Preparing for a baby when you are on a budget can seem daunting, but I am here to help! Here are some ways you can prepare for a baby without breaking the bank.
When I was pregnant with my first, my sister gave me some advice. She said: start preparing financially now- save as much money as you can. You have no idea how much this will cost you.
She was right
Having a baby costs money.
A lot of money.Preparing for a baby when you are on a budget can seem daunting, but I am here to help! Here are some ways you can prepare for a baby without breaking the bank.
When you start factoring in prenatal healthcare and labor and delivery (I was lucky enough to have some of mine in a country with free healthcare, so I was super lucky in that regard- there was no hospital bill), daycare, unpaid maternity leave, etc., then the costs are just crazy. I can’t help you with that. As expectant parents know, pregnancies and childbirth can be expensive.
I can help you with all the other small things that add up really, super quickly.
Congrats! You are pregnant or are thinking of getting pregnant. It’s time to start preparing for a baby on a budget.
First Step When Preparing for a Baby
Set up a savings account titled “preparing for baby.” I like to use Capital One 360 because they let you have tons of different savings accounts. This account is your priority. All extra monies go into this account. Everything you can- you should throw here. Worse comes to worst, you end up with extra money, and you’ll dump it somewhere else.
Preparing for a Baby: The Diaper Issue
Warning: there are tons of pregnancy and baby boards where parents talk about preparing for a baby. One of the pieces of advice given is to start buying diapers and setting up a stockpile. In fact, women will post pictures and updates of all the diapers they have purchased for the first 2 years of the babies’ life. This is a bad idea! For a few reasons, don’t do this:
1. You have no clue what sizes your baby will need. One mother told me that she was pregnant with her third, so she knows exactly what she is doing. At this, I let out a guffaw. I come from a huge family and from a community where people have lots of babies, very often. There is one thing I can tell you: you don’t know. All your babies can be tiny, and then baby #3 or #9 is huge or vice versa. Some babies only like certain brands of diapers. Some leaks only out of Huggies but not out of Pampers. It’s foolish to take so much money and buy something that can be bought fairly easily.
2. When you buy a lot of diapers, you are investing in diapers. That’s a pretty stupid thing to invest in. Why not take the money and put it in a savings account and earn a tiny bit of interest instead of buying tons and tons of diapers?
The only caveat I have is that if diapers go on a major sale and you can get them for very, very cheap- especially if combined with coupons or registry discounts (more on that), then buy a few packs to have around. But buying enough diapers for the first year of your kid’s life? Please don’t do it. Speaking of diapers, I used disposable diapers/nappies because I just couldn’t go the cloth diaper route, but that is something to look into if you want to be more eco-conscious.
The Big Ticket Items
After that bit of a rant, there are some big purchases that you will need to make for your baby. Some of these things you can borrow or buy second hand but some things are best to buy new (it is very risky to buy a car seat second hand or to get a used one- it is one place that it is a good idea to save and spend the money).
A lot of baby equipment is used for a very short amount of time, and therefore, it is easy to borrow or buy used. However, be careful: do your research, as many products are often recalled as safety standards change. We always want our babies to be safe, even if it will cost more money.
You likely qualify for WIC, which is a government program that gives pregnant women and babies “vouchers” to buy healthy food and formula. See if you qualify and apply now to get the most benefits that you can.
Big baby equipment: See if anyone is selling used
Find out if you can borrow some of these things from someone who is finished with them or is in between babies. For example, I have a baby bath that takes up a lot of room, and I am always happy to lend it to someone for a few months. I also have a baby swing that has been lent out many times. Since it is only used for newborns, we only use it for a few months, so I’m happy to lend it out to their newborns. On the flip side, my baby is currently using a bath ring that is borrowed and a baby carrier that is borrowed.
While I am usually a big fan of buy-nothing groups and other Freecycle groups, I would be wary of getting baby items that cannot be washed or sterilized really well. But if you have friends or other people, you know well and trust, you should definitely ask if you can borrow some of their stuff!
