Monday, June 22, 2009

How to save with a baby in tow

I found this article in TheNestBaby a while back, before I had my first daughter. But I’ve modified it a bit with what little experience I have. Let’s face it, having a baby is expensive and can really break the bank, if you splurge on every single thing. (If you’re filthy rich like the Beckhams, who am I to complain? Do as you please, madam.) But most of us, I believe are average or slightly above average income earners, who would to love to spend wisely and save more for that dream house/car/vacation/whatever. Money doesn’t grow from trees, you know. So just have a look at this list, it may be worth a little of your time.

Buy gear and clothes from department stores.

Department stores are often full of great maternity and baby clothes as well as gear and furniture. I bought two maternity jeans at Jusco for RM130 (one jeans and one slim pants) which look like the expensive ones in Modernmum, if you don’t look too closely. I would have considered buying secondhand stuff, but my sister gave us her wooden baby cot and old carseat, so we already saved a lot there.

Borrow a bassinet (or skip it altogether).

Most bassinets can only be used until baby starts rolling over, so try to find one that you can borrow for those few weeks. We didn’t buy any for this same reason. I kinda regretted buying the baby bouncer too, because my daughter used it only until she was 5-6 months old. But we’re gonna use it for the second baby, so that’s ok, I guess.

Hold off.

If you aren’t sure which products will work best for baby (especially with bottles, pacifiers, even diapers), buy the minimum to start with, then stock up once you know baby’s preferences. We tried buying a cheaper brand of diapers, but my daughter developed rashes. So we stashed them away and might try our luck with the next baby.

Limit the tests.

Not pregnant yet? Buy three (and no more than three) pregnancy tests to keep on hand. If you have a larger supply, you’re likely to wind up with a trash can full of them, because like me, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I discovered I was pregnant for the second time (it was totally unexpected!). If I had 10 tests, I would’ve used them all up to my heart’s content.

Go easy on the starter diapers.

Start with only one pack of newborn diapers. Baby may not even fit into them at the start, and he’ll grow fast. I wasted an almost full packet of size S diapers because my daughter outgrew them. So I gave them to a friend who just had her baby, at least someone else benefitted from that mistake.

Breastfeed for as long as possible.

Not only breast milk is best for baby, the cost of formula adds up, really. (My main reason to breastfeed is to save money, but the bonding and cuddling is a great bonus.) Even though I didn’t breastfeed exclusively, breast milk makes up about 90% of my daughter’s diet, so we saved A LOT. So when I weaned her off after her first birthday when discovering I was pregnant again, we really felt the cost of formula. But I’m gonna do it all over again in 5 months time, so I’m going to enjoy this break as much as possible.


You might need to invest in a good, rather expensive breastpump. But it’s totally worth the money, trouble and time when you see your baby healthier than the formula feeding babies, not needing to buy 5 cans of formula a month, not worrying on your baby’s compatibility to the formula, thus saving on medical costs.

Formula feeding? Ask for samples.

Be sure to head home from the hospital with samples (some now only give them upon request), and ask for samples at each visit to the pediatrician. We got lucky when my daughter’s pediatrician gave us a small can of formula instead of packets of samples. So don’t be shy - it never hurts to ask. Also, sign up as members for several types of formulas, they give you free samples as well. We got even luckier when a friend of mine got a job at Nestle, so I bought lots of formula from her using her staff discount. Yeay!

Buy a convertible crib.

A crib that converts into a toddler bed will definitely save you some cash over the years. We got lucky again here. Like I said earlier, my sister gave to me her old wooden baby cot she bought 12 years ago, complete with a mattress, a set of bedding and cot bumper. They are a little aged of course, but are still in good quality. My daughter sleeps in it until now. Later my brother gave me a travel playpen, and we got an attachable crib for a free gift when we bought the breastpump. So we won’t need to buy any cribs, ever. A real money-saver.

Do your homework!

Research is essential to make sure you know which products give you the most bang for your buck. I spent a lot of time on the Net searching for warehouse sales so I could buy at cheaper prices.

Get mom (or aunt, or MIL…) to babysit.

Family can quickly turn into your most valuable childcare resource. I’m sure grandparents would love to spend some time with their grandchildren too, so this is a win-win situation.

Buy in bulk.

