How do you have a baby on a budget?

I remember the STICKER SHOCK I had the first time I went to a Toys R Us to test out products.

$700 for a stroller? Gulp!!

When we finished selecting all of the items for our Baby Registry, the final price was over $2000. That didn’t even include a lot of baby essentials like diapers!

This made me wonder:

How much per month does a baby cost?

According to LendEDU’s survey of 1000 parents, the cost of raising a baby in the first year is $13,186 on average. A baby costs around $1098/month.

That’s basically a mortgage payment!

I wanted the best for my little one, but I couldn’t imagine spending that kind of money on baby products!

How do you financially prepare for a baby?

I researched and tried out MANY different ways to raise a baby on a budget.

Through experiences and learnings, I’ve realized you can drastically reduce your baby expenses.

You can get the best baby products for a fraction of the cost!

Here’s my baby on a budget checklist: 20 ways to have a baby on a budget.

How to have a baby on a budget

if you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission, at no cost to you.   

Baby on a Budget Checklist

1) Create a baby shopping list

When you find out you’re pregnant, it’s tempting to immediately go into a baby store and purchase the first cute baby thing you see.

I did this! My first purchase was a baby fleece onesie. She never wore it because when it was winter, she was too small for it. By the time the next winter rolled around, she was way too big for it.

If you want to get the best baby things for the best value, the first thing you should do is create a baby shopping list. By keeping yourself focused on a list, you won’t be spending randomly.

After that fleece onesie purchase, I created a spreadsheet with all of the things I wanted to purchase for the baby. Each line had:

  • the brand and name of the product
  • a link to the item
  • the price
  • quantity I’ll need
  • total cost of the product (price * quantity)
  • time period I’ll need it
  • any important comments to consider

When I purchased the item, I highlighted the line in green to keep things organized.

Here’s a breakdown of what products were on my baby essentials list, which leads me to…

Saving money with baby

2) Only buy baby essentials

Baby products are a multi-billion dollar industry. Just because there’s a baby product available, doesn’t mean you need it. It doesn’t make you a worst parent for not buying it.

If you want to raise your baby on a budget, stick with the newborn essentials like:

Here’s the remaining baby essentials on a budget checklist so you can see all the items I used.

This list also includes WHAT ITEMS I PURCHASED, BUT NEVER USED. For example:

  • Nursing pads: Every list I saw online for baby must haves contained nursing pads. I never used them! I leaked, but not enough to need breast pads. In hindsight, I could have easily used baby wash cloths in place of the breast pads just to see if I leaked enough to require breast pads. If I layered on a dark shirt or sweater, you couldn’t even see the stain if I by chance leaked!
  • Books: I bought What to expect the first year and Baby 411. I actually brought these books to the hospital! What a mistake! There was no time to do any reading at the hospital. Whenever we encountered a problem, it was faster to just google the recommendation.
  • Onesies specifically for the umbilical cord: When we were putting together our registry, a sales associate told us we needed to buy this. We never ended up using it. We just used a regular onesie and she was fine.
Raising a baby on a budget

When your baby is older, here’s my checklist for 6 month baby must haves. If you’re planning ahead, here’s my list for 1 year old toddler must haves.

Mom Tip: Check the wheels of the stroller. Is it plastic or rubber? If you live in areas with extreme winters or regularly use your stroller on uneven terrain, you won’t want to get a stroller with plastic wheels.

3) Know your baby budget during maternity leave

Now that you know what baby items you need, you might be wondering:

How much money should you have saved if you’re having a baby on a budget?

This depends on many factors.

Bottom line:

For when your maternity/paternity leave starts, you have to know:

  1. What income will be coming in
  2. What expenses will be going out

This way you can understand your cash flow and how much money you will need to save.

You can pull out an excel sheet and calculate:

  • Household income: add your spouse’s income with your estimation of your maternity or paternity pay (if applicable)
  • Regular expenses: download and summarize the data from your credit card and bank statements over the last month. Also, you’ll want to add in any potential ongoing baby costs like diapers and wipes or formula (if you’re planning on formula feeding).

If you’ve never done any budgeting before, having all the numbers laid out can be overwhelming. Assign a small task each day like downloading the data one day and then summing up the totals the next day.

