When we decided to start trying for a baby – four years ago, crazy! – we were in a pretty good place financially. We didn’t crunch numbers or anything like that because we both had good jobs and a savings account. Besides, how big of a dent could a tiny person really put in our monthly budget?
Not only were we naïve, but things also didn’t go as planned. (Do they ever?)
After over a year of infertility treatments – none of which were covered at all by health insurance – and losing my job at 6 months pregnant, we weren’t in the best place financially anymore. We had to make some pretty drastic lifestyle changes just to get by.
That’s not what this post is about, though. I’m not that great at budgeting and I’m sure the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the past two years are things that most other people know! But I have discovered some ways to save on baby and toddler stuff that I wanted to share.
Here are my tips for keeping baby-related costs down:
1. Join Amazon Mom and Subscribe & Save. Amazon Mom is free! For the first year of your child’s life (ETA: apparently Amazon Mom is only free for 3 months now) you’ll receive free 2-day shipping and 20% off diapers, wipes, and other baby products.
Bonus: the diaper boxes double as toys.
After the first year, you can pay for Amazon Prime to keep the same perks. We also subscribe & save on so many products. With subscribe & save, you save off the base price and you have items show up at your door every month or so (you choose how often they come and you can cancel at any time) automatically. The best part? If you coordinate the dates of 5 or more of your subscribe & save items to come at the same time, you’ll save an extra 15% off your entire order. We s&s on diapers, wipes, peanut butter, toilet paper, and pouches. Wyatt loves those HappyTot pouches but they retail at stores for close to $2 a pop (I’ve tried making my own version several times but he’s into them). But with s&s, I can get them for $1.06- 1.11 each -- the savings really adds up!
2. Shop consignment. Half of Wyatt’s wardrobe comes courtesy of his Grammy (thanks mom!) and the other half is from secondhand shopping. I cannot justify spending $20 on pants at Baby Gap when Wyatt is just going to destroy it with bodily fluids, food, and dirt. By shopping consignment sales, I save money and I don’t feel guilty when he ruins his clothes. Check out churches and mom’s groups to find consignment sales near you. If you’re near Charlotte, my favorite is the Upscale Weesale – it happens twice a year (and I kind of hate myself for sharing this “secret”).
Consignment sale loot.
3. Look into free activities or those with memberships. I really think activities for children are the biggest bank-breaker. A Gymboree membership, music classes, a day trip to a museum here, and a trip to the bounce house there really add up! But no mom wants to sit at home all day, so what do you do?
All libraries in my area offer free classes for children. Wyatt started infant story time at 4 months. He didn’t really enjoy it when he was that young, but it was still nice to get him out of the house and get him acquainted with books. We also hit up playgrounds and parks all the time and meet friends there since they are free.
As far as other activities, I limit myself to enrolling Wyatt in one scheduled class at a time. Last year we did Gymboree, this year we’re doing swim lessons. It’s also nice to not have too many things on the calendar so we can meet up for impromptu playdates or take extra-long naps (ha yeah right).
We also bought an annual family membership at a local children’s museum. It was only $60 for the whole year! It’s ended up being well worth it since we go every week. I hope to get a comparable membership somewhere else next year.
Does anyone else have anything to add? I’m eager to learn more ways to save! We also rarely buy him toys – he gets one new toy per month – and only go out to eat once every 2-3 weeks or so. This was an easy change to make – dining out with a baby or toddler is not enjoyable!
My experience with Disney and food allergies dates back to before I had a child with FPIES. In June 2007, I had a Disney wedding -- complete with a bridesmaid with celiac disease and a flower girl with a host of allergies.
My wonderful Disney wedding planner promised me that they would offer food at my reception that was safe for best friend and cousin to eat.
But that honestly wasn’t what I was most concerned about. Of course the wedding food would be safe – we were special ordering it months in advance. My BFF was kind enough to come down to Disney days before my wedding to help prepare for the big day. Which meant she needed a lot of spur of the moment meals to be safe, too.
Luckily, Disney was able to offer her safe, gluten-free meals. And on my son’s two Disney trips, Disney happily served him safe egg-, carrot-, zucchini-, yellow squash-, soy-, and poultry-free meals.
Disney is hands down the best vacation destination for people with food allergies. My son was diagnosed with FPIES only two weeks before our Disney trip. I would have canceled if we had been going anywhere else, but I knew I could trust Disney because:
- Disney can easily accommodate almost every food allergy at almost every dining location if you have one of the more common food allergies -- gluten/wheat, lactose/dairy, peanut, tree nut, shellfish, soy, fish, egg, and corn.
- Disney offers variety. People with food allergies are used to having a limited menu to choose from, but that’s not the case at Disney. At Cape May Café, the chef showed me the buffet items that were safe for my son to eat and offered to special prepare additional foods. I was shocked by the number of options he had – where else can a child with egg and soy allergies choose between waffles and French toast?!
- Disney takes food preparation and preventing cross-contamination very seriously. They have extremely strict food handling policies. When my son got sick in Disney in January, we went back to the counter service where he ate his last meal, and the chef was able to tell us every ingredient in the dish and he guaranteed that there was no cross-contamination (we later found out my son had a virus, not an FPIES reaction). How many restaurants can do that? Not many. Disney truly goes above and beyond.
Here’s what I’ve learned about doing Disney with food allergies:
Do your research before your trip. Disney has a Special Dietary Requests page. This is where you can find official, reliable information about doing Disney with food allergies. Did you know guests with food allergies are allowed to bring their own food into Disney parks and restaurants? Refrigerators are available for Disney resort hotel guests, too.