You know you’ll need lots of some things (like wipes, shampoo and baby wash). If you have the storage space, stock up to save cash. Stock up on diapers and formula only when your baby’s suitable to them. During the early days, test out a few brands with your baby until you’re sure she’s compatible to it, in order to avoid waste.

Make your own baby food.

When baby starts to eat solids, toss cooked veggies into the blender with a bit of liquid, and save the meals in ice trays -- the money you’ll save makes it worth the extra effort. I cooked a two or three days batch of chicken and fish porridge to take to her nursery. My daughter never really like the boxed up baby food, anyway.

Forget the comforter.

Since baby won’t actually USE it, it isn’t really necessary. In fact, now my daughter would kick off her blanket when I cover her up. She even takes off her socks when she has the chance. And we have an air conditioner in the room. Now I use the comforter as her mattress padding.

Get crafty.

DIY projects take time, but they save cash, and add fun personal touches. Try making a baby mobile , as it’s pretty easy and it won’t be used for a long time. (You should remove it when the baby can stand up on her own, as you don’t want her to put them in the mouth and get choked, or get tangled up in the strings.) I love Make Baby Stuff, Instructables and Ehow.

Forget the fancy toys.

Baby will be content with smaller price tags or no-brands toys (or spoons, pans, and cardboard boxes, for that matter). Most of the time, parents (like us) are the ones more excited about buying toys for their kids. When we celebrated her first birthday, she got lots of toys too, so that saves a lot.

Go without a changing table.

Changing tables are expensive and can be dangerous, especially if you have a non-stop wiggling baby like mine. Instead, top the dresser with a changing pad and add a few wall shelves for storage. I changed her on our bed until now. But I’ve got to be more watchful so she won’t jump off the bed by accident. Better still, put a mattress or padding on the floor.


Eating out, ordering in, and frozen meals can eat up a lot of cash. I try to cook when I’m not too tired, just simple, two-dishes meal. But then I’ll contract my husband to clean up as I’ll be too exhausted, haha.

Search for sales.

Find a product you love? Hold your horses. Shopping around for a better price can help you save enough for future splurges, especially when buying an expensive item that you intend to use for a long time. We spent quite some money for the breastpump, but I intend to use it for all our kids to come. And did I mention that we got a free gift of an attachable crib worth RM600?

Check out online sites.

There are a lot of forums and blogs selling secondhand and gently used baby stuff. Some that I know of are MumCentre Malaysia, Baiboo, SusuIbu and Some even offer stuff for rent such as Ibu who rents out car seats, travel cots and breastpumps. My friend told me of Toys-4-rent and Playlend for toys that are available for rental.

Get convertible gear.

Like with furniture, items such as a car seat or stroller that grow with baby can prove invaluable, even though you might need to spend a considerable amount up front. Of course, good quality, long wearing stuff are rarely cheap. Unless you know where to look.

Don’t buy lots of shoes.

I know baby shoes are adorable, especially girl shoes. Just for fun, check out Heelarious, they sell soft high heeled shoes for babies 0-6 months of age. Well yeah, they are absolutely cute. But I’d rather spend USD35 on formula and diapers than buying shoes that she can’t even wear to walk! Before baby is walking (and some would argue the same for a while after), shoes won’t really be necessary. Socks will do to keep those tootsies warm.

Take care of your own physical and mental health.

Keeping mommy (and daddy) sane and healthy can help you save on medical expenses. But if your company covers your medical bills like mine does, I guess you can allow yourself go crazy once in a while. In a good way, I mean.

Buy generic and less expensive brands.

Does baby’s label really make a difference? She’ll only be in that onesie for a few months, so resist the urge to splurge. All of my daughter’s clothing cost less than RM20, even the party dresses, cause I bought those at a warehouse sale. Most of her daily day-wear cost around RM5-RM10. You’ll get nice, expensive dresses from grandmas and aunts, don’t worry.

Baby proof.

Prepping your home to prevent accidents can help you save on medical costs (not to mention stress!), even though you’ll take some time to open the drawer or door yourself. But hey, better to be safe than sorry, right?

Get a belly band.

This awesome invention (a stretchy band you wear around your waist) will keep you in your pre-pregnancy pants much longer, saving money on maternity clothes. Check out Belly Belt from MamaParadise.

Wait on the maternity clothes until you really need them.

