Your baby started forming taste buds when you were eight weeks pregnant, but how much are you willing to pay to stimulate them now that he's here? Like any good parent, you care about his nutrition, but if you decided not to breastfeed, you could end up spending about $1,500 the first year on formula.
Formula has always cost a lot, except for during the 1920s when moms substituted evaporated milk for breast milk. (We don't recommend this and, seriously, nobody does anymore.) Your least expensive option is powdered formula, which costs about 15 cents per ounce less than ready-to-feed formula, which pours right into a bottle. Ready-to-feed is really convenient, but 15 cents extra four or five times a day for a year really adds up. That's a couple hundred extra bucks. Hypoallergenic and soy-based formula cost even more.
But relief abounds. There are several ways to save money on formula.
A Formula to Save on Formula
Don't you hate people who hold up checkout lines with a stack of coupons? We do too -- when it's not us. You can stack coupons -- meaning use a store coupon plus a manufacturer's -- and wind up getting two or three discounts on a single item, depending on the store policy. Brands like Enfamil and Similac frequently send e-mails with discounts, coupons and even free samples to moms (and dads!) who register on their Web sites. Consider also joining a mom's club or just gathering friends to see who's ready to trade coupons and unopened products.
Where you shop matters, too. Did you know that shopping at mass merchandisers, like Costco or Sam's Club can save you about 16 percent over formula sold in supermarkets? Local grocery stores sometimes have deals too, but don't drop a dime in drugstores: Formula there costs 19 percent more on average than formula sold in supermarkets! Check out Web sites like Amazon, Nextag and Target, too. You can get bulk prices, big variety and free shipping. (We do recommend buying wisely in bulk, as formula expires.)
We'll also bet your little one can't differentiate between a store brand and an expensive name brand formula, so buy generic. The Food and Drug Administration regulates all baby formula strictly, so if it's on the shelves, it's game.
Finally, depending on your income, you might qualify for the government's Women, Infants, and Children program. Participants receive vouchers or debit cards that can be used for buying infant formula.
While the cost of formula can seem high, remember it won't last forever. In about a year, your baby will be on to solid food. After that, you shouldn't have to worry about budgeting for his food -- until he enters teenhood.