Baby on a Budget

Babies are these cute, adorable little things that make most people say “awe”.  I’m betting that when you hear someone had a baby your first thoughts are NOT “I hope they budgeted for that”.  It’s far more likely that you think about the things like how cute the kid is, and all the fun these people are going to have, and maybe about some of the experiences you’ve have raising your kids.

Are Babies Really That Expensive?

I know when we got pregnant, no one talked to us about budgeting for the cost of having a baby in the house.  Now mind you, money isn’t a topic many people in my family will discuss unless they are bragging.  But it would have been nice not to have to rely on Google and complete strangers who had no clue who we were let alone our values around raising a family to tell us what we should expect cost wise in the first few years of raising our kid.

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And believe me, I got some rather out there advice in some of the Mommy groups on what was “essential” to our kid’s survival.  It made me wonder if I was really that ignorant of what exactly it took to keep a baby happy and healthy.  And of course, the one wonderful side effect of being pregnant is the wonderful hormone swings that cause all these fun thoughts to run straight into panic mode…

I had a mini meltdown, cried my eyes out on hubby’s shirt, and when he finally realized what I was upset over we set out to figure out what we could expect financially.

In the end, we did 2 budgets, one for our current situation, and one for after the baby arrived.

Step 1: Determine your income

At this point in life I think most of us know how much money we have coming into our homes, but go double check & write it down.

Mr. B. & I are a two income family, and prior to getting pregnant had discussed already that I would prefer to be an at home Mom.  That meant that once we got pregnant we had the chance of moving from two to one income if we were ready for that financially.  We discussed the possibility of Maternity leave, Paternity leave, returning to work early and what investments we had that would support us.

We also discussed options for me to work from home, so I could be with the kiddo and not have daycare costs.

So mark down your income and your partner’s income now, then on your “after baby” budget mark down incomes you expect from things like your Maternity leave and Paternity leave. You want to be as specific as possible if you are not sure it’s better to estimate below what you think you will have coming in.

Planing out your living expenses for after having a baby is just as important as what you really need for the baby.  Have you started your Baby Registry? Made a financial plan for after baby arrives?  Here are some tips to get you started.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Determine your expenses, now & after birth

I think you can see where this is going, we did a full budget both now and what we expected after birth.  We added things like the cost of groceries, gas for hubby getting to and from work, all the bills we have, monthly payments on debt etc.  And THEN we went looking for costs on things we thought the baby would need. and I mean actually need not the “wishlist” items people kept telling me we should have.

We broke household expenses into the following:

House:
– Mortgage (or rent if applicable)
– Property Taxes
– Utilities (Electricity, Water, Heat)
– Insurance (renters insurance if you don’t have property insurance)
– Maintenance

Vehicle:
– Car Insurance (for each vehicle)
– Gas
– Maintenance
– Parking (Hubs needs this for work)

Personal:
– Life Insurance (for everyone)
– Critical Illness Insurance (for everyone)
– Health Insurance (if you are in an area where you need to pay for this)
– Banking Fees (it’s the little things that will catch you off guard)
– Entertainment (seriously everyone needs a break here and there, so build a buffer in your budget where you can even if you only budget for Netflix or something similar cause late night feedings this could be a lifesaver)
– Pet costs (food, vet stuff, etc for the cat)
– Phones (we have cell phones and landlines)
– Internet (essential)

Financial:
For this list ALL YOUR DEBT, along with payments that need to be made every month, interest rates and current balance.

If you haven’t done a family budget before I recommend checking out Rachel’s Budgeting Tips that work for your family at ThisCraftyHome.com, she has some great ideas on how to get started in a simple but effective way.

For the Baby, I broke it out into the following categories

Safety

Nourishment

  • we chose to breastfeed (and could)
  • Breast Pump
  • Bottles
  • Formula (even if you plan to breastfeed it’s a great idea to have some on hand in case you need it!)
  • Vitamin D drops (we live in an area where it is recommended by the medical professionals)
  • A Blender – for making your own baby food, no you DON’T need one of those baby bullets, a regular blender works just as well.

