ILLUSTRATION BY JONAN EVERETT
The cost of raising a child is expensive. In fact, a middle-income married couple with two children will spend an estimated $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015 until age 18, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a serious amount of cash. While there are some costs that are unavoidable, such as health insurance, there are plenty that you can minimize or completely skip when raising your child.
My wife and I had our first child a little more than a year ago and have learned firsthand that kids aren’t cheap. However, we’ve discovered that many of the typical costs of raising a child don’t have to be as high as you’d think. Here are a few ways to save money:
- Avoid life insurance for your kid
- Buy used clothes
- Use coupons
- Get cloth diapers and/or cheaper disposable ones
- DIY your baby food
- Be creative with baby toys
1. Don’t Buy Life Insurance for Your Baby
Opportunistic life insurance agents or financial advisers may suggest that you purchase whole-life insurance for newborns just in case they develop a condition that disqualifies them from getting life insurance later in life. (Bear in mind that agents and advisers earn high up-front commissions on whole-life insurance policies.) While this might appeal to new parents on an emotional level, it doesn’t make much sense logically. If a child does die before reaching age 18, he or she will not owe anyone money or leave behind dependents in need of support, so insurance is not really required unless you need the money for final expenses. Skip life insurance for your newborn.
2. Forgo Fancy New Clothes and Buy Used Instead
When you’re a first-time parent, you see plenty of cute clothes you can dress your kid in. You might feel you have to get your son a onesie from your alma mater or that you really must get him a 49ers jersey to wear on game day. Don’t forget those adorable holiday outfits, either.
At the end of the day, your child simply needs to be properly clothed to protect him or her from the elements — nothing fancy required.
You can accomplish the task just as successfully by buying used clothes or other more economical, albeit less cute, options. Baby clothes are marketed to parents, and if you firmly grasp that idea, you can save a ton of money by going with used or cheaper clothing.
3. Need to Buy New Clothes? Use Coupons
If you absolutely must buy new clothes for your baby, at least make sure to use coupons. One of the few times we buy our son new clothes is when we get a coupon from JCPenney that offers us $10 off a $10 purchase. We head to the store and find some onesies or another piece of clothing he needs and do our best to stick as close to the $10 purchase required to get the best value. Often, we’ll walk out with multiple items of clothing for less than $1.
4. Try Cloth Diapers or Less Expensive Disposable Brands
Diapers are one of the more expensive costs of raising a child. If you can deal with the stink and laundry of cloth diapers, by all means use them instead of disposable diapers and save a significant amount of money.
My wife and I don’t want to deal with the mess, so we’ve gone the disposable diaper route. In the beginning, we bought our son only the expensive diapers. They had to be better, right? While they may be slightly superior, we found that less expensive Sam’s Club diapers do the trick, too. That said, we still buy Pampers overnight diapers because they seem to work better while our son sleeps. Save money where you can when it comes diapers, but make sure you child is comfortable, too.
5. Make Your Own Baby Food
Baby food is just a pureed version of the solid food you’ll feed your child once he or she gets old enough. It’s packaged in a small container and costs way more than it would if you made it yourself. So if you’re feeling adventurous, puree your own baby food and save the difference.
6. Skip the Expensive Toys
While some toys are big hits with children, others fall flat. You never know what will appeal to a kid until the toy is actually in his or her hands. What my wife and I have found, though, is that nine times out of 10, our son has just as much fun playing with an empty cereal box as he does with some of his actual toys. While getting your child some store-bought toys is probably a good idea, be creative and make some of your own toys, too.
The Costs of Raising a Child: Final Thoughts
The first year of being a parent is an adventure. We learned a lot about what baby expenses we probably paid a bit too much for and which were a good use of our money. Hopefully, our experiences can help you save some cash with your newborn.
Featured image art by Jonan Everett.