The Baby on a Budget Checklist: 20 Things to Save Money

The baby on a budget checklist is an essential list of things that you need to do in order to save money when welcoming baby into the world. There are 20 items that we will discuss today, and there may be more depending on your situation. These steps should help you get through the baby years with some extra cash in your pocket.

It’s estimated that it costs almost $13,000 to raise a baby for the first year. Ouch!

We will look at how to save money in these areas:

  • baby supplies
  • realistic budgeting for baby
  • tips for saving money
  • and more!

Let’s get started!

Section One: Baby Supplies and Essentials

1. Only buy what’s really necessary.

The first thing to do is only get what’s necessary for a newborn baby, not just the things you really want or like. This will make it easier for your wallet in the long run too! We were guilty of this big time!!! When our first baby was born, we were living with my parents while we sold one house and looked for another, so we had a lot of disposable income. We purchased, registered for and received way too many things – including things like a car bottle warmer. Guess how many times we used it? You’re right – none.

The most important things you will need for a new baby are simple. They include:

Diapers

Of course! This is the biggest baby essential of them all. You can choose to use cloth diapers or disposables. When our babies were very small we liked Pampers Swaddlers diapers and subscribed to them on Amazon, but around size 3 we switched to whatever was cheapest, which for us was the Sam’s Club brand. Some of the other cheaper brands leaked, which is really not good when you have to change the clothes all the time because of it. Sometimes you get what you pay for with a baby item.

Wipes

We were never particular about wipes, but we do prefer the unscented ones. For these we again found that Sam’s Club offered the best price for us and went with their large boxes of wipes.

Clothes

This does not mean you need to run out and buy a ton of baby clothes! There are lots of thrift stores to get them second hand, or you can find a friend who would probably be more than happy to gift you their baby clothes. Yard sales are excellent, too!

We were lucky in that my sister-in-law had a baby the year before at the same time of year and sent us all her clothes she had bought (and she got lots of good stuff!). We saved them and passed them down until all of our boys had worn them (all four!) and then we donated them because we didn’t know anyone else having a boy around that time.

2. Buy Used

Baby stuff is everywhere if you know where to look. Over the course of the last 12 years that we have been buying baby stuff, we have scored a ton of like-new items by shopping the following:

  1. Thrift Stores. Places like Goodwill and other thrift stores have large baby sections that will have amazing clothes, shoes and toys at a fraction of the cost of new.
  2. Yard Sales. I love to go to the neighborhood yard sales and peruse, or sometimes I check online to see what types of items are in the local yard sales. If someone says they have boy clothes in the sizes I need, I’m there. While we always do the hand me downs, having four boys means I’m always in need of clothes.
  3. Consignment Shops. We have a kid’s consignment place in town that has great deals on clothes, toys, shoes and accessories. A good friend of mine would sew the nursing pillows and sell them there – they always sold well and they were way cheaper than buying the name brand ones. She made mine and it still looks new after using it with all my kiddos!
  4. Marketplace or Craigslist. Keep an eye out for larger items on these sites. Sometimes you can also buy clothing in lots. Keep in mind, though, that some items have recalls or things that are older might be unsafe. I would NOT buy a car seat used, as you never know if it has been in an accident. I would check online for recalls on strollers, cribs or other large items like these.

3. Don’t Go Overboard Decorating the Nursery

While we put baby stuff all over the house, we didn’t do any additional decorating in their rooms. We were able to create a baby safe space without going overboard with decor. It’s hard enough for them to sleep as it is!

Some of the things we did buy were gender neutral bedding (even though we knew we were having a boy we wanted to reuse the bedding for future kids), a few baby picture frames and a baby book that we left out as decor.

You can spend a LOT of money decorating a nursery, but there really is not any reason to do so. Want baby’s name on the wall? Buy the inexpensive paper mache letters at JoAnn and paint them yourself.

There are a ton of other crafty ideas you can do if you really want the nursery to have a theme. DIY and save a ton! Use Pinterest as inspiration.

4. Resell Clothing and Toys that are Outgrown

This one can make back some of the money you’ve spent on baby things – in fact, some items might even make money! You can put listings up for used baby things online in the FB Marketplace or Craigslist, hold a yard sale or even put up nice toys on eBay.

When you are purchasing items, keep resell in mind and pick up things you think would sell again in the future. If you are having more kiddos, I’d recommend storing these toys for later use, which is what we did. It felt SO weird getting rid of things after we had our last one!

