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Having a Baby Without Breaking the Bank: List of essentials

On a budget with baby on the way? This list of essential baby items is SO helpful! Aside from lots of love and nurturing, these are the only 5 things you truly NEED!

Last time in this series we discussed how having a baby really doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. If you didn’t get a chance to read it yet, be sure to go here and do so. The numerous comments left on the post were incredibly insightful–you all are one great bunch of wise people!

Today I want to talk about what I see as the basic essentials one needs to have and care for a baby. Obviously, there are variety of opinions out there when it comes to “must-haves”. I’m not an expert, just a mom who has raised two young vibrant little girls without spending a lot of money to do so.

First off, we must start by asking ourselves, “What does it really take to raise a baby?” I believe our society has become so materialistic and consumer driven that we hardly know how to even think in basic terms.

Aside from lots of love and nurturing, here are the essentials I believe you truly need:

–Clothes (For starting out, I think you can get by just fine with around six onesies, six sleepers, a few pair of socks, a few hats, and 4-6 blankets.)

–Bed (unless you’re planning to co-sleep)

–Car seat


–Diapers/wipes (either cloth or disposable)

(And if you are unable to nurse–as I know happens on occasion, or if you are adopting, you would also need to add formula to this list.)

And that’s about it, folks. Seriously. There are other things that are nice to have, such as a swing, a sling (or ERGO), a few nicer outfits for baby to wear out of the house, a diaper bag, and so forth. But none of those things are absolute necessities.

If you have any baby showers at all or get any gifts, you can see how easily you could accumulate the few items you really need for your baby. And that’s why I recommend you don’t buy anything until after your baby showers (if you will be having any). There is no point in buying a lot of items you don’t truly need if you can’t afford them.

That said, if you are going to be buying everything yourself, here are a few of my suggestions for how to buy the necessary items very inexpensively:

There is no need to buy name-brand, brand-new clothes for your child. If they are anything like most little children, they will likely be quickly staining them or growing out of them. So you might as well get them as inexpensively as you can! If someone offers to share their hand-me-downs, willingly accept them.

Sign up for your local and watch for folks who are getting rid of baby clothes and other items in your area. You can often snag sacks of baby clothing and other baby things this way–all for free! is another online baby site which allows members to trade gently used baby and maternity items for free. Sign-up is only $1 right now, so this is definitely something to consider if there is a Freepeats group in your area.

Other great options are thrift stores and garage sales, of course. Also, check and see if there are any church rummage-type sales or consignment sales in your area. These are often goldmines! And if you start looking for items at least a six months before your baby is born, you’ll likely be able to accumulate everything you need for pennies on the dollar this way.

For the record, I recommend buying your baby’s bed and car seat new, just out of safety precaution. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend an arm and a leg. Start looking at least a few months before your baby is born for deals at local stores and online deals. The majority of the time, by hitting an online sale and combining it with a coupon code plus cashback from eBates, you’ll be able to get a pretty good deal.

Also, if you are in the market for deals on new baby items, be sure that you check out BabyCheapskate and BabyGoodBuys. Both are websites dedicated to alerting you to the best baby deals and freebies out there.

Oh and before I forget, The Natural Mommy has a great two-part series up on Reducing the Cost of Birth and Babies which I highly recommend you check out here and here. You might not agree with all her conclusions (just like you probably don’t with mine!) but hopefully it will give you some more food for thought!

That about covers everything on the list of essentials except for diapers. Next week, I’ll talk about saving money by cloth diapering and or stockpiling disposable diapers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think is a list of absolute necessities for having a baby. What are your best ideas for acquiring these inexpensively?

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  • Great post! I personally would also add a bath seat to my list of neccessities. Have you ever tried to bathe an infant without one? Not fun!

  • Mary Jo says:

    Buying carseats new is really important, as they are only made to sustain a single accident. If purchased used, you have no idea what the item’s history is. In Florida, the state highway safety patrol offers free carseat safety classes lasting less than an hour, and if you attend, you can purchase a really nice, brand new carseat for only $20! I just went to the class this past Tuesday. The carseat (which retails for $200!) is a convertible infant carseat, so it will work from newborn stage all the way through when the child needs a booster seat instead of a carseat.

  • Susan says:

    I did a Frugal Friday post on this same topic!

    It is crazy to me all the “must have” gadgets that have come along. You can really get by with very little, as you’ve pointed out. As long as your baby is fed, warm, safe, and loved, you have everything you need!

  • sandy says:

    Must point out that those of us in winter climates also need to expect a few more things on the clothes list…a heavy cover for the car seat, MUCH heavier blankets and clothes that cover the whole body, and at least one hat. Still..that’s not much

  • Lucky says:

    The biggest way I saved money was by looking outside of the baby section. I wanted a rocking chair when I had my son but the baby gliders that they sell are so expensive! Even used on craigslist they were more than I was able to spend. I looked in regular furniture section of craigslist though and I found I great vintage rocking chair for $50. I love it and it doesn’t look babyish so I can use it elsewhere in my house after I am done with it in the nursery.

  • jessica says:

    I couldn’t do without the sling I wore my daughter in. A coworker made it for me, but you can buy them or make them yourself as well.
    Oh, and nursing bras! I work full time, so I needed a breast pump as well.

  • maryanne says:

    Great list. I think I would get either a maya wrap or (assuming there was the money to buy it) an ergo carrier over a stroller if you don’t plan to go on long walks with baby. For long walks, I think a stroller is a must unless you have a super strong back.

    We had almost no money when my daughter was born, and the only thing we bought for her was a sling and a bed. We borrowed an infant carrier from a friend (so we knew the carrier was nearly new and had never been in an accident) and someone gave us a gently-used stroller. I got blankets, basic outfits, and diapers and wipes for the first few months as gifts at my baby shower. Friends knew we needed basics so that’s what they gave, and they were much appreciated.

