We had boy/girl twins in the fall of 2013 and while having two children is never going to be inexpensive, here are 48 ideas to save money on prepping and raising happy babies.
I bought so many used items that were still in great shape, I saved at a minimum 50% and sometimes over 75% buying used items.
- Cribs – buy your cribs on Craigslist. It may have a few scrapes and bite marks, but you can save 75% and use that money elsewhere. If you are worried about safety, look up models online and shop for items recently used.
- Changing Tables – Also a frequently used parenting item that doesn’t get too much wear and tear. I got a great one for $20 where even the cheapest models on Amazon are close to $90.
- Car Seats – All car seats must now have expiration dates. I found two for 50% off the new price, and they looked amazing as the couple used them less than a year. I then sold the seats to someone else nine months later because our babies grew so fast. If you don’t want to buy a seat used, consider buying a convertible one that can grow with your children or selling your new seat after you are finished using it.
- Stroller – I bought the super fancy City Select Stroller with an extra seat for our twins off of Craigslist at $400 while completely new it would have been $800.
- Toys – Hit up a local resale shop for baby toys. It was shocking to me that an activity mat could cost $60 new at Target. I mean, you know your babies are going to spit up on these items as soon as you get it out of the box. Kid resale shops will have toys you might need to wash before using, but will save a ton on items that will soon need to be rewashed anyway. It’s also hard to resell toys you have purchased new, so start with used.
- Clothes – It is great to have new baby clothes, but again, they are quickly soiled and used. Buy a majority of clothes from inexpensive stores, or from kid resale shops. Instead of paying $18 for that new outfit junior is going to have a blowout on, buy one from a consignment shop for $7.
- Everything You Can Imagine – Join your local Facebook sales groups for children/baby items. You can even post requesting things you need. You do have to be fast and be able to pick things up.
It’s when and where you shop
For new items here are some ways to save:
- New clothes – Watch for sales at the kid clothing stores and the many coupons they will mail out or post online. A 25% savings can add up when buying Easter clothes for your twins.
- Diapers – Consider buying diapers from Costco or Sam’s Club. We bought pricey Pampers while our kids were tiny but soon found Costco diapers did just fine for us. Amazon.com has Amazon Mom – Amazon Mom members get 20% off diaper subscriptions and other deals. Try a small sample of generic diapers and see if they do well on your child. Every kid is different, and you might luck out with a child who can do well in the generic diapers.
- Wipes – Amazon, Costco, and Walmart have good prices on wipes. We love the Costco wipes that they sell 900 wipes / $20. That’s about two cents a wipe, and they are great!
- Formula – Basic – If you can and want to breastfeed, do it! Our twins were two months premature, and we used preemie formula until their due dates and then asked our doctor if we could switch to Costco brand. He approved and our kids did great on it.
- Formula – Fancy Blends – While discussing formula with our doctor he mentioned that fancy formula blends could be simple items just blended for you. For example, some acid reflux formulas are formula with rice cereal pre-blended. If your child is only doing well on a very expensive formula, ask your doctor what makes that formula special. If it is just a blend of cheaper items, ask your doctor about alternatives.
Things to make
I don’t have a lot of craft talent, but I did bust out my great-grandmother’s sewing machine and made curtains and crib skirts from pretty fabric I ordered online. I also got cheap burp clothes and sewed a band of my pretty nursery fabric on each to make them custom. They don’t have to be perfect to be pretty.
- Curtains – Curtains are a basic pattern and not too hard if you want to sew yourself.
- Crib skirts and bumpers – I did the crib skirt, but bumpers were too hard for me. Ask a friend or family member if they have the talent for sewing and wouldn’t mind helping you decorate.
- Custom burp clothes – You can sew a pretty design or strip of fabric on basic, white burp clothes.
- Art – Again, I ordered fabric for the room and then friends used some extra to make art squares on the wall by covering inexpensive painting canvases. A couple had the kids names on them. They look great and, of course, match perfectly because all the material came in the same order.
- Changing table baskets – These can be prettied up by adding a little custom detail to inexpensive baskets you can find at stores.
- Embroidery – Ask around and see if a friend or family member has a sewing machine that can do embroidery. Sewing machines are now computers, and some can be easily programmed to do what you want.
- Decorative pillows / Changing pad cover – Using the same order of fabric, my sister-in-law made amazing pillows for the two cribs. This was much less expensive than buying premade pillows. Pillows don’t have to be super fancy. You can sew a square or rectangle and fill with fluff. Changing pad covers can be made by sewing elastic onto your fabric. Make a few and you’ve saved a bundle of cash, and your nursery will be unique.
