First time parents often fall prey to the advertising world’s “New Parent’s MUST HAVE” line. When you’re on a budget, this might make you frustrated, worried, and potentially scared that you won’t have everything your baby needs.
I want you to put the Target ad down and back slowly away. A little further. There you go. There is nothing in that ad that you can’t most likely find at a cheaper, more budget-friendly price elsewhere.
With that in mind, we are here to present to you today how you can get everything you need, and most of what you want, to take care of your baby on a budget.
1) Second-Hand, But Not Second Best
Some things should never, ever be bought second hand. In some cases, extreme caution should be used, such as if you decide to purchase a car seat secondhand. For everything else, there’s second-hand shops, yard sales, and your best friend’s closet.
Babies grow so fast, it’s almost ridiculous. All of my kids ended up with more clothing than they could hope to wear. While you’re likely to get a decent amount of brand new items at you baby shower, there’s no need for baby to wear nothing but brand new. The rest of baby’s wardrobe can be secondhand! You can find nice, gently worn baby clothes several ways:
- Second-hand shops, especially those geared specifically towards babies and young children.
- Yard sales!
- If all else fails, there are likely family members and friends who have secondhand clothes they’ll happily part with!
I promise, your baby will have no idea he’s wearing second hand clothing – but your wallet will!
While your baby does need a place to sleep, that doesn’t mean it has to be the top-of-the-line, brand new crib with all the trimmings. Baby will sleep just fine in a secondhand crib, too! The same goes for just about any piece of furniture you might buy for baby. High chairs, changing tables, and dressers can all be found in excellent condition gently used.
There are few items you should be cautious of buying secondhand:
- Mattresses – bedbugs anyone?
- Car seats – expiration dates do exist for these, and you never know if one has been in a minor accident, rendering it unsafe to use. If you are struggling with the price of a car seat, you may be able to find help.
Note: Please exercise caution when scouring for a secondhand crib, and remember that drop side cribs are dangerous, though you may still find them in a thrift store. There is a reason companies stopped making them, after all. Exercise caution, and do a little research – if you have a smart phone, you can do so right there in the thrift store or at a yard sale.
Toys and Books
Babies need stimulation, so of course they need things to play with. Reading to your child from infancy may also help improve literacy in their later years, so books are a great idea too. As with clothing, you can buy toys at resale shops and yard sales, or ask your friends for toys their baby no longer plays with. Just make sure the toys are safe, age appropriate, and exercise caution with older toys, as some may contain lead paint.
For books, the library is a fantastic option. Not only can you check them out for free using your library card, but many libraries often sell their older books to make room for new ones. Thrift stores and yard sales are also excellent sources of used, and possibly out of print, children’s books.
2) If You Can, Go Natural
For thousands of years, humans raised babies without all the flashy things we have now. Although the products you can get now might seem nice, and you may even think you need to have them, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things as natural as you can either. Breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and using home remedies easily available to you can save you money and help the environment – where can you possibly go wrong?
While I personally am of the opinion that fed is best, there’s no denying it is a money-saver to breastfeed. If you can, breastfeeding may be the best thing you can do for your budget, not to mention your baby. That said, there are a few things you may be told you “need” if you breastfeed that, quite honestly, you simply don’t need:
- A nursing cover, so long as you are comfortable.
- A breast pump, unless you need to return to work.
- Lactation boosters, barring a few very specific and not that common medical conditions. Your doctor or La Leche consultant can help you figure out if you need to use these boosters, so don’t buy them until you’ve consulted a professional.
If breastfeeding is not for you, we do have tips for formula further down. Should you wish to breastfeed but are having trouble, you can find help with almost all breastfeeding issues.
Disposable diapers can cost up to $500 or more during baby’s first year of life, making them one of the top expenses during this time. The alternative, of course, is cloth diapering. Benefits of cloth diapering include no worries over reactions to chemicals, they’re reusable, and over time, despite the start up costs, they will save you money.
Interested in cloth diapering but unable to do so for financial reasons? Giving Diapers, Giving Hope has you covered, providing free cloth diapers to low income families. Simply fill out the information form and request your free cloth diapers. You can even make your own cloth diapers, if you prefer.
When baby is sick, Mom and Dad worry. What you shouldn’t have to worry about is whether or not you can afford to treat baby’s problem. Barring a large health crisis that should be seen immediately by a doctor, you can take care of baby’s colds, teething issues, and other minor medical maladies at home with things you probably already own. Try making a few remedies to keep on hand for when baby is under the weather, but not so sick that she needs medical attention from the professionals:
Note: As always, please exercise caution when treating an illness or injury at home. There are guidelines to follow for treating things like fevers that every parent should be aware of. Some maladies are best treated by the professionals, after all, while others can safely be treated at home.
3) Do It Yourself
One of the best things you can do for your budget is to delve into your inner creative diva and DIY. From your own baby food to your own baby carrier, you can save so much money simply making this things at home.