    I agree with you on buying convertible carseats new, but I don’t think there’s a problem borrowing an infant carrier provided it’s fairly new and you know for sure it’s never been in an accident. And of course, you don’t “have” to have an infant carrier provided you get a convertible seat that’s suitable from birth. We lived in the middle of a city and didn’t even own a car when my daughter was born, so a full-size carseat didn’t make sense – but we needed an infant seat for the occasional car ride (including getting home from the hospital!)

  • alyssa says:

    Good list! It’s so true that you really don’t need alot for a newborn. Personally I would say a stroller isn’t a necessity, but that obviously depends on your situation. I recieved one that was bought at a garage sale for $5, but it was quite awhile before I actually started using it. I’m glad I have it, but I could get by without it.

    Also, if a crib or carseat is in very good condition(and not ancient, of course!) it doesn’t have to be new. Just a thought- who buys a new bed and a new carseat for every child they have? I was given a used infant carseat from a friend that has worked perfectly fine.
    We did by a new crib, although I’ve seen plenty at nicer consignment shops. We don’t have much room, so we opted for a travel crib, which has worked wonderfully. (If anyone is needing a space-saving crib, get a Graco Travel Lite-it’s really nice and not too pricey. We got it at Babies r us.) Our baby is still in it at 1 year old.

    One thing that I would add to the list is a baby bathtub. I know you can do without, but it really made my life much easier! Get one that can be used from day 1 to toddlerhood. You don’t have to spend very much. And even if you don’t get a tub, you at least need a towel and washcloth. Baby size is so much easier to work with than adult size!

    Those are just a few thoughts I hope will help somebody. Just think simply and let Grandma and friends buy the toys and clothes! But if you need to buy stuff, definitely look secondhand!

  • Laura says:

    I am a stay-at-home-mom and mom of a one and a half year old and one to be born in 5 weeks! A way that I found to save money is cloth diapers. I have used both Bum Genius and Happy Heiny. I prefer Bum Genius because I had NO leakage problems with them, but I’ve had several with Happy Heiny. Bum Genius does have smaller velcro tabs which make the diaper easier to get off, but with no leaks, I’ll take it! My daughter hasn’t figured out how to get the diapers off, but she sometimes plays with the velcro enough to get the Bum Genius diapers crooked. Each diaper is around $18 (either brand). This means that for 12 diapers you’ll spend around $220. If you check around you can find websites that offer free shipping or discounted rates. The diapers are adjustable meaning that the same diaper can be used for an 8lb baby that can be used for a 25lb baby. This means that the total diaper cost is about $220 for all 2 to 3 years that you’ll need them. That is a huge overall savings!! They are EASY to clean. I love them!

  • One thing I honestly couldn’t live without was my Boppy pillow! I could nurse my babes and type on the computer at the same time! Plus, it just makes the nursing experience more comfortable, and with other toddler’s in the house, I could read a book, basically do anything with my hands free!

  • Tovah Certain says:

    Just a note about clothes…. I have been able to buy our little girls ALL name brand clothing from the time they were an infant and sell it each season on e-bay. It is time consuming, but I make back all if not more of what I put out. So sometimes quality yields a better return than buying cheap.

  • n says:

    I would add a couple small cotton blankets to your list…so many babies love being swaddled and those “just the right size” ones seem to help a lot!

    I would actually remove stroller from that list, at least in the beginning. You can take baby in and out of stores/church, etc in the carseat for the first few months instead of a stroller, (or just carry them!) and you can borrow strollers so maybe places for free/cheap now if you really needed one. I had strollers for all my children, and personally, I never thought I got my money out of them.

  • Tiffany says:

    I love these posts!! I’m not expecting but I always pass along these bits of advice to new soon to be moms. When I had my son I picked up clothes at yard sales and registered for the things that make life easier or non necessities. My mom bought the crib, mother in law bought the stroller/carseat and the rest of the family bought the things that are nice to have like bouncer, baby tub, etc.

    My advice is always be on the look out for baby stuff in the paper, yardsales and those places remember baby stuff is never used for long so it’s usually in great condition and mom’s are likely to give new moms a good deal.

  • Kristine says:

    I would double the sleep ‘n plays. My son spit up insane amounts. Some days we’d go through 3-4 outfits for both of us!

    I also think a swing, bouncy chair, or big physio ball can go a long way towards soothing a fussy baby. It IS possible to rock a carseat in desperation, or buy a swing frame to place a carseat into to serve double duty. They don’t have to be bought new, items like this seem to be rather plentiful on Craigslist, borrowed from a friend or family member for a ‘test drive’ so to speak, or purchased from a consignment sale.

  • Dana says:

    Oooo! I have good advice on this one! (I never have good advice for you frugal gals – y’all know all the tricks!)

    Check with your auto insurance company before buying a car seat. Farm Bureau, for example, will ship a car seat to you for $25, up to three per member, or a booster seat for $15!

    The car seats are reversable, meaning you can take your little one home in them facing backwards and then turn it around on their birthday! They will last until he/she is ready for the booster!

    Other companies may have this promotion as well, so check with your agent!

  • Jolene says:

    A few months ago, we wanted to buy our 5 month old baby an exersaucer, but I didn’t want to buy it brand new because I wasn’t sure if he would even like it and I didn’t want to pay full price. So we ended up buying him an exersaucer for $10 on Craigslist. It was in very good condition! So I’d recommend buying baby gear that you will only use for a short time on Craiglist. You might not find what you want listed right away, but if you’re patient, you can find some great deals.

  • temel says:

    The health departments in some states offer infant convertable car seats for free or very cheap. So check it out in your area. They have had a progam in Utah in the past. Sometimes you have to take a car seat safety class to get them. I would recommend doing this anyways, especially if you are a first time parent. The laws and installation process can be a bit confusing sometimes.

  • Wendy says:

    I have a hand-me-down “circle”. I am fortunate that I have friends that also have little boys, so we circle the hand-me-downs. I give my 11 year old’s to the 8 year old, his go the the 3 and 5 year olds and the 3 and 5 years come to me for my 1 year old. We have all been able to scale back the amount of clothes shopping we have to do. I also visit the local consignment store for clothes and toys.

