Having a baby is not only terrifying, but it be incredibly expensive. For some families, it will set their personal budget on end for years to come. For others that are in a better financial position, it may not cause as many financial issues, but they may still be looking for ways to save money on a baby. Having a baby on a budget is one of those things that you really have to want to do. If not, you can totally blow your baby budget and spend a whole lot more than you either want or can afford to spend.
When I was pregnant with my Emma, we were dirt poor. Actually, I do believe that the dirt outside of my front door probably had more money than we did. Is there something lower than dirt poor? If so, that would be what we were. At the time, I would have given anything to have a few more dollars to my name, but looking back now I wouldn’t change a thing about those first few years of her life. Were they hard? Absolutely, but learning how to have a baby on a budget only helped to cement the frugal (Six Dollar Family) habits that I used to build my bank accounts later in life.
How to Prepare for a Baby on a Budget
If you’re pregnant and are trying to have a baby on a budget, don’t panic. It is easy to get overwhelmed and give up, but the truth is that while it does wake work to save, it isn’t impossible. Frankly, a lot of it is common sense, but if you’re like me, those answers aren’t always obvious. I am the queen of missing the obvious which means that I often need someone to point something out to me or else it will take me weeks (or longer) to “see” something. Hopefully these ideas will help you if you’re currently stuck in “blind” mode and just need to “see.”
Create a baby budget early on –
Just like having a personal budget is incredibly important, it is equally important to create a baby budget if you’re expecting. Instead of household utilities, your baby budget should have things such as equipment you’ll need, baby clothing, supplies and so on. You could either create a total budget that you will spend over the course of your pregnancy or you could create a monthly spending allotment. Either way, if you do not give yourself a spending limit for your baby items, you will very quickly find that you have spent far too much.
Begin Building Savings Early –
Aside from having a baby budget, you will also want to start building savings as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant. The worst financial thing that you can have happen right now is to give birth with an empty savings account. Once your baby is born, it will be up to you to protect your family from a financial crisis and the biggest way you can do that is by having money for when Murphy’s Law is in effect. Not only that, but simply put, babies can be outrageous in cost sometimes. That savings account will provide a buffer for you to have when those high costs arrive.
If you don’t currently have a savings account, you will want to get one. The mattress or freezer is fine short-term but to really put your money to work for you, you’ll want to be making some form of interest on your money. I also recommend that when you open a savings account, that you do so at a bank that is not your regular bank. Doing so will put some distance between your money and you spending it.
Make extra income –
Unless you’re a millionaire, you will likely be in a situation where having a baby on a budget is a necessity. I don’t know too many folks who can afford everything that comes with pregnancy, labor and raising a child without some financial stress. Making more money is the incredibly simple answer to that stress. To do this, you could start a side business, start a blog and learn how to make money blogging, or even find ways to earn cash or free gift cards online. No matter what you choose though, make certain that any money you earn from it, goes toward your baby budget.
Make Sure You’re Insured –
I speak from experience on this so sit up and pay attention; not having insurance is far too costly to fit into your plans of having a baby on a budget. This means that I am going to advise you to make absolute certain that you have insurance coverage for both you and your new baby. If you can’t afford insurance and qualify by income, Medicaid is always an option. If you don’t qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford insurance, at least sign up for a medical Telehealth plan and discount program that can help with minor medical issues and prescription costs.
Buy Only What You Need –
We live in a society that tells us that our new tiny ones need everything under the sun. We rush out, swipe our credit cards, and charge without thinking. Before too long, we’ve got a home full of things our baby doesn’t want or need and are in trouble with a high credit card bill. In reality, there are only 10 things that you need for a baby. Anything else is extra. Extras are fine, but make sure that you aren’t going overboard with them.
Buy New Sparingly –
Babies outgrow things at a truly alarming rate when you’re on a tight budget which means that buying new for the vast majority of baby items is simply wasting money. This is especially true with infant clothing. Yes, you’ll want your baby to have a new outfit to come home in and for photos and special occasions, but if you buy a closet full of new baby clothes, you’ll very likely end up with a closet full of new baby clothes that your baby outgrew before he or she could wear them. Instead, shop for used baby clothes at places like garage sales or thrift stores. By using a few thrift store shopping tips, you can save as much as 90% over what you would spend buying new.
If you can’t find anything locally, buying from an online consignment store is always a great option. Online consignment places such as Swap.com, Schoola.com, and ThredUp.com are full of fantastic deals and great items. You might even be able to find used baby gear and used baby toys on them as well!
One last thing about buying used: There are 2 baby items you should never buy used. NEVER buy a car seat or an outdated crib used. Newer cribs (within the last year or two) are fine as long as you perform safety checks on them, but used carseats are always a no no. You have no way to tell if a car seat has been in an accident when you buy it new and honestly? I’m not willing to trust someone’s word for it with the life of my children. Once a car seat has been in an accident it is no longer usable and must be disposed of. If you do buy a crib used, make certain that you check to be sure that a recall has not been issued and that it is structurally sound before you put your baby in it.
