Baby’s First Year on a Budget

Everyone has heard the phrase “babies are expensive”, so having one before you’re “financially stable” is not a good idea. The average newly married couple will not be “financially stable” for a while, so what happens if an unexpected pregnancy happens? Or you planned a baby but still need to stay on a careful budget? Well, as a first-time parent, you may feel the pressure of needing to buy all these things. I know I did! There are So Many baby items out there that are marketed as necessary items for baby’s health, safety, and ease of parenting, all of which are desirable things for such a stage of life. So what do you really need the first year?

Here are the basics I find are what you really can’t get away with for the first year of baby’s life.

Here’s an obvious one for you. A good car seat.
This is rather important for good reasons; one of the reasons is, you can not leave the hospital with your baby if you do not have one. This can be a very pricey item, but you can buy them second hand as long as they are still up to date on all their required codes (these you will find in expiration dates written on the stickers on the lower sides of the car seat). Always remember the importance of not attaching anything extra to a car seat that did not come with it as it can cause injury to baby in the course of an accident.

A bed.
Cribs can be found in yard sales, second-hand stores, and other places. They do not have to be bought brand new. If you are wanting to avoid multiple purchases, I would recommend either a Pack-N-Play or an actual Crib. The reason I recommend that is because if you happen to go on vacation or spend the night somewhere, you will need a mobile bed; a Pack-N-Play can serve very well as that and can last up to a year or longer depending on the size of your baby. My first one was able to stay in it for 15 months, and the second 11 months. I also find Pack-N-Plays to remove the need and may make parents feel more comfortable about the safety of their child because of the mesh siding; there are no hard rails the baby could get stuck in or roll into and no need for crib bumpers, which can actually be a smothering hazard. There is the risk that your baby could grow out of the Pack-N-Play rather soon, so keep that in mind when weighing your options. A side note for the crib; I would say you really only need two sheets, three at the absolute most.

Diapers/ Diaper bag
Here you have some options to play with depending on how much you Really want to save and some other things. Starting with the Diaper Bag; buy or use a cute backpack from somewhere like Wal-Mart or a large purse. I find that actual diaper bags are overpriced, and something you are charged for when you don’t really have to buy that exact thing, but can find something else that works just as well. All you need is something that will hold some diapers, wipes, burp cloths, change of clothes and bottles. I personally do not like carrying around a bunch of extra things, so being stuck with a diaper bag was really annoying. Having a backpack was awesome for my taste and style and worked so much better for me. It stayed out of the way more easily and when I didn’t want to use it anymore I just put what I did need in my big purse around 6-7 months of age.
Diapers….. The dreaded expense for all parents. Diapers can be a drain on finances, no doubt. When I was originally doing research as a first-time parent, I ran across this number; on average, you will spend almost $3,000 on just diapers alone by the time your baby is two and a half and they are not usually potty trained by then either. So your other option? Cloth diapers. I personally did not feel like spending That much money on my child’s butt! I managed to diaper two babies at once in cloth diapers for only $200. This does require some dedication, time, knowledge and patience. Now before I lose you completely, let me say, it is not a gross as you may think. Yes, you have to wash them. No, it does not go into your machine! The poop goes in the toilet, there’s this really cool thing called a poop sprayer that you attach to your toilet and it acts like a hose that you spray all the nastys off with. However, if you are going to put your baby in a daycare, this may not be the best option as some will not change cloth diapers, so please do some research.

Stroller. Yet another big purchase.
This one I almost argue to be a debatable purchase partially because it is such a big purchase. Are they super necessary? No. Yes. Your lifestyle would be more to dictate that. I found I preferred to carry my first baby in a sling or some other carrier especially when baby was very new. It kept a lot of people from getting in her face or asking to hold her because she was strapped to me and because her face was in my chest, making it a little awkward if they did try. Had I not been taking walks every day, sometimes twice a day, I would not have worried so much about the stroller as much. I would still recommend one if possible but, it would not be one of the first things on my list. If, however, you are wanting to have kids close together, I more highly recommend putting some money into your stroller and perhaps find one that can be converted from a single to a double. I do want to just throw this in here, I have been saying they should make a car seat convertible into a stroller because carrying a car seat, diaper bag, and your stuff when you’ve had 3 hours of sleep is brutal when you have a walk to and from your car. And guess what, they did! And here it is! Car Seat Stroller Duo. Cheap, not really, but So Cool!

