The weeks before and after your baby is born can be a total blur. From preparing for your baby’s arrival to bringing them home and learning their rhythms, you’ll quickly realize how easy it is to spend a ton of money on such a tiny person.
Thankfully, you don’t have to buy every baby gadget in existence to be a great parent! There are lots of ways to provide everything your baby needs on a budget—after all, you’re going to need some money leftover to save up for college.
Don’t shop too far in advance
While you’ll want some essentials available when you first bring your baby home, you don’t need to be too prepared. Here’s why: you may buy something in bulk that your baby refuses or doesn’t fit into by the time they need it. Think bottles and pacifiers, which your baby may enthusiastically reject, or clothing for a season months away that they may outgrow faster than you thought they would.
Before you make that Costco run for diapers, formula, or other baby items, test a few out first to see if you and your baby like those items.
Learn from friends’ experiences
Talk to friends who’ve had babies within the last few years (innovations in baby gear happen fast, so parents who’ve had newborns recently are knowledgeable of the latest goods). Find out which items they used all the time, and which collected dust in a closet.
Your friends can save you from buying useless items—and they may have some clothing, toys, and other gear to give you for free.
Know what you can get secondhand
While some gear needs to be new for safety reasons, other items are perfectly safe to pass from family to family.
Car seats are only built to last about six years before expiring, and should never be reused if they’ve been involved in an accident. As car seat cushioning wears down, it can affect how well the car seat protects your child.
Drop-side cribs were banned from the market in 2011 because they pose major safety hazards, so don’t accept a drop-side crib. Strollers may be able to be reused if they haven’t been damaged.
Clothing, books, and relatively new toys (older toys may contain lead) are safe to accept as hand-me-downs. Arranging swaps with other parents is a great way to get gently used items for no cost.
Safety rules for baby clothing, toys, and gear change frequently. Before accepting any second-hand items, be sure to check for a recall.
Buy gender-neutral clothing
If you plan to have more children, buying gender-neutral baby clothes allows you to reuse onesies, blankets, and other items with all of your kids. While it’s tempting to buy super-cute items in pink or blue, that increases the odds that those items will only be used a handful of times.
Look for gear that grows with your child
Innovations in strollers, car seats, and high chairs allow them to adjust as your child grows, saving you money and precious space in your home. These tend to be some of the most expensive items you’ll buy for your kids, so any product that can be used for years will save you a significant amount.
Lower feeding costs
Breastfeeding is free, but many new moms struggle to breastfeed successfully for long periods of time, or need to pump breast milk when they return to work.
That means that many parents will need to save up for feeding costs. You won’t know in advance how your baby will like to be fed, so prepare to change your plans to pumping, formula, or a combination of feeding styles. Every baby feeds differently—even siblings.
Keep formula samples and coupons
If you plan to formula-feed your baby, your pediatrician may have formula samples and coupons on hand, which can save you a lot over time. It never hurts to ask the next time you take your baby to the doctor!
Consider generic formula
The FDA regulates all formula, so regardless of brand, they must meet the same quality and nutrition standards. If your baby takes generic formula as happily as the brand name, you stand to save quite a lot.
Save on entertainment
You and your baby will love participating in enrichment activities together, but classes can get expensive. Luckily, many local libraries offer lots of free baby-friendly activities like story time and music classes. You can also buy a membership to a nearby zoo, museum, or aquarium to bring your baby to frequently.
In fact, if a friend or family member wants to buy your baby a generous gift, suggest an experience gift like a zoo membership. It may be more meaningful than an outfit they’ll outgrow before they even wear it—and it cuts down on clutter in your home.