Bringing a child into this increasingly crazy world is a daunting task. Between the sleepless nights, the smelly diapers, and the inevitable teenage rebellion, the US Department of Agriculture estimates you're gonna spend around $250,000 to raise that child from a baby into a semi-functioning adult.
But that hasn't stopped thrifty new moms and dads from living their best lives. Here's how this generation of parents is making it work.
Don't Waste Money on Baby Toys
My advice, as someone who worked in the children's toy industry for years, is to spend very little on toys for kids under two. Our son thinks a ceiling fan is the most interesting thing on the planet. Ordinary things are fascinating to them, because everything is new. If you're spending more on baby toys than you are on dog toys, you're doing it wrong. - Adam, 32
Throw a Diaper Party
We paid for a keg at our local bar, and everyone who brought a box of diapers drank for free. We didn't have to pay for diapers for nine months! -Grace, 25
Look for New Parent Freebies from Baby Companies
If you're going to have a baby shower, register at a place that offers registry freebies. Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, Babies "R" Us, and Target all have some kind of gift-box incentive for registering with them. They're chock full of things like formula samples, coupons, prenatal vitamins, and pacifiers. If you register with them all, you can get four sample boxes for free. Also, baby food companies like Enfamil, Gerber, Nature's One, and Similac all have loyalty programs that include sample boxes—and so do diaper companies like Huggies, Pampers, and the Honest Company. The gift boxes aren't huge, but when you're short on money, every little bit counts. -Hana, 27
Use a Midwife
My home birth cost a lot less than a hospital epidural, and you get way more bang for your buck. My appointments were as long as I wanted them to be, my midwives knew me well, and the peace and intimacy of a home birth is an amazing feeling. - Annie, 31
Shop Garage Sales and the Buy Nothing Project
Babies grow fast, which means most parents have a ton of baby stuff gathering dust in their attics. In my experience, most of garage sales feature something baby-related—carriers, clothes, toys, whatever. If you have friends and family with older children, they'll probably be clamoring to give away their baby stuff for free, and if you want to get free stuff from strangers, check out the Buy Nothing Project, a nationwide group that connects community members looking to get rid of things with people who need them. To find the Buy Nothing Project in your area, search on Facebook for your city plus "Buy Nothing Project"—most metropolitan areas have a chapter. - Kjerstin, 25
Use Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapers might seem like a lot of extra work, and I won't lie—that first load of poopy laundry is gross. You get used to it, though, and while cloth diapers are a more expensive upfront cost, they pay for themselves after just a few days of use. I got my entire cloth-diaper collection as a gift at the baby shower for my oldest. I just had a second baby last April, and we're using them all over again. I'd guess we saved about $400 on diapers the first time around, and it's great to know we'll be doing that again. - Sammika, 28