Updated: How to Save Big on Safer Sunscreens [Plus Current Deals]

I’ve updated this popular BC post for 2014.

We’re approaching the sunniest season (yay!), and many of us will be buying sunscreen for our tots. Safer sunscreens for babies and kids can be pricey, though. Here’s a little help minimizing costs:

Prices on safer sunscreens tend not to vary too much over the course of a year. Unfortunately, some of the best prices on these products sometimes occur when few people are buying them– during the colder months. With a little luck, though, you should be able to save 20% or so off list price and even more if you’re lucky.

More Savings Tips

  • Watch for vouchers on sites like Groupon, Plum District and Living Social.
  • Scout for daily deals on sunscreens at sites like BabySteals and BabyHalfOff.
  • Sunscreen may be an allowed FSA expense. Check the details of your plan to find out.
  • Watch for site-wide sales and coupons at CVS.com, Walgreens.com and others.
  • Look for “Save when you join our mailing list” offers to save up to 20% or so.
  • Follow the brands’ Facebook pages for the scoop on sales and deals.
Online Retailers to Check

Amazon | Vitacost | The Vitamin Shoppe | Lovely Skin | Green Cupboards | Lucky Vitamin | Vitamins.org | Drugstore.com | Abe’s Market

Tip: Follow their Facebook pages or sign up for emails to be notified of sales and coupons.

The Sunscreens

How to Save on Safer Sunscreens | BabyCheapskate.com

All of the sunscreens below appear on SafeMama’s fabulous 2013 Safer Sunscreen Cheat Sheet (look for the 2014 list to be posted in a month or so). I chose the 12 sunscreens for this list based on her reviews, on price per ounce, and on how easy they were to find online. Then I scoured the web to find the best deals currently.

To learn more about safer sunscreens and what makes them that way, do take a look at SafeMama’s list.

  • Badger Active SPF 30 for Kids Currently $15.99 ( $5.51/oz) at Walgreens.com.
  • Badger Baby Sunscreen, Chamomile & Calendula, SPF 30+ Currently $13.59 ($4.68/oz.) at Drugstore.com
  • Badger Balm SPF 30+ Sunscreen All Season Face Stick Currently $7.23 ($12.05/oz) at The Vitamin Shoppe.
  • Elemental Herbs Kids Sunscreen 33 SPF Currently $13.99  ($4.66/oz) at Amazon.
  • TruKid Sunny Days Daily SPF 30  Currently $17.49 ($3.53/oz) at Amazon.
  • All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Spray Currently $9.10 ($3.03/oz) at Amazon.
  • The Honest Company – Honest Sunscreen SPF 30 Available at The Honest Company for $13.95 ($4.65/oz)
  • ThinkBaby (ThinkSport) SPF 50+ Sunscreen for Kids On sale for $13.99 ($4.43/oz) at Diapers.com.
  • Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30 Currently $15.96 ($5.32/oz) at Diapers.com
  • Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sports Stick Currently $8.39 ($13.98/oz) at Diapers.com
  • Dolphin Organics Mineral Sunscreen SPF 32 Currently $18.39 ($6.13/oz) at Abe’s Market with coupon code.
  • True Natural Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Baby & Family Currently $18 ($5.29/oz) at Amazon.

Have you tried any of these? What did you think?

Shopping Secrets: 17 Handy Websites for Bargain Hunting Parents [2014]

17 Handy Websites for Bargain Hunting ParentsI’ve been at this baby bargain hunting gig for a while, now–more than eight years in fact–and I’ve accumulated so many great resources that help me do job.

When it comes to scouting for bargains and deals on baby and kid gear, here are more than a dozen of my go-to websites:

Scouting for econd Hand Gear

There are a TON of buy-sell-trade groups on Facebook. Here are a bunch to check out. Also, find out if your neighborhood or town has a listserve where you can buy and sell items. Many do!

Finding Printable Coupons and Coupon Codes

  • Coupons.com – printable coupons for major brands (diapers, formula, more). Sort by category to make finding what you’re looking for easier.
  • Target.com/coupons – coupons to print and use at Target
  • RetailMeNot.com – online coupon codes. Printable coupons for retailers, too.
  • MamboSprouts.com - coupons for organic and healthy foods
  • RedPlum.com – the online version of the Red Plum newspaper coupon insert. Printable coupons.
  • SmartSource.com - the online version of the Red Plum newspaper coupon insert. Printable coupons.
  • Sunday Coupon Preview – find out what coupons you’ll find in the newspaper before you buy it.

