Outfit Your Nursery for Less: 10 Tips for Finding Low-Cost, High-Quality Things You Need for Your Baby

Having a baby is so expensive! I should know . . . I'm six months along. On top of your copays for office visits, ultrasounds, midwives, etc., there's all the stuff that comes along with making a space for the baby. Things like changing tables, strollers, cribs, and even baby clothes and blankets add up, after a while. In fact, many couples put off having a child because they know it will cost so much.

Luckily, there are some good ways to save a lot of money on the baby items you want. And I'm not talking about getting cheap knock-offs that won't last. These tips will save you money on everything from generic diapers to top-of-the-line brands and the best-quality items.

1. Get the News Out

When you're comfortable telling people you're pregnant, make sure the word gets out. People have come out of the woodwork to give my husband and I things that would have cost us a small fortune to buy ourselves. At this point, we've received a free car seat, a baby Bjorn, a rocking chair, and an entire wardrobe of 6-12 month little girl clothes, and those are just the big things. Because people don't use baby items for that long, they're often more than willing to pass them along, free of charge, to friends and family.

2. Ask Your Friends

If you're looking for something specific, talk to people you know who already have children. Often, they'll know the best way to get it at the best price. Friends are also a great place to get advice about what is absolutely necessary for your baby, what it's nice to have, and what you really don't need to waste your time and money on. Beware the unwarrranted advice, though. There's something about having a baby that causes some people to want to give you their opinion on every baby product ever known to mankind.

3. Sign Up For Deals

When I bought a few maternity items at a local outlet mall, they put me on a mailing list. Usually, that's annoying, but in this case, I'm already getting quality coupons for things like diapers, bottles, and clothes — things almost every baby needs, at some point. And I'm also hearing about new products. This can be a little overwhelming, but it's been nice to know what's out there.

In addition, if you sign up for a baby registry at Target or Babies R Us, they will put your on their mailing list and send you special notifications about deals on different items. A friend of mine purchased 4 months of diapers for $75 through one of these deals . . . smokin'.

4. Use Coupons

Don't be bashful about using your coupons . . . that's what they're there for. If you're a smart coupon shopper, you can combine discounts at some places or get your coupons doubled at others and get things for prices you wouldn't believe. Stores and manufacturers issue coupons for all the essentials, so keep your eyes pealed and take advantage of a deal when you see one.

5. Shop the Sales

All baby items go on sale at some point, even the high-end ones. When there's a new line coming out, prices are slashed and it doesn't matter who the manufacturer is. If you get on the right mailing lists, you can get notifications of these sales. Sign up both with your local store and the company's website, so you can be sure to hear all the news.

In addition, search for some of the smaller or more obscure baby stores in your area that might carry a particular high-end item. These stores are more likely to reduce prices when they only have 1 or 2 of an item left in stock. If you time it right, you can get a truly astonishing deal.

6. Resist the Media

You don't need everything you see advertised. In fact, you don't need half of it. Ask around . . . see what other people used and what gathered dust in the nursery. Talk to several different families who've had kids to make sure you get a balanced opinion, then decide for yourself what you want and need. Many parents choose to start their "baby collection" with a minimum number of items and find that they never need to buy more.

7. Have a Shower . . . Heck, Have Several

Sure, showers are a time to celebrate your baby, but they're also a time to get some of these things that you need. Be sure your registries are up-to-date well before the date of the shower and full of items in all price ranges, so people can pick and choose what to get you. Alternately, tell your shower's host or hostess that you'd like to receive contributions toward one larger item (or she can collect the contributions and present the item at your shower, if there's enough dough contributed).

8. Craigslist

Craigslist is a great place to find slightly used items. You can get especially good deals on strollers and cribs here, as they are higher-ticket items that people don't want to just give away, but do want to get rid of all the same. You may have to follow your search for a few weeks before you find what you're looking for, but my experience is that it's always a good deal in the end.

9. eBay

While eBay offers some of the same sort of slightly used items you can find on Craigslist, they're also a great place to find items that have been recently discontinued. Case in point: several of my friends who had babies several years ago all ended up with the same diaper bag, because it's simply fabulous. When I went to purchase mine, I found that they are no longer made. But a quick search on eBay revealed several, all under the original price. In fact, I got my bag and paid for shipping for less than I'd have had to pay at a store. Like Craigslist, you may need to check back over several weeks to find an item that's just right for you.

10. Collect Diaper Money

It's easy to get inundated with baby clothes and blankets and all the big stuff, like cribs, strollers, and furniture that come along with having a baby. When this happens, you can forget about the regular expenses that come up after the child is born. However, more and more, parents are needing some help to cover these, too. There are numerous places online where you can set up a diaper fund that people can contribute to, and the service will send you diapers regularly for a year. If you don't want to pick a brand ahead of time, simply nominate a collector and advertise that this is an option for a baby gift. This is especially good for people who live far away from you but still want to give something — they don't have to pay postage or send a box, and they can still give you something important.

