Real Parents Share the Secrets to Maximizing Your Baby Registry

Before you click, save, and share your wish list, read this.
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Contributing Writer
September 1, 2021
Real parents with their babies

Stroller, carrier, diapers—you likely already have an idea of the types of products you’ll add to your registry. But where you register can unlock major benefits too. Certain retailers offer bonuses just for beginning a registry, which can help you (and your friends and family) save money now, as well as during the first few months of baby’s life. For example, Target’s baby registry includes a full Year of Benefits, complete with a free welcome kit, discounts for baby and more. So how do you know what features are really worth it? Ask experienced parents who’ve been there, done that, registered for it, and lived to tell the tale. Here, moms and dads share their insider tips on how to put your registry to work, because every single second and cent saved is a big deal when you’ve got a newborn.

1. Think Beyond the Newborn Stage

Your little, tiny baby will only be little and tiny for a short time. When you’re creating a registry, it’s helpful to think of how you might be spending your money one month, six months and one year from now. Choose a store that has discounts and deals for all of baby’s milestones, says Cassie, a Corvallis, OR-based mom of an infant, who blogs about her experience as an LGBTQ parent (@cassiepound). “I hadn’t realized just how quickly we would move through gear. I was so glad we had registered for feeding supplies, toys and clothing that would work for six months and older.” Parents who register at Target receive their Year of Benefits, including a year of exclusive deals for baby with Target Circle, targeted toward key milestones with savings on diapers, feeding supplies, formula, clothing and more.

2. Look for Welcome Gifts

Some registries offer a free welcome kit, even before you buy anything. This not only saves money, but can also clue you in on gear you didn’t even know you needed. “I’m a huge bargain hunter so my favorite registry perks are freebies at signup,” says Terri (@terrificwords), a mom of two in New Jersey. When you create your registry at Target, you get a free welcome kit filled with products, coupons and discounts valued at over $150. This allows you and your little one to try things like wipes, diapers and pacis before you commit to buying. Because while newborns may not be able to do much yet, they can definitely form opinions.

3. Two Words: Completion Discount

“I wish I had known that before you commit to a registry, it’s a good idea to check out the website or brand’s completion discount,” says Jenny, an Atlanta-based mom of three, who shares her family’s story at @ourlifeinrosegold. A completion discount is a code that allows you to buy whatever is left over on your registry for a certain percentage off. “Don’t be afraid to register for big ticket items like your stroller and car seat even if you don’t expect them to be gifted; you can usually get a discount for anything left on your registry once your baby is born.” Target offers a 15 percent completion discount code that arrives eight weeks before your due date. You can use the coupon twice—once in store and once online—to maximize your savings while you stock up.

4. Know the Return Policy

“If you’re wanting a big ticket item that you don’t get, it’s helpful to return some of the items you did get, like clothes or blankets, to easily purchase a stroller or car seat,” says Erin, mom of a 2-year-old in Oklahoma. Free returns can be a lifesaver in the lead-up to meeting your baby, but can also be helpful as your infant grows. You’re likely to get some gifts for later in baby’s life, such as a high chair, activity center or seasonal gear. But as your baby grows and as you become more product-savvy, you may refine your wish list. Knowing you can easily exchange items gives you peace of mind. Also: You may not know what you need to return right away. The Target Baby Registry offers free returns for unopened items up to one year after purchase. Because, yes, newborns really do grow that fast and chances are, they’re not going to get to wear every item in their newborn wardrobe—no matter how many changes they need.

5. Look for Features That Make the Process Seamless

A universal registry allows you to put items from other stores on your wish list—and tracks when the product has been bought. This can give parents the best of both worlds, allowing them to make sure they don’t miss any must-haves, while benefiting from registry bonuses. Kera (@dessertpixie), a mom of a three-year-old and four-month-old in Jersey City, NJ, knew she wanted a universal registry so she could choose essentials at Target and then augment with accessories and outfits she discovered at local retailers. But an added bonus for Kera was being able to seamlessly check on gifts through the Target app. “Target Registry allows you to see a countdown till your due date, add gifts via baby checklists and manage your list directly and smoothly,” Kera says.

6. Consider Convenience (for You and Your Circle)

Gabrielle (@jerseycitymamas), a mom of an almost-2-year-old in Jersey City, loved creating a registry at a store that offered online and IRL options. “While I love online shopping, there was something about walking through a brick-and-mortar store and seeing the baby gear in person that suddenly made me feel like this was getting real. I highly recommend walking around a few baby stores to see with your own eyes and touch the gear in person,” Gabrielle says. And having options can be beneficial for your friends and family, too. After all, some well-wishers may be far-flung and looking for online options, while others may prefer a real-life shopping trip prior to your baby shower.

Understanding how your friends and family shop can make life easier for everyone. Look for registries that offer streamlined solutions for gifting. For example, Target offers gift tracking and group gifting, two features that can make for a seamless shower. Gift tracking helps you and your well-wishers see what’s been bought (and who gifted it, so you can follow up with a card). Group gifting allows your work crew or your extended family to easily go in on one bigger gift without the hassle of chasing down contributors for cash.

7. Ask for Help!

“For us, as two gay men who basically became dads overnight, it was truly about just the necessities—what we needed to shop for and purchase immediately in order to bring our daughter home,” notes Michael (@mdadda16), a Chicago-based dad. “We were completely overwhelmed by the amount of products out there and we knew we didn’t want to buy anything blindly.” Michael and his husband found their saving grace was hitting up other parents—as well as store associates—for help. “You will find that everyone is just excited for you and willing to offer up all the baby dos and don’ts they have experienced.”

Bottom line: Your registry is more than just a wish list; it can save money and time throughout baby’s first year. Not only does Target offer all these features through their Year of Benefits program, but all deals are connected through your Target Circle membership. That means you can earn points to send to nonprofits to help give back to your community, all while saving money. Who knew diapers could go so far? Learn more at Target.

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