Light up the month with an energy-efficient light bulb. See how your frugal month results stack up against those of our reporter.
Cheap Travel Systems Buying Guide
Before the baby even arrives, expenses start piling up. One way to save money and lock in convenience is to buy a cheap travel system comprised of stroller, car seat, and base.
There are many stroller/car seat/base combos on the market these days and the best cheap travel systems can be had for less than $300. Our research identified three winners. Leading the pack in a first place tie are the Graco FastAction Fold Travel System (starting at $200) and the Chicco Cortina KeyFit 22 Travel System (starting at $270), both of which score for user-friendly installation of the car seat base, maneuverability, comfort, and safety. The Graco Stylus LX Travel System (starting at $244) rolls into second place for its sturdy reliability and comfort. Lagging behind our best cheap travel systems picks is the Safety 1st Saunter Luxe Travel System (starting at $130), which gives some parents fits about car seat safety and ease of use.
There are several players in the cheap travel systems segment. Graco and Chicco offer the widest variety and garner the most positive reviews from experts and consumers. Manufacturers such as Safety 1st and Evenflo also offer some standout models, but our research revealed that Graco and Chicco perform more consistently across their entire lineup of cheap travel systems. And while there are plenty of travel systems out there costing north of $600, on the whole you'll find that cheap travel systems stack up equally next to their pricey counterparts when it comes to what matters -- safety, comfort, and ease of use.
Most cheap travel systems feature lots of bells and whistles: snack trays, drink holders, storage baskets, sunshades, reclining seats. In fact, many expensive models come with fewer options. One eye-catching attribute that distinguishes expensive from cheap travel systems, however, are the aesthetics -- the patterns and colors and overall styling. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we read dozens of online reviews gushing about the looks of the cheap travel systems on our list.
Experts are quick to assure anxious parents and caregivers that more money doesn't buy much more travel system. So forget about securing that upmarket name or the latest fashion trend and focus instead on performance. In fact, reviews of cheap travel systems pound on safety, comfort, and user-friendliness far more heavily than on features and styling. All of our best cheap travel systems picks meet federal safety standards and pass parents' subjective tests: car seats and strollers that keep passengers snug and content; car seats and bases that set up easily in the car and give off strong safety vibes; and strollers that open and close without struggle and smoothly traverse the family's usual stomping grounds.
One last point: Thrifty parents sometimes choose to save money by purchasing second-hand baby gear or using hand-me-down equipment. Experts strongly advise against this for car seats or strollers. If you opt for a previously owned car seat or stroller anyway, make sure to conduct a thorough background check: Know where it's been and how it's been used, and check for recalls at cpsc.gov. Always invest in a new model if the pre-owned car seat has been involved in a crash or is more than six years old, as safety standards and engineering have evolved.
Best Cheap Stroller Travel Systems
Graco FastAction Fold Travel System
Caregivers find the Graco FastAction Fold Travel System extremely easy to use and maneuver and consider the safety of the car seat to be exceptional. Its rightful claim to fame is broadcast in its name. The combo includes the FastAction Fold stroller, SnugRide 30 infant car seat, and base.Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Chicco Cortina Travel System
This travel system wins top marks for car seat safety and loud applause for ease of installation and child comfort. The included stroller likewise pleases caregivers and passengers with its user-friendly performance. The package includes the Cortina stroller, KeyFit 22 infant car seat, and car seat base.Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Good Cheap Stroller Travel Systems
Evenflo Journey 200 Travel System Review
Safety 1st Saunter Luxe Travel System Review
Graco Stylus LX Travel System Review
Graco FastAction Fold Travel System Review
Chicco Cortina Travel System Review
Our reporter took the frugal month challenge and saved $328 during February by forgoing haircuts and new clothes and finding free entertainment.
Women who think they may be pregnant can choose a free test at a clinic or doctor's office or cheap at-home tests.