It’s easy to get caught up in the financial burden of being new parents. Babies are exciting, but they’re also expensive. If you’ve been preparing for this for years, you might already have a little nest egg stashed away for your baby's essentials.
Financial planning and surprise pregnancies, on the other hand, just don’t really fit together. That doesn’t mean you can’t cut a few corners and get your newborn taken care of for less than you expect.
1. The Basics: Food & Diapers
The cheapest way to feed your baby for the first six months is by exclusively breast feeding. This isn’t an option for every mom, and formula is expensive. Programs like WIC (Women, Infants, Children) offer dietary supplementation, providing basics for lower income families. If you can’t breastfeed for medical or anatomical reasons (i.e. you just don’t produce enough milk) and you also qualify for WIC, get a letter from your pediatrician. The program will cover several cans of formula each month. Once your baby is ready for solid foods, WIC helps with that, too. You can also make your own baby food by steaming and blending fresh or frozen produce.
There’s no way around diapers, but many parents opt for cloth as a cheaper, environmentally friendly alternative to disposable ones. Just remember you’re going to have to pay for a diaper service or run a load of laundry every day. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, remember that you don’t need to have every fancy infant item in the Toys "R" Us catalog. Stick to the basics, throw in plenty of love, and your baby will be just fine.
2. Coupons, Coupons, Coupons
Baby product manufacturers have an uncanny knack of sending coupons and samples to your door. Take advantage of it! Unless you plan to exclusively breastfeed, you’re going to need baby formula for about a year and diapers for two years. Pilfer weekly newspaper ads for good coupons. If they expire soon, there’s no reason not to start stockpiling now. Keep your eyes open for good sales on baby items, too.
Formula companies often send a few sample cans along with their coupons. Even if you don’t intend to formula feed, a couple of cans can be nice to have around for trips or unexpected interruptions when can’t breastfeed. Some hospitals provide new parents with diapers, wipes, or baby soap samples to get you started. You can always check with your nurse about this. Pediatrician offices often have samples, too. This is particularly nice if you aren’t sure which brand to go with, or if your baby isn’t responding well to the brand you picked.
4. Bargain Garb
Babies go through clothes fast. Newborn sizes usually last up to about 8-10 pounds, which accounts for less than two months for most newborns. It’s tempting to buy dozens of adorable outfits, but you should focus on cheap and serviceable items instead. Staples like onesies, soft pants, and pajamas are great in abundance—babies are also messy! Second-hand stores often have baby clothes for a buck or two. Some thrift stores even have deal days so you can double your money. Online sites like eBay often sell mass quantities for cheap, and department store end-of-season clearance sections can be a gold mine.
5. Nursery Decor
Opting for unisex styles and colors also means you can use the same items if you plan to have another baby. If you have a friend who is pregnant or just had a baby, partner up to swap baby stuff back and forth. From bedding to receiving blankets to stuffed animals, everything is suddenly reusable (and most of it can be found in second-hand stores, too).
Products that grow with children are a great way to save a few dollars, as well. Convertible car seats can be used from roughly 6-60 pounds, so you don’t have to buy a new one every 30 pounds. Some cribs come with a changing table attached or convert into a toddler bed to also minimize furniture purchases.