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Our Almost $0 Baby Budget For Our 1st Baby (How & Why We Did It)

Our $0 Baby Budget

Ten and a half years ago, we welcomed our first child into the world — a beautiful baby girl, Kathrynne. Jesse was in law school at the time, I was trying to piece together enough income from various online pursuits to keep us afloat, and needless to say, we were poor as poor can be.

We were so poor, in fact, that we spent right around $0 out of pocket on baby things. Not because we didn’t want to spend anything, but because we literally had no extra money to spare.

As best as I can recall, the only thing we spent money on was a baby blanket. For real.

{I was overdue and we realized that we were going to be having this baby sooner rather than later and it was January, so we probably needed more than the one blanket we’d been given by a friend!

We scrounged together a few dollars, went to Walmart and bought a blanket, and that was the last we spent until Kathrynne was close to one year old and we went and bought her a cute new outfit to get her pictures taken for Christmas gifts.}

Our $0 Baby Budget

How did we spend almost zero out of pocket on baby things? Well, here’s how:

1. We Used What We Were Given

We were blessed with very generous friends. So blessed, in fact, that we ended up having three different showers thrown for us! One was by Jesse’s co-workers, one was by our little church, and one was by our church back home.

When people asked what we needed or wanted, we suggested practical things — like diapers, wipes, onesies, sleepers, and blankets. We ended up being gifted enough clothes to make it through almost the entire first year of Kathrynne’s life without buying her any new clothes.

A few people went in together and bought us some of the larger items — like a stroller, playpen, and carseat.

Our $0 Baby Budget

2. We Willingly Accepted Hand-Me-Downs

Some friends kindly offered to let us borrow their baby items or passed along baby clothes to us. We willingly accepted all of these offers and they were a huge blessing!

Yes, Kathrynne may not have been outfitted in name brand, brand-new clothes most of the time, but she survived just fine! Plus, I discovered that I didn’t have to worry if something got stained or ripped because it was already used and worn. 🙂

3. We Focused on Needs Versus Wants

It’s nice to have some of the non-necessities, but I’m here to tell you that your baby will be just fine without them.

Kathrynne didn’t have very many outfits per size. In fact, in most sizes, she only had 6 outfits, plus PJs. Yes, this meant I had to keep up on laundry more, but she survived.

We also had very few toys or baby gadgets. Some of the gadgets are nice and helpful, but very few could be considered actual necessities. {I wrote a post here with a list of what I consider to be the only items you really need to buy for your baby.}

This might not work for you. You might not have friends who bless you with multiple showers or offer you hand-me-downs. But I hope that this post encourages you to think outside the box and to realize that babies can get by without all the bells and whistles.

What are your best tips for saving money on baby things? I’d love to hear!

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  • Debi says:

    Cyrstal, we were in the same boat with our first child. The only thing we paid for was a baptismal outfit clearanced out to $5 at Kohl’s. He survived and I look back on those days as a simpler more refreshing time in our lives. Our baby had 1 toy the first year of his life, a jack-in-the-box given to us by a sweet lady who bought it for us at a garage sale for 50 cents. Our house was never cluttered then! With 6 kids more, I wish I could say that now!!
    Thanks for expressing so well the true and simple reality that it doesn’t cost nearly as much as first time parents fear to start a family.

  • scater says:

    I’m not sure I believe that you didn’t spend any more on diapers or wipes during the first year.

  • Accepting any and all hand-me-downs was huge for us! We were very blessed by our church family in that regard. This is a good reminder for me to be generous to new moms that I see around me. It’s easy to think that I can’t afford to give to others, but I can certainly offer our kids’ clothing/ blankets/ and toys when they outgrow them. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Melissa says:

    We were on a very tight budget with our first as well. While I can’t say we spent $0 we did receive a large number of hand me downs, which was a huge blessing. Actually, my son is 3 and I have not bought any clothes for him other than like 1 pair of shoes and a pack of underwear. We have been so, so blessed in that area. My friend was over this morning and dropped off more clothes for him as well.

  • For those who like to coupon, there are many babies items available for free. I’ve gotten free bottles, wipes, diapers, lotion, etc. The key is to always be looking for deals, even when you’re not pregnant. That way you can build up a huge stockpile for pennies. If you don’t plan to have more children, those items can be donated and will bless another mom.

