You hear it everywhere: “Breast is best!” While there is no doubt that breastmilk is the best nourishment a mother can provide for her baby, there are many legitimate reasons why well-meaning moms will need to buy formula. I was one of those moms.
I was disappointed, even depressed, when I realized that I would have to switch my first son to formula after trying so hard to make nursing work. I felt like I had failed, I worried that I would negatively impact my baby’s health, and I was afraid that the bond between us would be affected. Worse yet, I had no idea how we would pay for it!
How to Save Money on Baby Formula
Like many families, we were above the cutoff to qualify for WIC, but we were just making ends meet with every paycheck. I had rather naively thought that breastfeeding involved simply a decision and determination. In all the figuring and budgeting I had done to decide whether I could afford to stay at home full-time, it had not occurred to me to consider the $1,000+ per year that formula would cost.
Things went from bad to worse when our pediatrician told us our son would require hypoallergenic formula, which cost almost double the price of regular formula. Happily, the expensive formula helped my baby feel better, which made life a lot easier for everyone. The extra cost was worth it.
Along the way I have looked for ways to save money on baby formula, and fortunately I have rarely paid full retail price for the formula I’ve purchased. Here are some tips to help you save money on formula, because every little bit counts when you have baby expenses to worry about!
Formula manufacturers offer special programs on their websites to help parents save money on formula with newsletters, formula checks, and even free baby formula samples. I didn’t know what a formula check was when I first saw one, but now I anxiously wait for the next one to come in the mail. Consumers use them like coupons, while the retailer processes them as checks. The good thing about this is that shoppers can combine the checks with coupons to get an even greater discount. Similac typically sends out $5.00 checks, while I have seen checks ranging from $1.00 to $7.00 from Enfamil.
Many moms save up checks for a brand they don’t use, so that they can trade with other moms for the brand they do use. This is becoming a problem for some, however; manufacturers have started printing the mother’s name on the checks, and some retailers have been known to “card” purchasers to make sure they own the check. I think it’s an awful practice which inconveniences moms who might send dad or someone else to the store at a particularly busy time…but blame it on the people who produce counterfeit checks.
You can also have other people sign up for the discount programs in order to reap rewards for you, but as before, the name issue might be a problem. A workaround is to have them purchase the formula with their checks, and then reimburse them.
Finally, you can often find formula checks for purchase on eBay. I won’t buy them for a couple of reasons. First, it violates the manufacturer’s policy printed directly on the check. Second, it encourages the sellers to profit from something they did not pay for themselves, and to take advantage of moms. I personally give my unused coupons to friends or family who I know will use them.
Baby formula coupons
Baby formula coupons are becoming increasingly available and can be found in a variety of places. Look for formula coupons in Sunday newspaper inserts, online at websites like Coupons.com, Smartsource.com and RedPlum.com, or attached to baby formula samples.
Like formula checks, manufacturers will also send baby formula coupons if you sign up for their special programs. For example, I receive e-mails from the Enfamil Family Beginnings program that frequently include printable baby formula coupons for as much as $4 off a large container.
Free baby formula samples
When my doctor recommended that I switch to formula for my baby, the nurse stocked me up with baby bottles and enough formula to last me a few weeks. Doctors offices are often inundated with samples from companies that hope they will recommend their products.
Hypoallergenic and other specialty formulas are harder to come by, but it never hurts to ask! I also received numerous baby formula samples (along with free diaper bags and literature) during my stay in the hospital. Fortunately I kept it even though I was certain I was going to breastfeed. I was able to use some of it, and I gave the formula brands I didn’t use to a relative.
Compare formula prices
Make sure you check all your local retailers for the best price on your formula — baby formula prices can vary wildly. While conventional wisdom holds that grocery stores are no place to find baby bargains, it turned out that the supermarket I frequent carries Nutramigen for a full dollar less than my local Walmart. As an added benefit, the cash register automatically generates coupons based on my purchasing habits, and every once in a while I get one for $5.00 off two cans of formula, if I purchase it at that store.
