Unless you’re made of money, budgeting for baby is no easy feat. As you hustle to buy everything you need for your little one, your shrinking bank account may be adding to your anxiety as an expecting parent.
As we make final preparations for our little guy, we’ve had to make some decisions on where to cut costs. Between an upcoming overseas move and our priority to travel, baby or not (as I’ve discussed here, here, and here), we can’t afford to give our babe a nursery worthy of the Pottery Barn cover, as nice as that would be.
If you’re in need of guidance on where you can cut costs in your baby shopping, look no further! I’m passing my learnings on to you.
This post may contain affiliate links.
Buy these items new and look for high-quality products with good reviews.
According to the CDC, car accidents are the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. So for us, it was a no-brainer to be generous with our car seat budget. It’s important to buy a brand new seat for a couple reasons – first, safety standards change every few years so you want one that is up to current standards. Also, you can’t be assured of a used seat’s history, and a seat that has been in an accident may have been compromised.
Because we wanted a convertible seat, we ended up going with the Chicco Nextfit Zip. Besides having loads of safety features (the fireman who inspected the seat complimented me on my choice!), this seat can be adjusted to fit older children. This is a budget win since we won’t have to buy another seat for him. The cover also unzips and comes off so you can throw it in the wash!
While you don’t need to put down $1,000+ on the fanciest crib on the market, you should spend enough on your crib to ensure it’s a safe place for your baby. Cheaper or older cribs may contain lead in their paint. Because crib safety standards change with time, I recommend buying your crib new to make sure it’s up-to-standard.
I highly recommend shopping in person to check the weight and quality of any cribs you are interested in before you commit to buying one. We fell in love with this Million Dollar Baby crib in Dove Grey. We were happy with the quality and it wasn’t prohibitively expensive. It also can be converted into a toddler bed as well as a full size bed later on!
All-in-One Play Yard
By now you may be noticing that one of my favorite ways to get my money’s worth is to invest in multitasking items. An all-in-one play yard can function as a bassinet and changing table for your newborn, and later be used as a safe place for your little one to play.
We bought the 4 Moms Breeze because, along with the multitasking features above, it has a sleek design and is easy to fold up and transport, which is sure to come in handy when we’re traveling.
Eventually you’re going to have to leave the house and take baby with you. You’ll have to rely on some method of transport, such as a stroller, carrier, or sling. I wouldn’t say you have to splurge on all of these things, but you definitely want to think about which one you’ll be using most often, and spend more on that.
Personally, I don’t plan on using a stroller often. We were fortunate to get a rather nice one secondhand from a family member to avoid that expense. I prefer carriers, so we invested in several – we bought the Baby K’Tan (original and Breeze) and Happy Wrap, and were gifted with a Solly wrap.
Consider buying these items used, or go with a less expensive option.
I know, the store displays of brand new baby clothes are adorable and it’s so tempting to want to buy every cute outfit imaginable. Realistically, your baby will outgrow those clothes in the blink of an eye, so be strategic when buying clothing. You’ll find a ton of baby clothes in thrift stores that are dirt cheap and in good shape (I even found some items with the original tags still on!)
Better yet, ask relatives and friends with older children if they’re getting rid of anything. As I’ve written before, we were gifted with a ton of hand-me-down clothes. This left a lot of room in our budget to get other necessities. We were also gifted with a bunch of brand new clothes – it’s an extremely common gift to give expecting parents!
Bouncers and swings are super-handy for when you need to soothe your baby, but also need to make dinner/run to the bathroom/get dressed. There is a wide range of price points for these and many parents report success using more affordable models.
At first we did fall for a higher-end option – the Mamaroo. We loved the design and the different types of rocking motions it offered. However, we ended up finding one used for a significant discount (CraigsList is your friend here!).
Burp cloths and bibs are just going to be used to wipe up baby’s yucky messes. There’s no need to get anything fancy – just something durable enough to withstand frequent washing. We registered for these Gerber burp cloths which are made of sturdy flannel, and we got a big set of bibs for free as hand-me-downs.
If you’re feeling crafty, you can even try your hand at making your own!
To be honest, we haven’t even gotten one of these yet. We’re planning on rooming in with our babe for the first six months, if not longer. When we do feel the need to get one of these, we’ll most likely look for a used one.
You can get really fancy with these – full color cameras, WiFi capability – but a simpler audio or black-and-white video monitor should be all you need.
Your baby won’t care if you’re using a fancy bottle. My sisters and I were formula fed and my mom used only the simplest bottles. Since you can’t predict what your baby will accept, avoid stocking up on too many bottles at the beginning.
We’re planning to breastfeed, so we just have the bottles that came with our breast pump (free with insurance! Don’t spend your own money on a pump if you’re insured) and samples we got from our Amazon registry.
Here’s yet another item that’s okay to buy used. There are tubs out there that have built-in temperature indicators, but you could also get a simpler plastic tub and buy a thermometer separately. For the first couple of weeks, before the cord falls off, you won’t need a tub as you’ll be giving your baby sponge baths.
Forego buying these extras unless you have room in your budget.
Besides being expensive, those cute bedding sets can actually increase the risk of SIDS according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Buy a couple of fitted sheets for the crib and nothing else.
The best toy for your baby, especially at the beginning, will be interacting with you! Later on, babies are fascinated by everyday objects, such as wooden spoons, water, and tissues. There’s no need to stock up on fancy toys. Plus, chances are your family members will be dying to gift your little one with new toys during holidays.
Remember the multitasking play yard I mentioned above? If you have one of those, you won’t need a bassinet or Moses basket. The play yard will come with a bassinet you can attach to it. You’d only be able to use a bassinet for a few months until your babe grows out if it, anyway.
Once again, the play yard will cover your need for a changing table. Even simpler, take a changing pad and lay it on the floor when you need to do a diaper change.
Wipe Warmers and other novelty gadgets
I’ve changed plenty of babies with cold wipes and they’ve all survived. Wipe warmers, automated formula dispensers, baby food blenders, bouncy seats, and electronic “educational” toys are all well-marketed, but non-essential to your baby’s well-being.
Other Money-Saving Tips
Ask friends and relatives!
Chances are, your loved ones are eager to spoil your little one. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your baby’s future grandparents, aunts, and uncles for that one item you’d love to have but would never buy for yourself, whether it’s the high-tech travel system, cushy glider chair, or matching dresser for your crib.
Look for thrift stores and consignment sales.
A couple times a year, our town hosts a huge consignment sale for all things baby. It’s a great way for local parents to stock up. Ask around to see if your area hosts any consignment sales. And never underestimate your local thrift shop! Many baby registry items (clothes, toys, books, etc.) can be bought used.
Don’t buy everything at once.
We began with the necessities – a crib and car seat – and split up our shopping over the course of the next few months. Even now, up to my due date, there are still things on our registry that we haven’t gotten yet because we won’t need them for a few months. Don’t feel like you have to have everything before baby’s here – think about what can wait.
If you really love it, get it!
Confession – we bought a nice changing table, even though it’s on my “skip” list. It’s a beautiful custom piece that fits with our other baby furniture perfectly, and we plan to repurpose it after we have kids into an island or a bar. There aren’t hard-and-fast rules for baby shopping. If you really want something, budget for it and make it yours!
What would you add to the list?
Which items would you recommend new parents splurge on, save on, and skip? Share your ideas in the comments!