Babies don't just need frequent feedings, nearly constant diaper changes and lots of love -- they also require tons of gear. From cribs to strollers to car seats, the costs of even just the necessary newborn accessories can quickly add up. By some estimates, the average cost of first-year baby gear can run anywhere from roughly $7,000 to $10,000.
Luckily, there are a myriad of ways to cut this expense, including knowing which baby gear items to buy and which to skip; knowing where and what to register for; and knowing where to find the best deals. In other words, if you know what to get, you can potentially avoid spending money on replacement items for products that turned out not to work for your family. And if you know how to find the best bargains from the get go, you can probably avoid overpaying.
So how do you gain this knowledge? A slew of parenting websites can help. Here are five to bookmark:
WeeSpring (weeSpring.com): In the past, to get baby gear recommendations from friends and family, soon-to-be parents had to rely on compiling that information themselves, often in messy Excel spreadsheets. Enter weeSpring. At the roughly 1.5-year-old "social review site for parents," you can browse baby gear reviews from your Facebook friends, getting their trustworthy take on which items they've loved and which they've regretted purchasing. As of earlier this year, weeSpring had more than 75,000 reviews.
Baby Bargains (babybargains.com): To be sure, you probably don't want to just rely on the baby gear experiences of your friends and family. It's nice to have a more objective expert take as well when you're trying to decide on what to buy and what to skip. That's where Baby Bargains comes in. It's the site of Alan and Denise Fields, the authors of a book by the same name and truly the Consumer Reports-like experts of baby gear. At the site, which costs $4.95 to join for a month and $19.95 to join for a year, you can find in-depth baby gear reviews, brand ratings and the Fields' take on waste-of-money items to skip, among other information. And if you buy the Baby Bargains book, send in your receipt to the Fields and you can receive a 50 percent discount off the annual subscription.
Baby Cheapskate (babycheapskate.com): Angie Wynne started this site back in 2005 as she was scouring offline and online sources to find the best deals on diapers, formula and other baby gear for her new son. Since then, according to the site, BabyCheapskate.com has helped "thousands of parents save big bucks on baby stuff." At the site, you can find tons of ways to save money on baby gear, including coupons, deals, information on buy-it-now prices and shopping tips.
BabyList ( babyli.st): One way to save money on baby gear is to have friends and family give it to you. Of course, you're only really saving money if you receive the items you want. Creating a baby registry that lets everyone know what you'd like is one way to solve for that, but there's no guarantee you'll be able to register for all the particular baby gear items you want at one particular store. And if what you want is help or a particular service, there's no real way to ask for that through traditional baby registries. That's where 3-year-old site BabyList comes in. There, you can put anything onto your registry from any store and you can add custom items such as used baby clothes, home-cooked meals, babysitting services and laundry help.
Hint Mama ( hintmama.com): This is a shameless plug, as Hint Mama is my 9-month-old site. There, I'm sharing daily hints to help make parenting easier and cheaper, including many hints focused on baby gear shopping tips, the gear to consider getting and the gear to skip. I also cover similar topics on this blog: Check out my list of 12 baby products that you should skip.
To be sure, there are many more sites out there that can help soon-to-be and new parents gain the necessary information to make smart, and money saving, baby gear decisions and purchases. What sites would you add to this list and why?
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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