(BPT) - From a car seat and crib to diapers and daycare, little ones come with big expenses. In fact, American parents spend an average of $14,000 on their baby's first year. But you can buy the best for your baby without spending a bundle. Use this go-to guide to gear up for less.
Smart savings strategies. It's easy to feel overwhelmed in the baby superstore and fill up your cart with products you may not need or use. Instead, think 'less is more.' These money-saving tips from Sandra Gordon, author of 'Consumer Reports Best Baby Products,' 'Save a Bundle: 50+ Ways to Save Big on Baby Gear' and the forthcoming 'Save Dollars on Diapers,' can help you stretch your new-baby budget and buy right.
Shop store brands. While breast milk is best, store-brand infant formula is a great option for moms who want to formula feed or supplement breast milk with formula. Infant formula is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Consequently, store-brand formulas, such as Walmart's Parent's Choice Infant Formula, is nutritionally comparable to name-brand formulas, yet cost up to 50 percent less. Store-brand formula saves parents up to $600 a year.
Think neutral. If you're planning on having more children, register or buy gender-neutral-colored products so you'll feel comfortable using that product again for your next baby. This year, purple is the new pink or blue. You can never go wrong with lime green, red, orange, yellow, silver, black, or green.
Try reusable diapers. Today's cloth diapers are almost as easy to use as disposables. They're better for your budget - and not to mention the environment - saving you loads of cash by the time your baby is potty trained.
Buy multitasking products. It pays to buy gear that does more than one thing or that can be repurposed later. Opt for a diaper pail that can be converted to a trash can, a plastic 'grass' baby bottle drying rack that can also dry your delicate wine glasses, a baby blanket that's also a nursing cover and a play mat, and a play yard that functions as a mobile changing table and a travel crib. These days, you can even use your cell phone as a baby monitor. The list goes on.
Get a free breast pump. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, as many as 80 percent of health insurance companies are now covering the cost of a double electric breast pump. Insurance companies don't have to provide a premium model for free, but they know it gives moms the best shot at breast feeding success.
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