Check the websites and Facebook pages of major baby brands for coupons, too! Join mailing lists for your favorite brands for the heads up on new coupons and sales.

Hunting for Bargains and Deals Online

  • CamelCamelCamel.com – Lets you track and compare sale prices at Amazon.
  • SlickDeals.net - giant message-board style site with categories for deals on just about everything
  • Patroneer.com – view promotional emails from stores like Gap, Target, and others all in one place
  • Yipit.com – gathers the best flash sale and daily deals for your town from Groupon, LivingSocial and others.
  • NoBetterDeal.com – sells open box, discontinued, and returned items at a discount
  • FrogMama.com Clearance Section (used, recycled and “seconds” baby carriers)

Obviously, there are a bajillion blogs–including this one–that I could have pointed you to as well. To keep it simple, I decided to stick with websites instead.

What sites help you find deals on baby and kid stuff?

Shopping Secrets: Finding Baby Carriers at Big Discounts

Shopping Secrets: Finding Baby Carriers at Big DiscountsLooking to save big on a baby carrier? I’ve got a few ideas for you:

Retailers with Great Deals

A fan’s post on the Baby Cheapskate Facebook page reminded me of what a great resource Frogmama.com is for clearanced, gently used and returned baby carriers. Here’s a sampling from the current inventory:

  • Beco Butterfly (used): $75 (46% off)
  • Beco Gemini (returns and used): $85  (34% off)
  • Moby Wrap (used): $25 (49% off)
  • Boba (clearance): $80 (46% off)

Free shipping when you spend more than $100.

NoBetterDeal.com is another place to look. Take $5 off $20 there today only.

And don’t forget that AlbeeBaby.com has a great deal on an organic ErgoBaby carrier right now.

Buy, Sell Trade Groups

For gently used carriers, don’t forget the babywearing swap groups on Facebook and other B/S/T groups there:

They also come up from time to time on BC’s own B/S/T group, which boasts over 3,000 members.

And finally, the forums at BabyWearer.com are worth checking out, too. Registration is required.

Know of any other great sources of discounted baby carriers? Let us know!

5 Tips for Saving Big at Disney [Guest Post]

This guest post on saving at Disney comes to you from longtime Baby Cheapskate reader Danielle.
Going to Disney? Try using these 5 tips to save money!

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 10.53.48 AMUse a travel agent

How does using a travel agent save money? Most travel agents work for free to the client (Disney pays them a commission). A travel agent can assist you with finding the best deals for your family, helping book dining reservations and giving invaluable tips on how to save money while inside the parks. If time is money, this will save you the MOST!

There may be extra perks, too. For example, our agency also gives a small thank you gift for booking with us as well as $25 for every family you refer to us that books a package. That money helps a ton!

Bring a cooler

Bring a cooler on your trip. Not a huge, hard Coleman on wheels, but a nice-sized soft cooler. Pack sodas, snacks and necessities. I always bring about 6 Diet Cokes, some sliced cheese and pretzels, gummies and sandwiches. YES, you can bring food in. Feel free to splurge on a character meal, if you’ve saved on lunch!

Choose the right character meal for your family

An agent can really help pinpoint times and a restaurant for you but it’s good to know what to choose. Breakfast is going to be the cheapest meal. Can’t afford eating at Cinderella’s Castle? Try Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot.

Eating a nice character meal late in the morning saves a meal since no one will be hungry at lunch time. Instead, eat the snacks you’ve packed when the kids get hungry in the afternoon.

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 10.55.14 AMChoose the right food off the menu

Order off the kid’s menu. This seems like an odd tip, but a kid’s meal comes with the main protein plus two sides and a drink. I always switch out the grapes and applesauce with French Fries and a cookie and a soda instead of a milk or juice.

Kid’s meals cost about $6, whereas an adult meal is at least $8 without a drink. Save that extra $3-$4 and grab an ice cream or a souvenir instead!

Bonus Tip: Did you know that you can grab ice water for FREE anywhere fountain sodas are sold? Just walk up and ask! Bottled water is about $2 a pop, so this could be a huge savings for your family.