  • Courtney says:

    I think your list is spot-on except for the stroller. For me, I’d swap the carrier for the stroller. I have three (Moby, Babyhawk, and Ergo), but for a newborn a Moby Wrap is plenty. With a newborn, I put it on in the AM and don’t take it off until baby is in bed for the night, just popping him in and out as needed. It can get about 12 hours of use a day, whereas a stroller would get none! Think about it: you do need somewhere to “put” a baby when she/he isn’t sleeping. They can’t spend hours and hours in bed awake or in the stroller (not good for their heads or their cognitive development!) A carrier is perfect: a baby can nurse, be quietly alert, or sleep while being in her favorite place (close to you!) but you can still tend to older children and get things done around the house.

    A stroller can be handy for an older baby/toddler, though, for sure! Or a carrier and a stroller: carry the baby in the wrap and your stuff in the stroller. If you lived in an area where you could walk to grocery stores then I’d definitely have a stroller too!

    I have a 2.5 yo and a 6 mo. old and haven’t needed a stroller once for the baby stage of either boy.

  • Rhonda says:

    When my boys were babies we lived out of town from both sets of relatives, all of whom wished to gift us with clothes for the boys at birthdays and holidays. We suggested that husband’s relatives buy Size ___ (current size..or one size up) and my relatives to purchase Size ___ (next size up..or two). We didn’t purchase clothing (except underwear and shoes) for our boys until they were 7yo and 5yo.

  • Kim says:

    Any hints on where to get an affordable (cheap but nice!) crib mattress?

  • robin says:

    Very close to your list. We do not buy a crib or bed tho.
    Outfits-some onesies and footed sleepers
    Some receiving blankets
    A soft fleece blanket
    Plenty of diapers & wipes
    Some unscented gentle baby wash stuff.

    I also like to have:
    A long piece of cloth to wrap baby onto me
    A stroller (fold-up but tall enough that I don’t have to bend over-this was the only pricey thing I bought and was WAY worth it)
    A swing for first few months (borrowed)

  • I totally agree! New moms who spend $800 on crib bedding are out of their minds. Although my husband makes more we set our budget at poverty level and save the rest (we take no government assistance). Just think of all the interest that $800 will make between now and retirement!

  • Amanda says:

    As a new mommy of a 3 month old baby I have found that a “first aid” kit made up of infant tylenol, gas drops, a thermometer, desitin, baby band aids and motrin has been of great need at my house!

  • Megan says:

    I was just going to throw out there a little tip about formula. When you can’t (or prefer not to) breastfeed, formula is your only option – and a VERY expensive one. Please don’t overlook your local WIC offices. They are able to help immensely with formula costs, and I believe they also help with cereal, milk, cheese, etc. Even if you are breastfeeding, WIC will supply breastpumps and nutritional vouchers as well. Almost every town/county has a WIC office, so it should be fairly easy to find one!

  • Finance Girl says:

    I am one of those people that has postponed children for financial reasons. However, my reasons are not really related to the cost of diapers and baby “stuff” – after reading this blog and others, I’m confident those things can be acquired inexpensively. Luckily, I also have good insurance, so that is not a problem.
    My main issue is DAYCARE! I would bet that the cost of daycare is the main reason many women delay pregnancy. I realize many women choose to stay home, and I respect that, but I don’t plan to. I earn half our household’s income, and we’re still working on debt/savings, so working makes sense for me financially as well. Does anyone have any suggestions about saving money on daycare? I’m hoping my mom might be able to help, but I lack the flexibility to only work on certain days, etc. Thanks!

  • Jennifer says:

    Check out consignment type stores. You can also find all sorts of items there as well. I will say that I did buy name brand clothing at the consignment stores with tags still on for a small fraction of what they would be in the actual name brand store. Then when my kids outgrew them I sold them on ebay and made back my money PLUS some! 🙂 So don’t discount getting name brand clothing if you can get a deal b/c it’s great stuff to ebay. Also I would have to say I’d go with 14 onesies/sleepers instead of 6 of each. I know that some days the little one will spit up far more and then you’d be out of luck with outfits. Plus again if getting at a consignment store you’d make out for sure. Also another great place to get baby type clothing is Kohl’s when they have their sales. I bought 5 outfits for our soon to be nephew there and paid a little more then $12. And these weren’t just plain ole’ onesies either. LOL It just takes a little looking and not going all at once. But if you do have baby showers, rest assured you will get clothing! LOL Lots of clothing, I’m sure. LOL Oh and I would say a diaper type bag is most useful……….could be a tote or something, but you will need some type of bag. Especially with church, grocery shopping, etc. 🙂 Oh and my daughter loved her swing so much. So that would be a ‘must have’ for us. 🙂 Grandma & Papa got her a set that matched…….car seat/stroller combo, swing, and play pen thingy.

  • Stephanie H. says:

    A great way to get those big ticket items is to ask parents/grandparents to pool money to buy them or instead of having people bring gifts to a baby shower have them bring gift cards/money to help with those purchases.

    After having 3 (with #4 on the way)- I’ve found that a TON of moms are looking to pass on their baby’s clothes- so even with your first- you could do a disposables shower so you can get a bunch of diapers, wipes, baby soap, bibs and such. This will save you SO MUCH MORE than getting a ton of clothes that you could get from someone free or from garage sales for nickels and dimes– and they’re still very cute!

  • Melissa says:

    Wow, I just started a series on my blog on this same topic! I only have 2 posts in the series, but the first is on how I saved by having a “diaper shower” instead of a typical baby shower
    The 2nd post is about how I have been saving through making my own baby food
    Great post! Thanks!

  • I remember being so overwhelmed about buying all the equipment we needed when my son came. The first helpful thing I did was stop reading those silly baby magazines and websites. Who cares if they’re free? They agonize over every little unimportant detail as if life depended on it, and they definitely increased my stress level.

    Then one day I realized that if my son came tomorrow, we would be fine. The only thing we really needed was a stroller, diapers, and clothes. Babies can sleep anywhere. You can carry them; they don’t have to ride in a stroller. Etc. Now, I did end up buying several things I didn’t need, such as a stroller and playyard, but once I realized that they weren’t necessary, life got easier.