5. Don’t Buy the Latest and Greatest

Do you really need a video baby monitor?? We decided to save money and go with a regular old sound monitor, and then we found that most of the time we didn’t even need that! Our house is small and the baby’s room was right across the hall so we could hear when he needed us.

Just because it’s out there doesn’t mean you need it. Keep in mind needs vs wants and decide what is worth it to you.

Here are some of the things we bought that we NEVER used:

  • Baby bathtub. We just bathed small babies in the sink and then as they got older they used the larger tub with us. We often just gave them a shower once they weren’t tiny anymore.
  • Car bottle warmer. Remember me telling you that before?
  • Wipe warmer. I mean, really, the kiddo didn’t care if the wipe was room temperature or not.
  • Diaper genie. This may surprise you, but we never used ours and ended up giving it away. What we found we liked was just having a trash can out in the garage and when a dirty diaper made an appearance we would walk it out there (we have a small one story house so this made it super easy).

Section Two: Budgeting for Baby

Babies are expensive! To find out how much you might end up paying for baby, check out this amazing Baby Budget Calculator from Babycenter.

1. Know what your health insurance company is going to pay.

You may need to contact them before baby is born so you know how much they cover and what your out of pocket cost will be. If it’s a high deductible plan, make sure you have savings set aside for the big bills because that can add up quickly.

It’s good to know how much you are going to pay because then you can begin planning ahead. I was fortunate enough to have two insurance policies through my work and my husband’s, so we didn’t have to pay much for the baby. One of my best friends had a baby without health insurance and they planned ahead to cover the cost.

2. See if your health insurance will cover a breast pump.

This is something you will need for baby if you decide to breastfeed, and if the insurance covers it, then that’s a savings!

When we had our kiddos this wasn’t an option, and I’m SO glad to see that most health insurance companies will pick up the cost of a pump today. Check with your insurance. A lot of them cover it for free. We had the Medela Pump In Style and I loved it so much.

3. Know how to apply for WIC.

If eligible, this can help with food costs during baby’s first year of life. You’ll have to make sure your baby qualifies (check out their website) but many families are able to take advantage of this program.

4. Build up an emergency fund.

Plan on baby costing about $20,000 more than you would think. An emergency fund is a good idea anyways, but put away as much as possible during the pregnancy just in case.

5. Consider a family car instead of two separate cars if at all feasible.

This can help with gas and maintenance costs as well! This will save you a ton of money if you are able to do this. If you work from home it’s a no-brainer, but if you have to work it may not be something you could do. We’ve never been able to go down to one car because we go totally separate directions in the mornings, so unless one of us wants to get to work super early and be stuck there all day we can’t work it out, but it would save a lot.

6. Create a budget spreadsheet to keep track of your expenses.

It will be helpful for keeping up with the finances after baby. You should also check out these amazing free Baby Budget Printables. There is even a great budget template. Sometimes we don’t really know how much we are spending so keeping track can help you see where you are at.

7. Save for any lost income you may have during maternity leave.

If you have a baby, plan on not working for about six weeks. Plan accordingly! I had short term disability that covered some of my lost income, but not all. Many working moms end up with no additional income while they are out, which can really hurt, so make a plan for how to get by until that income is coming back in.

8. Start saving money now for baby’s future education expenses.

You can make contributions to 529 plans or set up college funds and start when the baby is born so they’ll be ready by time they are old enough to attend school.

9. Practice living on less during the pregnancy.

Going to give up the job? Practice living on one income now to see how it will feel when it’s the real deal.

Section Three: Tips for Saving Money

1. Wait to Buy Until After the Baby Shower(s)

When we had our first kiddo we ended up having three baby showers! Yes, three! I had coworkers throw me one, my church and my Mom threw one for my friends and family, so we had a TON of baby gifts.

In fact, we got many of the items on our baby registry, which really cut down on how much we had to buy.

Looking back, though, I wish we had just asked for diapers!! Haha! That’s what we did after the first kid since we had all the gear.

You might not get showered like we were lucky enough to, but most women have at least one baby shower and hopefully you will get a good bit of your wish list from your registry, so wait to buy a lot of your baby things until after the shower, so you won’t have to bother returning things.

It’s great to use the Amazon Baby Registry here – you get some perks for signing up, too, like a free gift box!

2. Nurse Instead of Using Formula

I nursed my last two children and while the baby is breastfeeding it saves you money. It’s also way healthier for baby, so that was one thing we didn’t have to worry about when they were really young. I wasn’t able to produce enough to exclusively nurse the first two, so don’t worry if you don’t make enough milk or can’t nurse for some reason – I’ve never noticed a difference in my kids’ health, intelligence or any other area.

