So how do you go about preparing for a baby without breaking the bank?
1. Prepare to save in other areas. Having a baby may mean that you need to cut back in other areas so that you can afford any additional expenses. Childbirth and regular healthy baby doctor’s appointments cost money even with most insurance plans, and there will be additional expenses as well. You may find that you begin saving in some areas without even trying as babies have a way of making going out to eat, trips to the mall and evenings out more taxing.
In order to find areas where you can cut back, it’s important to know how much you are spending each month. If you don’t already, track what you spend over the course of one to three months. (Tracking expenses over the course of six months is ideal as some expenses occur only twice a year.) There are several software programs that will help you do this. If tracking your expenses is new to you, I would imagine your spending in some areas will be a surprise to you, and that knowledge may be all the motivation you need in order to cut back. When some friends of ours tracked their spending for a month or two, they were shocked to learn they were spending well over $100 a week on groceries for their family of three. They have since been able to cut their grocery budget by $20 a week without putting too much effort into it.
2. Accept hand-me-downs. If the word gets out that you would be happy to accept hand-me-downs, you may end up with quite a few necessary items. Several different families in our church showered us with all kinds of used baby equipment and baby clothes for our daughter. It was such a blessing not only to be reusing items rather than buying new but also to be saving some money. I always made sure to ask what the giver wanted me to do with the items once we had finished using them. In every case, there were no strings attached.
3. Borrow equipment or clothing from friends. If you have friends who have young children, they may be willing to lend you necessary items for a short period of time. My friends and I have traded everything from clothes to slings to bouncy seats. Several items are useful for such a short period of time that even if your friends are still adding children to their families, they might be willing to share some items. Good manners dictate that you return the item in good condition or replace it if you lose it.
4. Wait until after the baby shower to purchase any equipment or clothing. Although you might be itching to go shopping for tiny clothes and shoes the minute you find out you’re expecting, if you are blessed to have someone offer to throw you a baby shower, you will likely receive many of the items you need. Creating a registry is helpful in ensuring that you don’t get lots of bibs but no crib sheets, but be aware that some people will not purchase items on your registry. After the baby showers hosted by our generous friends and co-workers, we had everything we needed for our daughter for the first several months of her life, and we received several gift cards as well.
5. Purchase what equipment and clothing you do need used. There are several options for where to purchase or acquire used baby equipment. Thrift stores, garage sales, consignment sales, consignment stores, Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay and Freepeats are just a few. Due to safety concerns, two items that you should consider purchasing new are a crib and car seat. A car seat that is six years old or older is likely past its expiration date, and one that has been in any kind of wreck is no longer safe for a child to use. Also, there have been multiple recalls on cribs in the past several years and safety standards have changed to address the potential problems of cribs manufactured in past. If you do choose to use a family heirloom or used crib, please check out the safety standards guide here and the list of recalls here to make sure your baby will be safe.
6. Less is more. Walking into Babies R Us for the first time as an expectant parent can be totally overwhelming. At first glance, it appears that babies need so much stuff and there are so many choices. In reality, you can get by with very little equipment and fewer clothes than you might initially think. Everyone has a different opinion about must-have baby items, but for the first few months the true essentials don’t extend far beyond a place for the baby to sleep, a dozen or so changes of clothes or sleepers, a car seat, diapers and wipes, and, in some cases, bottles and formula or a breast pump. Although we had many more items than this for our daughter, it’s helpful to realize that most baby related items are optional, not necessities.
7. Feed the baby healthfully and inexpensively. Statistics say that with the right support and information, the vast majority of mothers should be able to breastfeed their babies if they choose to do so. The choice to breastfeed or bottle feed is extremely personal, and people have many different reasons for choosing not to pursue breastfeeding. Some truly are unable to do so, but if a mother is willing and equipped, most breastfeeding issues can be resolved. Breastfeeding is time-consuming and can painful for several weeks, but it is the most nutritious choice for a young baby’s nourishment, containing both all the nutrients a baby needs in perfect proportion and also antibodies to help the baby build a healthy immune system that could mean fewer doctor’s visits. Except for the cost of extra calories the mother needs to consume in order to produce enough milk to feed the baby, breastfeeding is free.
8. Make your own baby food. Another way we found we were able to save a lot of money with very little time was by making our own baby food. Making baby food is as simple as buying fresh fruits or vegetables, steaming them until soft, pureeing them until smooth and then freezing them in small portions in ice cube trays. Making baby food this way was much more cost-effective than buying those tiny jars of pre-made baby food, and some foods like bananas, peaches and avocados didn’t require any cooking or blending, just a quick mash with a fork. We did find that it was worth buying a few foods. Although I attempted to make my own, we ended up buying baby oatmeal and rice cereal at the store to add to homemade purees for extra nutrients and thickening. Once our daughter was old enough, instead of buying her prepared baby food meals, we simply pureed or mashed ingredients off our own dinner plates.
9. Consider cloth. Besides childcare and formula, disposable diapers are one of the biggest expenses for the average baby. We chose instead to use cloth diapers, and our desire to cut costs was one of the major motivations for our choice. I’ve written several posts here, here and here about using cloth diapers. Although the learning curve is steep and there is an initial investment, using cloth diapers can be simple and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.
10. Shop in advance. A sure way to spend more money than necessary is to wait until you absolutely need an item and then go shopping for it. By allowing yourself time to find the best bargains and shopping ahead for clothes, toys and equipment, you will save a substantial amount of money.