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3 Ways Planning Ahead Cuts Baby Gear Costs

Jennifer Saranow Schultz

When you're expecting your first child or are a new parent, there's a lot you have to worry about, from how to function on no sleep to how to financially prepare for the cost of babies and their many accoutrements.

The furthest thing on your mind is probably preparing for future additional kids. Yet if you eventually do want to have more children, taking these future little ones into account when you're buying your first baby's gear is actually a smart frugal shopping strategy.

According to the book "Baby Bargains," the cost of baby gear (from cribs to clothes to car seats) for just the first year of life can run at least $7,000. But if you buy gear from the get-go that you can use for multiple kids, you'll be able to spend much less on each of your additional offspring as well as overall.

So how do you know which baby gear is going to last as your family grows? These three shopping tips can help.

1. Opt for a convertible stroller. Though buying a stroller is a lot like buying a car, a convertible stroller isn't one whose top comes down. Rather, it's a single-child stroller that can convert into a double, and even triple, stroller. While such strollers are expensive, their prices have been coming down as more such models come on the market, and opting for them can be cheaper in the long run than buying additional strollers down the road.

Convertibility from a single to a double is "an amazing feature because it saves you money," writes Amy Tanathorn, the editor of the Stroller Envy stroller review site. Strollers that fit the bill include the Uppababy Vista, Phil & Teds Inline strollers, the Britax B-Ready and the Baby Jogger City Select.

2. Go for other adaptable baby gear. Strollers aren't the only baby gear that can easily convert from serving one child to serving two. Many video monitors, for example, allow you to add additional cameras to them. Buying just an additional camera is generally a lot cheaper than buying a whole new monitor. So, if you're in the market for a video monitor, you may want to consider a model that can grow with your family.

In addition, when you're deciding on items like swings, high chairs and bouncy seats, look for models for which you can buy replacement parts directly from the manufacturer. This will save you from having to replace an entire item if just a part, such as a tray or seat, is too dirty or moldy to reuse. Fisher-Price, for instance, sells such replacement parts, including new trays for its high chair models and new seat pads for its bouncy seats.

3. Buy gear in gender-neutral colors. While it can be tempting to buy a girl a pink stroller or a pink car seat, opting for gear in gender-neutral colors is the smarter shopping strategy. Going gender neutral may make you more likely to use the gear for additional children regardless of whether they're girls or boys, and it will save you from having to buy additional items just for the "gender-appropriate" color down the road.

To be sure, many parents want to get past the gender stereotypes that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Still, by opting for gear (including baby clothes, mealtime accessories and toys) in neutral colors such as green, gray, black or yellow, you're ensuring that the items will work for your future kids, no matter their gender.

Of course, when the additional little ones arrive, you'll want to make sure all the baby items you're considering reusing, and especially the hand-me-down cribs and car seats, haven't been recalled and are still safe to use. And if you've waited a long time to have additional children, you'll also want to make sure your car seats haven't expired (they generally do after six years). In addition, you probably won't want to reuse everything. There's some gear you'll likely want to buy new, like bottle nipples and crib mattresses, for instance.

Finally, there's clearly no way to guarantee you'll actually have additional kids. Still, by taking a family planning approach to purchasing baby gear, you're at least giving yourself the option to save money.

Jennifer Saranow Schultz, formerly the "Bucks" blogger for The New York Times and a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, shares daily hints to help make parenting easier and cheaper at HintMama.com, on Twitter at @HintMama and on Facebook at Facebook.com/HintMama.

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