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20 Ways to Raise a Baby on a Budget

Wondering how to raise a baby on a budget? It's easier than you think! Check out this helpful list of 20 ways to save -- even with growing babies in the house!

Guest post by Sarah of Saving Money Never Goes Out of Style

When most parents find out they are expecting, they are so excited; but after that, comes the panic.

You wonder how you will be able to afford a baby, with all that he or she needs, and not go bankrupt doing so. The good news is that you can rest easy.

As a now-single SAHM, it’s important for me to raise my kids on a budget. Thankfully, there are many ways to achieve this. Here are 20 ideas:

20 Ways to Raise a Baby on a Budget

1. Breastfeed if you can. Formula is extremely expensive, and while there are programs out there to help you pay for it and coupons galore, breastfeeding is the cheapest option for most people.

2. Borrow a breast-pump. If you choose to breast feed, the pump can often cost more than you can afford. Look for programs in your area that allow you to borrow them.

3. Make your own wipes. Baby wipes can add up and making your own just takes a few minutes.

4. Use cloth diapers. The initial investment may seem steep, but the savings will add up very quickly. {For some creative ways to save money on cloth diapers, check out this post on How to Cloth Diaper for Practically Free.}

5. Make your own baby food. It’s better for baby, anyway, and it’s so simple.

6. Trade babysitting time. Instead of pay for a sitter, trade babysitting time with other parents.

7. Buy used clothing. Babies grow so fast in the first year or two that it makes more sense to do so. Also, skip shoes. They don’t need them until they walk, anyway!

8. Keep baby in a bassinet with you the first few months. This will give you time to save for setting up a nursery!

9. Create your nursery with a budget in mind. Don’t spend too much on building your own nursery. You can find many things gently used in this area as well.

10. Ask for freebies. Companies love to give new parents freebies. Just do a quick hunt online and don’t forget to also ask your child’s pediatrician for some, too.

11. Buy items that convert. There are many things (from beds to car seats) that convert as the child grows. They may seem costly at first, but they save you money down the road when it comes time to replace things.

12. Use coupons. Diapers, formula, wipes, and even baby furniture can be bought with coupons, Just sign up on the manufacturer’s websites and they will usually flood you with them.

13. Keep your baby’s products simple. Babies have sensitive skin, it’s true. However, you don’t need to spend all your money on special baby products when you can use simple, natural things like coconut oil, Aloe Vera, unscented lotions, and so on.

14. Have a friend be your photographer. Many new parents spend so much money on baby pictures and newborn photos. You can take some lovely ones right at home with just a little practice and some good lighting. If you do go pro, sign up for newsletters to places like Sears and JcPenney’s as they have a lot of promotions that cost as little as $10 in and out the door.

15. Make your own baby-wearing wrap. This can often be done even if you don’t know how to sew. Baby wraps can by costly, but making your own doesn’t have to be.

16. Change your mind. The culture we have here is very consumer driven. One of the biggest targets is new moms and dads. Be aware of this and you may find that you spend less.

17. If you need new, shop at discount stores. Places like Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx, or Tuesday Morning offer an entire section that is devoted to department store baby products. These items are 20-60% off the prices at other stores.

18. Skip bibs. Instead buy shirts that are too big for your child. They can be washed easier and they grow into them for messy toddler play later.

19. Borrow things you don’t need for long. If the item is something you only need for a couple of months, such as a baby bath, neck rest for the car seat or Moses basket, see if you know anyone you can borrow it from.

20. Get creative. Sometimes, we can avoid buying something if we get creative. Just think of things you have around the house and see if they will double for what you need them for. {Note from Crystal: Here is my list of the only 6 things I think you truly need for your baby.}

Raising a baby does not have to put you into dire straits. With a little creative thinking, you can save a lot of money!

What ideas would you add to this list? Do you agree with everything on this list?

Sarah is a stay-at-home mom of two wonderful children with a mission to prove that you don’t have to have a lot of money to live a quality life. Sarah loves encouraging others through her blog: Saving Money Never Goes Out of Style.

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  • Amanda says:

    Health insurance should normally cover pumps. Also, most pumps (definitely Medela) work with standard size bottles (and Dr Browns makes lids that fit those bottles) so you can skip buying special bottles for them.

