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What Do You Actually Need for Baby if You’re on a Budget?

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Are you wondering how you can have a baby when you’re on a budget? It is totally possible to have a baby when money is tight, especially if you consider what the baby actually needs for the first few months of life.

We LOVE baby gear and gadgets, but the thing is, even we know that there are plenty of unnecessary items out there for babies that parents can live without.

The baby industry is huge – and for good reason. Babies are being born every single day!

But the truth is, a lot of these items are made with convenience in mind.

We love that baby gear can save you time and sanity too, but the money required to purchase all that exciting and seemingly essential baby gear can leave a momma stressed right out.

We created this baby on a budget checklist for those families who simply cannot afford all the extras that are recommended.

This list includes the bare minimum essentials that will get you through the first few months of life with your baby.

Bare minimum essentials to have before your baby arrives

  • Car seat (You cannot leave the hospital without this)
  • Clothing
  • Receiving blankets
  • Carrier
  • Bath essentials (Tub, cloths, lotion, and soap)
  • Thermometer, Infants’ Tylenol
  • Nail clippers, hairbrush
  • Bottles
  • Diapers (cloth or disposable) and wipes
  • Crib or bassinet
  • Diaper rash ointment

How much does a baby cost every month?

The cost of having a baby will highly depend on your lifestyle, but there are some general guidelines we can help you with to give you an idea of the costs you can expect.

When it comes to baby stuff, there are a few costs that are recurring every month such as wipes, diapers, childcare, formula, clothing, and baby gadgets and gear that you may realize you really do require and need to purchase.

As your baby grows older, the diaper packages will cost slightly more and more. It’s a good idea to buy your diapers in bulk packages at places such as Costco or Amazon. (We love Amazon because they will send diapers every month, so if you forget to order them, they will come anyway!)

If you choose to use baby wipes at home, then this is going to become a cost you’ll need to add to your budget. You can use cloth wipes instead and do a little more laundry than you used to, but you’ll have to factor in the cost of doing extra laundry as well.

As far as childcare goes, this will vary depending on where you live. It’s always a good idea to do your own research for your area and see what the costs of childcare are on average.

If you’ve thought about becoming a stay-at-home parent, this is a good time to weigh the pros and cons if you aren’t completely sure yet.

Staying home with your kids vs putting them in daycare is a very personal choice, but it’s an important one to think about and plan accordingly.

If you end up formula feeding instead of breastfeeding, you will need to add formula to the list every month as well. (Here is a formula feeding calculator to help you prepare financially for your new baby.)

Your baby will also be growing really quickly, meaning you’ll need to upgrade their wardrobe constantly.

As your baby grows you’ll need to purchase additional baby gadgets and gear that you don’t have but realize you need. This may include toys, a high chair, or simply buying new sippy cups and other feeding supplies.

Tips for preparing for a baby financially

We know that preparing for a baby financially can make your head spin.

All the things you need to get, the things you need to do, etc.

The good news is that you have about 9 months to get things done, so it’s not a total rush!

Here are some things you can do to prepare for your new baby financially:

  • Know your maternity leave budget: How much money will you receive on maternity leave and how long will that last? Will you go back to work after maternity leave is finished? Make sure to adjust your regular budget to your maternity leave number so you know exactly where you stand.
  • Deal with debt: If you have debt and are able to make payments on it before the baby arrives, then by all means, now is a great time to get that dealt with if at all possible.
  • Start sinking funds: Babies cost a lot of money. If you can put money away into an envelope and stash it in your closet until the day you need it, then you should go ahead and do that.
  • Budget budget budget: Now is a great time to start a budget if you don’t have one.

What do you actually need for baby if you are on a budget?

Remember, this is a BARE MINIMUM list of the things you need for your new baby. Life can be more challenging without some of the other items that we didn’t include on the list, but not impossible.

Car seat

For one, the hospital will not let you leave without a car seat, so this is an essential must-have item for your baby. There’s no getting around it.

Clothing

Your baby will also require some clothing to wear when they get out of the hospital. Some babies do not fit into newborn clothes after birth and go straight to 0-3 months or if they are on the smaller side, the premie sizes.

We suggest having at least 10 sleepers, a few onesies, and a handful of socks for your baby all ready to go before she comes home from the hospital.

Receiving blankets

Receiving blankets will be your godsend, whether you are having a baby on a budget or splurging away on baby stuff. You’ll use your receiving blankets for swaddling, as a blanket, as a puke catcher and cleaner-upper, and more. You’ll want to have as many of these as possible.

We discovered that when parents are finished with their receiving blankets, they tend to sell them online for almost nothing and in bundles too.