Check out these articles for more money saving tips for designing your registry and shopping for your baby:

How have all of you saved money on your baby paraphenalia? I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments.


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Guest's picture

In addition to Craigslist, I have gotten great baby stuff at large resale events like a Mothers of Twins Club sale. And of course those rummage sales are wonderful, although the season is winding down.

A little-known advantage of buying this stuff used or borrowing it: You don't have to assemble it. We picked up our Exersaucer for 25% or less of the retail price from a family whose baby hadn't liked it and hadn't used it much. I had read online that these things are a bitch to assemble, so it was nice bringing it home all in one piece!

Guest's picture

Craigslist worked well for me- actually for my mother-in-law. Her city's Craigslist is more active than my area's, and she had more time on her hands, so I gave her a detailed list of the things I needed and she rounded them up for probably less than $200 for car seat, changing table, cloth diapers, potty chair, high chair, Moses basket bassinet, some clothing, 2 strollers, blankets, tub and towels, bibs, Baby Bjorn, breastpump and milk storage bags, etc. My ongoing expenses have been almost nothing, although I'm sure they will increase as the little guy grows up!

Also, I love my cloth diapers. For a small $ upfront cost and the extra chore of 2-3 loads of laundry a week, I get continuous "free" diapers (haven't noticed a change in utility bill) that work better for us than disposables (less leaks). There are many styles available nowadays!

Guest's picture
Samantha B

I definitely think that anyone who is looking to be economical when it comes to a new baby should consider cloth diapers. The upfront costs are higher, but it's great not to have to buy disposables (or to buy fewer disposables). We invested in Bum Genius, which are quite a bit more expensive than cloth prefolds, but easier to use in that they are more like disposable diapers when it comes to putting them on the baby--no pins! And the environmental benefits of cloth are undeniable--fewer disposables in the landfills and poop going through the sewer system rather than the into the landfill.

Guest's picture

Honestly, this is the easiest thing in the world. Cloth diapers, hand me downs for everything. Children don't need anything but food (oh yeah-breast feed), care, lots of holding. I think many parents use babies as an excuse to spend.

Save the money--it will be more useful later!

Guest's picture

Consignment sales all the way for when you need stuff and when you are done with stuff. My friend just bought her 2T little girl all of her fall/winter clothing for about $50 and about $30 of that will go back to the parents who took the time to wash and prep their old clothing for the sale.

There are 3 that happen twice a year here in my 100,000 person town and they are a little frenzzied but if you are willing to sell or volunteer for them you can have first dibs.

My take at my local Kindermarket last week -
Fall jacket - $1
4 pants & 5 shirts - $15
Halloween costume - $7.50 but only because it was the PERFECT costume, otherwise I would have gotten a $3 that was only ok.

Guest's picture

Your neighborhood or town may have a local parents group that swaps things around for free or for so cheap the price is basically "reassure me this has value" - 50 cents for clothes, $5 for a crib.

The hard part with kid stuff is *stopping* the incoming flow of things and getting rid of stuff as your child outgrows it.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

You guys have some great ideas. We considered the cloth diapers, but we pay fairly steeply for our laundry (we live in an apartment and so don't have our own machines) so the cost is about equal.

Thanks for sharing . . . great ideas to look into!

Guest's picture
Baby Machine

This is by far the best tip.

I have received and/or given so many unused/lightly used items that would have cost a fortune. Everyone who has kids has stuff they have outgrown long before they get worn.

The first thing you have to overcome is the resistance to asking. People love to see their items not going to waste.

Guest's picture

Intrest topic

Guest's picture

I just wanted to point out, buying a car seat from craigslist is a horrible idea, unless it is new in the box. The safety of your child depends on this device, and it is important for you to know your seat's history. I think ALL seat manufacturers recommend replacing the seat if in an accident, and if you buy a used seat, you don't know if it has been in an accident before, and therefore could pose dangers if that seat were in a second accident.

Craigslist is great for clothes and other gear, that's where I got nearly all of my baby items. BUT, I bought the car seat new.

Guest's picture

I also agree with the previous guest about the car seat. First, you don't know if it's been in an accident. Xrays have shown that the foam has been compromised after an accident even if it looks fine with the naked eye. Also you must make sure that the car seat has not been expired. I will buy almost anything used for my child but I will not compromise her safety with a used or expired car seat.

Guest's picture

It's pretty amazing to think about how expensive raising a child is. I am 22, the 'baby' stage of my life seems like the very distant future (although I think that 'distant' feeling is just my wilful denial because I am enjoying this stage in my life a lot).