Equipping a nursery for one baby is expensive enough. Equipping one for two or more babies can be enough to bankrupt a family — or so you might think. “A lot of parents have to get past the idea that everything has to be new for the babies,” says childbirth educator and mother of twins Joyce MacKenzie. “It’s safety and practicality you’re after, not the most beautiful crib in the store window.”
Although there’s a real temptation to run out and buy your babies matching brand-name gear, there are cheaper ways to acquire what your babies need. Here are some tips from parents who’ve been there:
- Borrow as much baby gear as you can. Just make sure that whatever you borrow meets current safety standards.
- Shop secondhand. You can find nearly new brand-name baby products at most consignment stores for half their original price or less. Although the better secondhand stores go out of their way to avoid carrying cribs or car seats that don’t comply with current safety standards, mistakes can and do happen. Therefore, the onus is still on you to make sure that the items you’re purchasing are up to snuff.
- Don’t scrimp on the double (or triple or quadruple) stroller. It’s the one thing that will keep you mobile. Note to parents expecting quadruplets: You might want to consider purchasing two doubles rather than one quadruple stroller if someone else will always be with you when you’re out with the babies. They’re easier to maneuver and easier to pick up secondhand.
- Get by with a little help from your friends. If your friends are planning to have a baby shower for you and they ask what you want, suggest a car seat or other big-ticket item. Your friends can pool their funds and buy you something you really need, rather than a lot of cutesy frilly dresses or sailor suits!
- Go bargain hunting. See if a local baby store or department store would be willing to give you a break if you bought all of your baby gear through them. If you’re purchasing two or more cribs, car seats, high chairs, and so on, you represent a lot of purchasing power. Don’t be afraid to bargain a little.
- See if you can solicit some outright donations. One family was able to convince the owner of a local pharmacy to let them have every seventh bag of diapers free.
- Eliminate the frills. Save money on baby wipes either by making your own (fill a squirt bottle with a mixture of liquid baby soap and plain water, and then buy some inexpensive washcloths) or by making a box of wipes go further by cutting the wipes in half (one family swears that an electric knife works like magic).
- Cut corners where you can. You can save on disposable diapers by using high-quality brand names during the night (when you really want the babies to stay dry!) and lower-quality generic brands during the day. Another good strategy is to start buying diapers when you’re pregnant: one couple expecting triplets had 1,600 diapers stockpiled by the time their babies came home.
- Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Save items such as used baby bottles, nipples, caps, lids, and acetaminophen samples from the hospital if your children spend some time in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Otherwise, these items are thrown away by hospital staff.
- Don’t overspend in the clothing department. As a rule of thumb, twins need 1 1⁄2 times rather than 2 times as much clothing as a single baby.
- Ask your baby’s doctor for a deal. See if your children’s pediatrician will reduce the copay per visit given that you’re buying his services in bulk! Also, don’t be embarrassed to ask for any free coupons and baby-product samples that he may be able to pass your way
- Keep the taxman at bay. Give your weekly cash flow a boost by changing the federal withholding rate on your Form W-4 to reflect the fact that you will receive additional personal exemptions and credits in the year your babies are born.
- See if Uncle Sam will buy you lunch. Find out if you qualify for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which provides nutritional assistance during pregnancy and lactation and during infancy and early childhood. Because family size is factored into the program eligibility criteria, many families of multiples qualify for assistance. You can find the phone number of your local WIC office in