you can anticipate spending an average of $80 per month per child, for a total cost of around $2,400 from birth to potty training (at around age 2½). But you can spend less than that by using cloth diapers, which will run you $500 or less for a complete stash that you can use for your next baby too. Today's cloth diapers are almost as easy to use as disposables. They're better for the environment, too. Even just using cloth diapers some of the time, such as on the weekends, can help reduce your diaper overhead.
Buy products that multitask. It pays to buy gear that does more than one thing or that can be repurposed later. Opt for a diaper pail that can be converted to a trash can, a plastic "grass" baby bottle drying rack that can also dry your delicate wine glasses, a baby blanket that's also a nursing cover and a play mat, and a play yard that functions as a mobile changing table and a travel crib. These days, you can even use your cellphone as a baby monitor. The list goes on.
Get a free breast pump. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, as many as 80 percent of health insurance companies are now covering the cost of a double electric breast pump. Insurance companies don't have to provide such a premium model for free, but they know it gives moms the best shot at breast feeding success, which ultimately helps reduce medical costs. Call your health insurance company to find out what type of pump you can get and the brand options. Ask whether you have to get the "recommended" pump or if you can choose to purchase one that's "out of network" and submit the receipt for reimbursement.
Make an offer. If you're in the market for a car seat, stroller, high chair or diaper bag, check out Greentoe.com. The site and iPhone app allows you to name your price on baby products. You negotiate with baby product retailers, with Greentoe as the go-between. How Greentoe.com works: You submit an offer with help from the site's gauge meter, which gives you an idea of how doable your offer is (green means the retailer is almost guaranteed to take your price; orange means they might take your deal, depending on timing, their inventory and other factors; and yellow basically means sorry, it's not likely to happen). The gauge meter is based on algorithms and price intel. In general, Greentoe.com shoppers save an average of about 20 percent off retail. All offers include taxes (if they apply in your state to online shopping) and shipping. Baby products are just one of five product categories that Greentoe.com specializes in. To sign up, visit www.greentoe.com and get $20 off your first purchase. You can also earn 3 percent cash back (good through April 30, 2105) by typing "saveabundle" in the box at checkout. Happy haggling!
Shop store brands. While breast milk is best, store-brand infant formula is a great option for moms who want to formula feed or supplement breast milk with formula. Infant formula is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Consequently, store-brand formulas, such as Wal-Mart's Parent's Choice or Target's Up & Up, must be nutritionally equivalent to name brand formulas, yet cost up to 50 percent less. Store-brand formula can save you up to $600 a year. Try store-brand disposable diapers and wipes, too, in the large size package you can find. The 121 count box of Wal-Mart Parent's Choice cost just 16 cents per diaper compared to 24 cents per diaper for a 117-count package of Huggies. Experiment until you find a store brand diaper or wipe you like. Online reviews can help narrow the field for deciding if the store-brand diaper is worth try. Customer feedback, such as "great value, meets expectations, better than leading brands," can offer valuable insider feedback and insights, such as which brands run smaller or larger than expected and which diapers do the job during the day but fall short overnight.
Join your supermarket's baby club. Many supermarkets offer a free baby club that ties the store's rewards card to baby product purchases. Baby club card holders can typically receive discounts for points they earn by purchasing eligible products, which often include diapers and wipes as well as baby food, formula and baby lotion among others. Baby clubs are available at major supermarkets across the country. To maximize savings, use manufacturer's coupons on baby products when possible while earning baby club rewards.
Ditch your virtual cart. When you're shopping online for baby items, go ahead and fill your cart with what you need. Then leave your shopping cart for a day or so. Retailers can tell when your shopping cart is loaded but idle. Walking away from your cart for a while can buy you time to get discounts or rebates sent right to your email that encourage you to click the "buy" button.
Get cash back with online shopping. Instead of heading directly to an ecommerce site, such as diapers.com to do your online shopping, start at a rebate portal, such as EBATES at ebates.com or upromise by SallieMae at upromise.com (there, rebates can go into your baby's college fund or a high-yield savings account). Rebate sites enable you to get cash back on your baby product purchases. The practice, known as spend-to-earn shopping, is akin to entering through a rebate door before proceeding to the ecommerce site you'd normally go to anyway. EBATES features more than 1,500 online stores, such as diapers.com, which was offering 1.5 percent cash back on purchases at press time. Your rebate/savings can go right into your PayPal account or get sent to your home by check. upromise works similarly, except you have the option of diverting your rebates to your baby's college fund or a high-yield savings account.
Cash in on groceries. For baby food, diapers and other smaller-ticket items, cash in with grocery rebate apps, such as Checkout51 and Ibotta. To redeem a rebate, you have to add offers to your phone before shopping, which may require doing something, such as answering a quick survey. Then, after you buy all rebated items, you simple take a picture of your receipt with your smartphone and upload it to the app as per the instructions. Earning cash back, which gets sent to your PayPal account, takes a little thought and effort. But it's worth it, considering that you can upload your receipt to more than one app - and get rebates times two or more!
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