Monday, September 28, 2009

Ways to Save Money on Baby Gear

When it comes to buying baby products, there’s a lot to choose from–and there’s a lot of stuff you can live without. Here’s how to get high-quality, safe baby gear without spending a bundle.

  • Get more mileage from your baby registry
  • Friends and relatives want to give you gifts, so take advantage. But before you add a product to your registry, make sure it’s right for you and your lifestyle. Test-drive products in the store and take your baby registry as seriously as if you were paying the tab yourself. Register for big-ticket items like a stroller, car seat and crib. Who knows? Friends and relatives may go in as a group and buy them for you.

    Don’t forget to register for everyday items, such as diapers in all sizes except for newborn, and baby wipes. You’ll need those items for years to come. Babies will outgrow newborn diapers in a flash, so it doesn’t pay to register for that size. And don’t register for clothes. You’ll get those anyway as baby gifts.

  • Take advantage of freebies and coupons
  • One of the best ways to save is to shop with coupons when products go on sale, then stock up. That’s a good way to save money on baby food, diapers and baby wipes, for example. And take advantage of baby-related trade shows that come to your town as these shows are great spots to pick up promotional free products and coupons.

  • Compare prices online
  • Once you know what you want when it comes to baby gear, you can go online and find the best price. But watch out for shipping charges. For heavier items, it might make sense to go to the store instead.

  • Buy used
  • Garage sales make sense for buying items that often aren’t used every day, such as backpack carriers, a bicycle trailer or bicycle-mounted seat. Consignment stores are often great spots for gently used clothing, toys and other gear.

    In general, a used product should either be new, or look like new to you. Don’t give your baby something that doesn’t look safe. Some products, like a car seat or crib, you should always buy new because their safety standards are constantly being updated, so you want to make sure you’re buying the latest version. And whether it’s new or used, check the CPSC’s website to make sure it hasn’t been recalled.

  • Buy as your baby grows
  • Except for the basics, such as a crib, car seat, and stroller, you don't need to buy many baby products until you're sure you'll need them. The wait-and-see approach gives you time to check with friends about their experiences with specific baby products. This can save you money as you’re likely to discover that you may not need certain items, or may be able to borrow them.

  • Stock up in the fall
  • Fall is prime baby bargain time, since retailers tend to clear their inventory to make room for next year's products, which arrive between November and January.

  • Shop around
  • The trick is to do your homework and research products before you shop online or step foot in the baby products super store.

    Prices can vary from one shopping venue to another, sometimes dramatically. Mega stores and discount chains such as Babies "R" Us, Sears, Target, and Wal-Mart often have the lowest prices. For personal attention and informed sales help, smaller stores may be a better bet. Another plus: Mom-and-pop stores have more leeway to offer on-the-spot discounts, especially if you're a regular customer. Just be sure to ask, "Is that your best price?"

  • Don’t cave under pressure
  • Keep in mind that salespeople everywhere may have an incentive to push their most expensive wares. And beware of the emotional pull of lines like: "But it's for your baby" and "It's not every day that you have a baby." Unless you're on your guard, it's easy to be persuaded to spend, spend, spend.

  • Watch for sales
  • Toys "R" Us, Babies "R" Us, and BuyBuyBaby stores routinely put out newspaper inserts and in-store fliers with big savings on brand-name baby items. At other stores you can sign up for special email promotions (Carters, Baby Gap and Osh Kosh have regular discounts for those on their email lists.)

  • Keep baby food costs down
  • If you use formula, buy the store brand in the powdered version. That’s the least expensive option. And stock up when it goes on sale. (All infant formula sold in Canada and the U.S. must meet the same basic safety requirements, so if your baby likes store-brand formula, there’s no reason not to buy it.)

    And when you start your baby on solid food, try making your own. You’ll be amazed by how easy and cost effective it is to make your own baby food.