  • My friend and I were just talking about this! It was actually cheaper for me the second time around (when I didn’t have a job) than it was the first time around when I did. How sad is that? The second time around we were able to qualify for our state program that paid for baby food and such because I decided to stay at home with the kids.

  • Megan says:

    Great ideas! And now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all health insurance programs will cover breast pumps.

    Most hospitals give freebie bags new new parents, too.

    • Oh yeah! I liked the freebie bags 🙂 If you contact similac or gerber ahead of time (even if you think you will nurse) they sometimes send you full sized samples of formula in the mail.

    • Amber says:

      Unfortunately, TriCare still doesn’t–unless you have a premie baby in the NICU. Ironic that the government mandates this yet forgets those who protect it 🙁

  • Jessica says:

    Do not borrow a breast pump. It’s not hygienic and it’s not recommended by La Leche League, IBCLCs, hospitals or pediatricians. I was a milk donor while nursing my first child and had to certify that I had my own pump or my own pumping kit for a hospital grade pump. You can rent a hospital grade pump and purchase your own kit for it. The ACA also mandated that breast pumps be covered. If your insurance doesn’t provide it directly, you can get a tax credit for purchasing one out of pocket. Or you can use a flexible spending account to purchase one.

    I had to exclusively pump for my middle child, who had severe birth trauma and took several months to recover from injuries incurred at birth.

    Never buy a used car seat.

    Due to a severe thyroid disorder, I was unable to nurse my third child. Our pediatrician told us that most regular formulas are the same and I found that my child could tolerate any of them, so I just bought whatever I had coupons for.

    • Thanks for mentioning that about breast pumps.

      Also, I did some brand work for a store brand formula manufacturer last year and I learned a LOT about store brand formula by doing so. Based upon what I learned, the FDA regulates all formula in the US, so store brands and name brands are nutritionally equivalent and both are required to meet stringent quality standards.

    • Bethany Bergen says:

      I agree- I’ve heard it’s not safe/sanitary to use other’s breastpumps. Make sure the carseat hasn’t expired!!

  • Kristi says:

    As crazy as it seems….we found that purchasing a inflatable pool was cheaper and easier to store when we had the twins then purchasing a gated system for our living room. Plus when they are ready to pull up they won’t bump their heads on anything hard if they tumble.

  • SDR says:

    As a couple of people mentioned, per the ACA insurance companies are required to cover the cost of a breast pump; this may vary slightly by policy as far as what type of pump and how it’s covered (mine was subject to deductible and coinsurance, but by the time I had delivered and had the hospital stay those were covered so the pump was free).

    I do feel the need to say, in reference to point #2, that you absolutely should not borrow or buy a used breast pump. With very few exceptions (such as the very expensive “hospital” pumps such as the medela symphony) most pumps have “open” systems where there is a tube connecting the flanges and going back into the diaphragm that’s housed within the pump itself. There isn’t any actual barrier and there’s no way to open the pump and clean the diaphragm or inside the pump. It’s considered a personal hygiene item and just buying new tubing does not make it sanitary for a second user.

  • Andrea Tindall says:

    Although I appreciate the sentiment of breastfeeding to save money it is important to note that your mental sanity has some price so don’t push yourself to save a bit of money a month if breastfeeding is mentally costly for you. I get formula on subscribe and save and it runs about 85 a month so that is also an option I lieu of traditional coupons.

    • Yes, I so agree! And I’m a big advocate of doing what works for you.

      Thanks so much for the tip on getting formula from Subscribe & Save!

    • Lauren says:

      I totally agree with this! Breastfeeding is so hard for me (mentally/emotionally) that it isn’t an area that I would do just to save money. I think there are great benefits to breastfeeding, but am very thankful that formula is an option that is available!

  • Lori says:

    You have to make baby food. It isn’t hard! (It does take time, but it isn’t hard) and babies eat baby food for such a short period, the time commitment is doable if you make in batches and freeze.

    I was glad to see this was on the list. I think baby food is the biggest racket!

  • Rachel says:

    For baby items that take up a lot of space but aren’t used for long (bouncy seats, exersaucers, swings, etc.), we have had success selling them cheaply on Facebook or Craigslist and then re-buying them used (and cheap!) on those same sites when we need them again. It really cuts down on the need to store stuff that takes up space.

