As parents, we want the very best for our children, but as KCLs, we also want the best for our wallet. Thankfully, a savvy couponer can have the best of both worlds. In an ideal world, every mother would be able to exclusively breastfeed her baby, but sometimes biology and real life complications make the ideal far from accessible. While formula may be necessary, it certainly isn't cheap — the average cost of baby formula is $1 per ounce! So what's a mama to do when faced with shelling out major bucks for baby's bottle? Here are seven tips to help you save on baby formula:
1. Take those samples
Pediatricians have a hidden secret: every week they are given cases of free formula samples to dispense to their patients. Sadly, since most moms and dads don't know this hidden treasure exists, those cans frequently pass their expiration date and get canned themselves! Ask your doctor's office to set aside formula samples for you. Trust me, the staff are happy to save themselves a trip to the dumpster and pass along the savings to you. Since most sample-sized cans are a generous 12.7 ounces, one sample canister can add up to an instant savings of over $10! My pediatrician's nurse actually begged me to take several formula samples, and I was happy to do it! Keep an eye out for high-value coupons on those cans — formula companies love brand loyal customers and are eager to keep you coming back.
2. Sign up for loyalty programs
Have you found a formula that works wonders for your little one? Use the customer service line on the back of the can to call the company and compliment them on their superior product. Most companies will gladly send you a few, high-value coupons for making the call and may even have a loyalty program that will send you continued savings by mail. Similac, Enfamil, Earth's Best Organic and Baby's Only all have programs in place to help you save on their products.
3. Work that guarantee
Formula is practically liquid gold. The cost of those cans can really add up, so don't pay for a product that doesn't work for you. We wouldn't think twice about returning a towel or doormat that didn't measure up, so why should the most valuable food in our cupboard be treated any differently? Every major retailer and most companies have a money-back guarantee on their products. If a formula didn't work for you, call the company and tell them about it. You may even be doing a public service — those calls are taken very seriously just in case something is seriously wrong with the batch you bought. I called a major brand after their formula gave my 3-month-old son major constipation. We had been using that brand his whole life, but that one occurrence was enough to have me switching teams. When I told that to the customer service representative, they sent me a replacement tub and coupons for free product. Don't have time for phone calls? Use social media to your advantage — companies’ Twitter and Facebook pages are carefully monitored, so you will probably get a response!
4. Use a clipping service or start a coupon swap
Sometimes it just takes a reminder to use old tricks in new ways. Formula clipping services are affordable and expedient ways to secure huge savings on infant formula, but don't forget the good old "coupon swap." I frequently save coupons for baby formula we don't use because I know my mom friends do. Ask your friends to keep an eye out for certain coupons and do the same for them — it's a great way to get coupons for free and create a built-in coupon swap/play date during the week.
5. Alternative options
When my baby became allergic to nearly every formula on the market, I was out of my mind with worry and about two seconds away from buying a goat. Luckily, my pediatrician saved me and my backyard from starring in "Little House on the Prairie: The Suburban Years" by suggesting I go the DIY route. Homemade infant formula recipes are often a saving grace for allergy-prone babes and also provide ample savings compared to store-bought formulas. Most DIY formulas call for a combination of goat's-milk powder, a medium-chain triglyceride like coconut oil, a source of carbohydrates like brown rice syrup or lactose and a vitamin and mineral supplement. Make sure you weigh in with your pediatrician before going the DIY route — babies need very specific ratios of fats, enzymes and proteins that are not found in regular milk, goat's milk or soy milk, so special additions will be required. Need a hand getting started? Print out sample DIY baby formula recipes from Mt. Capra or the Weston A. Price Foundation and give them to your child's doctor for review. Since every baby has unique nutritional requirements, the formula recipe that works well for one baby may not be right for another. Your pediatrician can help you find the perfect mix.
6. Claim it
While insurance is notoriously expensive, it is also widely under-used. If your baby has a medical necessity for specialized formula like lactose free, soy, or amino acid-based blends, your insurance may pick up the tab! Call your provider to find out what your plan covers and don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. Certain states have laws which require insurance companies to cover the costs of prescription formula. Find out if your state has similar legislation by checking this coverage map. If a prescription formula isn't a requirement for your little one, you may still be able to earmark funds in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) towards the purchase of baby formula. Your HR department can help you navigate the terms of your plan’s coverage.
7. Buy in bulk
Bulk buying isn't just for paper goods or salad dressings. Buying formula online by the case can drop the cost to less than 60 cents per ounce! Online retailers like Amazon make the deal even sweeter by offering "subscribe and save" incentives. And don't be fooled by the name — Diapers.com sells formula, too, and orders over $35 receive free two-day shipping. If you are leery of buying in bulk online, speak with your local pharmacy about purchasing a case of your trusted formula brand. Even without a prescription, pharmacies and medical supply companies are often able to pass along their savings to you. Our local pharmacy quoted me a case of brand-name formula for less than I could buy off the shelf.
This is a guest post by Vanessa from Dallas, TX
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!