When I asked a friend how much I should save for a baby's first year, her answer took me by surprise. She said her baby was essentially free. Free??!! The Globe And Mail estimates that we need approximately $8,000 for the first year alone, which is a much higher amount than “free”. Free in terms of the cost of a new baby is just impossible. Or is it? Now that I have tracked the first seven months of baby expenses, I have to concede that my friend wasn't that far off the mark.
Our Almost Free Baby Story
We began parenthood with the rosy idea that we didn't need much to have a happy, healthy child. We were not going to follow the suggestions of those clever marketing gurus and make our home resemble a baby store. After all, I've heard that there are babies that grew into productive, fulfilled adults, who began life sleeping in a bottom drawer or a laundry basket!
In reality, the journey into parenthood has been quite effortful in many ways. Babies can be expensive, and there are numerous unforeseen expenses that can derail even the most frugal plans. The bright side is that there are also numerous ways to save and spend far less than $8,000!
Using many of the tips below, we've managed to spend a grand total of $54.80* including all taxes, a $35 fee for the birth certificate, and a $25 deposit fee for a daycare waiting list. I've excluded the increased cost of water, hydro, gas, time, etc., that I can't specifically break down and attribute to the baby.
*After subtracting $400 in redemptions at Shoppers Drug Mart. We also make our own wipes and the materials are categorized under our household expenses, as they are regular household items.
Ways To Save On Baby’s Basic Needs
Babies need food, clothing, diapers, somewhere to sleep, and a car seat for the trip home from the hospital. Below are ways we've managed to save on all of them.
If you are able to breastfeed, it is the most economical and convenient way to feed a growing baby. Contact Lansinoh for free samples of lanolin, storage bags, and disposable breast pads.
Nursing bras are also very useful if you ever plan on leaving the house. If you happen to live in or near the GTA, you can fill out an application to become a test wearer for Bravado. If chosen, you are given a product to take home for your participation. The style I was given retails at $50. That's great savings!
If you need to purchase formula, many companies offer coupons to lower the cost. Formula can be very expensive, so every little bit helps!
Joining the Nestle Baby Program provides high value coupons on an ongoing basis. The initial welcome package included a travel diaper bag with change pad, Huggies newborn diapers, Nuk bottle, Nestle Good Start formula, and coupons. It's worth mentioning that all these items are not sample sizes but full-sized products! After a few months, baby cereal samples will be sent as well.
Signing up for Enfamil Family Beginnings provides product samples and coupons.
Similac Club provides samples of Similac Mom, a full sized canister of baby formula, and ongoing coupons for their products.
Once your baby is ready to start on solid foods, Milupa can provide a sample of baby cereal, plastic spoons, and coupons.
When I told my mother-in-law we would be using cloth diapers, she instantly envisioned thick fabric wrapped and bound with a few safety pins. Can you imagine a 4 AM diaper change on a squirming, crying baby while you're holding 3-inch safety pins? Thankfully, cloth diapers have come a long way, with many being just as easy to use as disposable diapers. They have snap fasteners or velcro tabs, adjustable leg openings, and designer colours too!
Even more intriguing is their resale value of approximately 50% of their original cost. If you purchase them pre-owned, it's a substantial cost savings up front! You may also get more than 50% of your second hand cost if you can resell them again. We borrowed our never-used cloth diapers, so they were free, but for those of you debating the disposable vs. reusable diaper cost, more information can be found here:
- http://www.squawkfox.com/2012/07/09/cloth-diapers ➨
- http://www.happynappy.ca/index.php/pricing/cost-break-down-and-compareison/ ➨
We've decided on a system of both cloth diapers and disposables. We use disposable diapers when we leave home and use cloth the rest of the time. This way, we can pounce on a great disposable diaper sale, and in the meantime, have cloth diapers at the ready.
Disposable diapers are actually a hot commodity and it’s worth mentioning that they can almost always be exchanged for a different size. If you have a box of unused, unopened diapers, most stores will allow you to exchange them for the next size up so your next few days don’t have to be a disposable diaper changing marathon!