Diapering & Clothing

  • 1 year’s worth of clothing (babies don’t need as much of this as you think they do either)
  • Cloth Diapers vs disposables (we did cloth for the first year)
  • receiving blankets

From here we set an expected cost for each item both before and after baby arrived.  It took some research but go to multiple stores and see what you can find where.  You can even check online at sites like Amazon to see what they are listed at.  Figure out now what you need to spend every month before the baby is born to be stocked up on the essentials and add that to your regular budget.

Don’t Forget the Medical Expenses

While you don’t want to forget any medical expenses you may incur during the delivery of the baby.  (Or the cost of any of the “extra” services you may want/need)

Also, be aware that babies do get sick and may need medical attention in the first year of life.  Even if they are full term and perfectly healthy at birth.  Baby G was born healthy and screaming happy, all his toes and fingers and everything else was just as perfect as you could ask for.  By 3 months old we had been to the hospital no less the twice for croup… healthy kids still catch colds and need help, and you don’t want to break the bank making sure they stay healthy.

Financial Considerations before having a baby.  What do you really need, and what expenses can you expect after the baby arrives.

Start a baby fund

Whether you are pregnant now or hoping to be one day maybe.  Starting a baby fund will help with any of the costs that pop up unexpectedly.  Call it an Emergency Baby fund, or just add a set amount to your monthly budget that gets set aside for the baby’s needs now even if you are not using it.

Hubs and I started with $50 a month, and put that into an account separate from our regular checking.  That way when one of us got something for the baby it came out of that account and not the regular budget.

The Money Saving Tips

So after you have a budget it’s best to start looking at how to save money on the necessities.

Be realistic about what you actually need for the baby

That list above, yeah, not all of it is “necessary”, we talked about what was really important and what we could do without.  And the decision was that for us we needed a safe place for kiddo to sleep, a car seat, clothes and diapers.  As we had already decided I would breastfeed we were not going to worry about what kiddo needed to eat, but I snagged some free samples of formula just in case that didn’t work out for us.

So a lot of items got slashed off the list of “needs” and stuck into the wants pile.

Second Hand is Awesome!

Learn to love thrift shops, garage sales, friends and family who are done with having kids, the clearance section, and the whole host of apps out there that do a variety of buy-sell-trade type connections.  There is no shame in second hand.  Secondhand usually costs less and is just as good.  I don’t think I ever put kiddo in anything that wasn’t adorable and looked brand new for the first 23 months of his life (He is 3 years old).

Everything he wore was hand-me-downs from family and friends unless we got it as a gift. Seriously clothing won’t last long with how quickly little ones grow so spending top dollar is not necessary.

Now there are some items I would suggest you stick to new on like the car seat and breast pumps for safety and sanitary reasons.  But most other things ask other people if they have something you could borrow.  My sister in law was awesome for this and lucky us, had an adorable little one 6 months before we had our little guy.  I’m also highly grateful for my cousin who had her last boy almost a year before we did (in-season hand-me-downs totally rock!)

Check the Dollar Store for some baby items.

There is lots of stuff I would pass on at the dollar store for baby, but things like wash clothes, nail cutter, soft hairbrush stuff like that I find are worth it. I ended up making my own baby wipes the first time around and picked up all the wash clothes I needed for them from the dollar store for less than ten dollars. Compare that to wal-mart where I would have spent close to thirty and you get some good savings.

Also if you need any bins for things (think diapers, change bin, toy organization, or a nursing basket) snag them at the dollar store. Often they are still name brand just cheaper.

Money is NOT an easy topic, and it certainly isn't one discussed often in regards to having a baby.  It's no wonder so many new parents find themselves swamped with un-necessary bills and things they don't need...here is how we cut through the mess and set up a simple baby expenses budget.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Take advantage of the freebie offers and samples

There are a bunch of companies out there that want new mommas to spend money with them.  To get your attention many of them will send you free samples some of which are pretty handy.  Like this program with Nestle which comes with formula samples, a bunch of coupons, and a diaper bag which is all we used for the first few months of kiddo’s life.