Of course, you will still need to buy some big-ticket items like a car seat, stroller, and a place for the baby to sleep, among other things. Here is where it gets more fun. Do your research and choose items that are safe, practical for you, and affordable. You don’t need fancy cribs and bedroom sets if you can’t afford it. A simple co-sleeper is cheap and safe. Always look to shop sales and take advantage of any promotions and gift card promotions.
Which brings me too… Baby Registries!
Even if you are not having a baby shower, you should absolutely register at every store that you can for two reasons:
- The Gift Bag- more on that later
- Completion codes and discounts!
All the big registries offer coupons on any items not purchased from your registry when the baby is born. These can be anywhere from 15-20% off. That is big savings on baby gear! If you pick the item from the cheapest store and then stack the completion code, you will be getting a nice discount on some big stuff. That’s why I suggest to sign up for all the registries- that way, you have the coupons no matter which store is cheapest at the moment.
It is super easy to sign up for a registry, and you can add whatever you want- don’t stress about it. Most stores allow returns, so definitely add more rather than less. And for sure, add the items you know you will want or need. You can just go through the baby registry checklist that all the websites have and just click on any items that suit your fancy.
Setting Up a Baby Registry Tips and Tricks:
- Add all the big items you want and need. Better to add more stuff than regret not having them on later
- Add all the small stuff you think you may need. That way, you can get the coupon codes on small items also- it adds up. Think diapers, wipes, nursing pads, nail clippers, milk storage bags, cloth diapers, etc. This is also great if you have a baby shower- someone can buy something small in their budget.
- Set your due date before your actual due date. That way, you can get the completion coupon before you have the baby (hopefully) and prepare accordingly.
Using the completion code can really save you a lot of money on the big stuff and small stuff.
If you have relatives or friends who are kind enough to offer to buy gifts, make a list of things that you absolutely need or want, and offer specific requests when they ask. Instead of telling Grandma, “Oh, anything from the registry or anything you want,” when she asks, reply with a specific request in her price range, “I really need a diaper bag. I love the Skip Hop ones” or “we would love something towards a car seat.” Only you know if this would be well-received or appropriate. If not, then keep your mouth shut and accept all items graciously. You can always donate them or re-gift it.
Samples and Freebies
Now onto the other reason, you should set up every registry: the gift bag.
Companies love pregnant and expecting mothers. They know that a woman preparing for a baby is a prime target for all sorts of marketing. Baby products are a big business. Caring for your baby means getting a lot of baby gear, and they know that most expectant parents will be on the lookout for the best baby products. You are in shopping mode, and they know that. The good thing is that you know that too and you are ready for it!
If you are spending moolah and buying stuff, then at least let the companies work for their sale a bit. You can use this desire to market towards pregnant women to your advantage.
Companies practically throw things at parents who are preparing for a baby. They want you to use their items and get hooked on them and to believe that only they offer the best baby products. So what I do is take all the freebies offered to me.
Most stores offer a gift bag when you sign up for their gift registry. Some are easier than others to get, and some offer better ones at certain times. Follow all the deal sites to make sure to get these gift bags or boxes at the best time.
4 Baby Registries you Must Sign up for:
Amazon offers a welcome box after you set up a registry and someone buys something worth $10 off of your registry (maybe you have a kind friend or relative you can convince to do this for you?).
Target offers a welcome bag at customer service after you set up a registry in-store or if you bring in proof of your registry that you set up online.
BuyBuyBaby offers a welcome bag when you set up a registry and go into the store to request one.
Walmart has an option to request a welcome box when you set up a registry online.
These bags and boxes have items of varying helpfulness and usually come filled with coupons for things you will need for yourself and the baby.
Some of the things that I have gotten include pacifiers, bottles, a swaddling blanket, 15% off Target nursing pads, and tons of samples! Mini Lansinoh cream, diapers, wipes, creams, nursing pads, etc.
These samples are great to use to see if you want to invest in the item before purchasing. Not all babies take the same pacifiers or bottles, so it would be a shame to invest in a lot of one type of bottle before discovering that your baby refuses that type.
