Buy Baby Bunting... But don't pay full price!

By Linsey Knerl on 6 September 2007 (Updated 29 July 2008) 12 comments

Registering for all the newest baby gadgets can be a blast, but it also can be a financial strain on you and those that you have on your wishlist. While it may seem that “baby posh” is the way to go, it makes more sense to invest in some basic baby staples that you can use in a practical way. Here are some of the best ways to save money when you’re expecting:

 

A portable playpen unit – Perhaps the most well-known is the Graco Pack n’ Play. I would not be as sane as I am today without this gem. A portable playpen / changing table/ and bassinet in one, you can save money and space in your nursery by getting everything in one easy-to-use piece of equipment. Those families without a dedicated nursery can benefit from placing the playpen in their bedroom or living room. Because they fold down easily into a bag you can take with you, trips to grandma’s are a breeze! Avoid thousands of dollars on a designer nursery set, and get yourself everything you need for less than $100. (Tip: When baby is too old for the bassinet sleeper, just have him sleep on the playpen floor. Sheets can be purchased to transform the playpen for sleeping, and there is no way for baby to crawl up the bars and escape!)

 

A Wardrobe for one – Sure those $48 baby rocker tees are chic, but do you know what your newborn will be doing all day? Why shell out big bucks for the latest in baby wear, when you can economize with some cute onesies and pants from your department store. (Many of them also offer organic and fair trade versions for far less than designer outlets.) Since junior will be eating, sleeping, and pooping for most of his first 3 months (and then nothing will fit anyway), splurge on a pricier piece for special occasions and photo ops only.

 

Strollers – Sure I’d like to say that I use the same stroller as Angelina Jolie, but is it really worth $450? Unless you plan on taking your fragile newborn strolling in the Himalayas or you're training for the next marathon with you new daughter in tow, skip the expensive shocks, struts, thermal padding, and GPS system. And while it may be tempting to get a pram for the newborn, jogging stroller for the older baby, and umbrella stroller for the toddler, it may just be easier to buy something you can use for the entirety of the baby’s strolling life. (Tip: Another option may just be to wear your baby in a sling or wrap. They are affordable and can help you bond with your little one!)

 

Baby Food – There is frozen, fresh, gourmet, organic, jarred, canned, and freeze-dried versions of every kind of fruit, vegetable and meat you can feed a baby. Problem is, as easy as it may be to pick up a jar of strained prunes right up off your grocer shelf, you WILL pay for the convenience. At roughly 50 cents for a small 2 oz. jar of fruits or veggies, you could get 2 fresh whole fruits and make a dozen of your own jars. Making your own baby food isn’t difficult, and you don’t even have to prepare a bunch in advance. Simple use a small food processor and a little water to blend to the right consistency. Portion out what baby will eat in one sitting, and freeze the rest.

 

 

While there will always be areas where I have learned from experience not to go cheap (diapers are a huge one!), I also know that there is too much stuff on the baby market calling my name. While all of it is cute, and some of it is handy – very little is necessary. If you are more excited about the arrival of you little one than the opportunity to obtain more stuff, celebrate it with a simple life for your newborn!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

You know I haven't seen a great deal of the family type information on Wise Bread. I'm really glad you did this.

 

 

Guest's picture
Monika

I'm not sure about baby sleeping in this all the time, but I highly recommend having one of these if you travel to see friends or relatives on any kind of regular basis.

To save even more money, I would recommend buying one of these on craigslist. They are always listed on my city's craigslist for around $40, vs at least $100 for retail. The one we have had no basinnet part, and it worked fine for travel with our baby (now almost 2) from birth.

Guest's picture
JenInSC

I can't believe you overlooked the best way to save money on babies (other than not having any): buy used baby items! Whether it's boxes full of clothes on eBay, or consignment store items, you are saving money AND recycling. That means less strain on the planet, as you're reducing disposable packaging and manufacturing of new products.

Your kid will look exactly as cute in a preworn outfit as one that is brand new - and they grow so fast, sometimes they only get to wear something once anyway. This goes for toys, clothes, books, strollers, you name it (except carseats, which supposedly get more dangerous over time). Not only do I accept hand-me-downs, I pass them on to two friends in a row, so everything gets plenty of use.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks for the reminder.  I also am a big advocate of used baby items on Ebay... but I personally prefer garage sales.  I know there are a lot of people that really want to buy new items when their first baby comes (it's part of the excitement.) -- thus my emphasis on new items.  But Craigslist, Ebay and freecycle are all great ways to get 2nd hand items!  (And I especially appreciate your angle on keeping the environment in mind with purchasing 2nd hand.)  Thanks for the comment!

Guest's picture
Amelia

I am kind of past the baby stage, probably closer to being a grandma though I still do respite foster care for newborns. I enjoyed your article! I just had a couple thoughts to add.