- DIY paint – A new paint color can make all the difference, and if you or your spouse can paint the nursery it will save money and make the room unique. I found that there were many helpful blogs on how to add designs to the walls and what colors would look good.
Things to borrow
If you have a group of friends who are also in the baby phase of life, try to borrow a few big ticket items. There are a few things that we used, and I had no worries about returning.
- Swings – If you have twins, you may need two swings to help settle little ones to sleep. These are very expensive, and you only use them for a few months. My dear friends let us borrow two swings. I’m glad we didn’t buy two as our daughter didn’t like to swing at all while our son wanted to live in one.
- Exersaucers / play mats – As I mentioned play mats and other toys can be very expensive and only used for a short time. Expensive toys that you might borrow are exersaucers, jumping seats, and play mats. These toys will all get spit up upon and used for a short time, and many parents might be glad to loan them temporarily to get them out of their house for their time between babies. You can try to resell new toys you buy, but you will not get much for them. If you can’t borrow these items, remember to look for them at kid resale shops.
- Baby books – Most people only read baby books once, ask around to see if people have books they recommend and if they already have copies they could loan.
Things to maybe borrow
Not everyone is comfortable borrowing more personal items, but if it doesn’t bother you to ask, you could save a good deal of money.
- Baby clothes – I did borrow baby clothes from kind friends, and this can expand your children’s wardrobe. I found it very stressful as you never know what kind of explosion might happen all over borrowed clothing. If your friends don’t mind not getting a few things back and you are comfortable doing it, borrow away. Take the time to mark the clothes and keep good track of them so you can return to the right people.
- Breast pump – The pump part of a breast pump can be easily borrowed or bought used since the parts that touch mom will be the new, replaceable parts. Many insurance companies now cover breast pumps so ask before purchasing.
- Maternity clothes – If you work in the office and need to be dressed business professional or casual, maternity clothes can add up. Ask around and see if other mom have held onto their clothes and wouldn’t mind loaning them. If not, check consignment stores in the area. Also, realize that no one will care if you wear the same few outfits repeatedly toward the end.
Things NOT to buy
- Small bottles – We had twins and bottle fed them every three hours. That was a lot of bottles. We took the advice of another twin mom and skipped buying the smaller 4oz bottles. It did look silly to use an 8oz bottle to feed 3oz, but even our preemies grew quickly and were soon drinking more. Just buy the larger size and skip the small.
- Wipe warmer – Your babies will never know what they are missing if they never have pre-warmed wipes. They will notice the difference if you always use a warmer and then go out. You can always just take a second to warm up the wipe with the heat of your hand. Also, some wipes warmers have been known to be fire hazards.
There have just been too many fires and reports of problems, says consumer advocate Alan Fields, who advises against these products in his book Baby Bargains. It’s an unnecessary risk for something most kids can do without.
- Baby bathtub – Every home comes with a pre-installed baby bathtub called a sink. Also, many hospitals give new parents baby bathtubs before they leave the hospital. Feel free to register for something awesome, but if you don’t get it, consider skipping the tub.
- Toy storage – Before you run out and buy clever toy storage solutions, consider what you might already have. Many ottomans already have storage spaces. We had a decorative trunk in the living room we just converted to a toy chest. Also, after the babies get a bit older, you will have a better understanding of where it is comfortable for you to let them play. Put storage on a back burner until your house has settled into a routine.
- Shoes – Baby shoes might be cute, but babies have no reason to wear them, and there are too many cute socks out there spend money on baby shoes. You may also save your sanity because you won’t be having to constantly put the shoes back on.
- Fancy formula – I’ve mentioned formula many times, but it is very expensive even if you need it for only one child. Don’t be suckered into buying super premium formulas. They are all regulated by the government and unless your doctor specifically recommends a fancy formula for your child, just don’t do it.
Tips and tricks
Here are a few miscellaneous tips and tricks we used to spend less.
- Buy portable high chairs – We bought two $35 portable high chairs from Target and just strapped them onto existing chairs. This saved space with our twins. When we visit someone’s house, we can take our chairs with us and corral the monsters at dinner time. As a bonus these can become booster seats as the kids get older.
- Glass bottles – I was really drawn to glass bottles as I felt plastic ones got cloudy looking and filmy after a lot of use. Glass bottles were hard to find, but I got them online at Target. They were much less expensive than fancy plastic bottles. Glass bottles can also be washed on both levels of the dishwasher – a great help when you have 36 bottles to wash. Glass bottles don’t usually have a million tiny parts that require washing with miniscule instruments.
- Photo package – I hired a photographer who did a baby special and took my children’s pictures six times in the first year. The package deal was much less expensive than hiring a photographer for each milestone. She also gave discounts for us on other photo sessions if we had wanted them.