  • kristen webel says:

    i was in the same situation as you were with your first. i don’t think i spent money on buying anything for him… except, of course, enough cloth diapers and cloth wipes. we did have to buy a few pairs of socks because we moved and had packed away most of t’s socks. other than that, we received disposable diapers (enough to last us a whole year with the cloth diapers !), clothes (oh my goodness… tons and tons of clothes !), baby gear (toys, books, car seats, exersaucer, swing, crib, changing table, etc.) from other families who were done having kids to last us for a long while. i guess you could say we had babies at the right time =] and there was another family who passed along girl clothing to us for our second baby with newborn sizes all the way up to 4t. freecycle has been such a great resource too. God is definitely good !

  • Heather says:

    It’s great that you had so any friends and family to gift you with everything you needed. Not everyone has that situation, whereas spending $0 on baby would be impossible when you need to supply everything. It would be nice to see a post on real ways to save money on baby stuff (like you mentioned only having a few outfits per size, cloth diapering, etc…) You might not have spent the money, but someone had to for you to have what your daughter needed.

    • I so agree! I hoped that this post would encourage people to think outside the box and consider simplifying, but I know that our story and situation is going to be different than other stories and situations.

      I did a series awhile back on Having a Baby Without Breaking the Bank that I linked to in the post. There are lots of practical ideas and suggestions in that series: (all the posts and guest posts are linked at the bottom of that post).

    • Melissa says:

      I agree- we were blessed by gifts of clothing, a few packages of diapers, and blankets- but had to purchase most things ourselves! I’m thankful for what we were given! I enjoy giving gifts to family and friends- but I get frustrated with the attitude of- “I’ll register for it- and someone will give us everything we need” including expensive must-haves that really aren’t needed!
      I agree it’s more about getting what you need vs want- and I’m proud that my husband and I were able to buy the needed things ourselves (while on a budget!)

  • Leah says:

    Ok this may be a silly question…but does this include food? 🙂

    • My first daughter was completely uninterested in baby food for the first year (I tried hard to get her interested but she just spit everything out!), so I nursed her and then she went from that almost straight to mashed up table food. So the only “special” baby food I bought her were a few jars I got free with coupons.

  • Emily says:

    A few months ago I posted a list of ways we saved money on the first year of our son’s life too. We were given many things new and used from family and friends which helped out a ton. Another way we saved money was by making our own baby food and wipes. It is true. Babies don’t need name brand clothes or all of the fancy gadgets that are out there!

  • Aimee says:

    Yes! This is also a good reminder to give generously. We have been so blessed with people who hosted showers for us. also, loaning out baby stuff is a great way to decrease the financial burden. I gave our baby swing to our local pregnancy center after our second child was too big for it. shortly after I had our third baby a friend offered to let me borrow her baby swing. It was a Reminder to me that being generous is more important than hoarding things

    • Dorinda says:

      I saved so much money too! I actually spent a negative amount of money when my first child was born. I actually made money when I had my 4th child. It’s easy. You just get lots of people to give you things all the time, and when they invite you to their own baby showers, you simply decline the invitation. It would have cost me a lot of money if I started buying other people the necessitites that they needed to keep their own offspring clothed and clean, so I made the smart, wise decision to not attend anyone else’s baby shower. I am so blessed. I’m just offering these tips I learned to help all you mommies be the great sensible mommies I know you want to be! Blessings!

  • Diane says:

    I definitely agree with accepting hand me downs. We’ve been very blessed that in 6 yrs we have only bought shoes for 3 kids and also some socks or little things when I get a 10 dollar off anything coupon at Kohls. We also cloth diaper and feed our kids food I cook, not jarred baby food.

  • Emily says:

    This was one of my reasons for at least trying to nurse. Thankfully, I was able to. I also made my own food, and my kids have always eaten what we do. My kids have very sensitive skin, and I could not cloth diaper. To this day my 22 month old has to run around naked as a jay bird for an hour a day to give his bottom a break. Hoping he potty trains soon!

    • heather says:

      We gave up over half our income when our first was born. Nursing was a challenge but I knew that it was basically the only option for our ancestors. And our budget made it our only option, which drove me to use contraptions and lactation consultants, research and sweat and tears. But we made it! And the doctor can attest to the fact that he stayed healthy despite the doubting toms around us.
      I also remember making baby toys with what I had around the house!

  • Mary Ann says:

    This is so encouraging. We’re in the process to adopt our first baby. We’ve already been offered so much in the way of baby items! It is a blessing. I’ll be passing things along to someone else once our little one is finished with them.

  • You have the cutest kids ever (OK–except for my kids!)! We had very similar baby savings philosophies!