When People ask what you need be honest

It is a tone of fun to buy baby gifts you know people will love.  So when they ask, be upfront and tell them what you are looking for!  You can even create a Pinterest board or registry on Amazon.  You may even be lucky enough to have a couple of people go together on a bigger item for you, or have someone just go all out and get you that car seat you are drooling over.  (Yes it happens, I told my parents which one I wanted and presto we were blessed with the exact model that worked with the stroller we had from some friends).

I also really, really wanted something made by my Grandpa for the kiddo.  I came up with a design for a bed and passed that on to him, a few months later we brought home what is now a central piece in our living room.  Built by Grandpa’s own hands and brought home after a visit to see him and my Grandma, who also made us the cutest blanket ever!

Prepare Freezer Meals & Figure Out Meal Planning Prior to Babe’s Arrival

OMG! I can’t tell you how often I would have reached for take out if we didn’t have a few freezer meals waiting.  In all likely hood, these saved us thousands of dollars in just the first few months alone.  Think about it, Take Out Food adds up FAST!  $35 per meal, say 3 times a week, is easily $400 a month.  And most families eat more often than 3 times a week.

As kiddo gets older and even after the freezer meals are gone it can still save a fortune to meal plan.

If you have never tackled meal planning the ideas and methods out there can seem overwhelming. I recommend starting with Beth’s Meal Planner from TheDGAFMom.com as she breaks down some of the basics with some simple easy to follow ideas on what it is, basic strategies, and solid how to’s for meal planning in this article. (Hint: she even has a free template that will make your life so MUCH EASIER!!!) so pop over there and snag it)

Making Your Own Baby Food

While we are on the topic of edibles lets look at baby’s first solids… Steaming and mashing veggies isn’t as hard as you might think.  And this comes with the added bonus of not giving your baby any weird chemical additives (a pretty big bonus in my book).  And if you get yourself one of these snazzy little things, you’ll have saved 10 times more then you spent within a couple months.

Cloth Diapers are a great way to save on baby expenses, and here is a list of 10 other ways you can save before and after your sweet angel arrives!
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Rethink Cloth Diapers

Ok, this one won’t be for everyone, but honestly, I did it for the first year of kiddo’s life and never regretted it.  But it’s not the greatest thing for everyone.  We never had to run out for emergency diapers in the middle of the night cause I forgot to pick some up… If you are exclusively breastfeeding you can just toss those suckers in the wash and be done with it.  Heck, I only really ever worried about doing a load of them when the pail I had out for them looked fullish… Sometimes that was 3 days apart, others closer to 4.  And I wasn’t spending $50 for a box that would last me all of 2 weeks.

And Cloth Diapers are another one of those things I would buy only second hand.  And if you are handy with a needle you can even pick up some super cheap that just need a few stitches to work like new.

If you do go the disposable route make sure you factor in that cost (check the price around you and if you get the Amazon Family Subscription for diapers it may be what you need to bring that price down some.  While I haven’t used it myself I have heard great things from people who did.  It also has a 30-day free trial to take advantage of.

Diaper Genie

If you go the route of disposable diapers it is likley tempting to get a diaper genie, but there are cheaper alternatives like a trash can with a pedal that lifts the lid. The trash can might set you back around $15 – $20 more then the genie but it’s more durable and the bags are ALOT cheaper which makes it worth it.

Breastfeed if Possible

Now this one comes with a disclaimer, there are tonnes of reasons to use Formula and this choice can be a very personal one. If you have ANY reason at all to not want to breastfeed I get it, breastfeeding is not easy, and it’s not something everyone wants or can do. That’s why I say “if Possible” because if you are (like me) and abuse survivor who suffers from anxiety and other issues around having your chest touched it’s better for you and baby to use Formula, you are NOT harming them!

I recommend breastfeeding if possible because I know from personal experience that it can be great, however, I don’t like hearing that someone has felt shamed or guilted into it. You do you Mamma, and the best way to take care of that baby is by taking care of yourself, ok?

You likely won’t need a nursing pillow

I was lucky and was gifted one of these semi-handy pillows for our first…I promptly forgot where I put it and realized after that it wouldn’t have worked well with my body anyway. I’m a plus size lady, and my curves just wouldn’t fit comfortably in the pillow’s dimensions, so when I found it again it got used to help kiddo sit up and learn his balance without us holding him not for nursing.

