Week 25: Start saving

 Translation: “Envy the fat woman.” |  Wellcome Collection

Translation: “Envy the fat woman.” | Wellcome Collection

Building even a savvy, research-based baby registry probably cemented your knowledge that babies are expensive.

You know this already, of course, which is why you’re buying diapers in bulk and researching 529 plans to pay for college.

But not all savings programs are created equal. 

Take those diapers, for example. If you bought them because they were the cheapest and most effective, great. If you bought them because you’re a baby photographer and you need them to be both waste-containing and stylish, great. But if you bought a specific brand because you’re expecting a big reward after you’re 5,000 diaper changes in...not so great.

Many diaper companies offer rewards to brand-loyal parents. I don’t want to name names, so let’s call them Shruggies Rewards and Scampers Rewards. Shruggies and Scampers both let you collect points by scanning or typing in codes from qualifying packages of diapers and wipes. Parents can then cash in these points for free toys and other baby items. 

But are free toys really free?

These programs tend to keep you brand-loyal, which means that you’ll be more likely to buy diapers regardless of their cost. Let’s say you go to the store and there are equivalent boxes of Shruggies and Scampers. The Scampers cost $2 more, but you’re enrolled in Scampers Rewards, so you buy the Scampers to get the points. Logging diaper reward codes will not be worth losing precious extra minutes of sleep.

Buying diapers in the store usually means more expensive diapers. Companies like Amazon, Boxed, and Costco will reward you with lower prices for buying in bulk, so if you can shell out the initial extra cost, you’ll ultimately save a lot on diapers. So much so, in fact, that you’ll be contributing to the wide price gap for diapers between middle income families, who can afford to buy in bulk and stock up, and the lowest income families, who can only afford to buy diapers in smaller amounts and ultimately end up paying considerably more. Consider donating some of that money you’re saving to the National Diaper Bank

In Not Buying It: Stop Overspending and Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids, journalist and economist Brett Graff prices out the costs of parenting overspending (nursery gear, organic foods, private school, music lessons) and suggests better uses for the money saved (namely, a college education). The book has an awesome selling point: follow Graff’s instructions and save $1 million.

The book is a great starting place if you’re looking for ways to avoid overspending on your new addition. Graff even includes a baby monitor among the list of baby gear not to buy. While I agree with her in practice, I disagree with her reasoning, which is that “hackers” could break into your feed and...do what exactly? Steal from you when you’re not home? Steal the baby when you’re not looking?

To me, that's not the actual economic downside to the monitor. It's that buying the monitor is not a guarantor of safety, and it is likely a guarantor that you'll sleep less, and maybe even invade your kid's privacy once he's that in-between area to entertain himself alone in his room in the evening.