Bring a stroller

Renting a single stroller is $15 a day and a double stroller is $31, so bringing your own can save you at least $75- $200. There are numerous advantages to having a stroller, even for slightly older kids. We keep our raincoats, cooler and “lovies” inside. It’s also a great place to store your drinks while you are on a ride.

Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 10.56.29 AMBonus Tip: bring in a balloon to tie on your stroller so you can always find it! Cast members re-arrange and organize strollers all the time.

For a free quote in planning the vacation of your dreams, contact Danielle at Danielle at magicalmemoryplanners.com

Early Shopper’s Guide to Holiday Savings: 10 Tips to Help You Save Big in 2013

Early Shopper’s Guide to Holiday Savings: 10 Tips to Help You Save Big in 2013You-know-what is just over two months away, and Black Friday is a month from Tuesday. Some of you have already started your shopping, and I’ll bet there are a few of you who have already wrapped it up (you overachievers, you!)

Here are a few of my best tips for saving on gifts for kids:

1. Kids don’t need lots of toys. As parents, we want to shower them with goodies, but it’s sooo not necessary. If you feel like you might be overdoing it, you probably are. Also, kids could care less if an item’s gently used, so check kiddie consignment stores, BC’s Facebook B/S/T group, Craigslist and Freecycle for big savings. Inspect used toys carefully and check for recalls.

And keep in mind that when you finish your shopping early, it’s VERY tempting to succumb to great deals that pop up and end up buying more than you should. Be strong!

2. Familiarize yourself with Baby Cheapskate’s List of Toys that Get Played With before you shop. These lists are compiled from hundreds of parents’ tips about what toys captured and kept their kids’ interest long after the decorations came down. The first four are updated for 2013, and I’m in the process of updating the rest.

Browse BC’s Toy category for more toy guides, many with buy-it-now prices.

3. Try to buy at 40% or more off list price. Sound like a lot? Many of last season’s most popular toys went to 50% off during the second week of December (still in plenty of time to arrive by December 25). Prices will drop, you can be sure, but how long you hold out before buying will depend on your tolerance for risk.

4. Black Friday (November 29 this year) will rock, especially for those of you who enjoy the sport of it. If you don’t no worries. You can expect plenty of other hot deals. Since BF is late this year, expect plenty of deals BEFORE the 29th. Toy deals usually peak toward the end of the first week of December. Expect sales to continue the pattern of starting a few days earlier each year. You may have seen a few “Cyber Sales” already.

5. Sometimes it pays to wait. You never really know when the best deal on the particular wish list item you’re looking for will surface, so don’t stress about it too much. Count on getting great deals through about a week before Christmas. Just be sure order by December 17 or so to be sure that gifts arrive by the big day. Expect many stores, including Target and Toys R Us, to offer free or cheap expediting shipping for last minute shoppers.

6. Clearance sales on winter clothing traditionally start late in the third week of December through right after Christmas day. Inventory will be best at this time, though the sales will continue long into January and perhaps through February, with the very deepest discounts at the end of the sales. Look for sales at The Children’s Place, Old Navy, Crazy 8, Gymboree, and more.

7. Use Facebook and Twitter to catch time-sensitive deals. Check for coupon codes and sale announcements on retailer’s Facebook pages. The same deals should also show up on Twitter.

8. Watch for Amazon Lightning Deals. Some of last year’s hottest toy deals showed up as limited-time steals at Amazon. You can access them at Amazon’s Today’s Deals page or on the Baby or Toys Department pages.

9. Other retailers–Hanes, Kohls, Overstock, Kmart, Target, and others–will most likely also offer Holiday Deals of the Day.

10. I’ll be posting the hottest toy, baby gear and clothing deals here several times daily here on Baby Cheapskate. Make sure you’ve Liked BC on Facebook to be notified of posts as soon as they go up and to catch lots of deals that you won’t even find on the blog.

Readers: What are your best toy shopping tips?

Registry 101: 10 Baby “Needs” worth Registering For

Registry 101: 10 Baby “Needs” worth Registering ForRegistries and baby showers can help parents cut the cost of preparing for baby dramatically— if you know how to do it right. With a little strategizing your registry can be a real money-saving tool.

My best tip for creating a registry is to focus on the items you know you’ll need–especially items that you don’t think you’ll be getting for free or purchasing second-hand.