    Amazon Prime/Mom hands-down has the cheapest (brand name) disposable diapers, and if you can get Prime as a gift (say for Christmas or birthday), it adds up to significant savings!

  • Tracy says:

    When my son had his first Christmas he was only a few months old. Everyone wanted to know what to get him. I quickly asked for diapers and wipes and just a couple of toys. It really helped me save on things he needed. Also some family members bought sippy cups and small dishes for him.

    It was great as he did not know what was going on and I helped him to unwrap his toys. He played with nothing that day but his new rattle. And everyone was happy they could give something he would really use not something that would just sit and collect dust.

  • As the above ladies mentioned, your insurance should cover breast pump. You can cross that off.

    I agree with everything except not using bib. If we decide to change clothes after every feeding, we end up washing too many clothes that eventually will cost high electricity bill.

    Bib really costs almost nothing. Just go for used bibs instead of new ones if you find it expensive.

    • Anne Marie says:

      Agreed! My kid was a spitter, and we went through tons of bibs each day. Considering that shirts for babies are almost exclusively onesies, I’d have gone nuts changing his outfit 15 times a day. Besides, who wants their baby looking like a ragamuffin in clothes that don’t fit? A multi-pack of bibs from Babies R Us is way cheaper than the same number of shirts.

    • Lisa says:

      Bibs were definitely important with my first son. He drooled and spit up a lot. I went to our local fabric store and bought fabric remnants and cut them into triangles and sewed velcro on the ends to fasten them. They can also be tied loosely if you don’t sew. I made about 30 for under $10 and they were much cuter than the store bought ones.

      Other things that were very simple to make from fabric remnants are receiving blankets (which can be used as nursing covers and burp cloths), nursing covers (approximately 1 yard of fabric with a strip attached to go around your neck), burp cloths and pre-fold cloth diapers (two rectangles of absorbent fabric with 2-3 extra layers sewn into the middle). All of these take little to no sewing skills (some can be done in no-sew versions as well), very little time and at a fraction of the cost of store-bought.

  • Jean says:

    Hand-me-downs! We save so much by getting clothes from friends that their kids have outgrown. Then I do the same by passing on my kids’ clothes to moms who have younger kids. So, my tip is to find other moms with older and younger kids and start your own hand-me-down cycle.

    • Tara says:

      I was going to say hand me downs too! We had a group that had several kids around the same time. We knew who got our girl or boy clothes. We’d add a couple new pieces and it was fun to see what showed up your next go round. 🙂

  • Georgia says:

    I did baby-led weaning with my third baby and it had saved me both time AND money in not making our buying baby food at all!

    Also, you do not have to have a changing table… my parents had a small master bedroom and no nursery, so they just used the crib to change diapers. Just lay a waterproof changing mat on the crib and put baby on it! At the infant stage, babies are so little and don’t roll over anyway, so you can even station supplies in a corner of the crib.

    • Amy says:

      I TOTALLY agree with the baby led weaning! We did it with our third and I so wish we had done it with the other two. It’s a wonderful way to skip baby food altogether.

  • Ellen says:

    The only one I don’t agree with is skipping bibs. All my babies have drooled during teething, enough to make a shirt wet and irritate the skin underneath. A few dollars on a pack of fabric bibs with a waterproof lining is worth it in fewer clothing changes and less laundry.

    • Bibs are also so easy to make! I have even made them from repurposed clothing, and closed them with a button saved from another item.

      For older babies and toddlers, I make huge bibs that cover their clothing out of old pillowcases (in dark colors, so I don’t have to use stain remover). It saves clothing from being stained.

    • Jennifer says:

      I agree! I have had 3 heavy droolers. We really used our bibs. If we hadn’t, we would have had continual wetness. Shirts would not have cut it, we needed thick bibs or ones with a waterproof liner. (I have used up to 6 bibs in one day) Also, I have had shirts ruined by plain drool:) To save clothing and skin I would recommend bibs! At least if you have a drooler.

    • Ashley says:

      I’m confused about number 18. How would a big shirt work as a bib? I don’t understand what that would look like. If it’s too big, then it isn’t going to catch the drool because the neck opening will be too low.