Only shop the sales when you need to buy new –
Like it or not, there are some baby items you will have to buy new no matter how hard you’re trying to have a baby on a budget. For these items, make sure that you only shop when the item is on sale. For clothing, places such as Gymboree often put them on sale dirt cheap. For baby gear, watch stores like Walmart.com and Babies R Us for clearance deals. For things such as diapers and wipes, places like Amazon or Grove Collaborative are great to find deals on.
If you’re shopping online, take the time to sign up for an Ebates account before you shop. Ebates will pay you cash back when you shop which means that you’ll be saving even more than the sale price allows you to. Plus, they will give you a free $10.00 gift card when you make your first purchase which is even more savings!
Barter for what you need –
Bartering is a skill that has gone out of style, but it is one that can save you a bucket of money. Do you have a friend with an older child? Offer to babysit for them one night in exchange for baby items they may have. Do you have a skill such as wood-working or organizing? Trade someone who needs it for items they may have. Bartering literally costs you nothing but time so it is a great way to help yourself stick to your baby budget.
Go Green –
Going green can be about more than being less harsh on the planet and in this case, it is about saving you green. Doing things such as learning how to make homemade diaper rash cream are not only better for your baby but they’re better for your wallet. For my daughter and I, we typically make more than we buy. In fact, there is a list of over 200 things you can stop buying and start making here on the blog for you. Each one will help you save money that you can then turn around and invest back into your baby budget.
Go Cloth –
Here is a simple fact for you; disposable diapers are extremely expensive. Not only that, but they will increase the amount of trash that your family puts out each week. Instead, ask yourself if cloth diapers are right for you and consider using them instead of disposables. There are a lot of ways that cloth diapers save money so make sure that you don’t automatically jump to using disposables. Plus, cloth diapers have come a long way since the plain white versions of the 80’s. These days you can buy cloth diapers in tons of cute patterns that make your baby’s bum as fashionable as the rest of him!
If you do decide to go cloth, make sure to pick up the necessities you will need. Aside from the diapers themselves, this will include waterproof diaper covers and a cloth diaper pail at the very least.
Get Help if You Need It –
There is no shame in asking for help if you need it. Programs such as Medicaid and WIC are meant for people who need help. If you need them and qualify, use them. Another option is to find a pregnancy crisis center near you. Most have programs that are designed to help expectant moms who may need help getting the necessities for their baby and more. When I was pregnant with Emma, our local crisis center had a program that allowed me to earn points by doing things such as reading books and attending my OB appointments on time. Because we were so poor, I made sure that I earned every point that I could and I will be honest and tell you that it was a huge help.
Go Free when you Can –
Most people will tell you that you can’t get something for free, but that isn’t always the case. When it comes to having a baby on a budget, you can. If you take the time to find ways to earn free gift cards online, you can use those gift cards to pay for baby items that you need instead of cash. If you are willing to use a sample sized product, you can request over $1,000 in free baby samples. If you join Facebook groups that are targeted for people giving away items, you can often grab things like baby clothing totally free. It all just depends on how much you’re willing to do to save money. Free is possible though and you should absolutely get something for free if you can.
Breastfeed if possible – Aside from any health debates, breastfeeding really is the most cost effective way to feed your baby. Formula will cost you a boatload of cash for that first year and breastfeeding can save that money. A quality breast pump can cost upwards of $150-$200 dollars out of pocket but most of them can be reused for multiple children so its a worthwhile investment. If you truly can’t afford one, ask your OBGyn for recommendations on Le Leche League contacts in your area that might put you in touch with someone who will allow you to “rent” a pump for a much lower cost out of pocket. Again, if you’re low income, you can check with the local WIC office to see if they can help you with a breast pump. Sometimes they will and sometimes they can’t.
Consider a Midwife –
Prenatal doctor visits and hospital births often run into five figures for costs and that is assuming you don’t have any emergencies. A midwife at a birthing center, however, can often cost as much as 75% less depending on your location. If your pregnancy is healthy, there is no reason that you can’t use a midwife so be sure to add it to your list of possibilities. If you want to save even more, find a midwife who does home births and have your baby in the comfort of your own home.
Lower Your Current Bills –
Finally, making an effort to lower your monthly bills can help you with your baby budget more than you realize. By lowering your monthly bills before your baby is born, you will eliminate any stress caused by high costs after your baby is born. If your electric bill is too high, check to see if you are in a right to choose state. If so, switching providers may help you get a lower hw/h rate. The same goes for your natural gas bill. If your phone bill is too high, consider switching to Republic Wireless. They have cell phone plans for as low as $15.00 per month. If your grocery bills are too high, look for ways to save money on groceries. Saving money isn’t hard, you just have to want to do the work involved.
Your baby is a gift like no other, but if you are not prepared, you will soon find yourself in financial trouble. These ideas are just places to start. Do you have any other ways to have a baby on a budget that I might have missed? I’d love to hear them!