Side note: there are two things you need to have a good relationship with as a new parent; your stroller and your diaper bag. You will be spending a lot of time with both. If there’s no ease of use, they can be extra headaches. So do your research and do what works for you, your lifestyle, and your baby.

woman holding two white and beige shopping paper bags in building
Photo by bruce mars on

They’re pretty needed but you really don’t need as many as you may think or perhaps as many as you want to buy. Baby clothes are cute and hard to resist, but in reality, they grow out of them so very quickly that my kids didn’t wear a good bit of their clothes but once, and some not even at all. You will be doing a lot of laundry so clothes will get washed very quickly.

Bottles and Pumps…
This one may be more of an investment depending on your choice to breastfeed or formula feed. My main point with bottles, Do Not buy the small four oz. bottles. Babies do not eat much when they are first born but eat more often to make up for it. This does not last long, and then you will be stuck with all these small bottles that you don’t need anymore. I would say go ahead and buy the larger bottles. If you are choosing to do breast milk but use a bottle to feed, then perhaps you would want to put money into a good pump that is not manual. But if you are going all natural in feeding, you might want to invest in a small hand-held pump that’s easy to clean and store like this Haakaa Silicone Breastfeeding Manual Breast Pump Milk Pump 100% Food Grade Silicone BPA PVC and Phthalate Free. This will make it easier to leave baby a bit longer and go out and have a bit of fun. The best thing about this pump is its small, fits into smaller bags, and has no little hard to wash or dry parts that germs can build up in! Definitely my first choice for only needing to pump every now and again.

Now there are some things I think you can get away without buying; things like

A changing table and bathtub. The reason for those not being as necessary in my opinion is this, just buy a changing mat and pull it out when needed or leave it on a dresser, I often changed my babies on the floor after a certain age just because I found it to be a lot easier. Bathtubs can make bathtime easier and perhaps more fun, but I gave my babies sponge baths on the bed with a towel underneath them until they could sit up and then would just empty out a clothing storage bin and use that in the tub when they could sit up. I will still sometimes give my one-year-old a quick sponge bath if I don’t want to go through the hassle of bathing both kids and the clean up after.

Our first baby slept in the same room as us for the first nineteen months of her life only because we lived in a one-room apartment So we didn’t need one for the first baby, and if we did ever sit outside we would simply call each other’s phones putting both on speaker but leaving the one with us muted. It worked very well and I never had to worry about going out of range. In my opinion, your baby will be just as safe with a simple sound monitor, nothing super fancy or pricy needed for your little one if they are sleeping in another room. As long as you are able to hear your baby crying, that’s really all you need.

I would say that this is a needed item but not for the first six months. Once you start introducing solids to baby and baby starts eating by themselves is probably about the time you would need to get a highchair. I would recommend an actual highchair and not a Bumbo because the baby will quickly outgrow the bumbo and will tip it over too easily once they start moving around more around nine months or so. If you can find one that is easy to fold and take with you, that is your best bet. This is not a long-term needed item though so unless you want a lot of kids, I’d say make sure it is easy to transport, and easy to clean the entire thing (so having one what you can wipe the whole thing down is a good option).

Nursery Decor.
Let’s face it, about 90% of this field is marketed towards the parents, more specifically, the mothers. It’s cute! It makes the room look nice, well put together, cozy and inviting. But I’m afraid it’s mostly for us. The babies will not notice or care if they don’t have the most fashionable room or cutest rugs, blankets or toys. They won’t remember the wall color, the bookshelf, the mobiles, or the cute baby art on the wall. It’s all for the parents. If you are really needing to stick to a budget but want to decorate the room, find ways of sticking to the budget. I completely understand the desire to prepare a room for your new baby and wanting it to look perfect, but if it just can’t fit into the budget, please don’t worry or fret yourself over it, it does not make you a bad parent.

All in all, do your research, consider the lifestyle you and your family hope to lead and make your purchases based on this. It is very possible to have babies on a budget and not spend thousands of dollars and go broke. Make a budget, stick to it, sacrifices may have to be made, but if you can stick to a budget and save, you’ll have more later and be better off. If you need help with budgeting, check out Dave Ramsey. Good stuff there.

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