Check out the Facebook Marketplace or any other website in your area that has options to purchase items from other people in your neighborhood.

Baby carrier

If you’re on a super tight budget and cannot afford a stroller, you’ll want a baby carrier or wrap for when you leave the house.

A baby carrier is helpful and most can be used from the newborn stages. You can also use the baby carrier in the home when the baby is crying to be held and you have things that need to be tended to.

Bath essentials

When it comes to baby hygiene, you can splurge on the best baby bath products and a fancy bathtub or you can use a simple bath that can be used from newborn to 6 months (or until baby can sit up) and then continue bathing baby in the big tub (or shower) in your home.

You CAN use regular towels, but the baby hooded towels are easier to use. If your baby has a severe cradle cap, you may want to also purchase a cradle cap shampoo later on too.

Thermometer and Infants’ Tylenol

There is no denying that a thermometer is an essential baby item to have before the baby arrives. You never want to get stuck in the middle of the night without a thermometer when you have a feverish baby.

If you need to call the doctor and let them know what is happening with your baby, they will be asking for the baby’s temperature. This can help you skip a trip to the hospital which can become costly if you’re in the United States.

Infants’ Tylenol is also great to have on hand for when the baby is teething or has a fever. You’ll want to check with your doctor for appropriate situations for using Tylenol, but it is a must-have item to have at home.

Nail clippers and a hairbrush

Babies often have razor-sharp nails and fuzzy hair. You’ll need to keep those trimmed for her sake and yours too.

Keep your baby looking nice by brushing your baby’s hair, which is especially nice after a wash or if your baby has cradle cap.

Bottles

Whether you’re pumping or formula feeding, bottles are a must-have item when preparing for your baby to arrive.

The good news is, if you sign up for FREE baby samples, a lot of these packages come with bottles!

If your baby has colic or starts to get gassy from the simple bottles, you may have to splurge and get a more expensive bottle.

Bassinet or crib

Your baby will need a place to sleep.

A bassinet can be helpful because they tend to be portable, but the truth is your baby won’t use it for very long. If you’re trying to save as much money as possible, you may want to jump straight into buying a crib instead.

Diapers and wipes

Diapering a baby is unavoidable. You can choose between using cloth diapers, which are more expensive upfront but save money in the long run, or disposable diapers which cost you a consistent number every week or so.

Regardless of the diapering method you choose, you’ll have to spend money there.

Diaper rash ointment

While we are on the subject of diapering, you will also need a good diaper rash ointment/cream.

It may seem a bit splurgy, but a little goes a long way and you don’t want to be without it! An uncomfy baby means an uncomfy mommy.

Nice-to-have baby items, but not completely necessary

Baby items fall within 3 main categories. The essentials you need, the unnecessary baby items that are mostly a waste of money, and then there’s another category for “nice-to-have” items that aren’t completely necessary.

These are the items that will make your life easier, but you do not absolutely have to have them!

But I wanted to list them anyway because if you see that you can make room in your budget and you want to splurge on an item or two, these are the items that are worth splurging on.

High chair

Your baby will not need a high chair for the first 4-6 months of life, and therefore this is something that you can purchase later when it’s within the budget. There is no need to have this before the baby arrives.

That being said, if your budget allows for it and you want to go ahead and grab one now, it will be one less thing you’ll have to worry about buying later on.

Stroller

Strollers seem like a must-have item, and they sure are convenient.

However, it is perfectly possible to go out and use a baby carrier instead. It’s more uncomfortable to not be able to throw your bag into the bottom of the stroller, but when you’re on a tight budget, this is something you can skip.

You can wait until the baby is old enough for an umbrella stroller, which is cheaper than a travel system, and use that for a long time!

Wipes

Call us crazy, but you actually don’t need wipes at home.

They are super convenient and make life so much easier, but for the purpose of a super tight budget, you can forget the wipes.

Go for homemade cloth wipes instead if you’re having trouble coming up with the cash for wipes.

Baby jumper or activity center

Baby bouncers, jumpers, and activity centers are all nice to have items. While it is fun for babies to play with toys like this (and it gives you a free hand when you need a break), it is also something you are able to skip if you don’t have the budget for these items.

Letting babies play and explore on the floor is healthy and free if these items aren’t in the budget.

Baby floor seats

Baby floor seats are a lifesaver for parents.

While these are super convenient it is simply not a must-have item as the baby and parents will survive without one.

Bassinet

As I mentioned earlier, a bassinet is a nice-to-have item but not necessary. If you want to save money, you can purchase a crib instead and use that from the start.