  • Suzanne H says:

    If you want new baby clothes… Most people get tons of tiny baby clothes during their baby showers but end up without a lot of 12+ months sized clothes. Start shopping ahead for bigger sizes. Buy off season, clearance clothes from Kohls with a promo code (I’ve found it to be worthwhile to have their credit card which gives extra discounts and free shipping a lot of the time but I do pay it off each month to avoid interest). Kohls has a very generous return policy. You can return things a year or more later if you need to! I keep my receipts in the drawers/bins with the items I buy. If they don’t work out when the season rolls around, I return them. I’ve saved a ton of money over the years doing this. I don’t think my 6 year old has ever worn anything that I bought at full price! 🙂

  • You can save a lot by making nursery decorations instead of buying them. I made roman shades myself and saved over $500!

  • Rebecca says:

    As others have said, your insurance will cover a breast pump. Also, you shouldn’t use a pump used by another person unless it is a closed system. Most consumer pumps are not this and are designed for one person. In addition, pumps are designed to last for only one child for ‘full time’ pumping so it’s best to get one with each child. If your pump is not up to full function it can impact your supply.

    If you can’t get a double electric one or don’t need one for full time use, get a hand pump. They are cheap, easy to use and work great.

    • If you stay home full time with your baby you might find that you don’t even need a breast pump. It isn’t always a necessary expense. I fully breastfed my first child who was born right before the affordable care act went into effect. I ended up not needing to purchase a pump and learned how to hand express milk. I did leave him for a few hours every week but found hand expression a very effective method. 🙂 Later I purchased a manual breast pump which was a total waste of money. Hand expression worked much better! I would also add money to visit an ibclc lactation consultant if necessary. I have breastfed all of my children and I have had lots of difficulty in the first few weeks. I don’t know if I would have made it without those lactation visits. A $30 visit could easily save you a thousand dollars.

  • Also, you don’t have to decorate a nursery. It’s okay to leave the walls white (or whatever they are to start) and keep things simple.

  • JJ says:

    A friend told me some health insurances(hers for sure) are now covering costs of breast pumps.

  • Tonya says:

    I use cloth diapers. I researched lots and spent $400+ but they have lasted me through 2 kids and can be used again. (We use disposable when not at home)

    Also, look into early potty training. In the 1960s before disposible diapers the average age for potty training was 18 months. Diaper manufacturers benefit from the new delayed potty training.
    There are books out there. Diaper Free Baby is one. You don’t have to go diaper free, but it will give you principles to guide you to using less diapers and potty trainibg early

  • Sheryl says:

    I wish I had figured this out on my first kid, but the pediatrician’s office was happy to give me some formula on each visit, all I had to do was ask. Every time I was there, I asked for some – afterall, they get them free from the manufacturer. I always asked, and the nurse gave me 4 cans each time I was there. Sure, I still had to buy formula, but I bought a little less thanks to the pediatrician!

  • Danielle B says:

    Great article, Sarah! My grandmother put her babies in the bottom dresser drawer, pulled out, with a very thin, soft liner she made herself- hand sewing it because she couldn’t afford even a used sewing machine. When baby was too big for the dresser drawer, he went in the big bed with her and Grandaddy until weaned.

    An older friend of mine made every bit of clothing for her family for twenty years except for under garments. Baby garments were easy she said, it was 14 pairs of denim overalls/jeans that she made every year for her six boys and husband that were difficult.

    Our mindset has everything to do with how expenisve anything is! Whether it’s babies, housing, food or our occupation, learning to do without or with less while maintaining an attitude of gratitude is something every single one of us could benefit from.

  • Great article. Raising a baby can be expensive but with a little bit of work you can save so much money

    Thanks for sharing


  • Cate says:

    Yard sales, we got a practically brand new swing $100 for $10
    Also eBay, got my cloth diapers and ergo baby carrier straight from China for about $100 total. And they are the real deal straight from the manufacturer

    Additionally we are using a pack and play instead of a crib, we will eventually transition to twin bed we already have and get toddler rales for it. We got a mattress for the pack and play and skipped a bassinet, crib, and toddler bed

  • Buy Nothing groups on Facebook are also a great resource for free baby and kid supplies!

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