Experts Say: You Don't Have to Splurge to Save Money on Baby Products

The following article appeared on Oakland County Moms on November 12, 2011.

Raising a child is an expensive adventure. According to BabyCenter.com, the average cost of raising a child is $250,000. Knowing where and when it's safe to cut corners can help with your bottom line.

I interviewed Sandra Gordon, author of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products, for tips on where to skimp and and when to splurge when buying for your baby.

Oakland County Moms: If parents wanted to save money, what are some of the most common items you see parents spending unnecessarily on?

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: Ok, let's talk about the basics. If you're going to use formula, definitely go with store brand vs. a name brand. In the U.S. formulas are highly regulated by the FDA. So, store brand formula has to be nutritionally equivalent to the name brand formula. If you choose the store brand formula, you can save up to 50%, which is about $8 per can, and adds up to about $600/year in savings.

Oakland County Moms: How do the generic store brand diapers compare to the top national name brands?

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: Store brand diapers do an adequate job. You can save money by purchasing store brand diapers. The savings comes out to be about 3 cents per diaper. And you save even more if you buy the largest count box you can find. I did a cost comparison the other day with Target diapers vs. Pampers, size 3. I found you can save about 15 cents per diaper by going with the store brand, and buying into the largest quantity available. That adds up!

Oakland County Moms: You see many people, especially grandparents and caregivers, purchasing used car seats. Is this safe or is this something that should not be skimped on?

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: That's one thing you really want to buy new, even for grandparents. The safety standards change so frequently, and you don't know where that car seat has been. Maybe it's been in an auto accident and that seat would be compromised. And, often times a second hand car seat will not come with an owner's manual so you can't be sure to install it correctly. I really don't think it's a good idea to buy a second hand car seat. It's better to splurge and get a new one.

Oakland County Moms: What are the dangers with using a hand-me-down stroller or crib?

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: With strollers it's interesting because you can end up buying a stroller that has just been recalled. Recalled strollers can hang out in the secondary market longer than they would in the store; they're removed from the store shelves. There is a danger in that. Strollers were recalled in 2009 due to laceration hazards. You could easily find yourself with a 2009 second hand stroller that is only two years old and not even know of the recall and hazards. I think it's a good idea to splurge for a new stroller, too.

Oakland County Moms: What other items do you recommend parents to "splurge" on?

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: I think it's a good idea to get a new crib. Cribs change all the time and by buying a new crib, you're going to be making sure that you'll be buying a stationary crib which is really what is being sold these days. A stationary crib has no drop sides and no moving parts that can potentially malfunction or be installed incorrectly. Know what you're doing when putting it together. Even a stationary crib can be installed incorrectly. So, if you're not handy, you may want to recruit someone to help you and make sure you get it right.

Oakland County Moms: So the top three items to splurge on are the crib, stroller, and car seat?

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: Yes, those are the three big ticket items you will need to buy. But, you don't have to spend major bucks to get a decent stroller that is going to last you for years. Don't let the prices sway you from making a trip to Babies R Us and checking them out.

Oakland County Moms: What should we not bother splurging on?

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: Designer clothes. Clothes for kids are so adorable and parents almost can't resist buying the cutest clothes they can find and often times they have big price tags attached with them. So, I say don't buy designer clothes for a baby. They will blow through those clothing sizes before they even have a chance to get the wear out of it. On the other hand, I think that's a good thing to go second hand with. For example, for holiday outfits. They have only been worn once. I say you should definitely go second hand on holiday outfits or if you're looking to go designer.

Oakland County Moms: I read a great tip about how crib bumpers and the comforter are unnecessary.

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: Crib bumpers are not safe. When it comes to outfitting your baby's crib, bare is best. What you want to do is have a tight fitting crib sheet and nothing else. Dress your baby in sleep sacks for warmth. By not buying the crib nursery set, you can save thousands of dollars. They run anywhere from $100 to $2000. That's another thing parents get sucked into and spend more than they really intended. You save a lot of money and it's a lot safer for your baby.

Oakland County Moms: When considering a new purchase/splurge, do you have any examples of when spending the extra money doesn't make a difference? For example, are there certain brands out there that are just as reliable as some of the more expensive brands where you're just paying for the name?

Sandra Gordon of Consumer Reports: I think you just have to keep price range in mind. When buying a stroller, $200-$250 for a stroller will get you what you need. When you start to spend more than that, you're probably just paying for the name. You don't have to go with the Bugaboos. A Graco stroller is a good option.

For a car seat, think in the $75-$100 price range. Chicco is a good brand. (pronounced ki-ko).

I don't really have a recommended brand for cribs. There are lots of choices because everthing is stationary now. My suggestion would be to keep it simple. Don't invest in something with decorative features; these can be hazardous. You can find a simple, quality crib for $110-$250.

I also suggest couponcabin.com and storebrandformula.com as resources for moms to find savings for their baby item purchases.

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