  • Amy says:

    I agree with the commenter who mentioned daycare. That is the #1 reason we haven’t started a family yet. The “stuff” I could afford. It’s the daycare that’s the dealbreaker (and we certainly can’t afford to have one of us not working).

  • Kathryn says:

    I’m pregnant with #2 and I agree with your accessment. Babies just want to be fed and held, and all the cute clothes and accessories are mainly for mommy’s benefit and take up a ton of space.
    We yard-saled for the items we did not have given to us. Most items were almost new and usually less than 50 cents for clothing. Family “sponsored” a car seat, and a stroller as baby gifts. This time around, its a girl instead of a boy, so we went thru the boxes of boy clothes and picked out all the gender-neutral items to reuse. We are adding a few girl items from the thrift store and we will be good to go.
    I also loved my Boppy pillow, the baby tub and a low dresser that I threw a towel on for a changing table, but thats mainly because I have a bad back and all of that was super helpful. But again, I got all of it at yard sales.
    I picked up clothes that were in bigger sizes even though I didn’t need them right at the moment–basic, good-condition, classic clothing will never look out of date, even if gotten a couple of years ahead.

  • Julie says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Crystal! One of the great joys of new babies is just how simple they are. Most of my favorite gear came to me free as gifts or hand-me-downs and now I look back to all the “research” I did on baby gear before my first came along as a big waste. I love going to group consignment sales for great deals too. Many big churches host sales in the spring and fall and they are open to the public.

  • Bucky says:

    One of the best (and most odd at the time) things that I got when I adopted my infant son was a big stack of cheapo white wash cloths. They sell them for a $1 for a stack of 10 at WalMart. A friend gave me sixty. The really cheapo thin ones. White.


    They are great for wiping up anything and everything. Soft. Absorbent. Toss in the wash with some bleach. Keep stacks of them in every room. And if you are out and about and need to toss one, no problem.

    Ultimately, better and better for the environment. And did I mention cheap?

  • bezzie says:

    There are oodles of comments as I post this–but craigslist is a goldmine of cheap baby goods!

    I scored a portable swing from an auntie who was moving and who’s nephew had outgrown it–so she only used it when he visited. I bought it before I knew we were having a boy, but I was OK with a girl swinging in a blue plaid swing. Only cost me $10!

    We also only bought a porta-crib. Cost less than $150 and you can use them up until the baby weighs 35-40 lbs. which is about the age we transition to a big-kid bed anyway.

    This kid around we also did not buy a stroller. My mom saved the Snuggli she used to carry ME around in 30 years ago and so we use that. I was gifted an umbrella stroller (which is all I would have bought anyway) so that by the time he outgrows the Snuggli, we can use the umbrella stroller.

    Great post!!

  • Robin says:

    Ask, ask, ask. Tell everyone you know especially those with children, that you need baby clothes. I haven’t bought one thing (thanks be to God) and I have 3 kids, 3yr, 2yr and 1yr.
    I also pass on whatever I can’t use. I have borrowed swings, and thanks to Grandparents they have given us all the carseats and double strollers. For my 3rd I had a cloth diaper money shower. I bought some bumgenius and it worked fine. You can sell them when you are done for about 80% of the original cost at . For my 2nd child I had a paper diaper shower and we didn’t buy diapers for the first 3 and half months! Don’t be overwhelmed, it will be fine, you can buy as you go, you don’t have to be stocked perfectly when the baby comes home! And definately do not read those free magazines or go by what those “baby registry” tell you. Save money, breastfeed if you can. And if you read moneysavingmom long enough you might figure out how to be able to go down to one income:)

  • Julie says:

    Start shopping the diaper and wipe sales at WAGs and CVS as soon as possible. Check your grocery store clearance as well. I found a pack of Pampers Newborn diaper for $1.

    It is also possible to make your own wipes.

    Here are the details:

    1. Cut the roll of paper towels in half with a knife and remove the inner cardboard core.
    2. Mix liquid ingredients in container.
    3. Place the paper towels in the container with the cut side facing downward.
    4. Secure lid tightly and allow to sit until all liquid is absorbed into the paper towels.
    5. Turn the container upside-down and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
    6. Open container and ‘start’ the roll by pulling a towel from the inside of the roll.
    7. Wipes are now ready to use.

  • Laura says:

    Your list is great. The only things I would add are the essential baby toiletries (diaper cream, baby wash), 6-12 cloth diapers to use as burp clothes, and some sort of baby carrier. I didn’t use the stroller until my babies were 2-3 months old, but I used a baby carrier from day 1. To save even more money, skip the infant car seat/stroller system. Buy and infant-to-toddler convertible seat and a well-made umbrella-type stroller. These are far more useful!

  • Kathleen says:

    I would add a humidifier to your list. I know that all climates don’t require them but for my little ones, they are a necessity in our house. I am so glad a relative thought of this for us.
    For clothes and other gear items, craigslist and Once Upon a Child are FABULOUS!!! I have actually gotten brand new clothes (w/ the tags still on them) for dirt cheap. When you are done with your things, you can resell to buy the next set of kids things you need.

  • Marie says:

    This is a great wealth of information. My husband and I are not yet pregnant, but are working on this as I type…well, not literally, but you get the point.

    I have been stressed out the “cost” of having a baby and this has actually made me relax a little bit. I have started to think about stuff that I can do now and work into our budget now to get ready for a baby versus try to get everything at once and literally break the bank!

    I appreciate your comments on keeping it simple in regards to purchases because I totally know that gifts will be coming out of my ears when baby comes. But I also like the idea of getting things “stockpiled” that I will need, like diapers, burp cloths, onesies, socks, etc. And regardless of sex, they always sell those things in white, yellow and green!

    Question: what is the “best” diaper to buy? I’m not into name brands, but more into affordable. And if I can start buying and storing diapers when I see them on sale, that would be great.

  • AlmostMom says:

    I agree with the comments about daycare. Crystal – I know it’s not your specialty, but do you have any advice for those of us to have to work?

  • Lynne says:

    If you’re using formula, then you must have bottles, nipples, etc. as well.

