24 Tips for Having a Baby Without Going Broke

by Camilla Cheung on 24 February 2012 16 comments

As most new parents can attest, having a baby isn't cheap. There is new furniture to buy and important decisions to make on diapering, nursing, and more. It also seems that as soon as you get pregnant, you get bombarded with advice and marketing on what baby gadget to buy. Although having a baby will likely never be free, there are some ways to pare down your expenses. After all, people have been having babies for thousands of years without most of the fancy baby gear that is available to us now. (See also: Can You Afford to Have a Baby?)

1. Baby Showers

You’ll probably get lots of needed items at a baby shower hosted by a friend or a relative. Register at a baby store so you can get the things you need. If you get extra clothes or repeat gifts, return them for a merchandise credit that you can spend on necessities (Babies ‘R’ Us, for example, will take returns for store credit even if you don’t have a receipt). Have more than one shower if you can, and don’t feel guilty about it! People are happy to get together to celebrate your little one and help you out with a few gifts. If you have a lot of out-of-town friends, be sure your registry offers online ordering and reasonable shipping prices (an Amazon baby registry might be a good idea).

2. Loyalty and Rewards Programs

Sign up for Amazon Mom (you may have to be on the waiting list for a while) to save up to 30% on Subscribe and Save items such as diapers and wipes. Amazon Mom also gives you free Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping. Become a rewards member at chain stores like Babies ‘R’ Us, which gives you rewards points for purchases (including on purchases that others make on your baby registry) and exclusive coupons.

3. Daily Deals

I found a great high chair reduced to $20 (shipped!) from the original price of over $80 by diligently perusing Dealnews. Groupon and Living Social can sometimes turn up great family and parenting deals. Get on the email list to stay up to date (you may wish to set up a separate email just for coupons and offers). Check Amazon’s daily deals and their “Quick Picks,” products geared towards your personal preferences that come with a personalized coupon.

4. Breastfeed

Formula is expensive; breastfeeding is cheap. If you can, breastfeed your baby to save money. Plus, doctors now recommend breastfeeding until babies are one year old. Breast pumps can get expensive, but there are mid-range electric pumps (such as Ameda Purely Yours and Phillips AVENT Twin Breast Pump) that offer great value when compared to the top-of-the-line Medela pump, and will still cost you far less than buying formula.

5. Use Cloth Diapers

Disposable diapers are expensive — your baby will probably go through at least $2,500 to $3,000 worth of diapers before he or she is potty-trained. Cloth diapers will cost you much less, especially if you have a high-efficiency washing machine and line-dry your clothing. Cloth diapers have come a long way since your mother’s diapering days! No more safety pins and rubber pants! The newest cloth diapers are almost as easy to use as disposables. While you’ll spend a bit more initially (some new cloth diapers cost up to $20 a piece), you’ll save money and the environment in the long run.

6. Use Cloth Wipes

If you’re going to use cloth diapers, why not use cloth wipes too? Use soft washcloths or cut-up receiving blankets, dampen with a solution of water with a tiny bit of baby shampoo, and wipe, wipe, wipe! Cloth wipes are gentler on baby’s bottom and can be tossed in the laundry along with the cloth diapers.

7. Shop Discount Stores

I love looking for baby clothes and gear at discount stores like Ross, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls, where you can get new, good-quality baby gear for half the price. Past season brand-name baby sleepers, deeply discounted play yards, safety gates, toys, books, and other useful items can be picked up for a fraction of the price.

8. Buy Used Baby Clothing and Gear

The thought of putting your baby in another child’s poopy pants might gross you out, but in reality, used clothing stores often carry barely used baby clothing, since babies outgrow their clothes so quickly. Once Upon a Child is one used clothing store that specifically stocks baby and children’s clothing that is in good condition. You can also look for charmingly “vintage” clothes at thrift stores or shop Craigslist.

Although you shouldn’t buy items like car seats, strollers, and cribs secondhand because of safety issues, garage sales and thrift stores are a great source for gently used toys and nursery gear (for example, rocker-gliders are great items to get secondhand). Just be sure to check for recalls before using the item.

9. Free Meals

Register to receive free meals from friends at a site like Mealbaby.com. Friends and family will love to help out (and perhaps catch a glimpse of the baby), and you’ll get a free meal, which may help to preserve your sanity in those first few weeks.

10. Stock Up on Homemade Meals

Make some lasagnas, casseroles, soups, and banana bread to stock in the freezer before you go into labor. That way, when you’re ravenous post-labor and your body is burning a zillion calories a day producing breast milk, you’ll have something to eat instead of ordering in.