A few people I know have chosen to use a cloth diapering service. They drop off freshly laundered diapers, while carrying off all your soiled diapers at the same time. This means you'll save yourself both the effort and monetary costs of washing and drying them yourself. Unfortunately, cloth diapering services mainly exist in urban areas so do an online search to see if they are available where you live.
Diaper Service Deals
For those people in Southern Ontario, Bear Bottoms offers a discount of 25% for orders with multiple children, a 10% discount with six month pre-payment option, and $10 referral discounts. If you know someone who already uses this service, you can ask them for a $5 gift certificate towards their service. In the brochure I received recently, they also advertise a complimentary pre-birth supply of diapers but this is not mentioned on their website. It's worth checking to see if this offer is valid if you call to inquire about their service.
If you're in the Edmonton or Calgary area, there is a company called Happy Nappy. With Happy Nappy you save 10% after the first year, and the service becomes free after your child reaches 2.5 years of age. If you happen to be switching from another company, they will give you a 5% discount for three months. An additional 5% discount is available if you pre-pay for 26 weeks. Finally, if you refer four people, your diaper service is free!
Other Baby Supplies
For all other baby supplies, borrow, borrow, borrow as much as humanly possible. Most baby items have a very limited lifespan and there are many people who are very eager to reclaim their living space. We were able to borrow maternity clothes, a bassinet, mattress and crib, play mats, baby swings, baby jumpers, baby clothes, many sets of unused cloth diapers, car seats, and so much more!
If you do borrow a car seat, make sure that it's well within the expiry date and, if possible, from someone you know and trust. Saving a few dollars is not worth risking the safety of your bundle of joy. Also, do a Google search by model number to find any product recalls on cribs, strollers, and certain types of baby toys, such as jumpers or bouncers. Most manufacturers will have this information on their website.
Ultimately, we not only saved a lot of money, but also an equally large amount of time not spent researching and purchasing all those items. Best of all, as soon as your little one has outgrown something, you can return it to the original owners with no eBay, Kijiji, or consignment shop visits required. Even if you are able to purchase all these items second-hand, the cost savings are substantial. Babies grow so quickly, that asking to borrow or buy from any family with a baby three months older than yours is fair game. You'll be surprised at how many items will still have the original tags attached or only used once or twice.
Shoppers Optimum VIB
Shoppers Optimum has one of the better store rewards programs and they also have a great baby rewards program! When you sign up for their VIB program, in-store or online, you get a nice box of freebies around the time your baby is born!
I received samples of Pampers newborn diapers, a bib, sample sizes of diaper cream, baby wash, baby lotion, nursing pads, hand cream (for all that diaper changing and hand washing!), and bonus point coupons for various baby items. Also included was a $10 off coupon for Huggies diapers or wipes. Since the diapers regularly go on sale for $10.99 and the wipes for $2.99, this is a fantastic coupon! In addition, they send age-appropriate monthly bonus point coupons to you by email.
Sobey's Baby Be Healthy
Sobey's has a program where you can sign up for a two year supply of prenatal vitamins. You can sign up online and pick up your vitamins at the nearest participating location which is listed on their website. I received a reusable tote bag of Huggies wipes, Similac Mom, diaper samples, and Aveeno lotion.
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson offers a coupon for a trial Take Along Pack to new parents.
The pack, which retails for $6.99 at Shoppers Drug Mart, includes samples of Johnson's Head to Toe baby wash, baby shampoo, baby powder, Penaten diaper cream, disposable nursing pads, and baby lotion. There is an expiry date on the box, but it applies to the diaper cream only. Use the coupon for the pack at Shoppers Drug Mart to avoid paying the taxes because they have a special cash register code to void the taxes with free product coupons.
Send Johnson's an email using their contact page, and you can request two coupons for savings on their products once a month. Notable mentions include a $2 off coupon for Tylenol (for you or the baby!), $3 off coupon for Aveeno Baby, and a $1 off coupon for Johnson's baby products. Combining these coupons with a sale can often save you 50% or more off the regular retail price.
