Does having a baby on a budget feel impossible?
A while back I had a comment on one of my debt free living posts… something to the effect of we “wouldn’t still be debt free after we had a baby, because kids are so expensive.” (I was pretty pregnant when I read that comment, so it hit closer to home than it might have a few months before. I was working a not-high-paying job, and I certainly planned on having a baby on a budget.)
And the comment made me stop and think hard for a moment.
Was I being totally naïve to assume that we could have a baby without going into debt? Would raising this kid break us? What if my blog didn’t make any money, (my backup plan to supplement maternity leave) and we had to get by on LESS than we had coming in now?
But then I got my realistic-real-life-pants on and decided that no, the baby would not ruin us financially.
How did I know this?
Because making sure a baby doesn’t cost a fortune is exactly the same as making sure any area of life doesn’t cost a fortune. There are things you can do (always) to keep day to day costs from sending your bank balance into overdraft. There are lots of great ways to save money on baby’s first year.
(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
How to prepare financially – and even save money – on baby’s first year:
1) Determine if you can, in fact, live off the money that will be coming in or if you need to find a way to bring in more
(Yes, this is a boring way to start, but it’s oh-so-important.)
If you are a two income family – about to become a one income family – then you need to look at the big picture and make decisions now about how you will handle things then. This is the most crucial step in preparing for having a baby on a budget.
- Will you take maternity leave?
- Will you return to work early?
- Does it even make sense financially to pay someone to look after your baby?
- Will you return to work at all?
We looked at our big picture and decided that while we probably could live off of just my husbands income, it would be very hard.
Paying for child care was going to brutalize our bank accounts – it’s one of the biggest costs of having children – so that was when we decided I had better find a way to make a living from home (and make it a reality) before the baby arrived. (Thus the birth of this blog – and now, 2 years in – I make more from home than I ever made at my part time desk job. Starting a blog is a LEGIT way to make a living from home.)
2) Start a baby fund
If you’re not pregnant yet but even just THINKING about getting pregnant, you should still start a baby emergency fund now.
Whatever you can put away – although I’d aim to have a least $1000 saved up by the time the baby comes – will be a huge help IF unexpected costs pop up. (And they do, they always do.)
A dedicated chunk of cash sitting there will act as a buffer between those surprise baby costs and your bank balance. You don’t want to end up putting a bunch of stuff on your credit card!
If there is no wiggle room in your budget for setting money aside then now, then find a way to earn extra money just for this. Sell stuff at a yard sale, baby-sit (it’s good practice!), make something and sell it at a craft sale, become a Tupperware consultant – do whatever it takes.
Related: 15 extra income ideas for Moms
3) Make sure you have insurance for the birth (especially if you are in the United States)
I was ASTOUNDED to learn what a hospital stay costs in the USA.
Health insurance is very important for staying on budget when having a baby; the fact is that it costs a LOT OF MONEY to cover your medical expenses if you aren’t in a country with universal health care.
(We are in a country where our medical costs were taken care of, but this isn’t something I can leave off my list because a lot of pregnant women and new parents will be caught off guard by the costs of having a baby, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Get a GOOD insurance policy that covers prenatal care.)
Even once you do have insurance coverage, be familiar with what the out-of-pocket costs will be, so you can prepare for that in advance and build up your savings account!
3) Be realistic about what you actually need for baby
Newborns need very, very little. There are SO many things that we think of as necessary that just aren’t.
Be careful not to start buying baby stuff too early, and don’t buy tiny shoes that you’ll only use for a very short time!
I’ll let you be the judge of what your baby does and doesn’t need… but when we brought our baby home from the hospital we bathed him in the sink, often changed him on a towel laid on the spare bed (even though we do have a change table), and to this day we still don’t own a stroller.
Babies in Denmark sleep in cardboard boxes. You can get by with very little stuff.
That said, you often don’t HAVE to get by with very little stuff.
Doing without is my secret to having a baby on a budget AND keeping the house cleaner. Hallelujah.
Related: How Many Swaddle Blankets do I Need?
4) Prepare freezer meals (and learn to meal plan) prior to babe’s arrival
You wouldn’t believe the number of times I would just given up and grabbed take out if there hadn’t been freezer meals waiting. These probably saved us a few thousand dollars in the first two months alone. (Take-out ads up FAST! $35 or so, even just 3 times per week, is an easy $400 / month. And if I’m honest, we eat more than 3 x week.)
Now that our bug is a little bigger and the freezer meals are long gone, it still saves a fortune to meal plan.
Related: Meal Planning Made Easy
5) Learn to love thrift shops, consignment stores, garage sales, Facebook marketplace & friends who are done having kids
There is no shame in second hand, and all the things we picked up second hand for our kids were in really good condition. (I think there should be shame in NOT shopping at the thrift store.)
I can’t even fathom how much wasted is prevented and money is saved, just by the existence of thrift stores.
Second hand shopping is one of the easiest things you can do to save money when having a baby on a budget. It is SUCH an easy way to save money on baby clothes, and a great way to say on baby in general.
A few weeks after our baby was born we stopped by a local thrift shop to see if we could grab him some warmer jammies than the ones we had. My husband looked around for about two minutes and said “I can not believe any one ever buys baby clothes new.” (And then he, the king of not buying anything EVER, proceeded to pick out little coats and shirts that he just had to have for the baby. It was adorable.)
Used items can save a TON of money, especially if you focus on getting the big-ticket items used.
