Having a Baby on a Budget

by Guest Contributor · 20 comments

There comes a time in your life when having a baby seems like a great idea. Never mind the cost, the sleepless nights and all the other anticipated difficulties, babies are incredible. Still, eventually the reality of the financial impact will rear its ugly head. There are some ways you can save tons of money while still providing everything your little one needs though, so read ahead.

Prenatal Purchases

While it is really nice to have one or two sets of prenatal jeans, you can usually get by for quite a while in your regular clothes. If you are handy with a sewing machine, get it out and install a pregnancy panel in a couple more of your pants and you should be able to make it through the pregnancy.

Goodwill stores are a great place to find gently used pregnancy clothing, as are friends, relatives, and coworkers. For some reason people are very eager to get rid of these clothes, so advertise your condition and watch the donations roll in.

Baby Essentials

Before they let you take the baby home, the hospital will insist on seeing a car seat. That doesn’t mean you have to stand in the lobby and open a brand new box though. Ask around. Friends with toddlers probably still have that infant seat in the garage. I shared my seat with my brother and between us we used it for six kids. We just took turns having babies.

Note though that many experts will not recommend a used car seat because of safety reasons. I totally agree that safety is very important. Much more important than saving a few dollars, but like EVERYTHING ELSE used, there are good, and there are bad. Just because something is dated doesn’t mean it’s not safe.

I have a new born too, so I’m well aware of our instinct as a parent to be extra cautious for our children but whether it’s my daughter, myself, my wife or parents, safety is JUST AS important.

Newer cars are safer than older ones too, but you don’t hear about the same advice about safety versus cost there. It all comes down to the specific piece you are buying and whether you can see the difference of what’s good versus bad.

This is all opinion of course. Obviously new is always better. But you can find some good used car seats that’s made in the past year or two (just imagine all these parents who need to throw away their infant car seat before their child turns one) and were made from the exact same safety standards as the new ones currently on store selves.

Another biggie, clothing, is about the easiest to get for free or cheaply. Borrowing or accepting hand-me-downs is a great technique, but if you must get something new, try the thrift shops first. Little babies outgrow things so quickly that there is rarely any wear and tear. If you have your own washer and dryer, ten onesies, socks, and sleepers are all you need at first.

Feeding and Diapering

The hands down cheapest form of feeding is breast feeding, a slight increase in what Mom eats and you are done. For those who opt for bottle feeding, the best place to get formula is a grocery warehouse. Nursing bras are great, but expensive. Wait until you are certain you will be doing this for a while before you invest. The first few weeks you will probably stay home so use a sports bra for convenience and comfort.

There is no way around the expense of diapers. Cloth diapers are cheaper, but only if you purchase your own and wash them yourself. The best options are wool wraps and cotton diapers purchased in bulk. The wraps are more expensive than some other options, but mine have lasted through three kids and are still in great shape. A diaper service is expensive, but you avoid the washing process.

Disposable diapers are pricey and environmentally unsound, but boy are they convenient. You go through a lot of diapers with each child, so buy the cheapest ones that work. By work I mean they hold a night’s worth of fluid without leaking and bowel movements don’t creep out the sides and back when you aren’t looking. The only way to find out which works best for your baby is to try out several brands until you find one that does.

There are plenty of websites dedicated to saving money while raising your bundle of joy. Coupon Shoebox, for example, has quite a few coupons for items sold at Diapers.com. Get online, join parenting groups in your area, and ask a lot of questions. It is possible to stick to a budget and still give your child all they need.

This is another post from the How to Save Money on Everything ebook. Check it out by subscribing to the free newsletter here.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • crystal_b says:

    I have an 11-month old and I think we’ve done a pretty good job being frugal with a baby 🙂 She’s never had any formula, never a jar of babyfood, and after the first month, absolutely no disposable diapers. Plus, our friends and family have been so generous at the shower and Christmas that the only item of clothing I’ve bought her was pair of black leggings to go with her Haloween costume, and with her 1st birthday right around the corner, I bet she gets some 18 and 24 month clothes as well 🙂

    Some more advice about things everyone seems to think you need, but you might not, or you can maybe get it used:
    A high chair — it seems like a baby necessity, right? But our 11-month old still uses a $15 Craig’s List Bumbo chair and tray when she’s not sitting in my lap for meals, and we’ll move to a booster seat without ever needing the high chair.
    A stroller — I wear the baby almost everywhere in a ring sling a friend of mine made for me.