Another bonus- nursing seems to be more effective at reducing postpartum depression! Plus there are a ton of other health benefits for both mom and baby. You can read more about those here.

It might seem obvious, but for a long time women were encouraged to use formula and breastfeeding was discouraged. That’s how it was when I was born! Now we know that breast is best, but if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason do NOT feel like you are letting your baby down. Plus, it might work out you can nurse the next one.

3. Make Your Own Baby Food

We hardly ever bought the jars of baby food. We occasionally did buy jars or pouches to take with us in the diaper bag, but most of the time our boys ate pretty much what we did, although pureed or cut into small pieces.

After they were old enough to each solids we started pureeing our own fruits and vegetables. We always loved starting out with mashed banana because it was so easy and they loved it. As they got older we just cut what we were having into small pieces and they did great.

4. Don’t Use Fancy Detergent

We have never used anything other than our own homemade laundry soap, which has ingredients that are supposed to be safe for cloth diapers (even though we used disposables) and we have never had any issues with sensitivities or getting stains out. Although some stains are just too tough for any laundry detergent…

5. Buy Multipurpose Items as Much as Possible

For us, we didn’t bother using expensive baby lotion for dry skin, we used coconut oil, which is what we use on ourselves, too. It’s antifungal, antimicrobial and totally natural. Plus, with a thousand other uses around the house it’s really multipurpose.

Same with baby shampoo. We didn’t buy any. We used Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap in the baby version, which is unscented. We liked it a lot, the kids got clean and it also is multipurpose.

Another item that we used is not buying specific burp cloths. We just used the flannel receiving blankets or flat fold cloth diapers as burp cloths and it worked out well.

I also didn’t get a nursing cover until my last baby’s arrival, and even then it wasn’t something I really needed, just something I wanted. A regular blanket works well and you can always use a clip to hold it up if you like.

Budget Baby Gear I Recommend for a Minimalist Baby Registry

As a mom of four, I’ve found some amazing items that you can buy brand new that don’t break the bank. You can always shop for these baby products secondhand, but if you want new, be sure to check these out.

Crib

A convertible crib really is the way to go because it can be used as a toddler bed and then later as a full bed. We loved our convertible crib and reused it as a crib with all the kiddos until the youngest was old enough to outgrow a crib. This one is awesome, not too expensive and would grow with your sweet kiddo.

Crib Mattress

We love memory foam at our house and it was no different for our babes! This one is super affordable.

Nursing Pillow

We loved and used our nursing pillow with each kiddo. Like I mentioned above, a friend actually made ours, but we got a couple of covers for it because babies are messy. Two covers was always enough and we reused them with each kid. This is for a bare pillow. Pick up a couple of covers, too.

Swaddling Blankets or Sleep Sacks

Our first son LOVED to be swaddled and the others hated it – so this will depend on the baby. The others got the sleep sacks with the swaddle option so that if they didn’t like it we could just go without the swaddle part.

Infant Car Seat

We had and loved the Graco Snug Ride and used the same seat with all our boys because we knew it had never been in an accident. This had the system where you just lock it into place with the base instead of using a seat belt to secure it each time. I felt that it was more secure that way and it was a whole lot easier to get in and out of the car.

Baby Swing

This is definitely not a necessity, but our babies sure did love the baby swing! It was a life saver sometimes, so I would recommend picking one up, even if secondhand.

Changing Table

Some people will tell you that you don’t need a changing table and that’s true most of the time, but for me having one in the middle of the night in those early months was huge. It was so much easier to just go over to the changing table for a diaper change. After they got bigger we just sat on the floor and changed there, honestly. This one has a hamper underneath, which is super handy!

Diaper Pail

Now, I know, I know we didn’t use ours! But, if you are upstairs or somewhere you think you want a diaper pail to keep the dirties from stinking up the house, this is the kind we recommend. It doesn’t take those expensive little bags!

Baby Carrier

You do NOT need one of those carriers that costs hundreds of dollars!! We got an inexpensive carrier like this and it was wonderful. You can also get a sling when they are smaller, but they always made me nervous about blocking that tiny airway.

Breast Pump

Whew!! I know that is a LOT to think about when preparing for baby’s arrival. You can definitely keep your baby costs down if you plan ahead, don’t go overboard on baby expenses and plan carefully. Babies are wonderful and SO worth all the time, money and energy they take up. I hope you’ve enjoyed our baby on a budget checklist!