    Another money saver, many fire departments give away free car seats. Check your local department. Ours gave us a free booster seat. We didn’t need it right after baby’s birth, but we use it now and it was brand new!

  • Susan says:

    Thanks for posting this. My step dd is expecting her first and I am trying to help her out with things by shopping the consignment sales and alsp stocking up on diapers when I find them on sale. After all this will be my first grandchild.

  • lele says:

    Once a year on Black Friday, Babies R’ Us has a case of their brand of diapers for $10, they have done this for the last few years and will hopefully continue to do so.( I have never found a good bargain otherwise at Babier R’ Us .) A case lasts me almost a month. Their quality is better then Parents Choice, I would compare it to CVS store brand. I buy enough for the year. I estimate on size and they will except refunds for the exact same product in a larger size if you don’t calculate properly. You can diaper a baby for $120 a year or $2.50 a week, if you pre plan. I have never had them question me for buying so many cases either.

  • Karen says:

    Use money you get or gift cards at showers to buy diapers. We did this and did not have to buy diapers for 6 months! I agree to borrow whatever you can. We have borrowed many items. My best friend gave us a crib she bought new that her son only used once!

  • As one of those Mums who hasn’t been able to nurse, I would really recommend Glass baby bottles with latex teats. We have identical twin boys-2 months old- and this is our first experience using glass. I did a study on toxic plastics while pregnant, and was horrified, though my 2 older daughters survived the really cheap plastic ones.
    Besides the toxic issues, I believe the really cheap plastic ones are false economy as they corrode and corrupt and need replacing quite quickly. In Australia one glass baby bottle is $5 AUD. We bought 6 for our twins- this was sufficient- and believe it or not they are actually CHEAPER than the “Safe” plastic bottles that come with their own sterilizers, or sterilize in the microwave. And hubby and I have both dropped or knocked them over- once on my Mum’s tiled floor and they’ve survived!
    My other money-saving essential is the humble terry-toweling nappy square, folded thick in the middle(Scottish fold?) We got given 2 new packs for the twins, and the ones used by my daughters make great burp cloths, or are wonderful for wiping up messes. We buy generic nappy liners (incidentally, the wee ones can be washed, but I’m too busy to be THAT frugal!) and both plastic and wraparound pilchers or covers. We line dry the nappies unless it’s raining or we run out.
    We buy disposibles for night-time and going out.

  • Mrs. Jo says:

    I found that a bouncy chair was an amazing help with all 3 of my babies. They loved to sit in it and sometimes it was the only way I got a shower or got to go potty. You can usually find these for under $5 at a yard sale or borrow one from a friend. My kids have also enjoyed the exersaucer, which we got from my aunt for free!

    I recommend having a bulb syringe for snotty noses (and don’t buy those worthless ones with a plug on the top).

    Also, when they get to the grabbing/playing stage, it’s nice to have an assortment of rattles, crinkly/crackly books, soft blocks, etc.

    It’s true that the vast majority of things we are told we “need” are just unneccesary junk when it comes to babies and toddlers.

  • Pamela says:

    When my third child was born, we were broke. Our heater didn’t even work. I only spent $60.00 out of pocket for brand new cloth diapers. Everything else was loaned or given to us. He was my happiest, most sweetest baby. We relied on God to provide for this child, and He did so much more than I ever hoped for.

    I still remember running the washer at night with his little diapers in it and hanging them up out side in the early morning before it got hot out. By noon they were wonderfully clean and dry, smelling like fresh air. Oh those were the days.

    Today, he is 15 – a sophomore in high school and a great kid.

  • Keren says:

    I totally agree. We made it though our daughter’s first year (just turned 1) with these things and just a few additional things (given a Baby Bjorn, borrowed an old high chair, exersaucer; given a craigslist changing table, but didn’t use for the first few months). We didn’t even pay for any of her disposable diapers or wipes(!)–stocked up well before she was born with coupons. Of course, she has a few toys and books, too; and is a very happy baby!

    The 2 things I would have loved to have had are a swing and a rocker/glider, though; but hopefully we’ll be able to if God blesses us with more children.

  • Suzanne says:

    Great list! I would caution anyone using a borrowed or hand-me-down crib to be sure to inspect it very carefully. We had a hand-me-down crib that literally fell apart as soon as our daughter could pull herself up on the rails. It met all the safety standards, but apparently could not withstand 3 children in a row! 🙂
    I’m definitely not suggesting someone buy a $500 crib, but be careful if it came out of someone’s attic!

  • PollyS says:

    I very much agree with your post today about an abundance of baby items. My friend had a baby two years ago. Oh my lands! That girl got every single baby gadget known to man. Even the night vision baby monitor! After seeing her abundance, I can tell you that I am so happy that I kept things to a minimum. Along with the items you listed, I found my world would have been incomplete without a swing and a Boppy Pillow. I had big babies and when they get sleepy while they’re nursing, well my arms needed some help. As my babies got older, I found a mega saucer to be vital. I needed to be able to walk away and know they were safe (and happy!). As an aside, all of these items were bought at consignment/thrift stores for 1/2+ of retail. The only things I paid full dollar for were my kids’ bed, high chair (which I highly regret as I got the “top of the line” and hated it!) and stroller which I still use. Everything else was bargain basement.

    Another way of saving money on baby is to have a home birth. I am a big home birthing advocate. The personal touch of the midwife, the ability to do things your own way and the reduced costs have made me a believer and evangelist! If you feel comfortable with this option, I highly suggest you look into it.

    Oh, and eBay and clearance racks and hand me downs! My children are quite dapper and I have NEVER paid full price for clothes for them.

  • Carrie Kirby says:

    Even if you are cosleeping, most would agree you need a bed for your baby. It’s not recommended to put a baby down on an adult bed alone, and since a newborn will spend many more hours sleeping than you do, she needs a safe place to do so.
    Also, you are going to need a safe place to put your baby down when your hands are full, whether this is a crib, bouncy seat or whatnot.
    Since I have other children, I can’t imagine surviving without a sling or carrier. Free hands are needed!

