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Ten Ways to Save Big on Baby Gear
by Sandra Gordon, author of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products
Baby products are an 8.9 billion dollar industry in this country. There's a lot to choose from-and a lot of stuff you can live without. A typical middle-income family with one child in the U.S. will spend an average of $13,590 on baby's first year alone. But you get better value, and still buy high-quality, safe products without spending a bundle.
The trick is to do your homework and research products before you shop online or step foot in the baby products super store. Also:
- Get more mileage out of 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. And register for everyday items like 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. On another note, hold onto those 20 percent Bed Bath and Beyond (BBB) coupons. BBB recently bought BuyBuy Baby so you can now use BBB coupons at Buybaby Baby, too. On a $250 stroller, you'll save $50.
- Compare prices online. Once you know what you want, you can go online and try to find the best price. But watch shipping charges. For heavier items, it might make sense to go to the store instead.
- Buy used. Garage sales make sense for buying clothes and items that often aren't used every day such as backpack carrier, a bicycle trailer or bicycle-mounted seat. But, in general, a used product should either be new or look like new to you. Don't give your baby or dress your baby in something that doesn't look safe. But some products, like a car seat, crib and play yard 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 and ultimately can save you money. You may be able to borrow some items. Others might not seem necessary once you understand what your baby's needs are.
- 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. Prices can vary from one shopping venue to another, sometimes dramatically. Mega stores and discount chains such as Babies "R" Us, BuyBuyBaby, Kmart, 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?"
- 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.
- Keep infant formula costs down. If you use formula, buy the store brand in the powdered version. That's the least expensive option. And stock up on sale. All infant formula sold in 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.
About the Author:
Sandra Gordon is the author of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products. She also frequently writes about health, nutrition, parenting, and baby products for leading consumer magazines and Web sites including Parents, American Baby, BabyTalk, ShopSmart, Prevention, Family Circle, and Kaboose.com. Got a baby product question? Contact Sandra at www.babyproductsmom.com.
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