It Costs How Much to Raise a Baby?
By Sarah Gobble
Beneath the gurgles, smiles, excitement of daily discoveries, and remarkable joy that radiates from a baby, lies an unavoidable truth: parenthood is expensive. The average American parent spends 66 dollars a month on disposable diapers, 150 dollars on baby formula, and 286 dollars on childcare, in addition to medical expenses, clothing, and the cost of additional supplies. Few will argue that having a child is a costly investment. Though the rewards are priceless, many parents must compromise and sacrifice to provide for their growing families. Though there is no handbook to explain how to effortlessly and flawlessly raise children with little cost and minimal struggles, parents are beginning to learn and share their successes in simplifying the costs of parenthood.
With the help of modern innovations, many parents are now able to shift their focus from balancing their budget to balancing their lives with their new little one. For the Garst family of Blacksburg, a simple switch has made a difference, not only in their budget, but also in the health of their son Jackson. A biology teacher at Salem High School, Jamie Garst has always been health conscious, fascinated by nutrition and physiology. After the birth of his son, being in tune to what he was feeding his child became a priority for Jamie and his wife Sarah.
By using a blender specialized for babies, Jamie was able to blend his knowledge of biology with his son’s meals, literally, and swapped jarred baby food for a natural, healthier alternative. When the Garsts began to transition Jackson from a milk diet to solid food, they purchased the “Baby Bullet” and began to blend their own baby food. “We thought fresher ingredients were better,” Sarah said. “It was experimental, but [Jackson] seemed to do well with it.” Using recipes from the “Baby Bullet” book and wholesomebabyfood.com, the Garsts saved money by reducing the amount of costly processed baby food they needed to purchase. Best of all, they were able to know exactly what was going into their son’s growing body. “Some things were more difficult to blend than others. I would cook a carrot and throw it in with some water and blend it,” Jamie said. “The carrots were a bit difficult. Bananas were definitely the easiest to blend,” Sarah added.
As Jackson grows and adapts to a wider variety of food, the Garsts plan on exploring new blends and recipes. “It’s nice knowing what you’re giving your kid,” Jamie said. With their second child on the way, the Garsts plan on continuing to use the “Baby Bullet” to bring fresh produce into the diets of their two sons while reducing spending. “Jackson seemed to do fine with it, and it definitely saved us some money,” Sarah said. “I would definitely recommend it.”
In addition to making their own baby food, the Garsts save a substantial amount on clothes and baby accessories by networking with other parents to share common necessities. When Sarah’s friend offered to pass down a tub of clothes her child had outgrown, the women created a circle of parents with children at slightly different stages of growth to share clothing. “Because they are constantly growing, they don’t wear the same clothes for very long,” Sarah said. “My friend collected a tub of old clothes organized by size for me when I had Jackson,” Sarah said. “Jackson wears them until they don’t fit anymore, then we put them back into the tub and pass them to someone else,” Jamie said. “It saves us a ton of money.”
When it comes to other accessories and baby supplies, the Garsts use social networking to their advantage. “I am a part of a Facebook group called ‘Moms’,” Sarah said. “It is like a support system for moms. For example, I could post that I need a stroller for an upcoming trip, and someone who has one could loan me one. Friendships with other parents are so important.” In addition to networking with other parents, Sarah offers new parents who are trying to save money a piece of advice, one that she plans on keeping in mind as she prepares for her second child: “An infant’s needs aren’t that great. It’s better to be more minimalistic when it comes to toys and accessories, not feeling like they need everything.”
Like the Garst family, first-time parents Chad and Michelle Newton, formerly of the Roanoke Valley, also utilize technology when trying to save money on their infant daughter Lilly. Like most new moms, Michelle looked forward to decorating her daughter’s nursery with coordinating colors, themed accessories, and the latest gadgets that would help create the perfect environment for her baby.
“I wanted to put a chair rail in [Lilly’s] room to divide the two colors and to look more polished,” Michelle explained. However, the extra hardware didn’t exactly fit into the couple’s budget. While browsing on the popular do-it-yourself site, Pinterest, Michelle discovered a cheaper alternative. “I saw a picture of a painted chair rail and you could hardly tell the difference,” Michelle said. Swapping the traditional wooden rail for a paintbrush and a pint of white paint, the Newtons were able to add a sophisticated touch to their daughter’s nursery without shelling out the extra cash. “I definitely recommend Pinterest if you are looking for ways to save money on your baby.”
Having a new a baby can certainly bring financial stress along with the sleepless nights and dirty diapers. With some creativity and a willingness to reach out to other parents, the financial burdens can be significantly lessened. Whether it is borrowing a stroller instead of buying one that will collect dust in the garage, or getting crafty to save a few bucks, parenthood and frugality can coexist. Thanks to social networking and modern innovations, parents can make smart swaps that can benefit both parent and baby. Most parents will agree that a new child changes your world forever, but the impact on the family budget doesn’t have to be as great.