  • Noah Heutchy says:

    I’d get a good baby carriers (sling, mei tai, moby wrap, etc) before a stroller. Cheaper, and I never used a stroller until at least 6 months. Now if you have an older sibling, a stroller for the sibling might be essential.

    And NEVER buy a carseat used. Ever. The exception is if you know the person selling it to you and can verify it’s not expired and has not been in an accident. It’s not worth risking your child’s life to save a few dollars. Ever!

  • gina says:

    Also, check out ETSY for slings and other homemade stuff. Help support people trying to keep it simple and make money from home!

  • Jenn says:

    I’ll echo Goodwill and the other thrift stores…….. I rarely buy anything really new for my kids anymore, it’s all new from Good will 🙂 And as I watch the stores and accumulate clothing, I’ve gotten “picky” and often will only buy name brand clothing in good condition, unless I really just needed a red shirt or something to match an outfit.
    Same thing for maternity clothes – my sizes change quite a bit thru pregnancy, so I have a full range of clothing options accumulated over the last 4 years and 3 pregnancies, most from Goodwill. It’s nice to get a pair of jeans that fits nicely and know that in a month when they don’t fit anymore you can put them in a box not feel bad about spending too much money! Now, I have several pairs of maternity in every size and a range of “post maternity” jeans ranging from huge (that I hope to not stay in long) to more my normal size.

  • Annaelisabeth says:

    So many helpful comments.
    We’ve just had #5 and agree that there are few essentials.
    I would get a stroller especially if anyone has back or ankle problems. An expensive “system” isn’t necessary. I see so many people spending loads on these for their first child then a few months later buying a cheap umbrella stroller as they are so much easier in cars or on public transport. It is possible to buy umbrella strollers that work from birth-they are slightly more expensive that those which are suitable from six months as they have an adjustable seat so the baby can lie down.
    We’ve saved so much by using cloth diapers and using old terries or prefolds as wipes. I don’t bother to make complex solutions to soak them in-tap water does the trick!

  • Becca says:

    I would also rather have a sling type of carrier for a newborn, and get a stroller later on, once the baby can sit up and a full-reclining stroller isn’t needed.
    Hopefully a thermometer and infant Tylenol won’t be needed right away, but it’s nice to have them on hand if they are!

  • Randi says:

    As a mother of newborn twins, I think my stroller is a necessity. There’s no way I could take the babies anywhere by myself without it! Seriously, can you picture a mother carrying 2 infant carseats & a giant diaper bag? That poor woman! So my double stroller has been a lifesaver!

    But yes, if you only have one baby at a time, then I don’t suppose a stroller is an absolute necessity. 🙂

  • Jill says: is a great place that works like craigslist but is specific to maternity and kids stuff…nice to recycle and get a good deal on stuff that still has lots of life left in it.

  • Morgan says:

    Have you heard anything about CVS buying out Longs Drugs? We have Longs Drugs in our area (Sacramento) and I would LOVE if they would turn into CVSs so that I can start CVSing!!!! Their circulars still say Longs but online it says “Longs Drugs operated by CVS” what does THAT mean? I didn’t know if you had heard anything about it.


  • ana says:

    When we had our first son we recieved so many things. One thing we got that I wish I would have returned and bought some diapers was a wipe warmer. I have never owned a changing table and honestly don’t think it is essential. I agree with all of your essentials, but I would add my sling/carrier. My first son was colicky so I had him with me most of the time.

  • Jenny says:

    I completely agree with your basic list!

    The only change I’d make is that I’ve found a sling essential in my household (even moreso than the stroller). We live in the city of Chicago and don’t have a car. It’s really tricky to get a stroller on and off of public transportation (and store it once you get where you are going), so I use the sling multiple times a day.

    If I had to swap out for something on the list, I would swap the carseat out. We probably only use the one we got as a gift once a month–and could probably find one to borrow for those times.

  • Michelle Z. says:

    My son is older now, but if I were about to have a new baby in the house for the first time, I’d make sure I had a humidifier or vaporizer (in addition to the other basics you suggested).

    I still remember the first time my son got sick, and I was totally unprepared to take care of an infant who didn’t feel good.

    Likewise, I think a good baby care book is an essential, especially for a first time mom. My Dr. Sear’s book was falling apart by the time we outgrew it, and it was a valuable source of information and reassurance.

  • liz says:

    Stockpiling diapers is the way to go. I only buy diapers when they are on sale or I can get some ECB from cvs or RR from Walgreens, or a catalina coupon from the grocery. It drives the cost of diapers way, way down. By the time my son is a year old, I project I will have spent only $160 on diapers and supplies for his first year. That’s for disposable diapers! Dont’ be loyal to a particular brand, just buy whatever is on sale that works for your child. I know some people get hung up on only having the best for their baby, but really, when your child is graduating college, will it matter whether you used Pampers or the Walgreens brand?

  • Jennifer says:

    I do think you need more sleepers and things. 6 isn’t very much when newborns frequently leak out of diapers. These can be picked up so cheaply second hand though, that it shouldn’t cost much at all to have 10 or so. Especially with boys, who if it is pointing the wrong way they can actually go to the bathroom and soak their clothing, but not get a drop on the diaper LOL.

  • Doe tips on saving on daycare….shop around…sometimes a mom who stays at home with her children already is happy to watch your child cheaper than a daycare.
    Relatives may watch them as well cheaper than paying a stranger

  • Jan says:

    Another place to find good used baby clothes and equipment- do a google search to see if there is a “Twins Club” or “Mothers of Multiples Club” in your area- they almost always do rummage sales- I have found all of my good deals there!

  • Thanks for the link love! It is much appreciated!

  • Marcia says:

    Someone asked about the “best” kind of diaper to buy on sale. We used disposables, and the answer is … it depends, really, on how big your baby is.

    In the first month of “newborn” phase, we could only use pampers. Huggies were too big and leaked. But eventually, the Huggies started fitting. We tried a store brand once, and he got terrible diaper rash.

