Kids are rich with laughter, questions, demands, blessings and joy. But, they’re expensive. So expensive that the USDA reported in 2013 (based on 2012 figures) that the average cost to raise a child from birth to adulthood in the U.S. is $241,080.
Using the USDA calculator, available at www.cnpp.usda.gov/tools/CRC_Calculator, it’s estimated that it costs my family roughly $18,000 annually to support my 2-year-old and 3-year-old. With my 3-year-old already potty-trained and my 2-year-old getting hand-me down cloth diapers, clothes and toys from her older sister, our expenses may be a little cheaper than that, but I shudder at the thought of figuring up the actual costs. It’s easy to become a bargain-huntress when raising a family (see our Thrifty Tips on surviving the clearance section), but it’s important to know where you could cut costs and where you should take a deep breath and spend. Here’s what local professionals and experts have to say on what items you can save money on and what items you should spend money on.
From clothes to toys to feeding accessories and more, there are tons of items that kids just outgrow at an incredible pace, so it can be practical to buy these items pre-loved (i.e. used) from garage sales, CraigsList, consignment sales, resale stores and/or even Facebook groups.
The key to buying pre-loved items from garage sales or consignment sales is to shop early, while the trick to buying these items online is to shop often.
Perhaps the most important perk: You can save hundreds of dollars, and most of these items are safe to buy used.
Julie Rhoads, organizer of the Trading Hands Consignment Sale, says she encourages parents to make a shopping list of necessities and any special items, with sizes, before hunting for a deal at the sale.
“Once they get to the sale they can get overwhelmed with the great selection and forget what they came for!” she says.
In doing so, it’s also important to research the items you write down before shopping around.
“It’s often helpful to research the retail prices of items, especially big items like travel systems, baby swings, exersaucers, bikes, electronics, etc.
“Price brands of jeans/shoes or other specialty items so you know if you are getting a good deal,” Rhoads says.
Beyond price comparisons, it’s also important to research the safety of the items of you’re looking for. Go to http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/ and search for products that might have been recalled before you start looking for it or something similar. While many resale stores, consignment shops, and even CraigsList and Facebook groups do due diligence in preventing recalled products from being sold, it never hurts to be an informed shopper.
If you’re like me and you forget lists at home, but hardly ever forget your phone (if you can pry it from your toddler’s fingers), make your list on your phone and download apps that make searching for product recalls easier while you’re out-and-about, like Recalls by Urban Apps for your iPhone or Recall Watch by Stellar Computer Systems for your Android.
While you may want to buy all new items for your first or last child, local professionals agree that safety is the primary reason to buy items new.
And, unfortunately, some of the most important items to buy new also tend to have the most sticker shock, like cribs and car seats.
“Basically, all cribs after June 2011 are required to meet stringent safety requirements that old cribs may not meet,” says Daphne Greenlee with the Mercy Injury Prevention Center and coordinator of Safe Kids Springfield.
Even newer cribs may have recalled parts or been compromised in moving, toddler theatrics or other situations.
And like cribs, it’s important to know the history of a car seat before buying it, says Denise Vaughn, nurse educator with the CoxHealth Women’s Center, which is why it’s suggested to buy car seats from the manufacturer.
“You should never buy a car seat from a stranger,” Vaughn says.
Car seats that have been in a crash should be destroyed and replaced as the plastic is then compromised by the impact–something a private seller may conceal, Vaughn warns.
Car seats also come with an expiration date of five years since plastic degrades over time. Most car seats have the expiration date stamped on the back, though Greenlee says, “Many times the labels are not present, which prevents parents from being able to check it for recalls or know its expiration date.”
If you do decide to buy or sell your car seat from a trusted individual, it’s important to check the expiration date, and if it’s been recalled, you should ensure it has been repaired correctly.
Because of the expiration date, Rhoads with Trading Hands says, “I think if you plan to use a car seat for multiple children, it would be worth the investment to buy new.”