Saving for baby: How to have a baby on a budget
This post contains affiliate links which means if you click and buy I may make a commission at no cost to you. See my policy for more information.
People always want to throw their tips and unsolicited comments, thoughts, and suggestions at new parents.
One of the most common ones? Reminding prospective parents that babies are expensive.
And they aren’t wrong.
But just because they aren’t wrong doesn’t mean you can’t come up with creative solutions for bringing your baby into this world without breaking the bank.
When planning to have a baby on a budget, its helpful to be armed with some information about how much you’ll need to plan for when setting your budget and where you may be able to cut some costs. And if you can start thinking about those things before you’re even pregnant, that will make life so much easier (but don’t worry — it can definitely still be done if you’re counting down the days until that baby comes and you’re on maternity leave)!
Babies can be expensive.
But if you want to prepare for a baby on a budget, these are the things that you need to know:
How much does a baby cost per month on average?
Regretfully, there is not a hard-and-fast number to rely on when planning for your baby, though there are a lot of places online you can see guestimates.
Things like the cost of diapers, childcare, feeding your baby, and clothing are all things to keep in mind.
You’ll also want to take into consideration the types of things you’re willing to compromise on as ways to save money. Maybe you plan on buying your baby gear from thrift stores. Or perhaps you have friends and family members willing to to lend or give you their used baby clothes. Your comfort level with which baby items you’ll be willing to snag second-hand will play into the overall cost.
What are one-time newborn expenses that I should be planning for?
Some of the expenses that you will need to plan for are a crib, stroller, car seat (or two), and basic clothing.
Medical expenses are also a consideration and can be widely variable for different people depending on their medical coverage, so be sure to contact your insurance company if you have questions about your coverage.
Don’t forget hospital and doctor’s expenses
Did you know that some hospitals charge an inpatient fee for a vaginal delivery and cesarean?
Some doctors also have higher fees than others, so its important to ask about this before making your decision.
If your employer offers the opportunity to utilize an Health Savings Account (HSA) consider that as well, as it is a good way to set some funds aside specifically for medical expenses pre-tax.
When you’re interviewing your pediatrician find out from them if they do hospital visits. If they don’t, you may want to find out who the hospital uses and how your health insurance will handle them — will they be considered in-network?
Where can I cut costs when budgeting for having a baby?
Some people are able to save money by asking family for help. This may be in the form of childcare, house cleaning or cooking food for them after their baby is born.
It can also come in the form of donations as a gift from friends and family members when someone has just had a new baby. For most people, these gifts are done as part of a baby registry.
Utilizing your baby registry is also helpful.
Do your research and be sure to include items that you genuinely believe will be useful for your family and your new baby and don’t be afraid to include big-ticket items like cribs, strollers, and nursery gliders.
Also don’t be afraid to include items that you believe may be more long wearing than their cheaper options. Sure, people may decide not to purchase these items for you, but at least you’ve given them the option (and you may be surprised how generous some people are willing to be) and you’ve made clear what you prefer.
Also make sure to include items that will be beneficial for that full first year of baby’s life. You don’t need to limit your baby registry to baby items that are just for when baby arrives but will quickly outgrow.
Some other simple ways to save for a new baby when you have a tight budget include:
-Shopping online for baby clothes and find the deals
-Joining a local Facebook group for parents to find secondhand items you can trade or buy from other parents (we love our local “Buy Nothing” Facebook group)!
-Asking your family members if they have any hand me down’s that are in good condition.
If you’re not sure what types of items are safe to get second hand versus buying new, you can check out this post which breaks down some of the more common items and which ones are safe.
Baby expenses: What essentials will I need to have for my baby?
Honestly, a baby really doesn’t need all that much in order to be well cared for (though there are certainly a large number of items out there geared towards making things easier on parents).
Aside from love and attention, here are some tangible goods that babies need:
-A car seat
-Newborn basics: diapers (you could choose to use cloth diapers as another money saving option, but disposable diapers are not necessarily all that much more expensive), outfits and blankets.
-Feeding supplies like bottles and formula (if you’re not planning on breastfeeding)
-Crib or baby bed + mattress, and baby sheets
-Hygiene items such as baby shampoo and baby wash, diaper cream, and baby bath tub
-A stroller and/or baby carrier
–A diaper bag or a generic bag to carry diapers, wipes, and various baby items
-A breast pump if you plan to breastfeed and will ever be away from your baby (often times you can get one for free through your insurance)
What can I get for free or second-hand for my baby?
Some people will offer you hand-me-downs or items they no longer need for your baby. This is a great way to save money if someone has something that’s in good shape and can be used by your child!