    As far as slings/strollers go…I had a sling that I used for 6 weeks, then he was too big, moved to the bjorn front carrier. But we also needed a stroller…my back could only take the bjorn till about 8 months (didn’t know about the Ergo back then). I walked a LOT with my son, so the $100 spent on the jogger stroller was well worth it, and we still use it occasionally (he’s almost 3).

    For working moms…I work too. A good breast pump is a must, and extra bottles or you’ll be washing constantly. As far as daycare goes…just look around early and figure out what you want. We really like the feel of home daycares, which have the added benefit of being more affordable, in general (but not always). The home daycares run by women with degrees in ECE tend to be more expensive.

    The time to ask around about daycare is now, to get a feel for actual costs and availability. Other options are to offset your work hours, cut back to 3 days/week, work weekends…try to get your bosses to be flexible if you can (hard, I know, I had that gig for a year and then got a new boss who said “no more part time”. So I quit. And went somewhere else.)

    Anyway, daycare options are home daycares, friends, family, institutional daycares, church daycares. If you space your children out far enough (4 years or so), you only have to pay for one at a time. And check to see if your company has child care reimbursement accounts. If you have that, you can get $5000 from your paycheck annually that comes out pre-tax, saving you $1500 to $2000 per year in taxes. Otherwise, you can take a child care deduction in your taxes. (I do miss that bennie in my new job, I hope they institute it. But it’s a startup and only 2 of us have kids in daycare, soon to be 3.)

  • Rachel says:

    I’m so happy to have read this article. I feel like the only mom sometimes who doesn’t think my son needs new, name brand, expensive stuff. That being said, the thing I used most often with my son was my maya wrap. He was so fussy for the first 8 months and this always helped. At 20 months old and 30 pounds, he still enjoys being in it.

    I also found that when he was over a 1 year old, he loved playing with my empty plastic containers, lids, spoons, and cups.

  • Julie says:

    I found the book “Baby Bargains” by Alan & Denise Fields to be invaluable. It kept us from buying a lot of junk we didn’t need and also had reviews from other parents.

  • tripnmama says:

    If you are going to buy a crib, you will also need at least 2 crib sheets and a mattress pad. You can skip the bumper pads, quilts, etc. though.

    Also if you are going the formula route, don’t forget you will need bottles. Generally, it is easier to get enough bottles to get you at least through one full day.

  • Laura says:

    Crystal – Thank you so much for posting this information and opening up the forum for discussion! I’m expecting my first baby in April 24 and plan to stay home, so our income will definitely be limited. This list is so helpful to me as I figure out what is really necessary and what we could live without (or what we should register for).

  • Becky says:

    Thanks for the great list! I think our country has totally gone overboard with “essentials” for baby. Not only do expecting moms feel the pressure to buy everything under the sun, but it seems everything has to be top-notch.

    Thanks for sticking to the basics and helping readers know that you don’t have to have much when you’re expecting a little one!

  • Rebecca says:

    I agree with the list and would only add 2 things to it. One is a diaper bag. However it need not be a commercial diaper bag. Most of us have back packs or other cloth or gym bags around the house and this can be used just fine for a diaper bag. If not most grocery stores are selling reuseable grocery bags for around a dollar a bag so that would be a cheap option. The other thing is more of a sanity saver which I found necessary.
    A sling or ergo which you can often get from craigs list or yard sales etc. or often from someone at church who no longer needs theirs. It really helps to be able to carry the baby around with you while you are trying to get your basic necessity housework done. Also, for the larger priced items often your parents or inlaws or others will ask what you need so you could have a small list of things you’d like to have when they do ask.

  • Margaret says:

    I highly agree with the folks who recommended the sling/carrier. For us, it was a necessity if I did not want to go insane! But we got ours (a $40 sling) at a consignment sale for $8. (–a national bi-annual sale) I also think the high chair/booster seat is a necessity when they are eating solids, unless you just want to get mess everywhere!!! (and some bibs, of course, a lot easier than tying towels which come off around the neck)

  • Sarah S. says:

    When my son was little *(he is 10 now) my mom and I hit Walmart often! There were many times that we found clearance outfits that would fit my son the following year. A good idea to hit for is infant-toddler clothes sizes(at least for my kids) ran small. So other than say Carter’s or Children’s Place my boys were wearing 18 months at 12 months, etc. Children’s Place is a great place to shop ahead of time, hit their Monster Sales (get on their email list) then they also mail out their 15-20% off coupons. Their pj’s are wonderful!!! I miss my son wearing them, the footed ones go to about size 3.
    We also got very into Babies R Us double couponing (not sure if they still do this, you can ask them) but we used to use coupons from Pampers, plus their diaper coupons making diapers cheap and wipes. Watch their clearance on clothes as well.
    I totally agree with everyone that said you don’t need a lot of stuff, I received a lot of stuff at showers and had a lot to get rid of when it was all said and done. The swing is nice—if the baby likes it, surprisingly some don’t! Good luck to everyone in their baby planning! With my youngest who is now 5, we went a lot more basic and it was a lot of fun just interacting with him.

  • Jenny says:

    Thank you Crystal!

  • Tiffany says:

    I love the big consignment sales that they are having now. They are a little bit more than garage sales,but not much, but everything is in one place, sorted by size, and must be stain & hole free. It saves so much time.

    Also, a good place to look for an affordable crib is IKEA, we were able to get our current crib and mattress for $120. They aren’t fancy but sturdy and good quality. We really like it.

  • My advice additional advice. Buy a convertible car seat instead of an infant and then a toddler seat. Spend more to save in the long run. Also consider a stroller system that will take you from infant to toddlerhod. Buying a cheap snap and go and then a “real”stroller is a waste. I’m loving the new Quinny–but it is pricey.