About strollers. I think it is important to get the best stroller you can afford. That being said, I DON'T think that means the same thing as getting the most expensive one! If you or your spouse is tall, or if there is a great disparity in your heights, it's nice to get one that has an adjustable handle. Also, check to see that the rear axle is far enough away when you push the stroller, that you don't come close to stepping on it. A stroller that is too cheap, won't have good quality wheels and you'll end up wrestling with it a lot when you use it to make it go the right direction (remember the last time you picked a bad cart at the grocery store?) These are things we learned the hard way.

And I have heard some people say they are worthless, but personally, I would not have survived without a baby swing! My favorite one is one I borrowed for the last foster baby we had. It was a portable table top version with lights and music made by Fisher Price. I think it retails for about $60, but if a few people wanted to go in on a shower gift...I loved it! I borrowed swings for all three of my babies and I thought they were a real sanity saver.

Linsey Knerl's picture

are a necessity for alot of people. My last son (in the picture above) hated swings!  I only WISH he would sit in them like my other children.  This is where the baby sling or carrier really came in handy.  I think that it is always wise to know what kind of baby you have before purchasing too many things.  You were smart to borrow a swing once you realized you might need one.  Nothing is worse than buying a new swing and then having your little one not like it.

Fortunately, there is a market at garage sales for selling what you don't use.  Or it is always nice to give your baby items to a women's shelter or pregnancy crisis center if you don't need it! 

Guest's picture
Guest

Buying second hand stuff is a great way to save money! Just be sure that if you are buying a second hand car seat, pack-n-play or stroller to check for recalls. Safety First!

Guest's picture
Guest

I grew up with an umbrella stroller...just a simple old fashioned one. The same one raised my baby brother ten years later, after four cousins in between. It works, its simple, and so light and versatile! Forget all the bells and whistles, go with easy. Having a baby is hard enough already. :)

Guest's picture
Guest

There are also so many baby items available that I believe are totally unnecessary. The first example that comes to mind is the baby wipe warmer, and also the bottle warmer that can plug into your car cigarette lighter. I am disappointed when I search through our local Freecycle posts and see new mothers requesting these items (oh, and sterilizers too!) as if they're the absolute necessities.

As far as strollers go, I think you can make do with one stroller, but for me I needed more than an umbrella stroller for an infant. Early on when the baby cannot sit up, it can feel like they're about to slump right out. Our stroller was just a shade more "heavy duty", with a tray & cup holder for baby in front. Having that there made me feel more secure even when they weren't sitting up yet. I agree with the stroller tips on post #5.

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J Dunston

I'm late to the party on this -- I just found the site last week via Lifehacker -- but I'm surprised that cloth diapering isn't mentioned here. I cloth diapered my son and am switching my 3-week old daughter to cloth now that her bellybutton has healed. Cloth diapering is incredibly frugal, especially if you have more than one child, and there are diaper services out there that will take care of the dirty work for you at a much lower cost than disposables. I wash my own, however, to minimize the environmental impact.

Also, and I think this goes without saying, breastfeeding is not only good for babies and moms, it's good for the environment and the pocketbook. Even off-brand formula is $15/can, and if you invest in a good breast pump (i.e. Medela's Pump in Style, $250) it's even possible to "breastfeed" your baby while you return to work. My friend gave her son expressed milk exclusively by pumping until he was eight months old, saving herself hundreds of dollars in formula. Not everyone is able to keep it up that long, but even nursing for the first six weeks will save a family a substantial amount of money.

I used a lot of these suggestions with my first child, and can attest to their effectiveness -- making your own baby food, for instance, is awesome. I would add to that, don't buy a freestanding highchair when a smaller one that straps to a kitchen chair will do -- and save space for those who (like us) have downsized to save $$ even as our family has grown!

The last thing I would suggest is to invest in a convertible car seat that takes your child from infancy straight through grade school. As child seat laws grow more stringent, parents are having to spend more and more on booster seats -- my state, for one, requires boosters for kids up to 80 lbs. Our son's seat converts to a booster that will take him all the way up to 100 lbs, so even if the laws change we will be covered. Now the only question is...will he let his sister use it when the time comes?

Linsey Knerl's picture

I'm with you on most of your ideas.  I also advocate breastfeeding if at all possible.  I have done nursing with supplemental feeding by formula when I had to.

I would have LOVED to do cloth diapers, but unfortunately, it would have put a burden on our already maxed-out ancient septic system.  Many times we didn't even have a working washer or drying with my children, and as much as I would have liked to try it, it just didn't work out.

I have tried the gDiaper thing, though.  They worked alright (but still were tough on our taxed out plumbing.)

Thanks for sharing your tips.  We will be focusing on more baby care topics in the next month or so! 

Guest's picture
Guest

i would love to have one but i am poor