Bassinets are great because they are portable, but your baby will outgrow them quickly so it’s up to you whether or not it’s worth spending the extra money.

Baby monitor

Chances are, if you are on a tight budget and are not creating a nursery, then you will not require an expensive baby monitor.

If your home is small already, you will be able to hear the baby if they wake from their nap. If you do feel like you need a baby monitor, you don’t have to dump your entire budget on one. An inexpensive monitor did the trick for us.

Nursing wardrobe

If you’re a new mom and stressed about money, then you certainly can go without a nursing wardrobe.

It can make things more difficult, especially if you’re out in public trying to feed, but you can use a scarf as a nursing cover or a receiving blanket.

We highly recommend you grab a nursing bra at the very least, but you CAN live without it.

Nursing pillow

A nursing pillow can help position the baby for proper breastfeeding, however, a regular pillow can do the same.

It might be a little more frustrating at first but it can be done, and you can save yourself some money there.

Diaper pail

This is a very handy item and can keep your home from smelling like a giant diaper, but you can use your regular trashcan for dirty diapers.

We do recommend you wrap each diaper in a plastic bag to keep down the smell. And you may want to use a stainless steel trash can with a lid as well.

Diaper bag

It’s quite handy to have a diaper bag because they come with bottle pockets and all sorts of compartments to keep your baby gear organized.

However, if you have any sort of backpack or large purse, you can use that instead.

Baby swing

When your baby is fussy or you need a break from holding her, a baby swing comes in handy.

While it is a super convenient item and most moms call it a must-have, it is certainly something you CAN do without. You can always put the baby down in the playpen if you need a break and cannot afford a swing.

A lot of these items that we skipped are so nice to have and most parents would call us crazy for leaving them off the bare minimum essential list.

But listen, your baby and you will survive without these items, it just might be a little more difficult!

More money-saving tips when you’re having a baby on a budget

So now that you have a list of bare minimum essentials and some ideas on how to prepare for your baby financially, we have some actionable tips for you to save money on your baby’s upbringing journey.

List it out

The first thing you’ll want to do is create a list of essentials so you can stay focused on what items are important for your family.

You can go ahead and create a detailed spreadsheet with the item, the cost, the preferred brand, how many you need, and how urgent it is that you get it before the baby arrives.

Or, you can create a simple checklist so that you can check things off as you purchase them.

Keep in mind that while it is really exciting to pop into a baby shop and start adding things to your cart because they are too adorable to pass up…

It’s best to stick to your list so you can be sure to avoid spending extra money on baby items that you may not actually need.

Shop early

You’ll want to start shopping for baby stuff as early as possible so you’re not in your third trimester stressing out about all the things you still need to find.

If you’re on the fence about a baby item, keep in mind the return policy guidelines so you can be sure to get your money back if you change your mind after the baby has arrived.

Diapering

The third thing to keep in mind is to figure out how you’re going to diaper your baby. If you go ahead and purchase cloth diapers, then your costs for diapering aren’t going to increase every month.

You’ll need a minimum of 26 diapers and some wet bags like these.

If you’re going with disposables, then you may want to consider using cheaper diapers during the day and more expensive and absorbent diapers during the nighttime.

The drier the baby feels, the better they will sleep.

Usually, store-brand diapers are cheaper, which is something you could consider when trying to save money on diapering needs.

If you’re thinking of using store-bought wipes, keep in mind that budget wipes are often not very high quality and can rip while you’re wiping your baby’s bum.

The Kirkland wipes from Costco are by far the highest quality wipes for the lowest cost. You may save a few bucks by buying them in bulk too.

Breastfeeding

A great way to save money on formula, bottles, and bottle accessories is to breastfeed your baby.

I realize this isn’t possible for everyone and not everyone wants to breastfeed (and that’s completely ok).

But, there’s no denying that breastfeeding has so many benefits – one being that it will help you stay on a budget if you cannot afford monthly baby formula.

Baby bottles can get pretty expensive also. If you are formula feeding full time, you’re going to need a good collection of bottles at home.

Also think about drying racks, sterilizers, bottle brushes, and the time you need to ensure your bottles stay clean and sanitized for your baby.

Breastfeeding can save you some of those financial headaches.

Previously loved gear

Another way you can save money on your baby is by purchasing baby clothing and gear that is previously loved.

Going to your favorite thrift shop or looking at the Facebook Marketplace for deals is going to help you save a bundle of cash when you’re scouting for baby essentials.

Keep in mind that when you are purchasing items for your baby that are used, you should only buy items that can be washed and sanitized. If the items cannot be thrown into the washer such as clothing, then you may want to skip it.

