A new baby costs the average family more than $11,000 during the first year. Here's where some of the money goes -- and how to cherish your bundle of joy without busting your budget.
Easy Money Savers
Keep your little one clothed, fed, and happy for less with these easy money savers.
1. Check out eBay.
Rather than shelling out for a new stroller, purchase a slightly used one on eBay. We found a $180 Evenflo car seat/stroller for $24 and a posh $270 Peg-P?rego for $50 (check for recalls before you buy). You can also purchase gently worn, name-brand baby clothes at near-giveaway prices by visiting yard sales and consignment shops.
2. Look for convertible gear.
Wal-Mart's Ameriwood Change Table/Dresser Combo ($90) does double duty for one affordable price. One Step Ahead's Euro Highchair With Cushion ($100) will give you years of use -- it transforms into a booster seat and (when your child is big enough) a regular chair. And many crib models convert into toddler beds.
3. Clip coupons.
They come regularly by mail when you register at manufacturer Websites. Ask close relatives to sign up for you too.
4. Participate in market-research trials.
Manufacturers will send you baby products to test for free -- and sometimes they'll pay you as much as $50 for critiquing them. Research firms operate in most states. Try Cunningham Field and Research Services (www.cunninghamresearch.com; 386-677-5644) or Fieldwork (www.fieldwork.com; 800-863-4353). Both have locations across the U.S.
5. Buy in bulk.
Those 228-count cartons of diapers are hard to schlepp home, but they'll save you about $170 annually compared with so-called "jumbo" packs in supermarkets.
6. Make your own baby food.
Be sure all ingredients are thoroughly washed and cooked (raw bananas are okay). Use a ricer or strainer to get the texture you want. You'll save $200 by year's end. Too tired to DIY? Instead of paying top dollar for baby food, shop in the regular aisle of your supermarket for items such as fruit juices, all-natural applesauce, and canned peas and carrots. Read the labels carefully, though: Look for pasteurized juices, and avoid fruits and veggies with additives.
7. Join (or start) a babysitting co-op.
Broach the idea with friends in the neighborhood who have young kids. You watch their baby for a few hours tonight, and they'll return the favor next weekend.
Watch for these red flags before accepting a freebie from friends or family members.
Reject any crib that's more than ten years old or that has headboard or footboard cutouts or corner posts (all of which could snag a baby's clothing). Make sure the slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and that none are cracked or missing. And check for peeling paint, splinters, sharp edges, and loose, missing, or broken hardware.
Ten million play yards have been recalled because their top rails didn't lock properly or their hardware protruded. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission Website (www.cpsc.gov) for a list of models to avoid. Also check that the mesh sides are completely intact, and the openings in the weave are less than 1/4 inch.
Infants can suffocate in the space between a crib's sides and an ill-fitting mattress. Yours should fit snugly (no more than two finger widths between the mattress and crib side). Also say no to mushy mattresses, which are a prime SIDS risk.
Clothing with drawstrings
Jackets, sweatshirts, and lace-up tops with drawstrings can strangle your baby if she catches them on a fence or crib post.
Passing down toys is a time-honored tradition, but not necessarily a safe one. Stuffed animals may be infested with molds or other allergens. Examine used toys for small parts that could become detached, chipping paint, splinters, loose cords and strings, and sharp edges or points.
Look for recalls on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Website (www.nhtsa.go), and pass on any seat that's cracked or missing buckles, harnesses, or belts.
Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the May 2004 issue of Parents magazine.