I would highly suggest not going overboard while you are preparing for a baby. It doesn’t usually pay to stock up on too many baby items and clothes before the baby is born. You often end up overbuying or buying the wrong things. While everything is returnable, post-baby is not the time to be running around trying to find receipts and returning the size newborn clothes you bought for the baby born at 0-3 months’ size. Buy a few pieces just in case and buy what you want but don’t buy too much.
Babies don’t need that much when they are first born- they are happy in their pajamas and don’t really need or want accessories, so buy those things sparingly.
Also, having a baby means lots of stuff. this goes extra if you have a car or two. Take all your samples and place them in your diaper bag, in your car, in your stroller. This way, you always have diapers, wipes, and creams in various places in case you need them. The mini packages of wipes and diapers are really great for this. Just throw them into your diaper bag and glove compartment, and you don’t need to remember to pack them each time you leave the house.
Other companies also offer freebies, so sign up for every single one!
8 Freebies and Samples
Signing up for the following programs will net you tons of freebies, coupons, and samples. All you have to do is give them your information. Be warned: you will get lots of promo materials from all these companies. I thought it was worth it!
Baby Box Co– freebies along with free child safety classes.
Even if you are not feeding formula or are not breastfeeding, or are undecided, sign up for these programs. They send you tons of coupons and samples, which are so great to have. If you are planning on breastfeeding, it can be useful to have some formula in the house just in case your milk doesn’t come in right away (speak to a lactation consultant before giving formula if you want to breastfeed). It would be a waste to have to buy a whole jar. If you have some that you are not using, you can give it to someone who does use formula or drop it off at a food bank.
These companies all send coupons not just for their products but often for other products as well. For example, I have gotten coupon codes for photo books and birth announcement cards from Snapfish and other promo items, which are really useful or fun to have.
Of course, if you have to spend money on things when preparing for a baby, don’t forget to use Rakuten to get cashback and get the most bang for your buck.
If you are planning on pumping, you should definitely check whether your insurance company offers a free breast pump. The Affordable Care Act mandated that insurance companies provide a breast pump to new mothers, so check with your insurance coverage to find out how to get one that is covered by your insurance company.
Preparing for a baby means saving!
Save as much money as possible! Even with all these deals and freebies, babies, and then kids are super expensive. With many mothers in the United States not being offered paid maternity leave, the cost of having a baby is pretty hefty, even if FMLA protects your job. You can lessen the blow by saving as much money as possible. Save as much as you can, even if it’s not enough. Every little bit helps.
If you can cash flow, the baby, and family leave and still have some money left over, then consider starting a savings account or 529 college account for your kids. Especially if you are low-income, having some money set aside for big expenses in your child’s future is an excellent idea. If kind relatives or friends give money as a gift, do whatever you can to take that money and put it away for either you or your kid to use in the future. You can even start a college savings plan if that is something you want to do.
Speaking of your kid’s future, kids who grow up being read to and owning their own books tend to be smarter and more successful in life. We all want the best for our kids, and this is an easy way to get them a solid foundation for life. The best part is that you can get free books for kids in the mail just by signing up for these programs! You have no excuse not to see if you qualify for any of these programs.
You can sign up when your babies are literally just born so you can get started on your home library right away! Click below to get free books for your kids!
I share more of how I dealt with my unpaid maternity leave here. A lot of old-fashioned saving and a few tricks and hacks made it work (barely!).
Preparing For a Child
A final note on preparing for a baby: while we are busy shopping and physically preparing for a baby, we have to remember that we are being gifted a human being to raise in the best possible way. There is no school to prepare you for being a parent, but there are many resources available to you. Preparing for your baby’s physical and emotional needs is a really important part of preparing for a baby.
These are some of the books that really made a difference in my parenting journey:
How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk (and the accompaniment How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen)
You can start learning how to parent effectively even before your baby is born- this will make you really prepared for a baby.
Oh, and of course, congrats! Preparing for a baby is one of the greatest joys in this life.