Some of the best money saving items you can get when you have a baby on a tight budget are baby clothes. Baby clothes are often handed down from older siblings, cousins, or neighbors. You may also have friends who’ve had babies recently and don’t want the same outfit twice — it never hurts to ask!
You might be able to find free cloth diapers at a local diaper bank (check online), yard sales, or in a local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. That’s where I was able to get a whole box of cloth diapers — for free!
Things like toys, baby clothes, a baby swing, a changing table, dresser are all great items you can usually find second hand.
Asking around about these types of resources before you start buying everything new could save you a ton of money.
But even though getting items second hand is a great option for saving your budget, make sure to think twice about getting everything free or used. For example, a breast pump might not be a great option to get second hand as many are single-use in order to prevent infection (though you can often snag a free breast pump through insurance).
Cribs and car seats are also items that you may want to plan to get new instead of taking them off the hands of another mom.
How much can I rely on my baby registry?
The short answer is, you can’t necessarily expect people to purchase anything for you.
However, if you’re going to make your baby registry available to people (say, before a baby shower) then make sure you’re not purchasing anything off of it until closer to the baby’s due date. If you do purchase things off of your own registry for yourself or your baby, make sure to indicate on the registry itself that the item has been purchased.
Make sure that the items on the registry that you really want are identified as such (because sometime people will buy versions they prefer over the ones on the registry).
If you think that there may be a number of items people choose to purchase based on their own preference rather than what you’ve identified on your baby registry, then you may want to consider taking into consideration a company’s return policy before setting up your baby registry.
Also keep in mind that there are some baby registries that will provide you with a completion discount so that you can purchase the remaining items you want or need at a discount. It’s a great money saving option you can utilize after the baby is born!
Consider a product’s ability to be reused
When you’re putting items on your baby registry (or purchasing them yourself) consider whether or not a particular item can be used if you have additional children.
Is the item itself well-made and durable? For example, I purchased an inexpensive diaper bag which promptly broke and I almost immediately wished I had put that money toward a more durable bag that would last me several children.
Does it expand? If you plan on having multiple children, you may want to consider a stroller that offers you the ability to add additional seating if you think a second (or third) child may be an option for you family down the road.
Research prices (and likability/credibility ) of your child care options!
There are many different options for childcare, and the prices can vary wildly. Make sure you do your research before choosing one so that you know what to expect in terms of price as well as quality!
The key is finding a balance between cost and quality. Maybe the daycare down the street has more affordable rates but less time with teachers or higher turnover rate; maybe an up-scale preschool offers lower class sizes but requires payment upfront–knowing these things will help make your decision easier! And they’re also helpful things to look into when you’re trying to create a budget.
You can find the current costs of several childcare options in your area on ChildCareAware.org, or you might need to scroll through social media groups for friends and neighbors with children near your own age. And if you are expecting a baby soon, be sure to talk with family members about what they did when their kids were young!
My husband and I looked a decent number of daycare options for our first son, but the most helpful thing for us was finding out what people with children slightly older than our own had found. Knowing that our friend’s kids felt safe and loved using specific child care options helped up when considering different options for our own babies.
How much does it cost to have a newborn baby?
According to an article by New York Life, actually giving birth to a baby can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 if you’re not covered by insurance. That number can really add up!
If you are covered by insurance then these numbers might not matter as much because they’re already part of your plan’s deductible.
If you do have health insurance, but you’re not sure about your coverage, reach out to your insurance company for clarification.
How much money should you have saved to have a baby?
This number will not be the same for everyone.
Some people are able to save a ton of money before they even get pregnant.
Others don’t start saving until they’re in their second trimester or third trimester because it’s hard to do so when you have other bills and expenses that come up.
You’ll want to make sure you have enough money saved or at least enough coming into your bank account to cover all of your current expenses as well as any medical expenses.
You’ll also want to have enough either already in a savings account or coming into your bank accounts to cover the diapers, wipes, and possible formula.
Moreover, you’ll want to be mindful of the amount of money that will be coming in (if any) while on maternity leave, if both parents work, when you’re considering what it will look like to have a baby on a budget.
Plan ahead for postpartum expenses
Two things that a lot of women struggle with postpartum are breastfeeding and mental health.
Something that you can do to prepare your budget for the postpartum period is to look into helpful providers that are in your insurance network before even giving birth.
That way you’re not desperately searching for a lactation consultant who may or not be in network if you struggle to breastfeed well. And you don’t end up seeing a therapist out of network if you end up battling postpartum depression or anxiety.