By registering for essentials, you won’t be stuck handing over money for items you can’t live without while you have a closetful of adorable newborn clothes that will be outgrown in two weeks and rattles that your baby may or may not ever give a shake about. Here are more suggestions for your registry:

Registry 101: 10 Baby “Needs” worth Registering For10 Baby “Needs” worth Registering For:

  • Crib
  • Crib Mattress
  • Crib Bedding
  • Diapers (cloth or disposable) / wipes
  • Formula (if you plan to use it)
  • Breast pump (if not covered by your health insurance)
  • Bottles
  • Disposable or washable breast pads
  • Car seat
  • Baby thermometer
Where to Register?

When deciding where to register, look for a store with a great selection, low prices, a generous return policy, and free shipping (if online).

Baby Cheapskate readers are big fans of Amazon.com’s Universal Registry, which lets you add items from any retailer in addition to Amazon’s items. Amazon also lets you prioritize items on your registry–a super helpful feature.

Right now there’s a little extra incentive to create a registry at Amazon: If you create a registry at Amazon and add ten items, you’ll be entered to win a $500 Amazon gift card in the Amazon Baby Registry Sweepstakes. One winner will be chosen each week.

In the next Registry 101 post, I’ll discuss baby gear “extras” that make fab additions to your baby registry. In the meantime, browse  a bunch of BC readers’  top registry picks over at Pinterest.

Shopping Secrets: How to Find Printable Coupons on Facebook

There are tons of printable coupons on Facebook, but exactly how do you find them?

One way is to make an interest list with your favorite retailers and scan the feed to see what pops up.

Or, you could check The Savvy Squirrel, which has a whole category devoted to them. The latest list, updated 2/19, features baby and kid-related coupons for Ella’s Kitchen 100% Organic Products, Happy Tot or Happy Baby Pouches, Munchkin Clip Lock Cup, TAG Reading System and lots more. Other sites list them, too, but The Savvy Squirrel is the only one I’ve seen that makes a big list of them organized by category.

Stretching a Buck, The Krazy Coupon LadyFree Coupon Alerts, Expanded Ramblings, True Couponing and Fabulessly Frugal also have categories for Facebook coupons. Bookmark them!

Do you know of any other sites that list Facebook coupons? Let us know!

Related: 19 Baby Swap & B/S/T Groups to Check Out on Facebook

Read more Shopping Secrets posts

30+ Baby Swap & B/S/T Groups to Check Out on Facebook

As I’ve said many times before, budget savvy parents can save big bucks buying second hand. One of the newest ways to do so is through trading groups on Facebook.

I’ve included the most popular groups I can find on the list below. I can’t vouch for the activity level or membership restrictions for the closed groups, though, as one can’t see the posts without joining.

Tip: Always read and abide by group guidelines.

Brand Specific Groups

Babywearing

Clothing or Shoes Only

Cloth Diapers

Other

There are many other groups to discover than aren’t on the list as well. To find them, try a Facebook search for b/s/t, bst, and/or baby swap. Add the name of your city and you’ll probably turn up some local groups, too. You can also turn up a bunch by Googling.

To learn more about how to save with second-hand baby items, check out my book, The Baby Cheapskate Guide to Bargains.

The ABCs of Affording Preschool [Updated]

The preschool application process for kids three to five is quite an eye opener for many parents. If you’re like me, you had no idea that getting your child into her first preschool program could be just about as involved as applying to college. Enjoy this updated article about how to afford tuition more easily.

When to Start Looking

In many areas, the demand for preschool outpaces supply, so it pays to start your research early. I’ve heard stories of some parents putting their children on the preschool waiting list before they were born! Hopefully things won’t be so extreme in your town. Still, it’s smart to start researching preschools a year ahead and plan on touring schools and submitting applications at the beginning of the year in which you’d like your child to start. Most schools offer open houses and enrollment periods as early as January.

How Much?

Accompanying the question of how to get your child into a good program (for most of us anyway), is the equally important consideration of how you’ll afford it.

A recent survey of Parents magazine readers who use child care reveals that 84 percent of surveyed parents feel that finding affordable, quality care is either a challenge, very hard, or impossible. And yet despite the challenge of finding affordable care “only about 23 percent of moms and 3 percent of dads stay home full-time with their kids.”

