NEW YORK (Money Magazine) - Got kids? If yes, we'll tell you where to find discounts on everything from diapers to child care. Do you wear clothes? We'll tell you how to time the clothing discount cycle. Got hair? We can save you money on your next hair cut.
Oh Canada - Superstores like Babies "R" Us and BuyBuyBaby provide one-stop convenience but few deals on price. So for big-ticket items like cribs, dressers and rocker-gliders, think Canada, where it is cheaper to produce wood products.
If you live far from the border, try Canadian-based shopping sites like forevermine.com or goodnightben.com. Alan Fields, author of Baby Bargains, says their prices run 20 percent to 40 percent lower than their U.S. counterparts, even with shipping.
Just like cars - If it's a stroller you're after, buy last year's model at 50 percent off whenever new ones roll in -- the updated version often offers nothing new besides colors.
Get it wholesale - As for those other necessities, like the 2,400 diapers in Year One, wholesale clubs offer the best deals. Sam's Club, Costco and the like sell diapers and infant formula for 30 percent to 40 percent less than grocery stores do, though they won't always have certain sizes and brands.
Recently, Costco and Sam's Club have begun selling baby clothes too. Costco has all-cotton outfits and jammies for $7 to $10 -- cheaper than what's on sale at the Gap, but comparable to Old Navy.
Smart day care discounts - Parents spend an average of 9 percent of their income on child care, according to the Urban Institute. No wonder they're desperate for a deal.
Setting up a dependent-care spending account through your employer (90 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies offer workers this benefit, according to a recent survey) allows you to set aside pretax dollars for day care, which can save you as much as 35 percent, depending on your marginal tax rate.
Or join Women and Company, Citigroup's financial services program for women, for $125 a year, and you'll net a 10 percent discount with Childtime and Tutor Time, which run centers in a total of 29 states.
Dit "au pair", mon ami - Your least expensive option for one-on-one care may be an au pair. An agency matches you with an 18-to 26-year-old English speaker from overseas, who cares for your children in exchange for room, board and a weekly stipend of about $140, plus $6,000 in agency fees.
The total tab for an au pair can be 25 percent to 60 percent cheaper than a live-in nanny (but 50 percent more expensive than day care). The downside: She leaves after a year. Check out Au Pair in America, the nation's oldest such nanny agency.
The 9-week plan - Timing is everything when it comes to getting a discount, says personal shopper Melissa Sexter, who works the New York City area. Department stores traditionally start marking down merchandise after nine weeks on the shelves.
The 10-week plan - In chains like the Gap and Club Monaco, which tend to bring in new merchandise each month, first markdowns -- of 20 percent to 30 percent -- come at the four-week mark. "If you really want an item, or if you're a tough size or picky on color, that's the time to buy," Sexter says. Second markdowns, which come four weeks later, reduce original prices by 50 percent. By the third markdown (another two weeks) you'll save up to 70 percent.
In-store credit cards - To increase your savings at your favorite retailer, consider applying for the store credit card. Sometimes stores that typically offer store-charge customers 10 percent off even raise the ante: Banana Republic recently offered me 20 percent (I finally caved).
Just be sure that you pay your bills in full -- department stores are notorious for charging higher-than-average interest rates.
Department store discounts - Interestingly, the pros tell us that you'll almost always do better at department stores than at boutiques. The former have more clout over their suppliers and thus are more inclined to discount; they also have more lenient return policies.
"Boutiques hold on to merchandise as long as they can because they have to pay for their inventory up front," explains Pamela Burns, a personal shopper in Washington, D.C.
A little off the top - Tired of expensive 'dos? Then clear your calendar for Monday and Tuesday evenings, when many upscale salons have "assistant nights" where up-and-coming stylists cut your hair for less than half the regular price.
Patagonia is the choice brand among outdoors addicts. But you can sidestep the High Sierra price tags by checking out the Web specials at patagonia.com, which discounts the past season's clothes and travel gear. Merchandise changes often. We found the ever-popular men's Stretch Boundary ski pants (standard wear on any alp) for $120. Original price: $239.
If you're swearing off carbs (like almost everyone else, it seems), skip paying full fare at the Atkins website for those meal-replacement snacks called Advantage Bars and instead spend $15 to join GNC stores' gold-level loyalty program. You'll get 20 percent off the full line of Atkins food on the first weekend of every month.
Calling all fashionistas! At Netaporter.com, Jimmy Choo's boutique sale saves you 50 percent on the fancy footwear made famous by the Sex and the City gals. Selection is limited -- you'll find Jimmy Choo's spring and summer designs, plus some boots -- so act fast to nab a pair. If you can't find your size, other shoe deals on Netaporter.com include footwear by Marc Jacobs (30 percent to 50 percent off) and Marni (30 percent to 60 percent off). Look for sales on designer clothes and accessories on the site, too. Shipping from the U.K.-based website will add another $25 to $30 to the final tab.