  • metrobostonworker says:

    The most important thing for all new parents to purchase for their babies is life insurance. If you think money is tight while you are alive and working, just imagine how tight it would be losing one or both parents. If you are young and healthy, you can buy temporary life insurance (term) for cheap. But only if you really love your family because it is they, not you, who benefit.

  • lakeishanjackson says:

    I am 9 months pregnant and I am always looking for a bargain. I have been making purchases since my 4 month pregnancy. I have mainly shopped on craiglist. However all purchases from craiglist were gently used to new and all came with the papers included. I made sure that the car seat was only 1 yrs old- the sticker on the side and the paperwork supported that it was only 1 yrs old. I also have the stroller, swing, playpen/bassinett, and bassinet- all from craigslist. I got the cribs set (crib, changing table, dresser, ) all for $250. So I believe I have spent maybe $700 total for baby furniture. I have also enrolled in Babies R Us reward program and receive diaper and wipes coupons monthly. I really need to budget with my one child because I am a single mom who will be doing this by herself. *oh and I have gotten tons of gently used and new clothing from Craigslist and thrift stores. * any other suggestions??

  • Stephanie says:

    I have ordered my diapers through Amazon subscribe and save. My son has been in the 7th Generation Diapers from the start. I love them and they are a bit more environmentally friendly than the leading brands. Amazon subscribe and save will ship them for free. You pick the frequency, such as once a month, once every 2 months, etc. Also, they are at least 15% cheaper due to the discount you receive. They also offer various discounts throughout the year, so personally I think it’s worth it. As long as you order enough to keep you going until the next shipment, you will never have to run out to the store at night.

    Also, make sure you purchase the items you will def. need. I remember receiving items (as well as purchasing things I thought I would need), but I never used them. That can be a big money waster all in it’s self. Do your research when it comes to purchasing items. Also, don’t be lazy. Make your own baby food, especially if it will save you money.
    You will just have to come to grips that your money will be going to your children from now on. (Hee hee)
    Most importantly… Have fun with your kids. They will not be small forever.

  • Ms. Scrooge says:

    This article rocks. I’m four months preggo with my first, and I hate how everybody goes pale and clutches their breast in terror when I talk about how I want to find used stuff to save some cash. I’m a cheapskate, and I don’t intend to cease my penny-pinching just because we’re adding to our fam. Heck, with this economy, it’s a GOOD lesson to teach to the kid.

  • Kellie says:

    Steve Jobs –

    I completely agree with you. We have an 8 month old that I have been breastfeeding from day 1. It’s natural, safe, and free. I had to return back to work, so I pump now instead of giving him formula. It has worked out great.

    We use disposable diapers though and buy them from Costco/Sam’s.

    I would love to read other money saving tips from parents.

  • Steve Jobs says:

    The best you can give for your baby while maintaining your budget is breast feeding. It does not only save you money but breast feeding is best for babies till two years of age. Even a working mom can breastfeed her baby, she can use a breast pump and store the milk in bottles inside the fridge.

  • Briana @ GBR says:

    I want to have four kids and this is what I’ve been trying to research. Not necessarily having babies for cheap lol but I definitely want to know how I can have the family I want but on a good budget. Good tips

  • FindSavings says:

    Great budget advice for those having a baby. I know when I registered for gifts for my first child, I took a friend along who seemed more inline with my views. In other words, no knee pads for when the baby crawls or any of that other “stuff” that you will never use. It kept my registry down and I got everything I really needed.

  • Nick says:

    We just had a baby and found this post really helpful. We plan on starting a private banking system for our little one so when it come time for cars, college and everything else we don’t have to go elsewhere for the money.

  • Kristine says:

    Another good thing I learned as a new mom is that on amazon.com, they have a subscriber and save deal. If you subscribe to buying your diapers and wipes there, you can save 30%. For me, the diapers I buy are $40, and with my discount, I only spend $28 plus free shipping and no tax. That’s an awesome savings for me. 🙂 Search for amazon mom when you get on amazon.com.

  • Tracy says:

    I spoke with a friend of mine who is a nationally-certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. She pointed out to me that the problem with used seats isn’t just accidents – there are other things you need to know about the car seat. Have the straps been washed and ironed? This could weaken them. Have they been checked multiple times on airplanes? Baggage handlers aren’t always gentle with your stuff and they could have been dropped on concrete.