Related: Here’s a related post on how to create a budget – simple tips anyone can follow.

If you’re looking for a budget template:

✅ Here’s a simple, but extensive printable budget planner on paper. It’s a digital download so you can print it as many times as you want.
✅ If you’re looking for a template that requires less manual work, here’s the budget spreadsheet I use today! It has 3 different calculators to track your early retirement progress if that’s also your goal!
Click here to use a 15% off coupon towards any of your purchases.

Once you see what you’re working with, you can determine if your new household income will cover your expenses.

If it doesn’t…

Having a baby on a budget

4) Prepare a financial plan for a tight budget

If you realize that when you go on maternity leave, your new household income will be tight or insufficient to cover your expenses, you should think about:

  • Can I build an emergency savings fund in time that I can tap into?
  • Is there a low interest line of credit (like a home equity line of credit) I can use to tie me over until I go back to work?
  • Should I go back to work early?
  • If I go back to work, will the numbers make sense now that I’ll have to add child care expenses to the budget?
  • If they don’t make sense, should I return to work at all or look for alternative work options for stay-at-home moms and dads?

For us, we realized when I went on maternity leave, we would be spending more than we were making. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a savings fund.

While I could go back to work early and pay for child care, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave my baby girl.

We had to look into ways to make and save more money fast!

We went full force into savings mode! We did a no spend challenge and used many money saving techniques that saved us thousands that first year.

There’s only so much money we could save so we eventually shifted our focus to earning more money.

After reading Rich Dad Poor Dad, we learned how to use our home equity to buy a rental property. I started this blog and I’ve been surprised to find out I can actually make money with it.

Related: How to start and make money from a blog

5) Have a diaper and wipes budget plan

Diapers will be a large cost in your baby budget you’ll want to get ahead of!

Some parents think cloth diapering and cloth wipes are the best ways to save money on baby expenses.

How to save money on baby diapers

While cloth diapers and wipes can be arguably cheaper and better for the environment, we went with disposables.

When you think about the time spent washing AND additional money towards energy, water, detergent, machine depreciation, and the cloth diapers and wipes themselves, we thought the additional savings might be minimal.

Especially when you consider the Amazon Prime 20% off diapers subscription and shipping is included (the diapers get delivered right to your door!).

Amazon has a 30 day FREE trial, which you can cancel at any time.

Something to keep in mind is that you don’t have to do an all cloth diapers and wipes OR all disposables plan.

You can start with disposables until you get a handle for diapering and your baby’s diaper habits.

You can try cloth diapers and wipes. Maybe use it during the times you know your baby will most likely be peeing. For example, my toddler doesn’t poop at night anymore. I might introduce cloth diapers at night.

Once you have a feel for disposable and cloth diapers, you can work out a system that best fits your lifestyle and budget.

Mom Tip: Always keep your diaper bag with you or put an emergency bag in the car.

I’m often forgetting the diaper bag at home. A few times, I’ve been on the road when my baby’s had a poop explosion only to realize I have no diapers or wipes in the car! Since then, I’ve placed an emergency stash in the car!

6) Watch your hospital expenses

If you don’t have insurance, don’t opt for the private room as this could cost $100’s/day. I opted for the private room as I had insurance, but still had to pay a $50 surcharge for the 24 hours I was there postpartum.

The advantage of having a private room was that my husband could stay in the hospital overnight (and sleep on the pull-out couch next to the bed). Our hospital didn’t allow for spouses or other people to stay in a non private room (2 or 4 beds) overnight.

When you’re already weak from being postpartum, having someone else look after the baby makes such a difference.

Related: Postpartum essentials: things moms need after giving birth

Money saving baby tips

With that in mind, if I didn’t have insurance, I might not have opted for the private room. You most likely won’t be sleeping anyways during those first few nights. There wasn’t a need for the privacy.

The first (out of 2 times) I had to use the toilet, the nurse had to be there to see that I didn’t have difficulties urinating (hospital practice) and to show me how to use the peri bottle (a peri bottle is essentially a squirt bottle that you use to clean your lady parts).

