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Having a Baby without Breaking the Bank

By Crystal Paine

Despite what you often hear, having a baby doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, we had our first daughter when my husband was in law school and we were living on around $1,000 per month. With lots of creativity, we managed just fine!

Here are some tips that helped us:

Stop Buying Stuff You Can't Afford

There is often a tendency as soon as one finds out they are pregnant for the first time to want to start shopping – for baby things, maternity clothes, baby books, nursery furnishings and the list goes on and on and on. My advice? If you can't afford it, don't buy it.

There are so many things that pregnancy books, magazines and even friends will tell you are must-haves. You can fork out hundreds (or even thousands!) of dollars on these items needlessly. Resist the urge to splurge on things you don't need – especially if your budget is tight! In addition, look for saving options on basic necessities. For instance, often times store brand baby products can be just as effective as name brands and can save you up to 50 percent!

Stick With Necessities

In my first pregnancy, we actually didn't buy anything aside from a few maternity clothes, a few blankets, and a few packages of diapers and a few sleepers. Everything else we needed for the pregnancy and the first few months of our daughter's life we either borrowed someone, received as a gift or did without.

“What does it really take to raise a baby?” Aside from lots of love and nurturing, here are the essentials I believe you truly need:

  • Clothes (For starting out, I think you can get by just fine with around six onesies, six sleepers, a few pair of socks, a few hats and four to six blankets.)
  • Bed (unless you're planning to co-sleep)
  • Car seat
  • Stroller
  • Diapers/wipes (either cloth or disposable)
  • (If you are unable to nurse or if you are adopting, you would also need to add baby formula to this list. Bonus Tip: Store brand formulas, like Wal-Mart's Parent's Choice, are nutritionally comparable to national brands like Enfamil® and Similac® (the FDA requires it). By switching to store brand formula, you won't compromise quality and you can save up to $600 a year.)

And that's about it, folks. Seriously.

There are other things that are nice to have, such as a swing, a sling (or ERGO), a few nicer outfits for baby to wear out of the house, a diaper bag and so forth, but none of those things are absolute necessities.

Accept Hand-Me-Downs

There is no need to buy brand-new, name-brand, clothes for your baby. If they are anything like most little children, they will likely quickly stain them or grow out of them, so you might as well get baby clothes as inexpensively as you can! If someone offers to share their hand-me-downs, willingly accept them.

Also, sign up for your local and watch for folks who are getting rid of baby clothes and other items in your area. You can often snag sacks of baby clothing and other baby things this way – all for free!

Buy Used

We've saved so much money over the years by buying used! Thrift stores, garage sales and consignment sales can be goldmines for baby deals. In addition, check Craigslist, eBay and local Facebook Yard Sale Groups.

Start looking for items at least six months before your baby is born and you'll likely be able to accumulate everything you need for pennies on the dollar.

Consider Cloth Diapering

Making the switch to cloth diapering is a big decision and not one to rush into without some thought and research. It's a commitment of time and energy and it's also usually a financial commitment, but it can pay off in fairly big dividends.

How much you save by cloth-diapering will vary a great deal depending upon how many children you have, what kind of diapers you buy, how much you'd usually pay for disposable diapers, how much your water and electricity costs, whether you line-dry your diapers and so forth.

However, regardless of your situation, I can fairly safely say that you will save at least $100 per year by using cloth diapers at least half of the time. Plus, there's a good possibility that you'll save significantly more than that if you cloth diaper exclusively, don't have high electricity and water costs and use your diapers for more than one child.

Shop Around for the Best Deal

I recommend buying your baby's bed and car seat new, but that doesn't mean you need to spend a small fortune on these items. Scout out deals at local stores and online. By combing an online sale with a coupon code from a site like RetailMeNot, you'll usually be able to score a bargain.

Tip: Follow BabyCheapskate and BabyGoodBuys to get alerted to the best baby deals and freebies available each week.

About the author

Crystal Paine is a wife, mom of three and founder of, one of the most popular personal finance blogs on the web. Her second book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, releases in January 2014.

Retail prices are from a June 2013 retail price survey of assorted Wal-Mart stores. Actual prices and savings may vary by store and location. Enfamil® is a registered trademark of Mead Johnson & Co. Similac® is a registered trademark of Abbott Laboratories. Parent's Choice Infant Formula is not made by or affiliated with Mead Johnson & Co., or Abbott Laboratories.