Did you know baby products are a $9.8 billion industry in the U.S., with hundreds of new products added each year? With an increasing range of choices and options of baby gear in stores, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and buy more than you need. Keep in mind, though, that you can get good value and buy high-quality products without bruising your bank account.
For starters, breast-feeding will save you $2,000 during baby’s first year, money you’d otherwise spend on formula. You’ll shave another $2,000 off your tab by using cloth, a.k.a. “reusable” diapers, over disposables. These days, reusable diapers are almost as easy to use and they’re great for the environment. Want other ideas? Here are six more smart ways to save on baby items.
Go with store-brand infant formula. Of course, breast is best. But if you want or need to use infant formula, definitely go with the store brand. Store-brand infant formulas, labeled with retail-store brand names such as Target (Up & UP), Wal-Mart (Parent’s Choice), Kroger (Comforts), or Sam’s Club (Simply Right), have to be as nutritionally complete as national brand formulas as per FDA regulations, yet cost up to 50 percent less. This can add up to a savings of $1,000 or more per year.
Stock up in January. The fall and early winter are when baby product retailers slash prices on inventory to make room for next year’s merchandise. So what if you buy a 2012 stroller? Chances are it’s not much different than the 2013 model, aside from a fabric update. If you’re in a store where there’s room to haggle, such as your local baby boutique, be sure to ask: “Is that your best price?”
Shop mid-week. Shoppers tend to flood stores on the weekends, but you’ll often find the best deals on baby gear during the week when retailers want to generate traffic. Get on the e-mail list of your favorite baby stores, and keep your eyes peeled for notices of cyber and in-store sales. Like grocery shopping, though, stick to your list. Impulse buys on stuff you really don’t need can wipe out your savings.
Do the legwork. Don’t just register online, products unseen. Go to stores and get familiar with strollers, car seats, and cribs so you really know what you’re buying. Be sure to list practical items too, like diapers in upper sizes, wipes, breast shields, and refills for the Diaper Genie. They may not seem gifty, but they can save you money down the line. For an idea of baby brands and products to avoid, check out saferproducts.gov. There you’ll find reports from other parents about baby products they’ve had bad experiences with, which can be helpful.
Use a stroller frame for baby’s first stroller. Instead of shelling out hundreds for a stroller, snap your baby’s infant car seat into a bare-bones stroller frame, such as the Baby Trend Snap-N-Go (around $50). The carrier frame will do the job until your baby outgrows his infant car seat (at about a year). A stroller frame will buy you time, saving you from having to pair your baby’s infant car seat with a traditional coordinating stroller from day one. You’ll know so much more about your stroller needs once you’ve got some parenting experience under your belt.
Rent baby gear for travel. Instead of lugging a car seat, stroller, and play yard on vacation, why not rent things you need to keep your little one safe and content? Leasing a crib or car seat at a weekly rate is typically less than it would cost to check them at the airport. A basic Pack-N-Play, for example, which can multitask as a crib and play pen, typically costs around $60 new to buy and $100 to check at the airport. Rentals cost around $7/day or $35/week.
Renting can also take the hassle out of traveling, which is difficult enough these days. Before you do, though, ask about safety and cleanliness. How have the products been cleaned? How old is the car seat? What happens if you lose or break something? Most rental contracts will stipulate that if the product is damaged, lost, or stolen, you’re responsible for replacing it.
Also, ask if the rental agent can meet you at your car rental or pre-assemble the products where you’ll be staying, such as a vacation rental. Check Baby Travel Pros for links to baby gear rental companies in the U.S. and abroad. Baby Travel Pros members are committed to cleanliness, quality, and safety. Rental prices, products, and agreements may vary.
Award-winning writer Sandra Gordon delivers expert advice on health, parenting, & consumer issues. Read Gordon’s book, Save a Bundle: 50+ Ways to Save Big on Baby Gear, and her baby products blog at babyproductsmom.com.