The hospital usually provides a peri bottle. Alternatively, you could get this Fridababy Fridet Peri Bottle which is designed for easier use. This is something I’m probably going to get if I have a second child.

I highly recommend that if you’re uncertain about the hospital charges, ask your maternity ward for a breakdown of all of the potential expenses you could be charged for when you’re having a baby. You can plan in advance what to opt out of and have a more accurate baby budget in mind.

Mom Tip: Ask the nurses for samples, coupons, and toiletries. Maternity wards get many samples and coupons. Sometimes it’s only offered when you ask about them so don’t forget to ask!

7) Buy used baby stuff

There is no shame in buying stuff used! You’re preventing waste and cutting costs on your baby budget!

We didn’t buy every baby product used. We mostly purchased second-hand baby clothes and toys (that could be easily sanitized).

We would bring the goods home, throw all of the clothing and cloth toys into the washer, and wipe down all of the plastic toys with a baby wipe or cloth with hot soapy water.

Most of the baby things we bought “used” were actually new with tags or might as well have had the tags (they were in excellent condition)! Babies grow out of things quickly – sometimes before they use or wear out their stuff!

We bought many baby things at yard sales, baby consignment stores and thrift shops. We also bought things on Facebook Marketplace, Facebook buy/sell and mom groups, and VarageSale.

How to afford a baby on a tight budget

We got the best deals at yard sales. At 1 yard sale, we got 12 boxes of baby clothes and products for $50! If you visit the yard sale at the end of the day, you’ll get the best deals and might even get items for free as people often don’t want to move stuff back inside their house.

If you’re looking to trim costs even further, contact the people selling used goods you want and ask if they’re open to trading. If you have items listed in the same platform, it’ll be easy for them to browse and see if they need anything you have available.

Mom tip: Sell your baby things after you use them. Baby products are constantly updated. The sooner you sell them, the better price point you can get.

You’ll want to sell them online. If you sell them at a yard sale or through a children’s consignment store, you’ll get significantly less.

If it’s a good you originally purchased used, you might even be able to get your full cost back or make money! In the sales ad, it’s a good practice to declare that your good was originally purchased used.

8) Shop online for new baby items

While we bought some items used, there are many baby items we bought new for safety purposes like a car seat. Car seats that have been in an accident are not safe to use.

When we bought new items, we went through Rakuten (formerly Ebates) first! Rakuten gives you up to 40% cash back for making a purchase through Amazon, Ebay etc. It’s FREE to sign up.

After making your first online purchase of $25+, Rakuten will give you $10 FREE (for U.S. residents) or $5 FREE (for Canadians).

I highly recommend using Rakuten. Otherwise, you’re just leaving money on the table. Here’s my Rakuten review including how it works for reference.

How to save money for a baby on the way

9) Get FREE baby things

There are many free baby things you can get just for being an expecting or new parent.

You can sign up for baby registries like Amazon Baby Registry, Target or buybuy Baby and get FREE welcome gift bags in addition to registry completion discounts!

For the Amazon Baby Registry, you have to meet certain requirements.

To be eligible for the welcome gift box, you must be:

  • A Prime Member (You can get the Amazon Prime 30 day FREE trial, which you can cancel at anytime.)
  • Spend a minimum amount from your registry, which can be from yourself or others (It’s $10 in the US or $25 in Canada.)

For Canada only, you must also have at least 20 items added to your registry.

Here are the specific eligibility requirements in the US. Here are the eligibility requirements in Canada.

Baby on a budget checklist

There are many companies offering FREE baby stuff. Here are some free baby things (you only have to pay for shipping):

  • Custom Baby Onesies – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $50 off = up to 2 onesies
  • Board Books – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $40 off = 5 books
  • Ruffle Underwear – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $60 off = up to 2 pairs of ruffle underwear
  • Car Seat Canopy – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $50 off = 1 car seat canopy
  • Hooded Towels – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $35 off = 1 hooded towel
  • Baby Sling – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $40 off = 1 baby sling
  • Nursing Pillow – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $40 off = 1 nursing pillow
  • Nursing Cover – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $35 off = 1 nursing cover
  • Pregnancy Pillow – enter mommoneymap1 as the coupon code to get $50 off = 1 pregnancy pillow

Noobie Box offers a pregnancy gift box with FREE baby samples. Shipping is extra. It’s a one-time gift per mom. The box content varies. It currently includes diapers, wipes, baby ointment, moisturizer, nursing pads, milk storage bags, breastfeeding drink mix, lanolin, liners, a bottle, and a pacifier.