  • Laura says:

    My favorite tip – look for gender neutral clothes at garage sales. Lots of items can be worn by boys and by girls – bib overalls, t-shirts, elastic waist jeans, sweatpants, hoodies, polo shirts, solid colored sweaters – that way you don’t re-buy items when the next kiddo is a different gender.
    And, if you know someone in need, be generous in whatever way you can. I am so thankful to the people that brought us meals, diapers, clothes – I was so sick after our first was born and my spouse so overwhelmed trying to care for both of us. I am still thankful for those wonderful friends and family and I am honored to get to pay that forward 6 years later.

  • Angela says:

    My daughter played on the church softball team and they did a “diaper dump”Each member of the team bought a pack of diapers .We had ALL sizes and as C grew we just fished around under the crib to find the next size.

  • Lauren says:

    I’m due in a few weeks and our situation is very similar. My job was concurrent with the school year, so I didn’t start back this fall and we are officially on one income. We haven’t spent $0, but I’m trying my best to be wise. We have had 3 wonderful showers as well – our church family, my family at a reunion, and my husband’s office – and after spending very little ourselves, I feel like we are in a great place. We have our crib/mattress from Craigslist, a small Ikea dresser to double as a changing table, a glider/ottoman has been ordered that will be gifted from my husband’s grandparents, a swing borrowed from my brother and sister-in-law, a bouncer given as a hand-me-down, and a bassinet I combined several coupons/sales for at Target. I’ve been slowly building up my cloth diaper stock as I can find $5 off $15 Buy Buy Baby coupons, and I’ve been grabbing other rock-bottom CVS/Target/Amazon deals for disposables for the early days/out of town/etc. We aren’t finding out the gender for several reasons, but one bonus has been that since no one knows what color clothes to buy, all of our gifts have been very practical! I’ve returned/exchanged anything I felt was superfluous or unnecessary for items I knew we would need (is that rude? Maybe, but I’m too practical to not do it). We don’t currently have a lot of clothes, but I used my profits from a consignment sale to buy a few items in each gender, and once we know I’m sure we will receive many more hand-me-downs. I feel good about where we are, and I feel so blessed that we have spent so little!

  • beth says:

    I think this is great advice if you are lucky enough to be in a situation where people offer you hand me downs or loan you baby items. We were never offered any so it didn’t work for us. So much frugal advice often centers around using a network of friends and family to help you out. It’s trickier, though certainly not impossible, when you don’t have a network to help you out.

    Once my babies were no longer babies I made sure that we gave away all of our baby stuff to others though. It’s nice to be able to help someone else out. I always hope I start a trend in that respect.

  • Kariane says:

    I agree. Babies don’t need much. We also bought almost nothing for our little ones, and were fortunate to be given far more than we needed. I wrote a bit about it (and what I think are the only things a baby needs) here:

  • JC says:

    Are you counting medical supplies in this? I ask because in the past three weeks, I have had to purchase a rash ointment, and a few over the counter items that were not covered by insurance for our newborn. What about doctors visits or other medical bills?

  • Sam says:

    We have been blessed with hand me down clothing for both of my kids. I love being able to pass the clothes to other families to help them out. I think giving it away is the best part! 🙂

  • So great to read that you were able to do it! Any small thing can add up! We were lucky, too, as we had a few babyshowers and our guests were all very generous! We got most of the “big stuff” we needed and of course the small stuff. What helped us additionally was that I got many Visa gift cards from my school friends who could not make it to the babyshower. So we could use these for things that we needed but did not have yet. Another big surprise to me was that people I had not seen for years, contacted me to hand me down their baby stuff when they saw of Facebook that I had my baby!

  • Tammy says:

    Where there is a will God will make a way. I can remember eyeing cute came shoes for my son at Goody’s catching them on sale and using a birthday coupon and walking out with brand new shoes that were normally 30 dollars for the tax only. I felt so accomplished. The Lord will provide.

  • Debbie says:

    It’s been over seven years since I gave birth to my last child and boom I am now pregnant with my third. Very blessed. We thought I couldn’t have any more children so we literally got rid and gave away everything we had and are having to start from scratch. We started budgeting as soon as I found out that we were expecting. Nobody has offered to throw us a shower and we are not expecting anybody to buy us anything. We have had a handful of people tell us that we could have their used baby items but never received it. We have learned not to count on anyone for anything and that is the best way to go about anything. Putting back a little at a time since the beginning has been a lifesaver. The majority of items we have are brand new. We were blessed to know Dave Ramey’s method of budgeting and once again we have done well on our own because of our own financial discipline.

  • Julie says:

    It’s so nice and heartwarming that people can be so compassionate and generous!

  • Ashley says:

    Stocking up at yard sales is still of great use to us. Check face book for a local mom’s swap shop in your area.

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