- Get digital picture rights – If you have professional photos done, hire a photographer that will give you the digital rights to print your pictures. I was suckered into a Santa session that was very inexpensive but then later I found the photographer wanted me to buy all the photos from her at ridiculous prices. I understand that is how some photographers work, but I’d rather find someone who will just take the flat fee and let me print what I want.
- Make baby food – When we first started on baby food I bought it at the store because I was tired and overwhelmed. But my two little babies were turning into voracious eaters and buying at the store was getting expensive very quickly. The day I bought $50 in baby food and saw it last less than a week, I started just roasting, steaming, and blending foods I was cooking anyway. Making baby food does not have to be special or fancy. I just roasted in the oven or steamed on the stove. I used a food processor to blend, so I didn’t buy special kitchen equipment. I saved thousands of dollars by spending time in the kitchen. Be egalitarian and get your spouse to help. It is worth it and also super healthy for your kids.
- Jelly jars are your friend – If you make baby food, please don’t get sucked into buying special baby food holders at the baby store. Go to Amazon.com or Walmart and buy 4oz or 8oz jelly jars and fill them. They can be frozen and put in the microwave, and they cost a fraction of specialty baby food systems.
- Hang dry kids clothes – I found that drying my babies’ clothes in the dryer was a sure way to shrink them into not fitting anymore. This was especially frustrating as sometimes I splurged at baby stores only to find shrinkage a huge problem. Your kids are growing and if you have bought new items for them or anything pricey, take the time to hang it dry so that is will look better and wear longer. You can simply take the clothes out of the washer and put them directly on hangers and allow them to air dry.
- Daycare vs. nanny – Putting twins into daycare five days a week was the equivalent of a live-in nanny for us in the Dallas area. It blew my mind at the cost. Also, with daycare, you must pack up, take, bring home, wash items and repack for the next day. Live-in nannies can be less expensive than day nannies as they get a free place to stay with you. If you have multiples or have two children in daycare, it is something to think consider. Nannies keep small babies at home and perhaps keep them from getting sick. This was important to us when our preemies came home in the middle of winter. Also, they can do laundry and wash bottles, etc. I’ve used Care.com for hiring childcare professionals and would recommend them as a place to look at your options.
- Register for everything and keep receipts – Many stores will offer a discount on registry items that you do not receive as gifts. Also, items on the registry are easier to return or swap. Keep all your receipts. Remember, one baby may love something, like glass bottles, and the other baby may not. You may also find that you don’t use as many items as you thought. I was told to buy a 1001 swaddle clothes that were very expensive, but my kids kept them clean and I didn’t use that many in a week. Saving receipts allows you to be flexible for your children’s likes and dislikes.
Saving Money on Getting Out of the House
You’ve got twins and want to get out of the house! Here are some ideas to save on saving your sanity.
- Use family – I know it is obvious, and sometimes easier said than done, but put minor conflict aside and let the family watch the kids.
- Swap sitting time – Ask friends with kids if they would be willing to alternate babysitting duties. Now that we’ve had twins, I feel I can handle anything. Watching someone else’s children one Friday, so my husband and I can have the next Friday off is worth it.
- Neighbors – Some neighbors definitely don’t want to babysit. Since our kids go to bed at 7:30, asking a neighbor to come over and watch TV at our house while our kids sleep is a different story. I recently did this for a friend and I had a super relaxing evening myself. I got to read a book in a quiet house and with no chores. Win-win!
- Get thee to the church/house of worship – When they were tiny, getting twins to church was very overwhelming. We stayed home a lot, especially since we didn’t want them sick when they first arrived home. But now that they are a year and a half, we enjoy the time in adult church while they get to play and have fun with friends. We get to see our friends and their children afterward. Bonus – the kids come home tired.
- Go to the gym – Yes, the gym daycare may look less than stellar. The tradeoff of an hour working out yourself, whether in class or just strolling on the treadmill watching TV is likely worth it. We go to an inexpensive gym, and the childcare room doesn’t look that great, but the kids have never come home sick and after a few trips, they run into the room ready to play.
- Mother’s day out programs – Ask in that Facebook group you joined (#9) about Mother’s Day Out programs. If you can’t afford daycare and need some time to get things done without the kids, MDO programs can be an affordable choice. They are usually two days a week, half days. If your kids are always home with you, they may enjoy some new toys and friends to play with as well.
- Remember what life is about – Finally remember that time with your babies does not require fancy clothes, new toys, all organic food, or whatever society seems to be pressuring you to spend money on.
Remind yourself that just over a hundred years ago, your great-grandparents were raising children on farms, pasture lands without iPads, TV shows, “learning toys”, professional photographers, and birthday parties for 100. Your kids need YOU and your love, and that is all that matters.