Baby Box University provides FREE online courses for new parents. When you complete them, you get a FREE baby box, which is an alternative to a crib.

Read my article on FREE baby samples here to learn about all of the free baby clothes, books, diapers, formula and other baby products you can receive.

Mom Tip: Use the library! The library is a great resource for kid’s books and programs.

We went to many free baby circle time and sensory play activities at our local library. The library also had a play area with toys for kids, which was great whenever we just needed to get out of the house and go to a kid-friendly place!

10) Buy baby items early

When should you start shopping for baby stuff?

This is a personal decision. I didn’t want to start shopping too early in case there were pregnancy complications. I also wanted to get a head start on deal hunting.

I started shopping for baby stuff at the end of my first trimester.

How to budget for a baby

It’s important to keep in mind return policies. For baby things you’re on the fence about, it’s better to buy them closer to when your baby will be using the item so you can always return it.

11) Minimize the nursery decor

When I was pregnant, I was constantly searching for ideas on how to decorate the nursery. Then I realized we DON’T REALLY NEED to do any decorating. This is an extra we can cut altogether.

We ended up painting her room a light green because we read about how green is a calming color that promotes learning and cognitive abilities. But that’s it!

How to save money for a baby

No pictures or prints. No monogrammed letters, name plaques or wall decals.

Your baby won’t care what the nursery looks like. In a few years when your kid does care what his or her room looks like, you might have to do some redecorating then!

12) Make your own baby toys

I like the baby toys we purchased like the Lamaze toys and the Activity Mat.

My baby also loved playing with everyday objects like boxes, containers, cardboard rolls, wooden spoons. There are many things around the house that your baby can play with.

How to afford a baby

At some point, your baby or toddler will love taking things in and out of a box. You can just put two laundry baskets on the ground and fill them with socks or plastic containers or lids and just let your little one have fun!

An alternative option is…

13) Trade baby toys

Kids grow out of toys quickly, especially in the first year.

If you have friends that have kids, you can coordinate a toy swap party. For example, you can trade 2-3 toys once a month. That way you don’t have to buy new toys frequently.

Since you know where the baby toys are coming from, you can feel confident knowing you’re getting items in good condition.

Attending swap parties is one of my favorite ways to shop on a budget because you get items for free AND you get rid of clutter in your home. It’s a win-win!

If you’re new to swap parties, here are tips on how to host a swap party including what rules to establish.

14) Feed your baby what you eat

When your baby is able to eat solids, you can save costs by

  • making your own baby food or
  • letting your baby eat what you eat
How to save for a baby

You don’t have to feed her or him “baby food” from the grocery store, but also don’t feel like you need to skip the baby food altogether!

When my baby was 6 months, I fed her a combination of food we ate (e.g. avocado, eggs, bananas etc.) and baby food (iron-fortified cereal and premade food pouches) for convenience. I saved a lot of money from not feeding her JUST baby food.

Related: What babies need at 6 months when you’re introducing solids

15) Breastfeed

Using formula is expensive. There’s the high cost with the formula, but then there’s also the bottles, nipples, and bottle cleaning products you’ll have to purchase.

When you factor in the additional time it takes to maintain the bottles and the health benefits to breastfeeding, breastfeeding makes sense. It’s also free.

You should know that breastfeeding can be painful. There are breastfeeding essentials to help ease the pain.

16) Ask a family member or friend to be the baby photographer

Newborn or baby photos could cost $100’s per session, which could be a big chunk of your baby budget! That doesn’t even include printing the photos!

Nowadays, the newest iPhones produce great quality pictures. You can easily ask your family member or friend who has access to a good camera or mobile phone to take photos for you. You can do them on a clear day at the park. Bring some props and make it a fun experience!

We did both a casual and professional photo shoot.