Baby Carrier…try before you buy or try a cheaper one first

I know a number of people who swear by each top brand or type or whatever out there for baby carriers. And especially if this is your second kiddo (or more), a carrier can be a lifesaver when keeping up with the rest of the family post-birth.

However, they don’t work for everyone and investing a couple hundred up front because so-and-so swears by it is not a great way to try it out. So if you must buy try the less expensive model first.

The other great option is to find a local group that lets you try various carriers and give you advice on how to make them work best for you and your little one. I did a facebook search for “Baby Carrier” and my city and got 3 different facebook pages to try, all leading to different groups in my area that would let me try on carriers and gave me tips on how to work with the ones I was gifted if I wanted to use them.

Car Seat Canopy

Skip it, you’re going to get a tone of baby blankets that work just as well. And you won’t know what to do with most of them so put one to use this way instead of shelling out for a car seat canopy.

You likely won’t need a nursery

Contrary to popular belief the prettiest nursery is not a necessity… most of the time baby is going to want to be close to you. So in a bassinet or pack-n-play or crib beside your bed is likely where they will stay. Especially as they transition to getting used to the new big world they find themselves in.

The truth is that babies need time to adapt to our world, think about it, for nine months all they have known is the inside of Mom, her heartbeat, how she moves, her voice… sleeping in a room by themselves is going to be scary…

Chances are that baby will also be waking frequently, many newborns wake up every couple of hours this means Mom or Dad will be waking up too. If you breastfeed, having baby close by means you don’t need to go far to help them settle back into sleep. If you use formula it’s just as easy to have a bottle ready to be warmed and settle baby in your room then leave the bottle on your nightstand to deal with in the morning.

You likely won’t need a crib

With our first I got “all the things” and then didn’t use a bunch of them. This time around I know the crib (aka laundry hamper) is not needed. Kiddo slept in bed with us (yes we bed share safely) the first time around, and when he wasn’t in our bed he slept in our Graco Pack-n-Play because it was smaller and at a better height for me to pick him up from. It also came with a change station so I didn’t need one of those either.

after you skip the crib pass on the mobile

While it might be nice to have baby fall asleep to the soft music and pretty lights with dangly bits hanging from it there are options out there that will last longer and are more customizable.

You don’t need baby bumpers or fancy bedding

In fact, for safe sleep practices, you should avoid these. They are suffocation hazards and should be kept out of your baby’s bed. Our Midwife recommended a flat mattress with a mattress protector (to help with blowouts) and a fitted sheet, keep it simple, and of course cheap.

You might be able to get away without a baby monitor

Ok, this one I personally couldn’t do, but if you have a smaller house (we have 2 levels that I needed to move between and would not hear kiddo if I went to one he wasn’t on) then it’s possible you will hear when baby wakes without a monitor.

If you do need a monitor, don’t bother with the video ones (unless someone is gifting it), all you really need is the audio to know if the baby woke up or not. And there are so many stories out there talking about people hijacking video monitors I couldn’t stomach the idea of someone else using something to spy on my little guy.

You don’t need baby towels

People told me left, right and center that I would need baby towels… I got very confused about this. Baby’s are small humans, so wouldn’t small towels work? At least that was my thought, we were gifted a couple of cute towels for our first and I think I used them once… yeah, glad I didn’t spend money on a bunch like I was told to. And now that he is 3 years old he refuses to use them since they are so small… que adult size towels with cute prints to the rescue

Skip the change table

It’s just as easy to make up a diaper change basket for each room that includes a thick towel and all the essentials and change baby on the floor, or in a bedroom on the bed. Change tables are bulky and take up a lot of real estate that can be used for other things and quite frankly you can’t use them all that long anyway since babies outgrow them so quickly.

Ditch the Wipe Warmer

This is likely one of the biggest wastes of money, honestly, if you are worried that baby’s bum can’t handle the cool temperature of the wipe hold it in your hands for a few seconds before you use it. This is one of those things that everyone seems to think is so convenient but really isn’t, first you have to have it plugged in which means one spot in the house to change a diaper, and if you don’t have a change table there really isn’t anywhere convenient to leave the thing plugged in.