Here’s the things we got second hand (or borrowed from friends or a family member):
- Maternity clothes
- Car seat
- Diaper bag
- Diaper Genie
- Baby swing
- Baby wraps / carriers
- Bumbo + tray
- High chair
- Changing table
- Play Mat
- Baby gate (for the stairs)
- Breast Pump
- Rocking Chair
- Receiving blankets
- Burp cloths (totally washable)
- About a year’s worth of clothes
We bought a monitor new, because I found a good one on sale and had a gift card to the store. I also bought pacifiers and a few of these gorgeous swaddle blankets just because I wanted them and hadn’t spent a dime on the baby so far. So I felt like I could justify it.
And just because our baby is dressed in second hand doesn’t mean he’s dressed shabby! There is SO MANY second hand baby items out there that’s brand new, I don’t bother putting him in anything that isn’t absolutely 100% new looking and adorable.
Keep in mind that a lot of the more expensive baby gear on this list are one time purchases that you won’t have to buy again when you have a second child, so you can really get your money’s worth out of them!
6) Take full advantage of all the free baby stuff promos + samples different companies offer
There are ALLLLL kinds of programs out there for new moms that want to give you free stuff for your loyalty. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT!
New mommas are spending money and everyone wants a piece of that. To get your attention, loads of companies are offering some – pretty snazzy – freebies.
Like this car seat canopy we have for babe – these are 100% free – with a coupon code (you just pay the shipping). You can grab yours here with the coupon code mommyonpurpose50.
In fact, there is a whole AWESOME BUNCH of things you can grab for free –
Use the code mommyonpurpose50 (just for my readers!) at any or all of these sites to get the following for free:
- Nursing pillow for free @ www.nursingpillow.com
- Nursing cover for free @ www.uddercovers.com
- Baby carrier / sling for free @ www.sevenslings.com
- 10 pairs of re-usable breast pads for free @ www.breastpads.com
- Super cute baby towel for free @ www.hoodedtowels.com
- 5 free baby board books @ www.babsybooks.com
- 3 free CUSTOM pacifiers @ www.custompacifiers.com
If you’re still pregnant or getting pregnant soon, you’ll want to check out these freebies as well (use the coupon code mommyonpurpose50):
- Belly Bands (making your own clothes fit longer…YES PLEASE) – totally free @ www.bellybuttonband.com
- Pregnancy Pillow (to make sleeping easier – hopefully) – also free! @ www.pregnancypillow.com
7) Be honest about what you actually need for baby when people ask
It is SO much fun to buy baby gifts you know people will love. It really is! And so when people ask you what you need – and they will ask – tell them! My sister put on a beautiful baby shower for me and I had her tell everyone that we already had a TON of baby clothes.
I also really wanted one of these nasal aspirators (and so do you – believe me – it tops my list of baby essentials). I told someone that… and at the shower, that’s what I got. (And I love it. love love it. Whoever would have thought that you could love a thing that literally sucks snot?! HA.)
Take advantage of baby registries to make sure people know what you need! Amazon has an AWESOME registry – Create an Amazon Baby Registry.
8) Breastfeed if you can
I know that not everyone can. And I know how hard it can be. Believe me, the first two and half months of breastfeeding were terrible for me. (They really were. I was in constant pain and I wanted to quit a lot.) But, perseverance has paid dividends in this case. Not only do I get to have the experience of joyful breastfeeding (which had seemed pretty elusive in the beginning), but this is free baby food (and breast milk is honestly FANTASTIC for your baby). Yay! Talk about baby budget friendly!
9) Consider making your own baby food
Steaming and mashing veggies isn’t as hard as you think, and this comes with the (pretty huge) bonus of not giving your baby any weird chemical additives. If you get yourself one of these snazzy little things, you’ll have saved 10 times more than you’ve spent within a couple of months.
It doesn’t seem like baby food costs that much when you’re just buying a week’s worth – but it really does add up!
Solid foods are way cheaper than formula, so get your baby on solid food as soon as the dr okays it!
10) Rethink cloth diapers even if you are planning to have a baby on a budget
(Sometimes I feel like I’m the ONLY one giving the obviously contrary advice.)
I know cloth diapers are better for the environment. I know. And I know that if you’re going to have 14 kids and reuse the diapers for each kid, you might save some money on cloth diapers.
But honestly, once you add up water, energy, soap, diaper liners, washing machine wear and tear – and TIME (oh the time), I really REALLY do not believe that the savings on cloth diapers vs disposable diapers is significant enough to make up for the hassle. (There are re-usable things that AREN’T as much work, like re-usable breast pads. THOSE might be a good investment!)
For sure, there’s a cost to diapers. But we just haven’t found it to be that crazy high. For one, we have an amazon prime subscription. You get an automatic 20% off of diapers when you join Amazon prime – not to mention other awesome discounts. I have SO loved having this subscription – every time I realize I’m almost out of something I just send off my order, and I never worry about shipping. You can Join the Amazon Family 30-Day FREE Trial here!
Babies can be expensive, but they don’t have to be –
You can have a baby on a budget if you are careful!
Even with the new baby expenses (which is really just diapers/wipes/ bum cream), we are actually saving more money since our babe has been born. I don’t spend much on gas for the car, or lunches/coffee out. I don’t get into the store often (so less shopping across the board), and I’m overall more diligent about what we’re spending.
If you consider all the ways you can save money on baby’s first year, you might find it’s not as financially scary as you think!
Share your best tips for having a baby on a budget!