11. Shop Generic or Budget Brands

Try generic or budget brands such as Target brand diapers and wipes; IKEA brand crib sheets, towels, and bibs; Kirkland brand diapers and wipes; ALL Free and Clear or Charlie’s Soap Powder instead of more expensive baby detergent; prefolded cloth diapers instead of fancy burp cloths; generic baby acetaminophen; and more.

12. Buy Multi-Use Items

You don’t really need a play yard AND a bassinet — most modern play yards have a bassinet insert. Look for a stroller that’s light and portable enough to take everywhere so you don’t have to buy a second stroller. A convertible car seat may cost slightly more than an infant car seat, but your child won’t outgrow it as fast. Some kitchen booster seats can be used instead of a highchair even when your child is younger. And don’t forget to get gender-neutral items if you’re planning to have another child!

13. Buy Items That Are NOT Designed for Baby

As soon as an item has “baby” in its name, the price goes way up. Instead of a fancy diaper disposal system, just use a lidded garbage can and sprinkle with baking soda to keep odors down. Skip the changing table and use a sturdy low dresser bought on Craigslist or IKEA that can double as storage (just be sure to avoid really old secondhand items that may have lead paint). Find cheap baskets, storage boxes, and hampers at Walmart instead of expensive “diaper caddies” and baby hampers.

14. Line-Dry Laundry

Hang clothes to dry to save on energy costs. Added bonus — the sun’s rays can bleach out poop and milk stains!

15. Beg, Borrow…

See if you can get clothing, bottles, and other necessities from friends who have had babies. Avoid, however, using a secondhand car seat or a crib that’s more than a few years old. Safety standards for those two items are revised every year, and an older one may compromise your baby’s safety. Along the same lines, trade and request free baby clothing from websites like Freecycle.org.

16. Combine Coupons

Save manufacturer’s coupons (which often come in magazines or on diaper packaging) and combine them with store coupons for extra savings. Before going shopping, do a quick search on the Internet for a printable manufacturer’s coupon.

17. Skip the Bedding Set

Bedding sets used to be extremely popular and ran into the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. They included matching quilts, sheets, bumpers, crib skirts, window valances, and pretty much anything you could think of. Nowadays, they’re falling out of favor. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents that crib bumpers are not safe — in fact, all you should have in the crib is a firm mattress and a crib sheet. Pillows and thick quilts are also not recommended for use in the crib because of the suffocation hazard they pose. Save your money and buy a few simple crib sheets instead and a few inexpensive “sleep sacks” or swaddling blankets.

18. Don’t Overbuy

Wipe warmers, fancy rompers, colorful plastic diaper disposal bags, and baby seats and positioners are all great extras to have, but they’re not necessary.  Even a baby bathtub might not be necessary if you’re okay with bathing your baby in the sink. And don’t buy too many baby clothes before your baby’s born — your little one might grow so fast you don’t even have time to use all those cute newborn sleepers.

19. Free Babysitting

If you only need occasional babysitting, trade free babysitting with another parent or group of parents, and don’t be afraid to ask grandparents for help (they’ll jump at the chance to spend time with their grandchild). If you spend money on child care, get a receipt and look into claiming the Federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

20. Free Parenting Magazines

You can get free subscriptions to American Baby and BabyTalk, two parenting magazines. These magazines are entertaining and informative, and they come with valuable coupons. 

21. Free Nursery Art

The Internet is a great resource for printable art for baby’s nursery, such as these adorable illustrated alphabet cards. You can also repurpose shower decorations for baby’s room and frame some of those cute baby cards.

22. Make Your Own Baby Food

Rather than buying jarred baby food, making your own is cheaper and healthier. You can control all the ingredients and don’t have to be concerned about BPA (sometimes found in the plastic lining of baby food jars), high levels of arsenic (recently found in baby rice cereal), and preservatives. Just mash up an avocado, a banana, a steamed carrot, or another whole food, and you’re good to go. Some parents freeze baby purees so that they’re ready to be warmed up when needed.

23. Free Samples

Request free sample packages in the mail from popular brands like Pampers and Huggies. For example, signing up on the Pampers website will get you a sample package from Proctor and Gamble, Pampers’ parent company, as well as $101 worth of coupons. Again, I recommend setting up a separate email account for coupons and offers so your personal inbox doesn’t get too cluttered. Also, before you leave the hospital, ask the nurses if they have any free samples you can use, and ask your pediatrician for free samples as well.