Many parents agree that diapers and wipes make up a large portion of the cost of a new baby. The Real Diaper Association estimates that one baby will go through 6,000 diapers during the first two years of life. That's expensive!
Shoppers Optimum VIB
Shoppers Drug Mart will send out weekly coupons to you by email as well as bonus point coupons on baby products. These will be targeted to your baby's age, according to the information submitted when you registered for the program. Each coupon can be used once per transaction. Anyone with an optimum account can join, so this is not only open to parents, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Any time you need to buy diapers, wipes, or other baby products, always, always check to see if there is a Shoppers bonus point coupon. Current coupons are continually updated here:
One time, we received a coupon for $8 off any size of Pampers diapers. I couldn't believe my eyes! We bought one package on lunch break in a different town and then came home after work to purchase another, while using the 3000 bonus points coupon when you purchase Pampers diapers each time. The diapers regularly go on sale for $10.99, so if you receive this coupon during that week, run, don't walk, to your nearest Shoppers. All of them.
The $8 off coupon is treated as an in-store offer, so no tax is charged on the reduction amount.
Our bill looked like this:
Pampers diapers $10.99
In store offer -$8.00
5% Tax (GST on baby necessities): $0.15
Total: $3.14, plus 3000 bonus points
We redeem our points on a bonus redemption day when they offer 80,000 points for $200 of cosmetics. The 3000 points in this transaction is equivalent to $7.50. That's a net gain of $4.36 for carrying diapers out of the store! I realize that not everyone can redeem for $200 in cosmetics, or like us, has a medically prescribed item that qualifies as a cosmetic. Even still, redeeming at the highest level of 95,000 points for $170 will make your net gain $2.23. If you can take advantage of one of their bonus redemption days, you can do even better.
Wipes also go on sale regularly for $2.99. Occasionally, we've received a coupon for $1.15 off Huggies wipes via email. Again, combine this with the 2000 bonus points when you buy Huggies wipes to maximize your savings.
Your bill will look something like this:
Huggies wipes $2.99
In store offer -$1.15
HST: varies by province
Total: $1.84 + HST
My bill came to a total of $2.08, plus 2000 bonus points. In my world, the 2000 points is equivalent to $5, so I have a net gain of $2.92!
Both the Pampers diapers and Huggies wipes coupons have been sent to other people that I know, so keep an eye out for it in your inbox.
Brandsaver By Procter & Gamble
Pampers coupons can periodically be found here:
Huggies occasionally issues a $10 off coupon when you buy two boxes of diapers (58 ct. or larger) or wipes (448 ct. or larger) at the Loblaws group of stores.* When you can combine this promotion with a sale, it's one of the best I've seen for bulk-sized diapers and wipes. Huggies coupons can also be found in-store, mailed from formula companies (listed above), included in gift registry packages, and on their website:
* Atlantic Superstore, Fortinos, Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, Your Independent Grocer, Zehrs and at participating supermarkets in Newfoundland and Labrador where President's Choice products are sold, across Canada.
Target allows for both a Target coupon and a manufacturer's coupon to be applied to the same product. The Target coupon is considered an in-store promotion and tax is not charged on the amount. Target coupons can be found in store, mailed from formula companies (listed above), included in gift registry packages, and on their website.
Coupons for Heinz Baby products can be found on their website.
Gift Registries with Freebies
Your extensive group of family and friends may buy you 50 baby blankets, whether you need them or not. You may receive gifts in duplicate or triplicate as a new parent, so creating a registry can help to lighten your load of returns. There are at least two stores that provide incentives for registering with them.
Babies R Us
Babies R Us provides a small bag of various samples and coupons, along with a 10% off your purchase of $50 or more.
Sears has a Waiting Game Club. The benefit of registering here is that if your baby is born on the predicted due date, you will be given Sears merchandise coupons in the net amount of the total purchases which you have registered for and had purchased from your registry up to and including seven days of your baby's arrival. You can even register online, so there is no need to leave the house.
