When my husband and I had our baby, David, we were on a rather small budget. Here are some tips and tricks we picked up along the way.
Hand-me-downs are amazing, if there is someone just a little bit ahead of you who is willing to share. Craigslist is a great resource for this as well. People will often sell baby clothes in lots, and you will be able to get a lot for just a few dollars. Then I filled in a lot of the gaps by checking the various thrift stores around Albuquerque. Baby clothes are very cheap at thrift stores – shirts and onesies are often as cheap as twenty-five cents. This worked well for finding shirts, pants, onesies, jackets, hats, and the like.
The obvious choice here, if it works for you, is breastfeeding – it is free (except what it costs to feed Mommy!) But I know this doesn’t work for everyone. And it can exact a toll on the mommy. Being the one who always has to feed baby is a lot of work, especially when you’re already so hormonal. So you might talk to your pediatrician about a generic brand formula. I had a friend recommend Target’s.
We exclusively breast fed for the first couple months, then I started pumping some, and eventually we supplemented with formula. This allowed my husband to take at least one feeding here and there, allowing me to get a little more sleep. A lot of insurance companies will give breast pumps for free. If yours doesn’t, you can get a hand pump cheaply that allows you to pump at least a little. And, strange though it may sound, craigslist is another good resource for this. You can get breast pumps for a good price, and maybe just replace some of the plastic parts.
After the baby starts eating solids, making your own baby foods can be a good way to go. For example, sweet potato is a good starter baby food. It takes a little time and effort, but you could get a lot out of just one sweet potato. Banana is another good starter, and those are usually as cheap as .59 cents/pound.
Babies don’t need a lot of toys. I usually just kept one small basket of toys around for my infant to play with, and many things in it were of home manufacture: an empty water bottle, an old cell phone (with the battery removed), an empty package of wipes, a sock. Things that crinkle and make noise or have an interesting texture will fascinate your baby. I would just invest in a few toys that have interesting colors or textures or sounds. Jiggle toys are always fun. Plus, you will probably get a number of toys at Christmas and birthdays. This isn’t an area where you need to make a big investment. One thing that did work good for our baby was having a play mat where we could hang multiple toys – but I was able to purchase this second hand at a thrift store for just a couple dollars.
We were fortunately able to use generic brand diapers. We found the White Cloud brand worked good for us, which could be purchased cheaply at Wal-Mart. Some people use cloth diapers, which save money in the long-run, but they can have a pretty substantial initial cost. For us, we didn’t think it was worth it and we just went with disposables. Having a diaper party can be a huge blessing. Someone gave us one when our child was just a few weeks old, and we were outfitted in diapers for the first six months!
We used a Pack ‘n Play. When the babies are very little, they can sleep on the higher level, and when they are older, the lower. Pack ‘n Plays are portable and cheaper than cribs. I felt more comfortable using one because it had mesh, instead of the bars. Our son actually used his until he was two and a half years old!
This is one item I can’t recommend getting second hand. However, some hospitals have programs which can help you acquire one, such as Lovelace’s Labor of Love. Places like Costco sell them relatively cheaply, and we actually watched the deals that came up on Woot and got one there.
Save vs. Splurge
There are other little ways you can save on money when you are having a baby, but these are some of the big ones. I would definitely see if a friend or family member can arrange a shower, because you will get a lot of your much-needed items there. And then you can fill in afterwards where you are lacking. Second hand, at thrift stores or via craigslist, is a great way to go.
A couple of must-have items that I did think it was worth splurging on included diaper cream, baby shampoo, and bottles. We tried cheaper, generic bottles at first but they didn’t work well for us. So, after I did some research we went with Tommee Tippee, and they were great. The wider bottle tops were more like mommy’s breast. This is a good area to put some gift card money, if you receive any at your shower.