Wipes warmers and baby skinny jeans are among the items that parents can skip, Murkoff adds. "If babies were meant to wear skinny jeans, they would have skinny legs," she says.
The good news for parents is that the Agriculture Department also found that the more children a family has, the less they cost. That's largely because children share bedrooms, clothes, and toys, and families can also qualify for sibling discounts at schools and childcare centers.
Thornberg says that in her own family, that pattern held true: When her oldest daughter was born, she had a designer nursery, many baby toys, and dresses for every occasion. Then, by the time her fourth child was born, she and her husband realized how little the baby really needed. She didn't buy any baby shoes, since babies don't walk, and all of his toys and clothes came from his older brother. "His entire nursery was done for under $500, whereas we spent $400 just on baby bedding for our first child," she says.
Vanderkam, the mother of three, says those cost-savings are also born out of necessity. "Most people don't get raises when they bring another kid home from the hospital. There simply isn't enough additional disposable income to keep spending the same amount per child as you would on one," she says. Plus, she adds, there's no evidence younger siblings suffer as a result.
Says Vanderkam, "That seems to suggest that what we spend on kids matters less than we probably think."