Target frequently has baby formula on sale, and they occasionally send out $2.00 store coupons. The long drive to my nearest Target makes it inconvenient to shop there regularly, but I stock up if they have a good sale and I’m out there anyway.
Finally, be sure to search online. Although I haven’t found individual cans for cheaper than I can buy them at my supermarket, I keep an eye out for online sales and coupons. For example, Drugstore.com offers occasional 20% off anything sales, along with free shipping with a minimum purchase — this is a great way to save money on formula and other baby items that rarely go on sale.
Buy baby formula in bulk
Buying baby formula in bulk is one of the best ways to save money. Check your local Sam’s Club, BJ’s or other wholesale club to price out formula (most will allow you to enter as a guest to scope out their deals). One caveat is that the clubs tend to carry only the most commonly used formula brands and types (though you can request an item at Sams Club, which has worked for me). The cost savings will more than make up for the club’s membership fee, and the larger cans mean you will need to stock up less often.
You can also order formula by the case online. Many warehouse clubs offer online shopping, but you can also purchase larger shipments of baby formula online from regular stores like Target, Walmart or Amazon.
Finally, many moms swear by eBay for purchasing formula by the case or can for significantly less than retail price. I prefer to stick with reputable companies rather than individual sellers when it comes to feeding my baby, to ensure that the formula has been stored and handled properly.
Buy baby formula on Amazon.com
Amazon has come a long way since my oldest son was a baby, and now the Amazon Mom program combined with Subscribe & Save is my favorite way to get the formula I need for baby two.
Amazon Mom is open to anyone–not just moms! By signing up you can receive 20% off diapers and wipe subscriptions, and a 3-month free Amazon Prime membership (which gives you free two-day shipping). Even though formula isn’t automatically discounted 20%, Subscribe & Save purchases are discounted by 5%, and Amazon Mom members can earn an additional 15% off if they subscribe to 5 total items being delivered in the same month. So, if you subscribe to formula and four other items, you can save 20% off everything.
What is Subscribe & Save? It’s a program that allows consumers to have certain products delivered automatically at an interval of their choosing (at least once a month). Subscriptions can be cancelled at any time, so there is no commitment to worry about.
I subscribe to my son’s formula, then hunt around the Amazon Subscribe & Save store for four other inexpensive items (costing $3 or less each) to earn 20% off everything in my order. The formula savings pays for the other four items, and I still come out ahead of store prices. Read more about how to save 20% with Subscribe and Save.
Skip convenience products
Unless your baby is a preemie or has a sensitive immune system, you don’t need to use liquid “ready to eat” or condensed baby formulas. You can save a lot of money by simply using powdered baby formula instead! It’s a little less convenient, but the savings more than make up for the small amount of added work.
There are all kinds of convenience products out there that may make life easier; from pre-packaged 4-ounce servings of formula powder to “nursette” bottles that allow you to just screw on a nipple and go. They’re great, but you pay the price.
If I’m planning a day out, I pre-measure scoops of formula into plastic snack bags, then pack bottles filled with pre-measured water (or I buy a bottle of spring water on the road). There are plenty of formula powder dispensers on the market that will do the trick, too.
Does insurance pay for formula?
If your baby requires a specialty formula for medical reasons, your health insurance may cover the cost after your doctor provides a prescription. I wasn’t so lucky when I inquired with my company, but the representative told me that some health plans do cover baby formula and I’ve found many moms online who enjoy this benefit.
Be sure to ask your insurance provider before you buy.
Try generic store brand formula
Many moms and even some doctors tout generic or store-brand formulas as an excellent way to save money while providing the same nutrition that name brands offer. I have tried store brand formula for my baby, and won’t buy it ever again. However, if your baby has no health or food-related problems, generics may be a good money-saving option for you.
I hope these tips will help you to bear the cost of formula a little bit easier. It’s so difficult to face unexpected expenses, but I always keep in mind that my baby will need formula only for a year. A happy and healthy baby is worth whatever price I have to pay.
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