At the beginning of hubby's fourth year of med school, I gave birth to our first child. Since before we were married, we were both committed to me staying home and raising our children. So, even though that meant that we'd be without income until he started residency, I quit my job and stayed home. (And by home I mean our tiny one-bedroom apartment in Houston.) Obviously that decision required a strict budget and some creative ways to save money. So I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and practices in this little journey of having babies while hubby has been working his way through med school and training.
- Breastfeed. It doesn't take a doctor's wife to know the far superior nutritional benefit of breastmilk. But in case that doesn't convince you, it's F-R-E-E! That, and super convenient. No sterilizing bottles, heating up milk, etc. So for at least the first 6 months of your baby's life, no food cost. Hello!
- Make your own baby food. This can save you a ton. Fruits & veggies don't cost very much and making a batch of purees once a week doesn't take a lot of time. You don't need fancy machines to do it. Just steam in the microwave, toss the cooked veggies plus the leftover cooking liquid in to the blender, whirl, spoon out into ice cube trays, and freeze. I would usually pop out the little food cubes once frozen and organize them into labeled ziplock baggies. Whenever it's mealtime, take out some cubes (you can even combine them: a cube of sweet potato with a cube of broccoli), and heat them up in the microwave.
- Cloth diapers. Man, are disposable diapers expensive! They're about $30-40 a month. I just recently (with my second child) switched to cloth. I had no idea how easy modern cloth diapers were. And they work really well. I have about 10 diapers and spent under $200. Sure, that's a big up-front cost, but it saves you a bunch in the long run and if you decide on them while you're still preggers, you can ask for them as gifts. Best cost-saver with these is to buy the BumGenius brand, one-size, pocket diapers. They'll fit your baby from infancy until he/she is potty-trained. Cloth diapers do require a special detergent (I use Charlie's Soap), but it works out to be only about 16 cents per load. (Obviously, the more diapers you have, the less often you have to do wash but I could only afford to start out with 10 so I do a load about 3 times a week.)
- Clothes. We are blessed with fabulous parents that love to spoil their grandchildren with adorable clothes and other necessities. But if you're not in the same boat, eBay, Craig's List and second-hand stores are the way to go. You can get some really cute, even designer clothes for cheap. Or you can swap clothes if you have a friend with kiddos a year ahead or behind yours. Kids grow out of clothes so quickly that it's not worth investing in their clothes.
- Toys and other stuff. Craig's List has been my go-to on this one. For our firstborn's first birthday we spent all of $6 total on his gifts: a snow sled and a swing for the backyard.
- Have it at home. This is a no-brainer, but when it comes to birthday parties, have a get-together at home. Who cares if the rest of your kid's friends are spending hundreds to have some themed birthday event elsewhere, the kiddos have just as much fun with a pinata, pin-the-tail, and bbq at home.
- Free Entertainment. Most cities have tons of free events and admission for kids. Here in Denver, all of the museums, the zoo and other fun attractions have free days throughout the year. I put them all on my calendar and when we're available we go. Now that our firstborn is a little older, Daddy takes him to the free workshops Home Depot has once a month. He has a blast making the projects with Daddy and they even gave him a little orange Home Depot apron and he gets a little pin to put on it for each project he does. The library is also one of our faves. They have a weekly storytime for little ones and we check out a bunch of books while we're there every week. We're also part of a playgroup (we found it through Meetup.com). There are about 50 members and most of the playdates are free, either hosted at a park or someone's house.
I realize these ideas aren't novel. You'd no doubt figure them out on your own. I just thought that maybe by sharing some of what we do to make things work, it will seem less overwhelming if you are in the same position now or in the future. Being a med student (or resident) and having a family aren't mutually exclusive. Not only can you make it work financially by adjusting your lifestyle, you can still have great family time together. Actually, my hubby got to spend a TON of time home with our firstborn since he was in his fourth year of school and even had an entire month off.
If you have any other ideas or thoughts, please comment! For other great money-saving ideas in general, check out this post from Money Saving Mom.