Note your allergies on your dining reservations. When making your dining reservations, it’s a great idea to include your allergy information under the “special requests” section online or by telling the receptionist if you book over the phone. Note that this is especially important if you have an uncommon allergy. Disney says: “The sooner you let us know about your dietary restrictions, the quicker we can provide you with information about alternate dining options.”
Don’t worry too much if you have a common allergy. Almost every Disney restaurant can accommodate the common allergies at a moment’s notice. If you have an uncommon allergy, it may be more difficult for Disney to make you a safe meal. But chefs at all dining locations --both counter and table service restaurants -- were able to accomodate my child's rare allergies. Of course, noting all allergies on your reservations is a good idea.
Contact Disney directly if you have uncommon or multiple food allergies. Disney asks that you email them at Special.Diets@DisneyWorld.com at least two weeks before your trip. They’ll work with you and try to make sure you’ll have safe food to eat throughout your vacation.
Always ask to speak with the chef. I cannot stress this one enough. My bridesmaid was accidentally served a meal with gluten in it one evening. The night she got sick was after the only Disney meal where the server didn’t bring out the chef – the server said making a gluten free meal was no problem. This was partly our fault for not insisting on speaking with the chef, and six years ago "gluten free" requests weren't as common.
Be prepared to wait. Sometimes waiting to speak with the chef can take a while – we waited about 30 minutes once. Then it will take even longer for the chef to personally prepare your special meal. Of course the safety is worth it, but if you’re hungry, this wait can seem like an eternity. I’d suggest making dining reservations a bit earlier than your used to and bringing plenty of snacks to avoid toddler – and adult! -- tantrums.
Who else has done Disney with food allergies? What was your experience like?
This may apply to all growth charts, but I only have experience with the “infant” ones – which run from birth until age 2.
I asked Wyatt to step on the scale at the doctor’s office the other day, and held my breath. The number I saw was lower than what our scale at home read a few days before. My palms started sweating, my heart raced, and I just prayed that his 18 month weight percentile would be “good”.
But what does “good” mean? I had a number in my head. I thought Wyatt would be around the 20% at this visit. He wasn’t.
4 days old, 5th percentile for weight.
For the rest of the checkup, we discussed Wyatt’s eating habits and I asked what I could do differently. His doctor told me to keep up what we have been doing (i.e., nursing) and we’d reevaluate when he turned two. “He really is doing well,” his pediatrician said. “I think he’s just going to be a small kid – both you and your husband are thin. ”
Panic. I don’t want my son to be small.
Confusion. We’re thin because we exercise, not because we have good genes. (Sorry mom and dad – you know it’s true!)
Guilt. Did I do this to him?
I had been feeling better about Wyatt’s eating habits before his 18 month appointment (as you can tell from this post last week). But then that number on the scale – and it’s subsequent plot on the growth chart – sent me into worry-mode again.
2 months old, 50th percentile for weight.
Like almost all of you reading this, there was a point in my life where I let a number on the scale dictate how I felt about myself. Which I now know is ridiculous. But here I am, letting a percentile on a growth chart control how I feel about my son’s health and development.
In general, growth charts are helpful. They’re indicators of health. Perhaps not the best measurement, but they are easy to use and non-invasive (kind of like BMI).
I’ve heard people say that it doesn’t matter where on the growth chart a child falls, but more importantly, if he stays on his curve.
4 months old, 60th percentile for weight.
Neither of these ways of thinking make much sense to me. Then why do doctors tell parents of the child who has always been in the 90% to switch from whole to 1% milk? And why do they encourage moms of small, breastfed babies to supplement with formula?
Then there’s my son. The kid who’s growth curve is all over the place – from negatively off the charts to the 60th percentile. But he’s “doing well”. Which I completely believe, but his growth chart says otherwise. (Obviously his doctor came to this conclusion based on more than just his growth chart. As the CDC says, growth charts are not meant to be used as a sole diagnostic tool.)
9 months old, off the weight charts (and just diagnosed with FPIES).
I’ll admit; I’m always a bit reluctant to say Wyatt’s percentiles out loud. I’m afraid if I share them people will tell me to stop nursing or remark how his size will put him at a disadvantage for sports. And I fear others saying that because part of me thinks that way, too. What if I didn’t breastfeed him? Everyone knows formula-fed babies are bigger. Would I feel better about Wyatt’s size if he was a girl? Who knew I was so sexist. Would I feel worse if his height was below average, too?
I wonder if mothers on the other side of the spectrum feel this way. In the beginning, I definitely think there’s some pride that goes along with having a bigger baby – I know I felt confident when Wyatt was in the 60th percentile (which we now know was the result of overeating to relieve his reflux). But at what point do parents start fearing that their bigger infants and toddlers will end up being overweight children? Or do they? Do parents of kids near the 50% ever worry about their child’s size? Or do they feel relief knowing their child is average?
12 months old, 10th percentile for weight.
All I know is that I'm putting too much weight into these growth charts (ha). Yes, my son is small – people tell me so every day. I’m doing the best I can, but I can’t force him to eat. I believe his weight at this point is like his height will always be – beyond my control.
Besides, there’s no guarantee that he’ll always be small. I like to remember when my brother was a child – one of the shortest kids in his class through freshman year of high school. He is now 6’5”. No one saw that coming.
And if Wyatt is always small, then so be it. I can think of far worse things in life than being lean.
18 months old and perfect.