We got a professional photo shoot as a gift and my sister-in-law (who is not a professional photographer) also took photos for us. Both were great in their own ways! I actually preferred the ones my sister-in-law took! They were outside with natural lighting. We didn’t feel as rushed. She captured some great moments!

If you’re looking for ideas for props, one common prop are the wooden blocks, which are nice.

baby budget

I like the versatility of the chalkboard sign more.

how to budget for a baby

You can use the chalkboard sign to document your pregnancy and baby’s growth (e.g. 1st month, 2nd month) as well as other special occasions (e.g. first day at school).

You can also use it to teach your child in the future.

Instead of using standard chalk, you can use chalk ink markers like these ones in white and these ones in color. It comes off easily with a wet paper towel or baby wipe. It’s much clearer and bolder for photos.

new baby budget
baby on a budget checklist

newborn baby budget
how to save money for a baby on the way
save money on baby

Another idea is to watch a video on newborn photography and DIY this with other photographer’s best practices.

17) Create a pregnancy budget checklist

Like with baby stuff, your pregnancy budget can quickly spiral out of control!

This especially applies to maternity clothing.

You don’t need to buy an entire maternity and nursing wardrobe. You just need a few items.

The most essential clothing for me were these maternity leggings! They look like skinny pants so you might be able to use them at work depending on how formal your work environment is. They’re thick and have fake back pockets.

newborn essentials on a budget

I also highly recommend getting a nursing bra.

This nursing bra is comfortable and inexpensive. I’ve tried similar nursing bras without underwires from other retailers and this one is the cheapest for relatively good quality.

newborn baby budget checklist

Here are a few other pregnancy essentials I couldn’t live without.

This video also has a few smart pregnancy clothing hacks using your regular clothes:

18) Ask for baby necessities as gifts

There are a lot of occasions you can get gifts for your babies.

Christmas, birthdays, your baby shower, the first time your family sees your baby.

When these occasions come around, make it known that you only need baby necessities. For example, diapers, wipes etc.

It might feel awkward to boldly ask for what you want. Keep in mind, you’re saving everyone time and money by being clear about your needs. You don’t have to run around getting refunds or deal with wasted goods because there’s no gift receipt.

Mom Tip: Return unwanted gifts right away!

Some people buy gifts a month in advance so be sure to check the gift receipt and return the items right away. Every dollar counts. You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to trade in the gift for money or another item your baby needs more.

19) Don’t pay for babysitting

If you need a date night or just some time to yourself, ask your family or your friends to watch your kid. This can save $30-40 that you would otherwise pay for a babysitter for the night.

I completely understand the feeling of not wanting to ask people for help. If your family or friends have kids, offer to watch them for a few nights as well.

20) Don’t use shampoo or soap on your baby

This might be a bit controversial.

I’ve never used any shampoo, body wash, or body soap with my baby and she’s now a 2 year old.

We do what’s called the no poo water only method with her. She’s only had her hair and body washed with water for baths. That said – she has used soap to wash her hands.

We’ve found washing with water only more than sufficient to keep her clean and healthy.

It also saves us some money in our budget on beauty products every year.

Baby on a Budget Summary

  1. Create a baby shopping list
  2. Only buy baby necessities
  3. Know your budget during maternity leave
  4. Prepare a financial plan for a tight budget
  5. Have a diaper and wipes plan
  6. Watch your hospital expenses
  7. Buy used baby stuff
  8. Shop online for new baby items
  9. Get FREE baby things
  10. Buy baby things early
  11. Minimize the nursery decor
  12. Make your own toys
  13. Trade baby toys
  14. Feed your baby what you eat
  15. Breastfeed
  16. Ask a family member or friend to be the baby photographer
  17. Ask for baby necessities as gifts
  18. Create a pregnancy budget checklist
  19. Don’t pay for babysitting
  20. Don’t use shampoo or soap on your baby

Final thoughts on raising a baby on a budget

Having a baby doesn’t have to be expensive. If you shop ahead and apply some baby money saving strategies, you should be able to drastically reduce your expenses.

Check out my baby essentials on a budget for all of my newborn must have items!

Thanks for reading my baby budget list!

baby budget list

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Having a baby on a budget

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