24. Swap Toys and Books

Exchange toys and books periodically with other parents to keep your entertainment stash fresh and interesting for your child without having to buy anything. You may also want to consider looking into one of the new toy rental companies out there.

Frugal parents, do you have any advice to share on having a baby without blowing your budget?

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Guest's picture
Long

A great way to save money that wasn't really mentioned is to receive second hand items. I have a lot of family and friends who have had children in the past few years and are not planning on having any more. They were more than happy to give me their gently used items. Most of which are in great condition. We've managed to save hundreds and hundreds of dollars on items like cribs, swings, and clothing.

The items that were not usable were turned into Babies 'R' Us last week during their trade in sale. Since we needed to get rid of the items anyway, we got 25% off new items in the store (which was on par with online pricing for the same item). We took the opportunity to buy a new infant car seat.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'd say that was covered in #15, but good point!

Guest's picture
Long

Oops! I guess the thought was spinning through my mind, so I completely overlooked the point. Thank you for pointing it out and being so gracious. I appreciate it.

Guest's picture
Guest

Amazon Mom now requires a Prime membership. We decided it was worth it but some may not. http://www.amazon.com/forum/baby?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxSKWDWQRZ03WU&c...

Camilla Cheung's picture

Yes, I just found out about this. Kind of a bummer that they're changing such a great program. I'm still using my old Amazon Mom membership, but when it expires I'm going to have to think long and hard about whether it's worth Prime.

Parenting Squad's picture

Oh, yes. #13 is the best tip. Stuff labeled "for baby" is very successful marketing. I promise you, the "baby" washcloths won't serve your baby better than soft, cotton washcloths. And they don't add anything to baby food bananas that your child needs. Grab a fork and see #22.

Guest's picture
Tara

These are all great suggestions. Cloth diapers don't have to be costly though. If you buy plain old prefolds and covers for them, you can get enough diapers to last for 3-4 days for well under $200. We spent $110, and those diapers were all we needed until recently (when the adjustable one-size diaper covers became too small for my chunky 14-month-old). We spent another $50 on a few new covers, and we're back in business. If we had gotten 3 dozen all-in-one diapers at $17-20 a piece, we would've spent well over $700.

Guest's picture
Guest

Well, even $700 is a lot less than the disposable route, which is the point I think they were trying to make. It does cost more up front, but in the long run it's a LOT cheaper to do cloth diapers. :) Glad you had good luck with prefolds, I know a lot of people don't care for them.

Guest's picture
AC

1.)Buy for baby a season or two ahead of schedule. I buy all my sons winter/summer clothes for next year when clothes go on super discount. Outlets are great for this. I can buy clothes pieces for less than $2. A few baby outfits for each age go a long way too.
2.)Diapers.com is awesome and has great deals, and they take coupons you clip, as well as having ecoupons. Don't get sucked into the other sites though unless necessary. They don't always have good deals.
3.)Buy convertible pieces for big toys. I have a jumper that had a tummy mat, then pulls apart into an activity table when they are standing. It is a toy with 3 different stages, and it's useful until age 2. Otherwise you are just giving tons of stuff away they barely played with.

I have boys six years apart, so I had to start over with just about everything, and you learn a lot the second time around. :)

Guest's picture
Ella

I am planning on having a baby in 2013-2014 but I am already gathering tips about managing to stay on track financially after having a baby, thanks for those!

Guest's picture
Young

Babies can be so costly because a lot of people what to spend top dollar on everything for baby. But there is nothing wrong being frugal, especially when baby will outgrow everything within a few days

Guest's picture
Jen Chendea

Actually, doctors recommend breastfeeding beyond one year and preferably two or more years. Nothing magical happens at one year to make breastfeeding less valuable.

Guest's picture
Jess

If I remember correctly (I'm not a pediatrician either), our babies need more calories at about 1 year than breastmilk can give them, so based on their normal growth and development, that is the change that happens at about one year. I would recommend consulting with someone with a medical or scientific background for the most accurate information. It's amazing the breadth of knowledge that they have, having gone to medical school/internship/residency for 6 to 9 years.

Guest's picture
Kyle Kam

This only proves that everyone who wants to have a baby must be prepared physically and financially. The responsibility involved in having kids is really tough. Still, at the end of the day, just seeing your child's smile could lessen the stress you carry.

@Long I have the same experience, man. It surely helps a lot, especially when you don't have enough money to buy new items.

Guest's picture
Ella

I so agree with #13, just because it is labelled "for baby" then things tend to cost much more than the regular item...

Guest's picture

Having a baby can be costly but it is well worth the investment. To raise a child is the biggest but best responsibility any person could have. Love the tips!