When you have a baby on the way, you are absolutely inundated with information about the latest and “best” products for little ones. It can be hard to filter through everything and figure out what you really need for a newborn/infant, and what you can skip in order to save money. The truth is, babies may be fussy, but they aren’t that picky. We’ve also been raising offspring since the dawn of humanity, way before we had all these luxuries you see today. I’m not saying you have to raise your kid the way cavemen did, but you don’t have to go broke, either.
If you’re looking to save money in all areas of your life, Mr. Money Mustache is a fantastic resource. There’s an enormous amount of information, so you’ll want to find a good starting point and go from there. Every so often, Mrs. Money Mustache will write an article for the site, and she provides excellent insight into the life of a frugal stay-at-home mom. She has one article about what newborns really need and how to get it on a budget. I highly recommend this article. If you haven’t read it before, you should go do so now.
After reading it again now that I’m a few months into the motherhood game, I wanted to let you all know how we approached her points, and what we feel like we should have done differently. I also wanted to provide a few resources that I’ve found and had great success with. I’ll break everything down the same way that Mrs. Money Mustache did.
What Does a Newborn Really Need?
If you really need to use disposable diapers for whatever reason, it’s cheaper to get them through a subscription service like Amazon Mom. However, you will absolutely save money long-term if you decide to use cloth diapers. There is a larger upfront cost. You’ll likely spend $150-$250 building up your stash, but if you can swing much early on, you’ll avoid spending $50+ every month for 24 months or more. The other nice thing about cloth diapers is that you can use them for multiple children, so when you’re done with them, you can sell them.
We bought all of our cloth diapers second-hand. The style and brand we ended up liking the best was Happy Flute AIOs. I’m in a Buy/Sell/Trade (B/S/T) Facebook group where I could find new or lightly used diapers for as low as $8. On groups like these, you can also find some great designs that are no longer in production for a very low cost. Another way you can save money on new diapers is by joining a co-op. These are groups that pull together to make bulk orders so they can obtain wholesale prices. Again, the one I’m in is primarily for Happy Flute diapers, but the admin is great about finding sales on other products related to babies, toddlers, and motherhood.
Happy Flutes and AIOs may or may not be what’s best for you and your baby, but there are a vast number of different brands and styles on the market. Before the baby comes, pick up various styles to see what you like. Whatever you don’t end up using, you can sell off online.
I could write a whole article about cloth diapering, and perhaps I will in the future. Right now these are some tips on how to cut costs on diapering in general. If you know of other B/S/T groups or co-ops for this, please share them in the comments section below!
A Place to Sleep
By far, the cheapest option for a baby’s sleeping place is cosleeping, but when baby is napping during the day, it’s not really safe to just leave him or her on the bed while you try to get some chores done. We were gifted with a Moses basket that was fantastic to have for the first few months, until RT outgrew it.
Again, I recommend Amazon Mom because it offers so many discounts on baby items. The basket was roughly 1/3 of the cost because we had our membership. We also picked up a stand for it, which made it really easy to keep her next to the bed at night. However, this wasn’t really necessary. We could have stacked boxes beside the bed and put the basket on those, which would have been a cheaper option.
Now that she’s outgrown the basket, we have her in a playard. It has a bassinet attachment, a storage space for baby wipes and diaper cream, and even a fold-away changing table. We got the Evenflo BabySuite Deluxe for about $75 with our Amazon Mom membership when that was the cheapest option. Graco’s comparable model the Pack ‘n Play is now less expensive at about $65 with a membership.
These playards have all the padding you need. You don’t need to buy a mattress. In fact, they’re not recommended. You also don’t need to buy any sheets. If your little one makes a mess in them, it’s easy to clean up with a baby wipe. Another great thing about these is that they can also be used for multiple kids. You can likely find one second-hand from friends or family, or online. When you’re done with it, you can hand it down to someone else or sell it.
We did end up purchasing a nice, heavy-duty wooden crib that also has a built-in dresser and changing table, but we really haven’t made much use of it. It’s something that can be altered into a toddler bed, and even a twin bed later on, so I’m sure we will make use of it along the way, but when you’re buying everything you need for a baby, this is absolutely something you can skip.