It doesn’t mean you have to use these resources if you don’t need them. But if you plan ahead, then you can be comforted knowing you have options and you don’t need to put off getting help just to stay on your budget.
Breastfeed if you’re able
Breastfeeding is tricky topic. I get it.
For a lot of women, breastfeeding is actually quite difficult (I know, I am one of those women). For others, its just not possible. And for some, its healthier (either physically or mentally) to skip breastfeeding entirely.
So when you’re considering relying on breastfeeding as a way to budget for your baby I want to make something clear: do not put yourself in the position where breastfeeding has to work in order for you to stick to your budget.
But it is a great option if you want to save money and it works for you.
Even pumping is a more economical option than formula because you’re just faced with the upfront cost of the insurance (though many insurance plans do cover part or all of the cost of a new pump), pumping bra, bottles and nipples, and nursing pads). Those initial costs, however, will be recovered quickly.
If breastfeeding isn’t possible because of mother’s choice or medical issue, look into buying quality store-brand formulas instead of name brands. This will cut your monthly expenses down significantly while still giving your baby all the nutrients they need for healthy growth.
Join local community forums
I don’t know about you, but our local Facebook “Buy Nothing Project” group has been a total lifesaver.
We have gotten so many items for our children, including a ton of cloth diapers.
Admittedly, I don’t exclusively use cloth diapers and tend to personally prefer disposable diapers, but being able to get them for free saved us a lot of money!
If you’re not 100% sure you’ll like a particular baby item, a great option is checking these local forums and groups for cheap and free items as you’re preparing for a baby.
But, in my experience, you do want to keep a good eye on them because a lot of other pregnant women probably have the same idea!
Be honest with people
If people ask you about the things you need for your new arrival, be honest!
If you need a car seat, then you can say that.
If you’re uncomfortable telling people about big ticket items you still need, perhaps you mention it in conjunction with a few other helpful items. For example: “we still need to get some more diapers, a car seat, and some bath toys.”
People like to get things they know will be used.
So if someone asks you what you still need for your baby, get comfortable being honest.
Consider your child care costs and options
Depending on your desire (or your spouse’s) and income, having someone stay at home with the kids may be more reasonable financially then shelling out some of your hard-earned funds for a childcare provider.
On the other hand, it may be more financially beneficial for both parents to work while your child goes to childcare.
It is not necessarily something that has to be decided while you’re pregnant, but if one of you may be interested in staying home with the kids then it would be smart to be saving with that in mind as you prepare for a baby.
If you do both plan to work then you need to weigh the needs of your family and the costs associated with your various child care options:
Babysitter to make up some hours if one of you can watch the child/children the rest of the time
Keep a running list of all your expenses, the date you paid for them and how much they cost.
My husband loves to budget.
Me? Not so much.
But when you’re preparing to have a baby on a budget it is helpful to make at least three budgeting categories:
This would include things that are necessary every month like rent or mortgage payments, utilities bills, groceries etc.
These are your monthly savings goal contributions made towards investments such as 401Ks or IRAs; cash deposits into emergency funds; money put aside each paycheck towards other financial priorities like home renovations or vacations.
Here you’ll have items like movies, coffee and restaurant outings; clothing purchases or gifts for others.
Take an honest look at how much money is coming in and how much you’ll need to spend on a baby and their respective items.
And when I say how much you’ll need to spend on the baby, I mean plan on spending more than you think. You don’t want to put a number that pales in comparison to what you actually end up spending.
Does someone need a second job? Can you make it with your current incomes? Is it cost effective to have someone stay home with the baby?
Take advantage of freebies and samples for mom and for baby
When I had my first son I received so many (truly, a ridiculous number) of baby formula samples. I was able to see if our son liked the formula without having to buy a whole can of it.
If you just do a quick internet search for free samples you’ll find so many offers from diaper and formula companies, to baby food makers.
If an offer comes in that sounds good to you, sign up for it!
Everyone says that having a baby is expensive.
And they’re right.
Babies are expensive.
But one of the nice things about a baby is that they don’t need you to buy them all the latest and greatest gadgets in order to be well cared for and happy.
They need love, affection, and some essentials.
I know we all want to make sure our children have the best, but if you’re trying to have a baby on a budget you really just need to focus on having the essentials and making sure that the items you have are safe.
A woman I know once told me that her baby came early and ended up sleeping in a laundry basket for her first night at home.
In Finland new moms are given a box for their babies to sleep in.
Simplicity is ok.
You’re baby doesn’t need much to be happy.
Just the essentials.