Inside: Expecting a baby and overwhelmed by all the stuff? Find out how to stay on budget with baby gear you really need and what you can skip.
Babies can be so much fun! You may enjoy picking out names and figuring out paint colors for the bedroom and enjoy the thoughts of snuggling with a fresh smelling bundle. It is easy to want to go out and buy every cute outfit, innovative toy, and the highest-tech safety monitors. But, how do you decide which baby gear you really need so you can stay on budget?
It is hard. Advertisements everywhere tout all the ways their product will turn your little Jane into the world’s next child prodigy. Go without, then she’ll be relegated to a dusty corner of the playground alone and doomed to a life of crime.
Reality check! Babies don’t need a lot of stuff. So how do you cut through the noise to figure out what is essential (and should put on your baby registry), and what items are unnecessary expenses that will clutter up your home?
Baby Gear you Really Need
Here are the basic baby essentials that most people agree on. Psst: Coffee! You need coffee!
Of course, babies need to eat. Moms have a few options depending on their situation and what works for the family.
If a mom is breastfeeding, that takes care of much of the costs and is the most frugal option. Associated costs include making sure you have nursing bras, nursing pads, and some creams on hand.
If you are a mother planning to work or take breaks from breastfeeding, then having a breast pump and even having some bottles on hand is helpful.
Planning to formula feed? Then besides formula itself, you’ll want to invest in bottles, nipples and a bottle brush for cleaning.
And whether you opt to breastfeed or bottle feed, you’ll want burp cloths and later some bibs.
As far as feeding equipment goes, you’ll want a new breast pump or nipples for the bottles rather than buying used. You can save money by using hand-me-down burp cloths and bibs.
Of course, the baby needs to sleep somewhere. Most parents will choose a crib. Tempting though it may be to pick one up at a garage sale, safety standards have changed a lot the past decade and many cribs have been recalled. If you do choose used, use caution and test it out once it is assembled. The previous occupant may have loved using the crib as a trampoline and weakened the joints.
Luckily, a baby will sleep almost anywhere, including a playpen. Whether bassinett, playpen, or crib, parents will also want a few sheets and a couple of waterproof pads.
Fancy blankets, comforters, stuffed toys, and crib pads are actually now thought to be safety hazards for infants, so save your money.
Other sleep-related items you’ll want to invest in include a good baby monitor and swaddling cloths. You can save money by getting a used baby monitor. The swaddling cloths can also be used as a burp cloth, play blanket, or as an impromptu changing pad.
Parents soon find out that people love to give baby clothes as presents. Because parents often get so many clothes as gifts, you can often save money by not buying as many yourself.
There are a few basic clothes to get and put on your registry. Initially, a set of onesies, some stretchy pants, easy-on undershirts, a couple sets of footie pajamas, and socks will end up being your go-to items.
When buying or putting clothes on your registry, keep in mind ease of diaper changes. Parents are not going to want to wrangle an active baby during a diaper change while also dealing with a complicated outfit.
Related: 11 Things You Should Always Buy Used
Diapers and Wipes
Whether parents opt to use cloth or disposable diapers, diapering can be expensive.
With cloth diapers, you can choose from basic cloth diapers found in department stores or sell used online, to fancy ones with special prints and inserts.
If you opt to use disposable diapers, don’t stock up too much on newborn or 0-3 month sizes as babies grow out of the smaller sizes quickly. You may also find later that one brand works better for you than another.
Wipes, though, are great to stock up on. Personally, I loved the store brand unscented wipes. You can be even more frugal and use baby washcloths if you don’t mind the laundry.
Unless you are never in a car, a baby will need a rear-facing car seat. You can’t get away with holding a baby in your lap like grandma did.
Before you buy a used car seat, know that being in an accident can weaken the plastic of the seat. Also, car seats do “expire.” Why? As plastic ages, it becomes more brittle. There are often two circles of numbers somewhere on the car seat that indicates when the seat should no longer be used.
Tip: Before buying or putting a car seat on your registry, try the car seat out in your vehicle, especially if there are tall drivers. Some rear-facing car seats may not allow the front seats to go back as far as drivers need.
Outside of a car seat, most parents want a stroller or at least a way to carry the baby hands-free. We opted for a light-weight stroller and primarily used a baby carrier with both of our children.
Because new strollers can be expensive, these are great if you can find a used one in good condition from a friend, at a consignment shop, or on Craigslist.
Finally, if you are ever leaving the house, you’ll want some sort of diaper bag with a changing pad. This needn’t be big or expensive and you can even repurpose an old tote or backpack into a diaper bag.
Bathing and Grooming
Babies are more delicate and do actually need some special gear and products for staying clean.
Before the baby can sit, you may want a small infant tub that will fit inside your current bathtub, or even a sink bather if you have a larger sink.
In addition to a bath, here are some more items you will want:
- Baby thermometer
- Soft baby brush
- Baby soap and shampoo
- Bulb syringe
- Baby nail clippers
- Perfume-free and dye-free detergent for clothes
Other baby gear
What about swings and jumpers and play mats and…?
Each child is different and you absolutely do not need any of those items at the beginning. If you think a swing or jumper would be nice, try one out at a friends house before purchasing one. Some children love them. Other children will scream until they are blue in the face.
Because babies outgrow specialized play gear quickly, you can save money by finding much of it in good condition at garage sales or Facebook Marketplace.
Toys and books
I love books and am a huge advocate of reading to your child, even before they actually pay attention. Books make excellent baby shower and birthday gifts.
If you are looking to build your child’s library on your own, check out rummage sales for some great deals. Also, weekly trips to the library are a great way to save money and try out different authors.
Toys, on the other hand, can wait. Most toys are for older babies or toddlers and can wait until you see how your child’s personality develops. When you do buy toys, there are a lot of great deals at yard sales.
Saving on baby items
As nice as it is to have nice things for the baby, what a baby really needs most is love. Providing plenty of snuggles and a soothing voice will do far more for your baby than the latest toy ever will.
Raising children isn’t cheap, but it is rewarding. There is no need to strain your budget and clutter your home with unneeded, or unwanted, toys and gear.