As many of you know I am 32 weeks pregnant and gearing up for the arrival of #2. We have finally started getting ready for this baby, which has entailed digging all our daughter’s things out of storage. With our daughter we got caught up in the need to have everything. We were fortunate that our friends and family purchased a good portion of the things we thought we needed, but we still overspent in preparing for her arrival. With baby #2 we have not made a single purchase. We will likely buy a few things but this time we hope to be much smarter about how we spend our money.
I decided to spend the next five days focusing on certain items that we loved and a few things we should have saved our money on. As with all frugal blogs, the intent of my blog is to make wiser choices with money. This is not an encouragement to spend money you don’t have. What worked for us may not work for you and I’d love to get feedback from other moms as to what they loved and how they saved preparing for baby.
What I loved #1: Formula Samples!
Deciding to breastfeed is a very hot topic and I want to state that it is widely known breastmilk is considered the best possible option for babies. There are a number of wonderful health benefits to the mother as well. I am in no way suggesting people not breastfeed, however it is a personal decision and I hope we can all respect each other’s choices. I hope people will also be sensitive to mommy’s that may not be able to breastfeed or need to supplement with formula. Formula is definitely not the frugal option as it is much more expensive and you will need to fit it into your weekly budget for at least 12 months.
If you are a new mommy that has decided to breastfeed I hope you still consider some of these suggestions for obtaining formula samples as it is wonderful item to donate. The next time you visit your local grocery store take a look at the formula aisle. I bet the Enfamil shelf is nearly empty? Formula (especially Enfamil) is one of the most popular items for shoplifters so it is often kept behind the customer service desk. For parents on a tight budget in a situation where they need to formula feed, fitting an extra $12-25 in the weekly budget may not be an option.
So here are my top tips for stretching your dollar on formula!
* Sign up for every mailing list. Enfamil, Good Start, Similac are the biggest name brands and they will mail out checks just prior to your due date and right after. The checks typically start out at a high value- $25.00 or so and after a few months dwindle down to $3.00 or even $1.00. These checks can be used as cash which means you can stack them with coupons- both manufacturer and store. They are also accepted at any store- including stores like Costco that don’t typically accept coupons. The checks have an expiration date and can not be transferred to another person as they will be printed with your name. The higher value checks are almost guaranteed to get a free can of formula- especially when combined with coupons. There are larger cans which I found lasted about 1 week and smaller cans that might last a few days (depending on the age of the baby).
* Ask for samples at every pediatrician appointment and at the hospital. When you are preparing to leave the hospital you should ask if samples are available. They will likely ask you for a brand preference and I strongly suggest stating that you aren’t sure. You don’t know what your baby is going to like and should you need to formula feed it is much better to have variety than several cans of something you can’t use. Your pediatrician is also well stocked by formula reps with samples. I recommend asking for them at every well baby check up. I had wonderful nurses that would give me several cans at a time and awful nurses that wouldn’t give me any. The doctor will have small cans that are a perfect size for diaper bags. If you have other mommies in the area you might ask them to do the same. We were lucky to have friends that didn’t need formula and were able to pass along several cans.
*Check and recheck everything. I received a ton of things when I left the hospital and when I had my first pediatrician appointment. One of the items I received from the pediatrician was a black diaper bag from Enfamil with samples and a few coupons. I looked through every pocket and tucked inside was a little card to contact the local Enfamil representative. After leaving my information on a voicemail I received a free case of samples in the mail. I heard from other mommies that they also found the same card. Check the waiting room of your doctor’s office as you never know when they will have coupons available.
*Keep an open mind. With my daughter I was a store brand snob. We started with Enfamil and discovered at about 6 months the extra iron in Enfamil was causing her to have hard stools (or ouchy poops as we called them). We switched to Similac and didn’t have any other problems. This is a reason to request a variety of brands- just in case your little one has difficulties. Many stores have private label brands that are typically 50% less than name brands. Costco, Target, Walmart, Walgreens and most grocery stores all have private brands. Many stores will accept returns on open formula if your baby doesn’t react well. I tried the Costco brand and didn’t like the texture and they gave me a full refund with my return even though I had used half the can. At the drugstores this can also be a great way to roll register rewards or utilize store coupons. I used to always buy Similac at Walgreens when they offered the $5/25 coupons. Many store brands are made by the brand name companies. Our pediatrician recommended certain store brands and told us which company actually manufactured them.
*Watch for bonus packs. Target regularly offers “bonus” cans of formula that contain a few extra ounces for the same price. Watch your stores like a hawk right after these sales as they will clearance the bonus packs when the sale ends. Obviously these cans tend to move very quickly so you have to be very vigilant about knowing mark down days and hitting the stores early. I made it a practice of scanning the baby aisle at virtually every store I entered when I was formula feeding. Clearance on formula is very rare but you never know when you will get lucky!
*Sign up for store clubs. Stores in my area do not offer baby clubs but I have heard of chains that provide coupons and savings for joining baby clubs. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
*Check expiration dates. Formula does expire! You want to keep it in a cool area that is moisture free. If you notice cans that are about to expire you might check with your store manager to see if they will offer a discount. Remind them of how upset a mommy might be to pay the outrageous price of formula- feed it to their baby and discover it was expired. Similarly you might check the dates on the cans you get at the doctor’s office. I recently got several sample packs of prenatal vitamins at my OB appointment. I noticed they were 2 months from expiration and mentioned it to the nurse. She gave me 10 packages out of the new mom kits. They typically have such large amounts of these types of freebies they often have to throw away tons of samples when they expire.
*Put the word out. In our experience, friends and family members were extremely generous with our little girl. Most people prefer to buy “fun stuff” like clothes and toys but it doesn’t hurt to put the word out that you really need formula (and diapers and wipes). By politely explaining diapers and formula are putting a strain on your budget some people might consider helping you stock up on necessities. It doesn’t hurt to put the word out to friends and family- “Johnny uses Enfamil formula with the bright yellow label. If you ever spot a sale or clearance would you let me know right away?” We had a friend tip us off to an Amazon.com sale. They launched a free pick up service in Seattle and mistakenly priced large cans at $10 rather than the $25-30 price they should have been. We bought 10 cans which was incredibly lucky.
*Check Craigslist or Freecycle. If you are comfortable you can always try to find discounted cans from mom’s that no longer need the formula on free sites such as Craigslist or Freecycle. You may want to check the cans very carefully and make sure to check the expiration if you decide to take this route.
*Hoard coupons. Manufacturer coupons are very rare to find. The entire year I formula fed I can recall one time I saw a Similac coupon in the inserts. It was a measly $1/1 but it didn’t expire for several months. If you know these coupons are coming you might check a clipping service or trade to get as many as possible.
I hope some of these tips are helpful to new or soon to be mommies. Although we plan to breastfeed #2 I will still take advantage of as many freebies as I can to take to our local shelter. I have also heard that many moms hoped to breastfeed and were unable to for various reason so it wouldn’t hurt to hold on to a few cans for the first few months just in case.