It is important to have clean baby items so whatever you do purchase second-hand will need a thorough cleaning.

If you’re lucky, some thrift shops have baby items with brand new tags on them and for super cheap. Babies do grow out of their baby stuff quickly and sometimes parents donate items that are brand spanking new to the thrift shops.

Don’t forget yard sales and even Facebook mom buy and sell groups.

You can also sell the baby items that you use as soon as your baby grows out of them, so you can use that money for the new stuff that you require.

Shop online and save

When you are shopping online, make sure you do your research before you buy. Some items should be purchased brand new (such as a car seat).

We don’t trust used car seats simply because you will never know if that car seat was in an accident at some point. Better to be safe and purchase it new.

Get free stuff

While you’re shopping online, be sure to go ahead and sign up for FREE baby stuff!

There are some websites like Enfamil and Similac that ship boxes of free formula, coupons, and other baby things right to your door.

Keep the nursery simple

Another thing you need to add to your checklist is the nursery decor. You can certainly have an adorable nursery on a budget.

If you’re on a super tight budget, skip the nursery altogether and have the baby in your room for a while.

But if you have the room in your home and your budget allows for it, then set up a nursery, but keep it simple. A lot of nursery decor is super tempting to splurge on, but if you have a baby shower, then you might get some decorative items for the room anyway!

Skip the toys

When trying to have a baby on a budget you may want to skip the expensive baby toys. Most of the time babies will take more interest in playing with household items such as wooden spoons, Tupperware containers, and pots anyway!

Also, keep in mind that the baby will not be able to play with toys for at least the first three months of life, so you can save money by not buying a lot of toys.

Toys do help with development, so we recommend having at least a playmat like this one for your little one, but again, for the sake of the budget, you can totally skip this.

Swap groups

If you do want to purchase toys, you can look for swap groups in your community. Yes, these groups are amazing and they totally exist.

You can even do this with friends if you have babies that are close in age. Instead of purchasing new toys, swap your current toys with someone else so your baby has new toys that didn’t cost you a thing.

Don’t stop at toys though. You can do this with all baby gear, especially clothing.

Cut extras from your budget

Another great way to have a baby on a budget is to refer to your current budget and see if there is anything that you can cut from your budget when you find out you are pregnant.

If you look closely enough, there should be at least one or two things that you can cut from your budget, even if it is your daily Starbucks.

Saving just $2 a day for 40 weeks can help you save $560. That’s a new travel system!

The thing is, you’ll have to think hard about your budget and dig deep into it to find the opportunities to save, but this task should not be ignored.

Do cheaper things

This may seem like a silly thing, but are there any areas in which you can cut your spending while you’re pregnant?

Can you lower a gym membership? Can you cut back on eating out? Can you save money by doing a no-spend month every other or every couple of months? Can that basement renovation wait a little while?

Look for these opportunities and try to do activities that don’t cost you as much.

Baby food

Once your baby starts eating solid foods, you can save money by using baby-led weaning or making your own purees instead of purchasing them.

You don’t have to skip it altogether either, you can purchase some baby food such as baby cereal that is iron-fortified, and supplement with foods you eat yourself, such as bananas, avocados, and toast.

Babysitting

After you have your baby, you may want a night out here and there. See if you can swap babysitting with friends instead of paying for a neighbor to look after the baby.

You can also ask family members and friends to do you a favor and look after the baby so you can have a night out with your husband. This is a good way to save $40+ for each evening that you need a babysitter.

Baby shower

With all the things that babies need, you’ll want to have a baby shower so your friends and family members can help you get set up with baby essentials.

If you haven’t already, go ahead and create your baby registry and start adding the essentials.

Diaper and wipes shower

If you already have a lot of baby gear ready to go before the baby comes, there is no shame in having a diaper and wipes shower.

Basically, instead of your friends and family purchasing baby items for you, they will purchase diapers and wipes instead. You know you’re going to need them, so it’s not a bad idea to have a shower for these baby necessities.

Keep in mind the hospital has stuff for you

When you are packing your hospital bag, keep in mind that the hospital does have a lot of essentials for you if you do not have them on hand.

They won’t give you a lot of stuff, but they will help you out and give you some essentials such as a few extra diapers, some wipes, a pacifier, Vaseline, a baby thermometer, etc.

Having a baby on a budget is totally possible.

But there are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for the baby financially so you can squeeze in some baby gear that will help make your life easier.

Remember that babies do cost money monthly with many recurring purchases that need to be made.

That’s why you will want to figure out your budget nice and early on in the pregnancy so that you are fully prepared!