Make Your Own Baby Food
Store-bought baby food can cost you up to $100 a month once baby starts on solids. In contrast, making baby’s food in the comfort of your own kitchen may save you money, especially if you make baby’s food out of what the adults and older kids are already eating. You’ll also have peace of mind on what exactly it is your little one is eating! Store bought baby foods contain preservatives that make many parents nervous, after all. Just remember to date your baby food containers, and pay close attention to use by dates for homemade goods.
Make Your Own Wipes
Wipes are a necessity with babies and young children. They serve far more than their advertised bottom cleaner purposes: they can clean sticky faces and hands, get crayon off a TV, and shine the faucet if you feel adventurous. That said, they can be costly. The internet is full of DIY wipes instructions, and the cost-saving you can find with these makes it well worth the work.
Make Your Own Baby Sling or Wrap
Carrying a car seat in and out of the vehicle everywhere you go can be a major pain. That’s where a baby sling comes in! It can also make household chores like dishes, vacuuming, and cooking a wee bit easier when baby just wants to be held. You may be tempted to spend quite a bit of money on the nicest baby sling you can find, but before you do that, check out some DIY baby sling ideas. You can even make them from an old, sturdy sheet! Simply pick your favorite old sheet and get started. Ensure that the fabric is not worn out first, or you may experience tearing and shredding with your new sling.
4) The Financials
Babies are expensive. We all know this, but we can off-set costs in other ways, too. Saving accounts, coupons, and finding freebies are all great starts to helping offset the costs of baby’s care.
If you haven’t already done so, you need to consider opening a savings account. Even if you can only put the absolute minimum required into it, the benefits to you and your family will add up. Having a savings account means having money stocked away for car or home repairs, emergency medical issues, job loss, and other things that you may find yourself dealing with unexpectedly as you enjoy life with your baby. A savings account will also make any parental leave during baby’s first weeks less stressful.
Coupons and Discounts
When you have a baby, companies often send you coupons. You can also get coupons from certain stores when you sign up for a baby registry. And that’s all fine and dandy when you have a newborn, but what about when baby is no longer a newborn but still an infant?
You can easily find coupons and discounts, still! Provided, of course, that you know where to look:
As always, pay attention to expiration dates, limitations, and rules of any coupons and discounts you find. Some may only be available in certain areas, or for families with babies under a certain age. Others may be for sample sizes only. Fine print might be hard to read, but doing so may save you a headache.
Did I just say freebies?
Why, yes I did! Yes, you can get things for your baby for free from well-known companies. Much of this is only available during the first month or so of your baby’s life, so get it while it’s hot! Even if you don’t need it now, you can always stock it away for later use. You can also check out sites like Freecycle for free baby clothes, furniture, and more. Simply exercise caution, as some items available for free may no longer be good to use. Check expiration dates on car seats, food, and formula. If a deal sounds too good, it probably is!
5) Things You Don’t Really Need
Yes, there are indeed things available for your baby that you don’t necessarily need to have. While the list of things you don’t really need is rather long, we chose to focus only on the more common things out there. As always, use discretion and your family’s own comfort levels when deciding whether something is a necessity for your family or not.
While bottle and wipe warmers are nice things to have, they are definitely not necessary. Baby might enjoy those warm wipes, but room temp will not hurt him. In fact, it might be better for him when you are out and about, particularly if you live in an extremely cold area and have to stop at reststop with no heat. (Been there!)
As far as the bottle warmer goes, again – it’s nice to have, but you don’t need it. You can always warm baby’s bottle in a bowl of lukewarm water, or use a room temp water jug to make baby’s formula bottle. If you are breastfeeding and using a pump, you can heat baby’s breast milk bottle by setting it in a bowl of warm water, too. Remember to discard any unused portion immediately.
Baby bedding is adorable, there’s little doubt about that. The characters bring back nostalgic memories for us as parents, and they just give the nursery that extra oomph of adorableness.
However, they can be a hazard to baby, especially a newborn. Baby doesn’t really need any bedding aside from a tight-fitting sheet. Crib bumpers have proven hazardous, and quilts or blankets can wrap around baby. You can always buy these items when they are bigger. If you are afraid your baby will get cold, try a cozy wearable blanket instead, which you can even make from a baby blanket you got at your shower.
Yes, your little one needs a bath. Of course he needs to stay clean, so naturally you should buy things like baby soap. However, other baby bath items may be entirely unnecessary expenses. For example, baby doesn’t really need a baby tub. The kitchen sink, a large bowl for a newborn, or a simple sponge bath are really all you need to keep baby bathed, clean, and happy until they are a bit bigger. Once baby can sit up, you can put him in the sink still or you can use a laundry basket or similar item to keep him in one spot in the regular tub. Baby wash cloths and those adorable hooded towels are all also unnecessary. While baby does have delicate skin, a regular wash cloth or towel is not likely to hurt her. They will work just as well as their smaller counterparts.
Babies are expensive, but bringing a new member into your family doesn’t have to break the bank. You can still effectively budget while also providing your baby with everything he needs, and most of what he (or you!) wants. You may need to cross a few items off your “must have” list, but there’s a very good chance you can find them later down the line anyways, while he’s still little enough to use them.
How do you take care of your baby while sticking to your budget? Do you have any tips we didn’t include here? Let us know in the comments below, and please share this guide with your family and friends!
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