Re-think the Baby Swing

Babies sometimes love these things, and others hate them. But I have yet to meet a baby that didn’t like a baby bouncer. So maybe start there. See if your little actually likes the bouncer and if you have friends or family with a swing see if baby likes one of those before you go out and buy something… for the first little bit there is a chance you are not going to want to put baby down anyway so you should be good.

Skip the Baby Bather

Sure these can be nice for the like 5 times you are going to use them. But while baby is really little they don’t tend to get that dirty (not withstanding blowouts), so it’s usually sponge baths. If you just pick up an actual baby bathtub it will last you longer and you’ll get more use out of it.

High Chairs are too high priced…

I think most of us believe we need a high chair for a baby … the problem is that they take up lots of space and they get pretty expensive. Not to mention if you have a rocker of a baby they tip over pretty easily (ask me how I know).

A better and less expensive alternative is a booster seat with an attachable tray. This lets you use the same seat for kiddo right into toddlerhood when they may not be tall enough to sit at the table yet. They attach to any chair and are easy to take with you on the go.

Ditch the Diaper Bag

Diaper bags can be pricey, so instead grab a backpack or a large purse that you already have. If you really want a diaper bag look for ones that’s a name brand knock off on Amazon for a cheaper price with some quality. Honestly a lot of stuff you think you need can stay in the car while you go shopping, or if it is something urgent (diaper change, wipes, and a change of clothes) can usually fit in a large-ish purse)

The Must Have List

Ok, as much as there are some things you should NOT buy, there are some essentials that I think we all need to make life just that much easier with a new baby in the house.

Swaddle Blanket

I personally love muslin swaddle blankets. They are a tad more expensive, but they are worth it, these are big enough to swaddle baby comfortably, and can be used as a nursing cover, changing pad, car seat cover, or well pretty much anything. The material is super soft and lightweight so good for summer, but also easy to layer if you need to in colder climates.

A snot sucker

Yeah, you may have already heard of the NoseFrida Aspirator, but there is also the Hydrasense snot sucker… kiddo is going to get snotty at some point and they don’t know how to blow their nose yet (you have to teach them that when they get older), instead of letting them deal with all that congestion on their own you literally suck it out. Now I know mom’s that just use their mouth and suck on the nostril, but most people are not ok with that, so get yourself one of these (they have started kits) and use it to remove snot from babies nose as needed. Kiddo will breathe better and so will you.

A good car seat that works with your vehicle

Bringing baby home is exciting, and something you want to do safely. Well before you go into labor make sure the seat is installed in your car correctly (and have it checked by a car seat expert in your area).

A Baby Gate

If you have any stairs or rooms that baby should not be going into, get one of these by the time they are 4 months old. You’ll want the time to get used to having one to go through, and you never know when kiddo is going to start exploring and get into something they shouldn’t. So safety first!

Bassinet or Pack-n-Play

I recommend this pack-n-play that we used and it comes with a bassinet and changing station. This means you can move it from room to room or even over to Grandma and Grandpa’s without too much work. Plus if baby doesn’t sleep in it you can use it to organize things like diapers etc.

Breastpump if you are breastfeeding

Breastpumps are great for helping give Momma a break from feedings on occasion. Getting touched out is a real thing. And if you have to return to work after having baby it means that you can continue to breastfeed even when you spend time away from them.

Realistically Babies Can be Expensive

If you buy everything NEW and everything you WANT.

Even with the new baby expenses (which is really just diapers/wipes/bum cream), we actually saved more money after our baby was born.  I didn’t drive a lot, so even with a 2 vehicle household, we cut our gas expense in half.  I didn’t eat out a lot, or go for coffee until later in my mat leave, and even then it wasn’t often.  And I sent Mr. B. to the store for groceries with a list more then I went myself which means very little that wasn’t on the list ever came home (I’m the more impulsive shopper in our house). So overall we spent less money on a monthly basis then we did before.

The Financial Considerations no one talks about before having a baby, and how you can plan for them and still save money after.

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!

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