Babies do not have to be fashionistas. No one cares if they’re wearing the latest styles. Your little one is a baby – he or she is cute by default, so they don’t need special outfits to do that for them. Take any hand-me-downs you can get! A huge portion of RT’s wardrobe are the exact same clothes that I wore at her age, 27 years ago. Some have a little bit of fraying around the edges, but for the most part, they’ve lasted extremely well through multiple babies.
The truth is, babies wear each size of clothing for such a short time that each item suffers very minimal wear and tear. Get anything second-hand that you can. If you browse sites like Craigslist, you’ll find people giving away trash bags full of baby clothes. Take advantage of these opportunities, and you’ll never have to buy a stitch.
Speaking of stitches, learning to knit or crochet will really help keep your baby warm. I actually used my Hooded Baby Sweaters as an example in my Learn To Knit video series, so it’s a wonderful project to start with. Fiber arts projects for infants are usually very quick, because they are so small. I’ve made RT booties and leg warmers too. Buying yarn (as long as you’re not buying super-fancy stuff) is much cheaper than buying the finished product.
A Car Seat
This one’s a little bit trickier. Yes, there are often opportunities to find one used, but you’ll want to get one from a friend or family member rather than a stranger online. If you know who you’re getting it from, you can know for sure whether or not it’s ever been in a collision. Also keep in mind that car seats have expiration dates. They’re typically around five years.
It’s also a big safety concern. You really want something high-quality to protect your baby, should you ever be in an accident with the little one in the car. Here’s a trick, though. If you’re planning on getting a stroller as well anyway, look at travel systems. It can often be cheaper to buy both the car seat and stroller together than it is to just buy the car seat alone.
If you can breastfeed, do it. Not only is this a free way to feed your baby, but it’s also a very rewarding experience. If you’re having some trouble with this, I made quite a few suggestions in my article on breastfeeding. If your supply is too low, you will need to get bottles. These are another thing that work well as a hand-me down, whether they’re made of glass or plastic. The older plastic bottles may contain BPA if they are very old, so this is something to be aware of. Breast pumps are covered by most insurance policies.
If you need to supplement with formula, or exclusively formula-feed, there are a couple ways to save money. Most formula companies will send out coupons on a regular basis. Some mom groups will collect these and distribute them to those who need them, depending on which brand they’re using. You’ll also save money by buying in bulk and ordering from a subscription service. I hate to sound like a broken record, but Amazon Mom has a great Subscribe & Save service.
When your child gets a little bit older and begins eating solids, you can save money by making baby food yourself. All you need is a blender or food processor. You can just make up just about whatever fruits or veggies you have around the house already. For recipes, I have a book called Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel, which also does a really good job of explaining how to store homemade baby foods and make them last.
If you can manage to stay at home, you’re usually saving money by doing so. A stay-at-home parent is a daycare service, a cleaning service, a chef, a chauffeur, a household manager and accountant, and more. Steven Nelms wrote an article called Fathers, you can’t afford a Stay-At-Home Mom where he calculates how much their family would need to spend hiring people to do all the work that his wife does. It came out to $73,960. If you’re not making more than this at your job, it might be better to quit and become a full-time parent.
Do we have other baby gear aside from what’s mentioned here? Of course. If you’re a regular reader, you know that there’s quite a lot of it. Friends and family love to buy gifts for little ones, and RT is especially spoiled because she’s the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Most of what we have has been given to us, both at the baby shower and subsequently. We’re extremely grateful and much of it has proved incredibly useful, like the swing and the wrap I use to carry her.
Speaking of baby showers, if you’re having one, construct your registry carefully. If you’re planning on having multiple children, think about whether what you’re adding can be reused. We focused on gender-neutral items with high durability. Many registry-builders will allow you to include a note to your guests. Let them know that you’re more than happy to take advantage of any second-hand items that they have. Also think about what you’ll really use on a daily basis. There are a lot of gadgets out there that can seem convenient, but really aren’t once you have them cluttering up your house.
We don’t need a lot of the luxuries that are out there marketed to new mothers. They can be nice to have, but if you’re looking to keep your costs down, avoid all these extra items. A baby doesn’t need much. As they get older, they will start to ask for things, but right now they don’t care how the nursery is decorated. Save your money for when they do care, and even then you have the ability to prioritize and decide whether it’s worthwhile.