When you have a baby, people start sharing all kinds of opinions. “Diapers cost a fortune!” “Just wait until they are crawling!” “Prepare to do a lot of laundry.” “You’re going to quit working, right? It’s the only way to stay sane.”
None of these unsolicited gems bothered me when I was pregnant with my twins, mostly because the people sharing them didn’t have kids.
And then one day, a close friend and fellow mom of twins said, “Breastfeed, it’s so much cheaper. And if you can’t breastfeed, switch them to generic formula as quickly as you can. WalMart has formula for about $0.24 an ounce, and Enfamil is nearly $1.00 an ounce.”
I was baffled. Could formula really cost so much that the only way to get it without breaking the savings account was to switch to a generic brand?
As every mom knows, sometimes you simply can’t breastfeed. Whether it’s because of mastitis, a low milk supply, a preemie that needs a feeding tube, or an infant with severe allergies and sensitivities, the list for why breastfeeding might not work for your family is long. However, just because this “free food” supply doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean you have to break the bank on formula or switch to generic.
After speaking with other moms of both single children and multiples about how they afford formula, I learned these five simple hacks to getting brand-name formula at a much lower cost. Before I started using these tricks, I was spending between $63 and $77 every five days or so on formula powder. Now, it averages about $36 every seven days, if not less.
My boys are on the Enfamil Newborn formula, so my experience focuses on that brand. Every formula is different and every baby is different -- the amount your baby eats is also a huge factor in determining how much you spend on formula! However, I’ve found these tricks work with Enfamil Newborn, Infant, Gentlease and AR. Since Enfamil and Similac are basically the Coke and Pepsi of the baby world, these strategies will likely work for Similac options as well, though the costs may not be exactly the same.
Ready to learn how to save money on brand-name formula?
Be shameless. Every single time we’re at the doctor’s office, I ask for formula samples.
Asking used to make me feel a little uncomfortable, because I felt like I was being pushy. But then I thought about it this way: I’m paying a $35 co-pay, so tossing me a can or two shouldn’t be something to worry about.
When I mentioned my concerns to a nurse friend, she told me that’s why the samples are there -- the product reps bring samples to the doctor’s office specifically so the staff can hand them out, so I shouldn’t worry about asking for one or two. Plus, the staff are busy, and if you don’t ask, they won’t always remember to give you a can.
Bottom line? Ask for your free samples!
Sometimes the doctor will do this for you, but you may need to do it yourself. Check your brand’s website to see their process. After signing up with Enfamil, I receive emailed coupons about once a month that range from $3 off to $5 off.
Make sure to sign up with all of your email addresses. I work full time, as does my husband, so we’ve got four email addresses between us, and each one is signed up for the Enfamil Family Beginnings program. That way, we maximize the number of coupons we can put toward our formula purchases.
Here’s an example of when this strategy comes in handy: When Babies ‘R’ Us runs its “buy two, save $8” deal on powder refills, you can use two manufacturer’s coupons. Buy four refill boxes using two coupons, and you’ll save $16.
Editor's note: We just got an email that the Honest Company is giving out free trials of formula this month. Check them out here.
I try to buy everything my kids need at Babies ‘R’ Us using my Rewards R Us card -- not the credit card, but the free reward card. For every $125 I spend at the store, I get a $5 reward at the end of the month. It’s not much, but when you’re buying as much formula as I am, it adds up.
Once you sign up with your brand, they will often mail you samples as free gifts. These are usually a one-time deal, unfortunately, but sometimes your doctor will give you a flyer with an special code for additional free gifts.
The codes are different than the program you signed up for on the brand’s website; they’re only available from your OB, hospital or pediatrician. When you call with your code, they will ask for your email to sign you up for the program.
If you can, use a different phone each time you call with a different code. I learned the hard way that the companies track the phone numbers! However, the representatives are usually very kind and since you do have a valid free gift code, will send you a sample even though they aren’t supposed to.
Are you a parent of multiples? Make sure your nurse registers you for the multiple birth plan with your brand. In our case with Enfamil, all the nurse had to do was fax in a form and we got a set of six large cans.
Look at the Facebook garage sale or trading groups in your area. Our town actually has both a general garage sale group and one specifically for baby- and kid-related items.
People get a lot of coupons in the mail, and many will also receive formula samples from brands they don’t use. In my area, many of these parents post their coupons and samples in the Facebook group. Some want to sell their items for a small price, but often, people just want them to go to someone who needs them.
I always try to offer some money in exchange for a free sample or coupon. If the fellow mom doesn’t want it, I always write a nice note and toss in a small Starbucks gift card -- every mom needs a pick me up! I also try to “pay it forward” by posting my own extra coupons and free samples.
This strategy just occurred to me recently, and I wish I had been doing it longer. Quite often, Publix will put formula on sale and also offer a “Publix coupon” for it, either in its weekly circular or as part of the Publix Baby Club. (Sign up for the club as soon as you can -- it’s just a simple card you fill out and mail in, and you’ll get coupons sent straight to your email.)
While this is already a good deal, Publix will also allow you to use a manufacturer’s coupon on top of their own coupon and the sale. Yes, it’s as great a deal as it sounds.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have a Publix in your area, you might be out of luck as I haven’t seen this offer emulated by many other retailers. For example, we also have a Winn Dixie in our town, but beyond accepting the manufacturer’s coupons and allowing them when the formula is on sale, they do not have any additional discounts or coupons available.
Our specific Enfamil brand isn’t available at our Costco, but I have heard that some parents have success using the manufacturer’s coupons at Costco. Other moms have mentioned that they save money by signing up for Amazon Mom, but again, it all comes back to the specific brand and type of formula that your child needs, and where it’s available.
Your Turn: What tricks have you found to save money on brand-name formula?
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Jessica Johnson Anderson is a reader, writer, trade magazine editor and champagne and cupcake enthusiast. Recently, she added twin boy mom to that lineup, and is still trying to figure it all out; she blogs about her daily crazy at JJ’s Ways, and occasionally asks very relevant questions on Twitter (@JMJOHNSON4), like, “Why is Doc McStuffins so annoying?”