    Here is a direct quote:

    “When you buy a used seat, you’re trusting the seller with your
    child’s life. Most parents wouldn’t drop their brand-new baby off
    with a sitter they found on the Internet: putting that baby in a
    previously-owned seat is pretty much the same thing. Parents who want
    to save money should skip the infant seat. Not all convertible seats,
    even those that claim to be rated down to 5#, are suitable for tiny
    babies. But a Cosco Scenera (which shows remarkably well in the
    yearly NHTSA crash tests) or Evenflo Titan fits newborns well, costs
    between $40 and $70, and will last 3-4 years, unlike an infant seat
    that’s usually outgrown around the first birthday — yes, even the
    ones rated to 30#-35#. I would much rather see a baby in a brand-new
    Scenera than an infant seat with an unknown history.”

  • Personal Budgeting says:

    I share same thoughts with my fellow commentators.
    Car seats have to be verified before using it if an old one is used. I still fell that buying a new one after two years is wise step. Why risk safety of the new born unnecessarily?

  • Greg McFarlane says:

    Yes, despite being made of reinforced plastic with metal and/or carbon frames, car seats “expire”, just like milk and other perishables. Please, keep believing that.

    -Sincerely, the marketing departments at Britax and Fisher-Price

  • MoneyNing says:

    Great discussion everybody. Speaking of baby showers and clothes, I think everyone should be reminded to buy clothes that are 3-6, 6-12 and even 12-18 months old instead of the infant only (0-3 mo.) ones. This is because:
    1. The babies will outgrow them WAY too quickly.
    2. The immediate family members ALWAYS will buy those.
    3. They aren’t always out and about, which means less change of clothing.

    Clothes always seem like a necessity when shopping for baby showers but I actually don’t think they are. If you really want to buy something that is useful, get diapers. 🙂

  • KM says:

    I guess it depends on the people, but I just recently learned that most of the baby shower gifts are clothes, so don’t buy any clothes until after the baby shower because otherwise you will have way too much and the baby won’t wear them all before he/she outgrows them.

    Hospitals, doctors, and other organizations also give out samples of formula or bottles and other small items for free, so take advantage of those. I plan to breastfeed, but I also have enough of this free formula to last a while if my milk is not sufficient or if I am at work for too long.

    As for diapers, I am going to use the natural infant hygiene method, which eliminates all or most of the diapers being used. Although a lot of people might squirm and say it’s wrong or difficult or whatever, let me say that mothers everywhere had to do something before diapers in any form were invented. It’s actually cleaner and takes less time to clean that wiping the baby during a diaper change. The time-consuming part is learning the signals the baby sends when it needs to go, but it also builds a stronger bond between the caregivers and the baby. I do have cloth diapers as well though, for times when I have to take him to the hospital or something, but most of the time, I plan to not train my baby to dirty himself as regular diaper usage does. I am sure I will also save a lot of money in diapers, but that’s not the reason I am doing this.

  • Lynn says:

    “Just because something is dated doesn’t mean it’s not safe.”

    YES yes it does. An expired carseat is VERY dangerous. I have no qualms about using a used carseat from someone I trust (or giving one away) but do not use a carseat that you cannot guarantee has not been in an accident, no matter how small, and do not use an expired carseat.

  • Karen says:

    Car seats expire about 5 years after the manufacturing date not just because safety standards change but because the plastic begins to break down making them less durable. I’m not sure how close together you had your six kids, but it’s likely the youngest ones were riding in an expired seat.

    You’re right that a seat that’s only 1 or 2 years old is likely safe (provided it has not been recalled). However, you should NEVER accept a used car seat from an untrusted source (garage sales, Craigslist, etc.) Only accept a used car seat from a trusted friend or family member who assures you that it’s never been involved in an accident, because once a car seat has been involved in any kind of accident, it needs to be retired for safety.

    • Lynn says:

      I didn’t see that you had replied already. I still stand by my comment though.

    • KM says:

      I didn’t know about expiring car seats until a somewhat recent discussion on MoneyNing, after which I realized that the seat I got at a garage sale was not only from an untrusted source, but also going to expire 2 months after my baby was supposed to be born. I knew I had to buy a new one, but the other one I bought wasn’t all for nothing – the place I bought the new one from had a trade-in sale where they accepted old items and gave you a hefty discount on the new item, so I ended up saving quite a bit (also included the baby shower discount for items that people didn’t buy). So it’s still possible to save money on something new if you look around. Also, my convertible seat is good for 8 years, so I will be using it until it expires and then just buy a booster seat.

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