Having a Baby on a Budget

Becoming a parent can do strange and interesting things to your psyche, your relationships, your family, your job, your goals, your body, and on and on the list goes—and unfortunately it can also do funny things to the bills in your wallet. Namely, they will sprout legs and walk away just as fast as they appeared. And unless money is no object to your budding family, this can cause unnecessary tension and stress during a time that is often already tense and stressful. There’s good news though! Many of the so-called “essential” and “invaluable” baby products out there are easily attained after you’ve grown to understand your baby’s needs better, and thus, not necessary to buy before baby arrives. And some baby stuff is completely silly and redundant and readily skipped. 

So here’s what you really need. Consider those pennies pinched. 

A place to put baby down. You’ll need something to toss on the floor that will give your new little cutie a place to lounge and look around. The Cadillac option is the DockATot, a Swedish-made pillow of perfection, but it will run you upwards of $150. Cheap option? A soft blanket folded up on the floor will serve for less than $10. 

A carseat. There’s no skipping this one, but you can get around extra costs by foregoing the infant seat (a removable bucket seat that can be carried on the arm) and going straight for the convertible car seat, which your growing child will eventually need to have anyway. The downside here is that the convertible seat isn’t portable, and that a newborn can seem unbelievably small when they’re not wrapped in the padding of the infant bucket, but many baby-wearers swear the bucket seat is more hassle than it’s worth. Bringing baby out of the seat and into a carrier each time isn’t such a big deal, especially when you’re saving $200 or more. 

A carrier. Even if you’re not really looking to baby-wear, there will be moments when that infant simply will NOT be put down despite your need to be up and moving. Enter: the baby carrier. Personally, I dropped good money on a high-quality workhorse carrier, and I didn’t regret it.

A good thermometer. Save yourself the agony of not knowing whether your baby actually has a fever or if they’re just warm. It’s worth it. 

A crib or sleeping space. Cribs can get ludicrously expensive, but they don’t have to be. The IKEA Sniglar is one of the most popular cribs in the world because of its gloriously low price, just 80 bucks!

Baby clothes. Keep it simple and go cheap or secondhand. Newborns go through clothes at light speed, either because they outgrow them or poop through them, and since infants truly don’t care whether their onesies are fancy, there’s no reason to collect 20- or 30-dollar ensembles that are going to be worn once or ruined by a blowout. 

Diapers and wipes. Buy in bulk and don’t be afraid of store brands! They generally work just as well and cost far, far less. Reusable cloth diapers are also a great option, but laundry soap and water usage increases are no joke, so do the math before you decide which is best for your family.

And here’s what you can consider skipping or postponing:

Highchair: You won’t need it for a while, if at all. (You can always eat picnic-style on the floor when they’re little, especially if, like mine, your kids despise the highchair.)

Baby bathtub: Save yourself $50 and lay baby on his/her back in the tub.

Changing table: We had one for our first but got rid of it for our subsequent children, because who needs a whole extra piece of furniture when baby gets changed on the floor/bed all the time?

Baby shoes: A completely silly invention.

Rocking chair: Baby might love it or hate it. See above about having extra furniture.

Diaper bag: You can appoint your existing backpack or large purse for the purpose.

Bottles: Put off this purchase until you know more about your family’s daily workflow (can your partner do a feeding or two?) and address any issues with breastfeeding, if you plan to try.

Breast pump: YOUR INSURANCE PROBABLY COVERS IT! Be sure you ask.

Stroller: They’re ridiculously expensive, and you’ve already got a carrier.

Nursing covers: Are you going to be annoyed packing it around? Will it be too hot or heavy? Wait till you know.

Pacifiers: Some babies absolutely require them, others simply will not tolerate them.

Boppy pillow: Regular pillows work great!

Toys: Infants won’t pay any attention.

Shelley DeWees is a three-time Willow client who spends her days chasing her toddler son and eighteen-month-old daughter around her home in South St Paul. She’s currently expecting her third baby, another boy, and loves reading books and going to workout classes.