How Expensive is a Child?

Ever since Octomom hit the news we have been hearing about how expensive it is to have a kid. They go on and on about how much it costs just for the first year. The numbers they spout seem over the top. It makes a person (even a mom) stop and wonder how much does it really cost to have child?

Every situation is different. There can even be a huge swing in the cost between your first child and your second child. Sometimes you can not control the high costs because they are due to medical needs of the child or complications from your labor. Other times they can be controlled. You can control how much you spend on clothing, toys, food and much more.

Today I'm going to focus on what costs you can control and how to do it. I've found that for us the key is to start long before the baby arrives. If you wait until the last minute you will have to pay the premium for it. Taking the time to prepare starting 6-7 months out can save you a small fortune.

  • Medical Bills- We have found that doctors and hospitals have negotiable prices. It is worth making a few calls to the billing departments to see about discounts for prepaying and/or paying within 15 days of first receiving the bills. As a reader suggested, paying cash at the time of service can yield a discount that would make your credit card blush.
  • Breastfeeding- Breast is the best! It is free, the healthiest, and most convenient for you and your baby.
  • Baby food- For our second daughter I made all of her baby food. I never bought a single container of jarred baby food or box of rice cereal. I just used the foods we were already eating, pureed and froze them. It saved a small fortune and didn't take that long to make either.
  • Diapers- Buy using cloth diapers you can save a lot of money and help save the environment. I also found that it helped to cut down on the number of diaper rashes as well.
  • Clothing- We have always had more kids clothes then any one child could possible wear. If you have parent's like ours then they will love to spoil your kids with clothes and toys. But for clothing items you need to buy yourself go shopping at garage sales. I've found that I can easily outfit my kids in really nice clothes from garages sales for a fraction of the price. I even by winter coats, fancy dresses, school uniforms and Halloween costumes at garage sales. An active Freecycle group can work wonders too.
  • Toys- While you are shopping at garage sales for clothes stock up on toys for birthdays and Christmas. I'm amazed at the number brand new or almost brand new toys at garage sales for half the price or less. All of my daughter's barbies have come from garage sales. We have also bought wooden play structures, bikes, baby toys, wagons, a play tool bench and much more at garage sales.
  • Baby Furniture- Personally, we bought our baby crib, mattress, and glider new with our first child. Back then money was not an issue (at least we were young and oblivious to it). If I were to do it again I would have bought all of it gently used with exception of the mattress. Just make sure that the crib meets today's safety standards and has no outstanding recalls.
  • Car seats- If you have a close friend that could sell you a gently used car seat that is only a couple years old and has never been in a wreck then I would do it. Otherwise, pass on the car seat. It's not worth taking a chance on your child's life. I'm not even that cheap!
  • All the "Other" things- There are so many baby items that you are told you NEED during the first year it makes your brain hurt just thinking about it. Most of the stuff you NEED you really don't. Some of it you would only be able to use a couple months or there is a good chance your child will not even like it. For all those things I would try to borrow a friends for a few weeks. If you think you do need it and your child will continue to like it then I would start looking for a used one or continue to borrow your friends.
If you apply your frugal living principles to your child like you do the rest of your life you can save a small fortune. In fact, we found that our second daughter cost us almost nothing if you didn't add in all the medical bills. Despite what the "experts" say, you don't have to be the Jet Set to afford kids.

What are some of the ways you saved money when your kids where little?


beachgirl said...

Family memberships to area attractions is a great way to get more bang for your buck especially if you have a larger family. We just recently purchased a zoo membership. If the whole family (2 adults and 4 kids) goes just twice it's already paid for and then some. Plus, our zoo has a reciprocal agreement with other zoos/aquariums across the country that gives you free or discounted admission.

Mrs. (not) the Jet Set said...

Great idea!

We tried to do that with our local ice skating ring this winter, but that one didn't get us money ahead.

The first time I used the pass with our older daughter I fell on the ice and bruised my tailbone. It took about 3 weeks to heal and the I couldn't bring myself to do it again!

It would have paid for itself in 4 visits but we only went once. Oh well! The beach pass always pays for itself within the first few weeks of summer.

Cathy said...

since i've stayed home, I started doing a lot of things--buying used clothing and toys, etc. You can save a ton by doing that. I really wish I had used cloth diapers, oh well.

Courtney said...

yes i am surprised at how easy it is to really save if you just take the time to look into things.

Kathleen W. said...

These are wonderful ideas, and with sites like FreePeats and Craigslist, it's much easier to get hand me downs.

Greenbaby said...

I cannot emphasize enough just how much EVERY expectant parent would benefit from reading this column! It's amazing how babies really only use their gear, clothes and toys for a matter of months. There are reams of cheaply priced treasures out there. Luckily we had friends who urged us to only buy used and we ended up saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars on our firstborn. Now that we're expecting our second, we're totally set! Thanks so much for enriching our Thrifty Green Thursday!

Anonymous said...

On the Car Seat, I don't know about other States but Florida has a program through the Health Dept. where you can get a brand new car seat (the correct size for your baby), learn how to put it in and it only costs around $10. You do need to contact them before the baby is born to find out if there is a waiting list. This is done by a grant and I'm not sure, but I think August is when they get the money and it will sometimes run out quickly. Also, if your county is out of funds, contact the next county, they may still have funds.

Mrs. (not) the Jet Set said...

Great tip! It must be just a Florida thing, but if you live in Florida that is a huge help.

Thanks for sharing.

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