If you do decide to register online, be aware that any free samples offered in-store for registering (they vary by store) are forfeit, as they are for in-store registrations only. Pre-planned births by Caesarean section or births by labour induced for any reason other than health are excluded from reimbursement.
Along with the Shoppers' Optimum program already mentioned, there are two other main reward programs geared towards babies.
Pampers Gifts to Grow
Reward codes can be found in packages of diapers and wipes and redeemed for a variety of prizes. Codes are also issued for submitting product reviews. Bonus codes are often issue for free online and you can even join long before you have a baby to start collecting with free codes now!
If you've never opened an account, JOINNOW4REWARDS is a current valid code that will net you 50 points for signing up. Among the current reward offerings is a gift card to Well.ca, who sell lots of baby stuff and offers free delivery on purchases over $25.
Codes can be found in packages of diapers and wipes and redeemed for a variety of prizes, including gift cards for Amazon.ca and Starbucks. Coupons are also available for download and printing under the right-most tab.
Until recently, I was quite happy with a baby change pad I received as a gift. Then, I noticed a small tear along the imprinted pattern of the plastic cover. The item still performed well, but over the next few days, it grew by one inch, then two inches, and kept going. The tag stated “discontinue use if damaged”. My friend said hers had numerous rips but just accepted it as normal wear. However, I decided to call in to see if there was a product guarantee that would cover the tear.
The customer service associate said that a new one would be shipped out from California in 7-10 business days. FedEx arrived with it in two business days. If she was trying to impress me and make a happy customer, it worked! I was thrilled that I didn't have to rush out and buy another as well as for the fast delivery time.
Many companies will want to see proof of purchase or request that you ship the damaged product back to them. Keep your receipts until you try the product.
The other day, I was squeezing a new tube of baby lotion when the product burst out of the crimp seal (no, I was not using my Hulk grip!). It came out of a gift box containing several other products. When I called the company, they sent me a replacement coupon so I could get a new gift box including the other products!
Store brand products typically come with a satisfaction guarantee . If you are not happy, you can use it to get your money back or a replacement. There should be a mention on the product itself, or you can call the store directly and ask. The Loblaws chain of stores, Rexall brand, and Shoppers Drug Mart's Life brand honour this policy.
- http://www.presidentschoice.ca/content/pc/en_CA/community/faqs.html ➨
- http://www.rexall.ca/return-policy ➨
- http://www1.shoppersdrugmart.ca/en/Health-and-Pharmacy/Life-Brand ➨
Sears and Walmart have clothing guarantees . If your child wears out the clothes before they're outgrown, return the item with receipt and they will replace it.
Walmart's guarantee excludes footwear and accessories and applies to all clothes from size 0 to 16.
Sears will repair or replace the item from size 0 to 18 and footwear up to senior kids' size 6. Their warranty excludes hosiery, underwear, and items sold in their outlets, both in-store and online.
Summer Infant has a warranty on their products for 12 months after purchase.
Safety 1st has a one year warranty on their products.
Other products within the Dorel Juvenile Group like Cosco, Eddie Bauer Baby, Maxi-Cosi, and Quinny have varying warranties, depending on the brand and item type.
Cash Back On Your Baby Purchases
If you like to shop online for baby gear, then going through a cash back website can save you some extra money. You can get cash back at popular online stores like Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, and Shop.ca.
- This is the most popular cash back site for Canadians ➨
- Get $15 free with Shop.ca and 2.5% rewards on all purchases + free shipping and returns ➨
So Are Babies Really Free?
Ok, so babies aren't necessarily free, but in my friend's argument, the monthly $100 Universal Child Benefit (UCB) from the government covers the cost. I've included the main ways I've managed to save, and hopefully, I've given you an idea or twelve that you can try yourself. There's no time like the present to use these savings start putting money away for the Registered Educational Savings Plan (RESP) or the staggering cost of daycare!