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Raising a child costs money. Whether you’re a minimalist or a maximalist, a first-time parent or not, your child will need some basic resources to thrive, and it’s likely that you’ll be the one paying.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average family will spend $233,610 to raise a child from birth to age 17.
Of course, every family has different priorities and resources, and your location is a major factor in determining costs. But, in general, the breakdown of expenses is as follows:
- Housing is the largest portion (29 percent).
- Food is the second largest (18 percent).
- Childcare and education is third (16 percent), and that doesn’t include paying for college.
The cost of raising a child will increase with your child’s age, but children probably go through the most tangible resources (diapers, formula, clothing) in their first year of life.
The good news is that there are many ways to get necessities for free. From rewards programs to goodie bags to charitable organizations, it’s likely you can find a way to get what you need without spending much money.
According to the National Diaper Bank Network, one in three families in the United States has a hard time affording diapers. Here are some resources for free diapers.
Eco by Naty
This company sends a free trial box of diapers. You must sign up as a customer at the online checkout.
This company will send you a one-time free sample pack of diapers and wipes, but the shipment will automatically sign you up for a monthly membership of diapers that you will need to pay for unless you cancel it.
To take advantage of the free trial, sign up online, but remember to cancel your membership before 7 days are up or else you’ll be automatically charged for the next shipment.
Ask your friends if they have unused diapers in sizes that their child has grown out of. Babies grow so fast, it’s common to have unfinished boxes of diapers in smaller sizes left behind.
Pampers and Huggies reward customers with coupons. Sign up online and use a phone app to scan every item you buy to redeem points online. Points can be applied toward buying new diapers or other baby gear.
Follow diaper companies on social media to hear about free giveaways. Companies use this like advertising, and they hope that if you like their diapers, you will become a customer.
You can count on being sent home with a few diapers after labor and delivery in a hospital. If you need more, ask.
Cloth diapers are washable and reusable so can be passed down from kid to kid. You may be able to find gently used cloth diapers on Craigslist or in a local parent Facebook group.
Registry welcome gift
Many stores give a welcome gift bag when you create a baby registry with them. These gifts often include at least one free bottle.
When you sign up for a store registry, it’s common for the store to give your contact information to partner companies who will also send you free samples. Many moms receive free formula and baby bottles this way, though you can’t exactly count on it.
Friends and parent groups
Ask friends if they have any bottles they aren’t using. Whether their kid grew out of using a bottle, or it’s a bottle their baby never would take, it’s likely they have some they could easily give away.
Many companies will send you free samples if you use the contact form on their website. Companies known for giving free samples include:
Enfamil and Similac offer rewards to loyal customers. To qualify, you must sign up with the company online. Every purchase will turn into points that go toward earning free formula or other baby gear.
Pediatric and OB-GYN offices often get free samples from companies to pass on to their new and expecting parents. Ask your doctors what they have when you visit.
Many hospitals can also send you home with formula after you deliver your baby. Be sure to ask if it’s free or if it will be added to your bill.
Every insured, expectant mother in the United States is entitled to a free breast pump, paid for by their health insurance company, thanks to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. This is how it usually works:
- Contact your health insurance provider to let them know you are pregnant and you would like to order a free breast pump.
- They will tell you when you qualify to purchase the pump (it may be within a few weeks before your due date).
- They will likely have your doctor write a reference.
- They will direct you to a medical supply company (likely online) where you sign in and order the pump.
- The pump will be mailed to you for free.
Is it safe to use a used breast pump?
Breast pumps are medical devices, and it’s not recommended that you borrow a used one from a friend.
If you do decide to use a second-hand pump, be sure to fully sterilize the pump before use. You should also purchase replacement parts for the breast shields, tubes, and pump valves.
Many towns and neighborhoods have Facebook groups where you can connect with local parents and trade baby gear. Search on Google and Facebook for a group in your area.
If you’re looking for something specific and don’t see it listed, feel free to post that you’re “in search of” said item.
Some neighborhood groups also organize “swaps” where people bring baby items they no longer need and take home any new-to-them items they find.
When your coworkers hear that you’re expecting a baby, they might offer gently used items they have lying around. It’s very common for baby items to get passed around, and people are usually more than happy to let go of something they don’t need anymore.
If you’re exceptionally close with your coworkers, you could even ask them directly if they have something specific that you’re looking for.
This online forum allows direct communication from sellers to buyers for used items. Search listings daily since the quality items go fast.
Baby gift registry
A baby registry is your chance to share with family and friends what new items you’ve picked out for your baby.
If someone throws you a baby shower, you can share that you’ve registered at a certain store and people can either find your wish list online or they can print it up in the store.
Some registries (like Baby List or Amazon) are exclusively online and allow you to register for items from multiple stores.
If you have family in multiple cities or older relatives who are more comfortable shopping in a real store, stick with “big box” places like Target and Walmart that are easy to find.
How to get registry welcome gifts
Many stores will thank you for making a registry by giving you a goody bag of free items and coupons. Items may include free bottles and samples of soap, lotion, or diaper cream. They may also include pacifiers, wipes, and diapers.
The following stores are known to give welcome gifts:
- Buy Buy Baby
- Motherhood Maternity
- Amazon (only for Prime customers who create a baby registry and have at least $10 worth of items purchased off the list)
Stores may also offer “completion discounts,” meaning you get a percentage off the price of anything you buy from your own registry after you have a baby shower.
The Penny Hoarder website has a list of baby items that you can receive for free and only pay shipping. Items include:
- nursing cover
- car seat cover
- baby leggings
- nursing pillow
- baby sling
- baby shoes
You can also search online for other budget blogs to follow for tips and giveaways.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends a free book every month to kids in qualifying areas. Check here to see if your town qualifies.
It’s not recommended that you use a second-hand or borrowed car seat since it may not be in the best shape. And this is one item you really want to be in perfect condition for your new baby.
Car seats expire, and they also become unusable if they’ve been in any accident. Since you don’t know the history of a used car seat, it may be unsafe. So never accept a free car seat if it’s previously used.
That said, car seats can be quite expensive. Rest assured that every car seat sold in the United States must meet safety standards, no matter how inexpensive they are.
The following organizations can help you get a free or discounted car seat if you need help:
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- local hospitals
- local police and fire departments
- Safe Kids
- United Way
- Assistance League
Different organizations and government programs provide resources to low-income families. These include:
- National Diaper Bank Network. This organization provides free diapers to families who cannot afford them
- WIC. WIC is focused on the health of moms and kids. It provides food vouchers, nutrition support, and breastfeeding support for qualifying families.
- Cribs for Kids. This organization teaches parents how to keep babies safe during sleep and provides free cribs and other baby gear for participating families.
- Essential Community Services. Dial “211” in the United States to speak with Essential Community Services. They canhelp you navigate your needs from health to employment to supplies.
It’s no secret that the cost of baby gear can quickly add up, but there are a lot of creative ways to find free samples, rewards, and hand-me-down items.
If you’re overwhelmed, remember that babies only truly require a few basics to keep them safe, fed, and warm. Don’t be afraid to ask you family, friends, and doctor for help. People can point you in the right direction, offer resources, and encourage you.