We all know that new parents spend a bundle (more than $6,000) in their baby's first year alone, with much of it going toward diapers, wipes, and formula. The average baby uses 2,500 disposable diapers a year, at a cost of $500. And even if you switch between breast- and bottle-feeding, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on formula. We asked Alan Fields, author of the best-seller Baby Bargains, to tell us how to get the most for our baby bucks:
Diapers and Wipes
Go Generic. "The quality of store-brand diapers has gotten much better over the past few years," says Fields. "And they're usually made by the same manufacturers of brand-name diapers." Wal-Mart's White Cloud, as well as the Target and Babies "R" Us store brands, are good choices.
Buy in Bulk. This is the cheapest way to go. You can get a 216-pack of size 1 diapers at Costco for $27, or 13 cents per diaper, a steal compared with paying 20 cents per diaper at the grocery store-a savings of more than $100 a year, says Fields. The popular Costco Kirkland Signature baby wipes cost less than 3 cents per wipe when you buy a 704-count box. But bulk shopping is not for everyone-you'll have to shell out a yearly membership fee (about $40) and have room to store large boxes.
Consider Cloth. And we aren't talking about your grandma's cloth diapers. "The new generation of cloth diapers is much better at stopping leaks and is easier to launder," says Fields. Though the idea of buying used diapers may seem a bit odd, it will save you money. Look for them online on cloth-diapering message boards and your local Craigslist website. (Wash in hot water before using on your own baby.) Laundering them at home will also save you $600 to $1,400 a year.
Clip Coupons. Go to your favorite brand's website for coupons and other special offers. Many moms also report buying coupons for less than face value on eBay. And always check your Sunday circular for weekly sales.
Try Powder. "Powdered formula is the least expensive, while ready-to-eat is the priciest," says Fields. Powdered formula costs on average 9 cents to 13 cents per ounce versus premixed formula at 20 cents per ounce, or about 50 percent more.
Fill 'Er Up with Regular. Because "special" formulas for sensitive tummies can be costly, start out with a store-brand iron-fortified cow's milk-based formula. But if your baby shows any signs of sensitivity - rash or hives, vomiting, fussiness or crying after a feeding - check with your pediatrican about switching to a new formula.
Get Freebies. Your doctor's office is a treasure trove of free formula samples. All you have to do is ask. And as with diapers, once you find a brand you like, check out its website for coupons and free diaper bags, or sign up for its frequent-buyers club.