Are You Spending Too Much Money on Baby Gear?

Did you waste $57 today? I hope not. Unfortunately, so many new parents pay much more than they have to for baby products, because they don't know the secrets the insiders know.

Remember, just because you shop at so-called discount stores doesn't mean you'll get the lowest prices. The same is true for warehouse stores and online auction sites.

Even coupons that seem like great deals aren't always a bargain. For example, one online retailer recently offered a promotion where you could buy one board game and get one free. But the games cost twice what they cost at a competitor. So it wasn't really a deal at all.

What's a bargain-hunting parent to do? It helps if you can find someone who's done some research for you.

The Shopping Mom to the Rescue!

In an attempt to do a scientific, apples-to-apples comparison, I recently conducted a price test of six popular baby product web sites. I purchased a basket of common baby products from each site.

All of the sites I chose were well-established businesses, with reliable customer service, and a good selection of products. Many offered extra services, like reader reviews, shopping checklists and helpful tips. The sites were:

1. BabyCenter (http://www.babycenter.com)

2. Babies R Us (http://www.babiesrus.com)

3. Baby Universe (http://www.babyuniverse.com)

4. Baby Catalog (http://www.babycatalog.com)

5. Shopping.com (http://www.shopping.com)

6. Target.com (http://www.target.com)

Shopping.com isn't a retailer. It's a comparison shopping service. But I included it because it's supposed to be able to find you the best deals online. I wanted to see if it lived up to its promise.

The Results

Remember the $57 I talked about wasting earlier? That was the difference in total cost between the cheapest site I shopped and the most expensive. A pretty hefty chunk of change, considering my basket had just four items:

1. A Britax Roundabout car seat in Denim (the price can differ depending on the pattern)

2. The First Years On the Go booster seat

3. An Avent newborn starter set

4. A Boppy

I used my address in Maryland to calculate shipping and tax. Obviously, the cost to you will vary, depending on where you live.

And the Winner Is...

Coming in at a lean, mean $255.55: Baby Catalog offered the best deals. And this didn't include the extra discount you get by signing up for their Baby Club of America.

Shopping.com came in a close second at $257.34, making it a worthwhile stop for anyone in the market for baby gear. Plus, Shopping.com is integrated with Epinions.com, so you can get product reviews right there. I also liked the fact that Shopping.com calculated the total cost, including shipping and tax, in advance.

Baby Universe came in at $263.91. But keep in mind that Baby Universe offers a flat shipping rate of $6.95, no matter how many products you buy. So the more you buy, the better deal this site is.

Babies R Us was the most expensive, at $312.97, followed by Target at $300.74, and BabyCenter at $285.06. Interestingly, both Babies R Us and Target are under the Amazon.com umbrella, which means you should always comparison shop among the different stores on the Amazon site.

Keep in mind, too, that all of these retailers offer coupons and special deals from time to time. So it always pays to shop around.

(c) Stephanie Gallagher. All rights reserved.

Stephanie Gallagher reveals her closely-guarded shopping secrets in her ezine, The Shopping Mom's Weekly Tip. Click here to get the eCookbooks Recipe Sampler Cookbook as a special gift when you subscribe: mailto: [email protected]

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