Budgeting for New Baby: Prepare without breaking the bank
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Baby care products make up a $74 billion industry in the US, and it’s estimated the average new parent will spend tens of thousands of dollars in the first year alone.
If you're not careful, preparing for your new baby can quickly bust your budget.
The industry heavily markets “must-have” products you and your baby can't live without. And the number of products you “have to have” as parents continues to grow each year.
But smart moms and dads can drastically cut the amount they spend on Baby by borrowing or shopping second-hand for many items they’ll only end up using for a little while.
What baby items can you get the most bang from your baby buck by borrowing or buying second-hand? When does it pay to purchase new items for your baby?
Here’s a list to consider of what to buy, borrow, and steal (uh, pay for legally at a consignment store!) for your baby.
Baby Items to Buy New
There are certain items you’ll need for a new baby that make sense to buy new.
While it’s not necessary to buy the most expensive designer option, rest assured there are plenty of tempting choices out there. So buyer beware.
Shop around to find a reasonably-priced version of the following items. Or put them on your baby registry and ask for them as gifts.
One of the items you probably won’t be able to avoid buying new is a crib. Because safety ratings on cribs change quickly, it’s best to stick with new or almost-new in this category.
You don’t need to buy a super-expensive version, though. IKEA cribs are just as safe and functional as pricier versions.
Your crib can be kept for subsequent babies. Also, many models convert into toddler beds too so you can use them for the first few years.
You’ll also need a firm baby mattress. Additionally, you’ll need a mattress cover (for accidents) and sheets (these can often be found at consignment shops, though).
While some new parents keep a cradle in their rooms in the beginning, babies outgrow cradles fairly quickly and will need a crib. So, it’s probably a good idea to have one set up before the baby arrives.
Another essential item is an infant car seat. While car seats should be bought new (again, for safety–once a car seat has been in any type of accident it is no longer usable), you do not need to spend a fortune to find a good car seat.
It’s easy to spend several hundred dollars on a fancy “designer” car seat, but there are very good, very safe car seats sold at Walmart, Target, and other baby stores for less than $75.
Most infant car seats have a base and detachable carrier to carry your baby indoors, doubling as a baby seat/rocker.
If you decide to breastfeed, and you’re a working mom or will have someone else feed the baby, a breast pump is an important essential.
Because of hygiene reasons, most professionals recommend purchasing a new breast pump. Many times, breast pumps are covered by your insurance, so check and see if that is the case for you.
Borrow (Don’t Buy!) Items
It’s a great idea to develop a network of parents who have babies a similar age, so you can borrow items your baby will only need for a few months, and pass on items your baby has outgrown.
There are new-mom groups, lactation support groups, and baby groups you can connect with via your hospital, Ob-GYN, library, church, Facebook, or even your neighborhood app. Then, you can exchange items with other new moms, saving money, time, and hassle in the process.
Babies grow so quickly during their first months they rotate through toys very quickly.
The baby swing you can’t live without for their first three months quickly becomes unnecessary when Baby gets to the six-month stage and wants new stimulation.
And many baby “essentials” are large and difficult to store, so lots of parents are happy to find someone to hold on to them for a few months.
These items include:
- Bouncy Seats
- Baby Swings
Many baby toys are quite expensive if bought new, but will only be used two or three months by your baby, so don’t waste money here!
While you may get lots of precious clothes at your shower, babies grow fast, and sometimes they only wear outfits a couple of times before outgrowing them.
If you can find a friend or family member with a baby who’s a few months older, ask if you can have their hand-me-downs. Chances are, the new mom will be happy to pass along outgrown clothes to make space for bigger ones.
If you don’t have luck finding someone to pass on their old outfits, try a consignment store.
While it might be tempting to buy a highchair before your baby arrives, most of the time, your baby won’t be able to sit in a highchair until she’s several months old. This is a great item to borrow.
The simpler the high chair, the better, though, because babies can be pretty messy, and high chairs get notoriously grimy.
Pack-n-plays are useful items to borrow because they’re sturdy and last a long time.
You can use a pack-n-plays as a makeshift crib on different levels of your house, or for beds when you travel. But they’re generally not an item you use every day so borrowing this item could make sense.
While it’s wonderful to have a rocker to soothe your baby to sleep, they’re expensive and are only useful for a couple of years.
Rockers aren’t must-have items, and they’re probably not worth buying new. That said, they are handy and if you know someone who’s willing to let you borrow theirs, take them up on it.
Pro Tip for Borrowed Items
Here’s a great tip from Mrs. Frugalwoods, who borrowed almost all of the items for her two babies: “When you find a used piece of baby equipment, Google it (brand and model) to check for any recalls or safety concerns.
You may want to pass if you find a recall, or there may be an easy fix so you can still use it safely.”
Snag These at a Consignment Store
Babies outgrow their clothing quickly. So it makes sense to buy any baby gear you're not able to borrow from a second-hand or consignment shop to stretch your budget.
Many shoppers find brand-new items with tags still attached, that another baby outgrew before wearing.
If you focus your shopping efforts on second-hand stores, you’ll save significant money on clothes your baby will likely wear for a short time only.
With so many baby clothes options it’s hard to know what you’ll need. Focus on the basics–the layette–a collection of cotton onesies, pull-on pants, mittens, socks, and hats.
Sleepsacks help your baby feel cozy, but they’re not a requirement. Large cotton blankets work just as well for swaddling your baby. Start with the basics, and buy more as you figure out exactly what your baby will need.
Baby Care Items
Additionally, there are some basic baby care items that you can often find at second-hand stores, such as baby monitors, bibs, burp cloths, bathtubs, and first aid kits.
Strollers are very important to have for a few months, then begin to take up valuable car space.
Some infant car seat systems also come with compatible strollers that the infant seat can rest in. These are handy but can be expensive and bulky.
When you have an infant, you can probably get by without a stroller, but when your baby gets a little older, they’re convenient.
Many parents use a simple umbrella stroller, which folds down and fits tidily in the back of the car. In addition to being space-saving, umbrella strollers are an affordable option and are often available at consignment shops.
Baby Shower Ideas
If friends or family throw you a shower, consider asking for group donations toward some of your higher dollar needs, like a crib or car seat.
You could also have a shower for practical needs, like diapers (cloth or disposable) and baby wipes. Attendees can give a variety of sizes of diapers so to stock you up for when the baby comes. (Boxes of unopened diapers can be exchanged for a different size if your baby outgrows one size too quickly.)
If you know what type of bottle you’ll be using (if you’ll be using bottles), this is another great shower item for your registry.
While many people love to give adorable baby outfits at showers, don't be afraid to ask for what you need. After all, the purpose of a baby shower is to help new parents stock up on what they need for their baby.
Tell the shower host what kind of theme you'd like to have. Also, feel free to tell attendees you'd welcome any gently used baby items they'd be willing to pass on.
Final Thoughts on Preparing for Baby on a Budget
Just remember: it’s perfectly okay for your baby to have gently-used items.
Would you rather the baby be decked out in designer baby garb they won’t even remember, or have money in their college fund?
You don’t need to spend top dollar or buy every last gadget (wipes warmer, anyone?) for your baby. Just stick to the tried-and-true basics.
Borrow as much as possible, and strategically purchase the most important baby items to make your budget go further.
You and your baby will be the better for it.
Article written by Laurie
Laurie is a team member of Women Who Money and the founder of The Three Year Experiment, a blog about building wealth in order to become location independent.