Right after I gave birth to my first daughter, a funny thing happened: Virtually every dollar I owned seemed to sprout wings. Then one by one, they flew away—to the pediatrician, the drugstore, and any chain that sold cute kids' clothes. Sure, I'd known that a baby would bring new financial pressures. But when I saw my first postpartum credit-card bill, I totally freaked out.
If you have a newborn, you're probably panicked too. No wonder: Depending on your spending habits and child-care needs, you'll likely shell out $7,000 to $14,600 annually between now and your little one's second birthday. But there's hope. Through trial and error, I learned a lot about raising a daughter on a budget. Now that my second girl is here, I've gotten even savvier. Here are ways you, too, can cut your baby expenses by half—or even more.
Hold on to free formula samples and coupons. Nursing deserves every chance. But more than 85 percent of moms stop nursing exclusively by the time their baby is 6 months old—which means that most of us end up spending hundreds of dollars on formula at some point. So don't be so fast to throw away special offers, and do sign up for formula companies' newsletters on their Websites (try welcomeaddition.com, enfamil.com, and brightbeginnings.com). Consider generic formulas too. By law, they must meet the same quality and nutrition standards as the big names. And if you need a special formula blend, find out whether your flexible health-care spending account will cover the difference. Mine did.
Sign up for baby-food company newsletters and coupon offers. Visit gerber.com, beechnut.com, earthsbest.com, and stonyfield.com. Then do your shopping at a store that has a baby club: At my local supermarket, I get $10 off my next purchase after I've spent $100 on eligible items (including diapers, wipes, and some baby accessories). I saved $40 on groceries that way last year.
Make some baby food. It's no biggie to mash steamed zucchini or a ripe banana. Make one serving and save another and you've kept a buck or so in your pocket. Check out our free baby-food recipes
Package crunchy toddler snacks in individual airtight containers as soon as you buy them. Cheerios and arrowroot biscuits go stale faster than a J. Lo wedding announcement.