It’s no wonder parents have a hard time. Preschool tuition costs generally run anywhere from about $250 to $1000 per month. That’s $3000 to $12,000 a year. Yikes! That price varies wildly according to your region, the type of preschool and the number of hours per week your child will attend.

Some types of childcare tend to be more affordable than others. Church-based preschools are some of the most affordable schools around. Whereas a local Montessori school in my area charged around $1000 a month, the church-based school we loved charged less than $300. Co-ops tend to be more affordable, too, but require a time commitment from parents. Even if your school’s not a co-op, see if you can work off a portion of your tuition by spending a few hours per week at the school.

The cost of full time care for a pre-K kiddo in my state (Georgia) is around $500 a month. You can find out average childcare expenses in your state here (.pdf) Note: The cost may be more manageable if you can pay in installments. Look for a school that lets you pay monthly rather than asking for a year’s tuition up front or in two payments.

Important Questions for Potential Schools

Schools are pretty upfront about how much they charge. Still, there are a few crucial questions you should ask potential schools before you make any committments. They’ll help you avoid sticker shock later.

  • Ask about scholarships and tuition assistance.
  • Ask if you can get a discount when you enroll more than one child at a time.
  • Ask about activity and materials fees and any other fees beyond tuition that you’ll be asked to pay.
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BC’s Baby Bouncer and Rocker Buying Guide [Plus Buy-It-Now Prices]

Though I’d stop short of calling them a necessity, baby bouncers and rockers can be a handy place for baby to hang out with the rest of the family or catch a few ZZZs. Prices range dramatically, starting at under $25 for a basic model and topping out over $200 for a sleek european model. As with swings, Fisher-Price models are the top sellers.

With the exception of a couple of models listed here that convert to toddler rockers, babies will only use bouncers and rockers until they’re about 25 lbs. (sometime around a year old for many babies). and will probably enjoy using it for far less time than that– another great reason to do some serious bargain hunting.

Wait for a great sale (30% off or more) or try to find a gently used one at your local kiddie consignment shop, on Craigslist, or at a yard sale or consignment sale. A quick check of my local Craigslist board today reveals several gently used bouncers from $10. Just remember to check for recalls before you buy.

When choosing a model, look for non-skid feet, good bouncing/rocking/gliding action, and a three point harness. Popular extras include vibration, music, lights and toy bars.

Top Bouncers and Rockers

Here’s a rundown of the most popular and highly rated baby bouncers and rockers out there. I’ve linked to the items at Amazon so that you can learn more and read reviews.

Note: “Buy It Now” (BIN) prices are what I consider “very good” prices on the item. They’re the best sale prices you can expect to find fairly regularly, based on records of previous sales. Don’t confuse these with the “lowest price ever” price. You may be able to  beat this price if you happen onto a unusually great sale.

Fisher-Price Infant To Toddler Rocker. Grows with your child. Infant seat converts to toddler rocker for use up to 40 lbs. List price: $49.99. BIN = $35 to $40, depending on model.

Newborn Rock n’ Play Sleeper. List price: BIN = $40. This item has been recalled and is currently unavailable. I expect it to be available for sale again soon.

Fisher-Price Bouncer (My Little Snugabunny Bouncer, Rainforest, Luv U Zoo, etc.). Basic bouncer with vibration. List price: $39.99. to $44.99. BIN = $34 to $36, depending on model.

Tiny Love 3 in 1 Rocker Napper. Three reclining positions. Converts from baby seat to napper. Later converts to rocker for use up to 40 lbs. List price: $99.99. BIN = $73

Fisher-Price Soothing Motions Bouncer. Motorized bouncer glides front to back or side to side. Two gliding speeds. Seat rotates 360 degrees. List price: $99.99. BIN – $75

Baby Bjorn Babysitter Balance: Three seat positions for play, rest and sleep. Stylish, but pricey. List price $189.95. BIN: $127

Tiny Love Gymini Bouncer: Features adjustable arches, lights and vibrations. Two reclining positions. List price: $54.99 BIN = $42.50

Bright Starts Bouncer (budget buy). Vibrates. 3-point harness. List price: $24.99. BIN – $22.49

4Moms Mamaroo Classic. Similar in motion to the Sweetpeace, the Mamaroo bounces up and down and sways from side to side. mp3 jack. Plug in only. BIN = $197

Related: BC’s Baby Swing Buying Guide [Plus Buy-It-Now Prices]