Ignore the urge to buy maternity clothes just because you’re excited about being pregnant. I could wear my roomier clothes up to 7 months before needing to wear maternity tops, so I didn’t buy a lot. Better still, I bought transitional maternity tops that can be used for breastfeeding so I can still wear them after the birth. Check out these sites for nursing tops, MamaParadise, Butik My-Dreams and FabulousMom.

Save baby’s clothes for future siblings.

This is pretty obvious, isn’t it? So even we get a boy this time, he’ll be wearing pink baby suits and flowery caps, I guess. I’m sure he won’t mind. Unless I show him his baby pictures when he’s older.

Try working from home.

I know lots of moms are able to balance part-time work with caring for baby, and I’d love to be able to do this in the next few years. This way you don’t lose money to childcare AND you bring in some extra earnings. For the time being, I’m working on it.

Get good insurance BEFORE you conceive.

Make sure you know your provider’s policies before getting pregnant, and be absolutely sure that you’re covered -- there are laws against considering pregnancy a "pre-existing condition," but the law contains several loopholes that could hinder your prenatal coverage, particularly if you are switching from one individual plan to another or from a group health plan to an individual plan. I don’t know about this, though. We still haven’t bought any insurance plans yet. But we have plans of doing so, in the near future. Still planning on it.

Lose weight before getting pregnant.

Obesity increases medical expenses and increase risks of complications. Even better, keep fit throughout the pregnancy, so you won’t have to go to slimming centres after the birth to slim down. Think of that as a last, hopefully-not-needed, desperate resort.

Consider cloth diapers.

I really admire moms that can commit to cloth diapers, because I just can’t face all that mountain of laundry. Not only you’ll save a lot, but it’s better for the environment too, as disposable diapers take forever to decompose. But, ermm, I’ll stick to disposables for now.

Donate or sell your toys and old gear.

Help other people save or get a toy they would have never had at cheaper prices, by donating or having a garage sale. Or if you have loads of stuff, you can start your rental service and rake in some cash.

Buy washable nursing pads.

Okay, so the disposable ones aren’t so expensive, but you’ll still save a little.

Make a budget and keep track!

If you’re aware of your spending, you’ll be more likely to cut corners. Easier said than done, though. My corners are so closely shaved sometimes, I could fall under the cheapskate category. I think.

Courtesy of

Buy things that last.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised how often you find yourself buying things that are poorly made or disposable. Invest in sturdy stuff that can be handed down from generation to generation (or at least from baby to baby). This is my main principal in buying most baby stuff but I still would not buy the most expensive item in the market. Just a good enough one that can at least last for a few years.

Shop the clearance rack.

This is basically what I do with all my daughter’s clothes. I only buy clothes that are around RM5-RM10. I’d usually buy a few sizes bigger to maximise wear. Some clothes she could only wear properly now because previously we had to fold up her pants so she wouldn’t trip on them. But we saved some RM, that’s the main point.

Get a piggy bank.

I’d prefer another animal, but you get the idea. Toss in your loose change every day, slide in a dollar (or five) now and then, and you just might find yourself with a vacation fund in the near future.

Before you buy it, be sure you NEED IT.

Lots of first-time parents complain about winding up with tons of unused gear and goods. Ask friends and family about their own experience and preference. I got some pretty valuable advice from my mom, mom-in-law and friends. There are plenty of baby checklists available on the Net, but you don’t have to buy all of them, all at once.

Don’t get emotional.

Okay, so this is easier said than done when those pregnancy hormones are running wild, but try not to shop when you’re feeling super sentimental. (This applies to daddies-to-be too.) The excitement can easily lead to over-shopping for baby. Believe me, I’ve been there. We do have some pretty bibs and caps and ribbons that we hardly use. What a pity.

Ask for stuff.

My aunts, cousins and sisters asked me what we might need for the baby, so we don’t end with twos of everything. One that we did have a double is the baby bouncer, which of course, we used only one. We also got another diaper bag exactly like the one we bought, only in different colours. I used one for the nursery, and the other one for weekend outings.

Buy the best diapers you can afford.

The store brand diapers may be less expensive, but you’ll likely save money in the long run by avoiding the cleanups and thrown out clothes that result from cheap diaper mishaps. I used Mamy Poko diapers, which I think are the most expensive in the market, just for night use as they are really absorbent. My daughter can wear it for 12 hours, sometimes more, without leakage and nappy rash.

There you go, tons of ways to save! Do you have any tips and ideas of your own? Come and share them here!

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