    Also don’t forget about all those excellent contests! This month is Expecting Mom’s Month on Momtrends and I am giving away more than $600 in goodies. Here’s one to start with:

  • Melanie says:

    I have some thoughts for the Mother’s interested reducing daycare costs. I worked in two different daycares. The cost for infants in the national franchise center I worked in were considerably more than the smaller independent center. Your baby will need more spare clothes and diapers at the center than you think and outgrow them fast, so bring in more cheaper mix and match clothes and fewer fancy coordinating pieces. It is easier to just change pants for a small spot than a complete outfit. The same for bedding, more cribsheets don’t bring a qulit they are usually not allowed because of SIDS, a thick blanket sleeper is better.
    Label everything!
    This is a hard one to say ,please have a plan for when your baby gets sick. I did my best to keep things clean, but when both staff are feeding or changing babies it is nearly impossible to pick up dirty toys before another child grabs them and puts them in their mouth.Your baby will get sick even before crawling around just from breathing in the air.
    Try to plan Dr. visits on Friday. We had to send home many babies with fevers etc. from reactions the day after vaccines were given.
    Please be very patient with the staff. There are times when Mom and Dad can’t calm one fussy baby, so imagine two people with eight!!

  • Kari says:

    I think another necessity is receiving blankets/burp cloths. I don’t think you can have to many of those, especially if your kid ends up being spitter! I think a few more sleepers than 6 are helpful for the same reason – there were definitely days that we went through more than 6 outfits!

  • LANA says:

    I needed the baby nail clippers for tiny fingers and toes. Wouldn’t have been able to go without! Only pinched 3 X combined; not bad:)

  • jillbert says:

    Two years ago we were given care of a newborn baby with only 1 hour notice (foster care). We had nothing for her. She came in a diaper & t-shirt with an extra pack of diapers and a few binkies. Within a day I was able to get all the necessities together (car seat & crib borrowed from friends, some basic clothes & a few bottles — all for under $20). She lived with us for 5 months and we bought a few more things (bath tub, bumbo chair, stroller — all used) and I knit her some cute hats and sewed some blankies and clothes, we never had any large expenses. Our philosophy has always been to get the basic equipment but go hog wild on showering a baby with love and attention. It’s free and the investment you make in holding and loving a child pays off for their entire life.

  • GIna says:

    Britax usually has a sale on their car seats during February and September (I think it’s Sept for their fall sale). Google Britax Sale and you can find out about it. That’s definitely the best time to buy a car seat!

  • Kris says:

    If only I knew then what I know now about what is actually necessary for a baby. I spent a fortune on stuff we did NOT need when my kids were born. I look back and think, Oh what I could have done with all that extra money!

  • Marie says:

    I am a daycare provider and quite honestly, I think you get what you pay for! I charge $35 a day (for 8 or 9 hours of care) to watch my friend’s little girl with my daughter (they’re the same age). You may balk at that $700 per month cost, but I am also super flexible with when they can pick her up/drop her off, I don’t charge them for being late, I don’t make them pay me “vacation days” or “sick days” and don’t mind letting them cancel at the last minute if the little girl’s grandparents want to be with her. She also gets to come with my daughter and me on playdates, to the library, or on a picnic to the park on a nice day. She also gets tons of kisses, hugs, cuddles and stories from one care provider who thinks of her as another daughter.

    I’d be weary of trying to go the cheap route when it comes to your kid.

    If you can possibly afford to cut back to part-time I would also recommend finding another part-time working mom and trade watching each other’s kids. My friend who is a nurse does this and loves it.

  • Sharon says:

    In case no one has mentioned the lost art of borrowing, I wanted to mention it. Infant car seats are only useful for six months to a year, and it’s not hard to find a family with a fairly new infant car seat stashed in their attic or basement that they would be happy to loan out. Of course, the seat should be less than 5 years old (or whatever the latest safety info. suggests) and never have been in an accident.

    Baby clothing is also not hard to borrow. The little ones go in and out of it so fast, it is a short term loan.

    It may be convenient to borrow a cradle or bassinet for keeping baby in the bedroom with mom and dad until you get them into the crib that you will want to own. I have also used a “pack and play” instead of a crib, which has more uses and folds up so easily.

  • Rae says:

    Just a tip to those saying that a new carseat is not neccesary if getting from a friend… even a minor car accident can cause stress fractures in carseats and make them unsafe which many people don’t know. So somebody that has a carseat that still looks like it is in new condition might think that it is just fine and not want to mention that it has been in an accident becuase they don’t want it to go to waste (and honestly think it is still safe). I personally would not risk my child’s safety just to save some money. Now if it is yours from a previous child and you KNOW that it hasn’t been in any accidents because you are the one who used it, this is different.

    About the stroller… I agree that this depends on your situation. We hardly ever use ours and the times that we did, we could have done without. However, peolpe that do a LOT of walking or that live in the city and don’t have a car, it would be a necessity. Just think about your situation and how much you would be walking with baby (and where). For instance, when shopping, I find it easier to put the baby’s infant car seat in the cart since I can’t push a stroller and a cart. I use the infant car seat all the time so definitely got my money’s worth. If do opt for a stroller, you probably would be fine with a convertible carseat.

  • Kacie says:

    I have been surprised at just how little money our baby has cost us so far. In fact, with this year’s tax credits, we’re coming out ahead right now!

    We opted not to get a stroller just yet. Instead, we put our baby in a carrier and wear him around. He seems to really like that, and it’s less bulk and hassle. When he gets bigger, we’ll get an umbrella stroller.

    Also, we chose to get a convertible car seat. The seat should last him until he needs a booster when he’s much older. We got the First Years TruFit, and it worked from the day we took him home from the hospital (he was only 5 lbs. 11 oz. that day!) and buckling him into the seat doesn’t take him that long. I don’t regret not getting an infant seat!

  • Great resource here – thanks for sharing!

    It has been a few years, but parents tend to always want to buy brand new products for their babies/kids usually the reason for overspending.

    I absolutely agree with you that there is no need to buy brand new clothes as babies outgrow them so quickly! For those comfortable using second-hand products, strollers are a great item to buy second hand too, especially if you know the seller and if you can’t quite figure out yet if you want a second or a third child (which will require a double or triple stroller).


  • Ivy Norton says:

    Great tips! I’ve used cloth diapers in the past to save money and it sure did! Also I was able to store left over breast milk so I saved a ton of money since I never needed to buy formula.

  • Laura says:

    I also think nail clippers.

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