Kids are expensive. I’m going down swinging. But how expensive they are does have some variability. In fact, when it comes to caring for an infant, we have found that we can fit him into our regular budget. This excludes the cost of childcare, of course. Hence why I’m still swinging. But looking back on our budget for a six-month old baby made me realize that it is entirely possible to fit in diapers, wipes, formula, and food for $100 a month. Here’s how we do it:
Know Your Situation
Before you can start to think about how to fit baby items into your budget, you need to know exactly what it is you are trying to fit in. For us, that includes disposable diapers, disposable wipes, soy formula, and organic baby food in glass jars. Quantity matters as well. Our son has been on a combination of mother’s milk and formula since his second month. As much as I would still like to offer a swift scoff to the finance blogs penned by men who suggest breastfeeding because it’s a real money saver, there is a kernel of truth to that. Breast milk is free when it comes to my budget. As for real life, breast milk is only free if you consider your time to be as well. (Spoiler: It’s not.) This does drive down our formula expense slightly, at least on paper. Our son is also a supremely gifted eater. As a result, we go through a lot of baby food…and diapers and wipes. Though, we do make more baby food than we buy. Your situation might be the same, or it might be dramatically different.
Instead of starting with a price point, start by knowing what you need and what works for you. Then, find the deals to match. For instance, when I realized that cloth diapering was not in the cards, we tested out a variety of fragrance free, chlorine free diapers and cruelty-free wipes. That criteria is what mattered to us, along with ensuring that the diapers and wipes would do their jobs. After a bit of experimenting and a lot of laundry, we realized that our son wasn’t shaped for Seventh Generation diapers and Target wipes worked just as well. For now, his tush stays clean and dry with Up & Up brand from Target.
We also tested out a half dozen or so different formulas under the guidance of our pediatrician. Our son had issues with aspiration and acid reflux, but he also seemed to develop some sort of sensitivity to dairy. With his GI tract more developed now, it seems that he is starting to outgrow a lot of these issues, but he still takes soy formula. We tried a handful of pricey brands, but we actually found that the Up & Up version mixes better (and costs a whole lot less).
Finally, I knew that I wanted to try to feed him as many organic options as I could. I also knew that my preference would be to make the food, but I had to be realistic with what we could expect his caregivers to do in the mornings and at lunch time. So we tried out a few single-serve jars to find a brand that he really liked that also came in recyclable packaging. Once we knew what worked, then we started to figure out how we could get the cost down to $100 a month or less.
I know a lot of families use Amazon Subscribe & Save or Amazon Pantry. For us, we were tied into Target because of the store-brand. But when I tried to price out comparable items, Target still came out slightly ahead. That is probably because I still have a few tricks up my sleeve from my couponing days. Yes, I use the Cartwheel app for in store discounts at Target. Yet, I’m aware that there are percent discounts and coupons. But the biggest savings comes from the fact that I only shop at Target when things are on sale, and I “roll” my gift cards.
I’m not going to turn this into a couponing blog, but I do want to share my little trick. Often times, Target will do a promotion where you purchase $100 worth of baby items and get a $20 gift card. The initial purchase requires you to shell out $100, but then you put aside that $20 gift card until you need more items. Really. Put it aside. Lock it up. Freeze it in a block of ice. Whatever you have to do so you don’t spend the gift card. The next time Target runs that promotion (likely the following month, if not sooner), you still get $100 worth of product, but you only spend $80 of new money because you supplement with the gift card. The purchase still triggers a new gift card. So all that is left for you to do is rinse and repeat. And wait for an embarrassingly large delivery to appear on your doorstep.
Recent Past Orders
March 9, 2018
|Up & Up Diapers – Bulk Plus Pack (192 in size 4)||$28.99|
|Up & Up Soy Formula – 36 oz canister||$17.99 x 4 = $71.96|
January 27, 2018
|Earth’s Best Organic Dinner Favorites (12 pack case)||$11.49|
|Earth’s Best Organic Delicious Din Din (12 pack case)||$10.39 x 2 = $20.78|
|Up & Up Soy Formula – 36 oz canister||$17.99 x 3 = $53.97|
|Up & Up Diapers – Super Pack (102 in size 3)||$14.99|
(Note: So you don’t fear that we don’t actually use wipes, just know that we placed a comically big order of wipes four months ago and have been pulling from our stockpile in the basement. We followed the same gift-card rolling approach, though.)
There is no one-size fits all approach to budgeting for a baby. We could spend less. We could also spend significantly more. As with anything, we can’t make perfect decisions all the time. Instead, we try to make as many good decisions as often as possible given our situation. By doing so, we have found that we can fit our baby in our budget comfortably for under $100 a month when it comes to diapers, wipes, formula, and food. It worked at six months, and it is still working at eight.
So Tell Me…Does $100 seem reasonable for these items?