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Mo Money Mo Pablum

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How we planned and replanned for formula & diaper costs

Hopefully you are aware in June Sarah and I welcomed our wonderful baby girl Ava into the world.  This was not only a planned baby in the traditional sense of the word, but also the money/financial.  Sarah and I did some pretty extensive research and planning for the financial implications of the decision we were making.  We dug through blogs giving lists of must-have purchases.  Math was completed for what Sarah would be getting from her company for maternity pay.  The Canadian government also has an amazing maternity benefit through our employment insurance program for which we are extremely grateful.

During the planning we added several line items to our budget.  We had a line item to cover the drop in pay from the household second income.  A line for purchases we knew we’d need.  Registered education savings plan (RESP) on another and then a separate line to cover formula and diapers.  This was the most stressful line to figure out as the requirements were loaded with variables.

The Initial Plan

When Sarah and I first sat down and figured out what it would cost us to feed our baby, and make sure she had a nice supply of clean diapers we were cutely naïve.  To think a couple of first time parents would have a prayer. We were essentially guessing what our future baby was going to consume on a daily basis which bordered on absurd.  Unfortunately money is finite.  Sarah and I needed a plan.

The first time we went through it the diapers weren’t as bad to work with.  We knew the brand we were going with. We could make an educated guess on how many diapers would be used in a day.  As diapers increase in size, less come in a box so the cost per unit goes up.  Looking at the averages the cost per diaper was going to be about $0.23 each.  That added up to a budget of $84.00 a month to cover diapers.  We did not account for diapers that were gifted to us which we did get some.

For formula – we had less data to make educated guesses so we fell back on assumptions.  Our first mistake was pricing out formula based on the cost of a powder right from the start.  There is nothing wrong with this, but I’ll explain why it was a mistake later.  We chose the formula we wanted to use and then shopped around for the best possible price.  Then based on almost no information we made assumptions of how long each can of powder would last and based our budget on that.  I won’t even humour you with the numbers we came up with!

The First Revision

Our initial plan clearly had flaws, especially with the formula.  We had a nice supply of gifted diapers so we didn’t really make any budget changes for diapers.  Once baby Ava came into our lives, we made the choice that we were going to stick with a sterile product right from the start.  The formula we chose came in a number of different “packages”.  There were the nursettes (pre-measured 60ml bottles), ready-to-feed bottles (pre-mixed but not measured out), concentrate cans (need to add sterilized water, and not measured out) and finally powder.

The cost of the product is higher based on what is predone for you.  The nursettes were extremely convenient but quite costly.  An additional expense we hadn’t counted on was the nipples which were sold separately.  We also (quite stupidly) didn’t read the instructions and thought that the nipples were single use only.

The Costs

The nursettes themselves were about $1.60 each, and the nipples were $1.62.  Each meal was a cost of $3.32 (times about 8-10 meals a day).  Luckily we realized our mistake about the nipples quite quickly and started to sterilize them instead of buying new.  We transitioned into the ready-to-feed as quickly as possible, keeping the nursettes for convenient night-time our outside of the house feedings.

The ready-to-feed bottles went into our standard bottles (which came with nipples) – the bottles were about $3.00/each purchased in bulk and each bottle would cover about half a day.

Next was the concentrate cans – the cans were about $4.00 each but each one covered a full day of feedings.   Lastly was powder formula which we ended up finding for $30/can with each can lasting us 1 week.

The savings were actually more when you look at a per ounce number but as baby grew more food was required so the cost per day seems more applicable.

Keeping in mind that your baby may eat more or less than ours – this is where the numbers lie (plus/minus a few cents).

Nursettes (excluding our nipple error) – $16.00/day (used for first 2 weeks)

Ready-To-Feed – $6.00/day (used until about 1 months old)

Concentrate – $4.00/day (used until 2 months old)

Powder – $4.00/day (used after 2 months ***temporary cost)

The Second Revision

We had to revise our budget again as we had based our first revision on a fairly constant level of consumption which was completely unrealistic.  Fairly quickly the can that was lasting 1 week was only lasting 5 days.  In a blink we were back up to $6.00/day even with the powdered formula.  There were less expensive formulas available – but we didn’t want to run the risk of changing brands when everything seemed to be going well.  We balanced the extra costs off by shifting money from another line item (one of the many lines less important than feeding our daughter!).

On the positive end, we also made a change to our diaper costs.  We signed up for Amazon Prime and took advantage of their Subscribe & Save option (FYI – we have no affiliation with Amazon, just sharing what we did).  With these 2 features, we were able to knock the average cost of diapers down from $84.00 to about $69.00/month.  This is where we are at this stage in our parenting life.  We mistimed sizing up from 1 to 2 which left us with about 50 spare diapers (which we gifted to someone close who also just had a baby).

The Future

Ava will be starting small amounts of pablum (aka rice cereal) or other mashed/strained solids in the next month or so.  This will offset some of the formula costs as the food will be replacement, not incremental.  We will be making small adjustments as needed to fine tune our finances – and we have a plan to revamp our budget again completely in February or so in preparation for daycare costs next September.

The Lessons To Pass On

We are far from perfect, and we are constantly trying to learn from our mistakes as we putter along on this wonderful new segment of our life and family.  For those of you who are starting a budget to accommodate your own little family addition we encourage you to learn from our mistakes as well.

1) If you are getting the nursette bottles – check to see if the nipples are reusable after sterilization rather than buying a bunch of new ones.

2) Make the decision on if you are going to start with sterile products and then work your way to formula and make sure you account for the extra costs in your budget.

3) Don’t overbuy diapers in a particular size.  You can exchange full packages but if you start a pack and then outgrow it you might end up with extras.  Diaper sizes usually have about a 2lb transition period which you can take advantage of to start using the next size.

4) If you are going to guess when you are doing your budget, guess high.  Having enough food for your baby is extremely important.  Even if you are planning on exclusively breastfeeding it is a good idea to have money aside in case the choice isn’t left up to you, like it wasn’t for us.  If you are successful with breastfeeding, you’ll have that extra money available for MANY other costs you’ll have as a parent.

Have you already been through parenthood and have some advice for new parents like us? Would love to hear some of your suggestions!


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