Back in 2011 my husband and I found out we were pregnant. Although we were thrilled, we knew that our lifestyle had to change. You see, we were two teachers with $111,000 worth of debt hovering over us. We spent more than $500 each month on eating out and we barely saved a dime. We decided once and for all that we wanted a better future for our little one. One evening we sat down, totaled up our debt, and wrote our first budget. It wasn’t always easy, but we were determined to get ourselves out of the hole we were in and still have a baby while on a budget!
I’ll never forget the first time we walked into Babys R Us. I couldn’t get over how many options and products there were for babies. Come on, they are so tiny, why did they need so much stuff? I was overwhelmed and felt discouraged when it came to our debt snowball. We had never had a baby before, so we didn’t know the difference between what we really needed versus what was just being sold to us. My husband and I had no clue what it would take to bring a little one into this world and we felt overwhelmed with the millions of products before our eyes. Thankfully, we realized that we didn’t actually need everything in that store. In fact, we learned which items were necessary versus which items were just “extra.”
How we saved money
Those last 6 months before our sweet boy was due, we did everything we could to save money on baby items. Below are the exact things we did to help us spend less.
- We budgeted for baby items. Every month we had $50 budgeted to spend on our baby. I would determine what was a priority and get that first. I also asked for some of the bigger items from family members who were wanting to give a nice gift.
- We shopped garage sales often. My husband was working most Saturday mornings so I would hit up garage sales. I found great baby items that people wanted to get rid of because their babies had grown up. If it could be washed or cleaned, I bought it!
- We shopped on Craigslist and Facebook sites. I would look for larger items, like a high chair, on Facebook sites. The funny thing is, we realized a high chair was an unnecessary purchase. When we were expecting our second child, we sold our high chair and used a booster seat at the table. It not only saved space but was much cheaper!
- We used gift cards and made a baby registry. Anytime we had a gift card we saved it for the baby. I knew that we would need diapers, possibly formula, and baby wipes for sure! We also set up a Target and Amazon baby registry for anyone who might want to buy us a gift. Amazon was our favorite because people never had to go to the store to buy a gift.
- Wait until you have a need. With my first pregnancy, I wanted everything right away. I wanted it all before the baby even came. Honestly, that desire to have everything perfect was probably my anxiety rearing its ugly head. With my second child, I knew better. I didn’t go crazy and buy a ton of stuff that I thought I would need. Instead, our family waited for the need to arise. We donated a lot of extra baby things and just kept the essentials.
So what do you actually need?
From one mom to another, I’m here to tell you that it is 100% possible to pay off debt, stay on budget, and have a baby! You have to be willing to live without the grand and fancy baby items, but it’s totally doable! If I’m completely honest, most people get annoyed by all the junk they buy and end up sticking it in the attic! So I’ve made a list below of some of the essential items for a new baby. Is it everything? No, but it will be a good start. I found items that weren’t terribly expensive, but these are items that I have known and loved! Either order them, ask for them for a gift, or search for them at a garage sale!
Happiest Baby On The Block DVD – When we were brand new parents, we had the night from hell our first night back from the hospital. Our sweet, adorable baby wouldn’t stop screaming and I was ready to take him back to the hospital and ask if he was broken. The next morning we watched this DVD that my mom got us (thanks, Mom!) and it totally changed the way that we handled our bundle of joy. Buy it now. It’s my go-to gift for new parents because it contains invaluable information!
Boppy Nursing Pillow – If you plan to nurse, or even hold your child, you’ll want a boppy. I used it every time I nursed and my husband used it to hold the baby for hours on end. Bonus: this one is not gender specific so it can be used without guilt several children later!
Baby Swing – We had a swing just like this one that was also battery operated. I loved that we could move it wherever we needed in the house. Our swing was purchased at a garage sale. Was it the cutest swing around? No. Did it put my baby to sleep? Yes! This one is on sale and is a must!
Baby Bjorn Carrier – I also bought a Baby Bjorn at a garage sale for $5. FIVE DOLLARS! All I had to do was wash it and it was good as new! You’ll want to have your hands free and this thing puts babies straight to sleep. You will love this carrier, I promise!
Avent Baby Bottles – When we were pregnant with our first child, I insisted on using Dr. Brown’s bottles. This might be the purchase that I regret the most! It was so annoying to wash ALL THE PIECES!! It seemed like there were 19 pieces for each bottle. I hated it. My husband hated it. So when we were pregnant with our second child, we sold the Dr. Brown’s bottles and a friend gave us her Avent bottles. There are 3 pieces for each bottle (4 if you include the cap). They are easy to wash and our second kid loved them.
Graco Car Seat – Everyone needs a car seat. We had a Graco and it worked wonderfully. This particular car seat will hold a child up to 35 pounds or 32 inches. I don’t recommend buying a car seat used because you can’t be sure if the car seat has been in an accident. This particular model is not as expensive as some similar car seats.
Activity Gym – We had an activity gym just like this one. It was simple to fold up and bring to family’s homes when we were traveling. Our children loved it and I would even lay under it with them. I like that it can be washed so you know your baby is having tummy time or playing on something clean.
Diaper Bag – I didn’t have this exact diaper bag, but I wish I did! We still have a diaper bag that is over the shoulder. I like that you can have your hands free to hold the baby or push a stroller. This one is perfect for men who don’t want to hold a super feminine bag.
Onesies – Our kids lived in onesies for their first 6 months! They are easy to put on and simple to unsnap when they need a diaper change. These are perfect for a baby shower or simple gift for a new mom.
Burp Cloths – The very best burp cloths are actually cloth diapers! They are thick and will clean up anything! I had a good friend that sewed fabric at the bottom to fancy them up. I now use them as cleaning cloths because they are so amazing! Seriously, these are wonderful.
Changing Pad – We completely skipped the standard changing table with both of our children and just used a changing pad on our bed or on a dresser. You honestly don’t need to buy a dedicated changing table. I personally think it’s a waste of furniture, space, and money! If anything, just plop this thing on top of a dresser and you’re good to go (just make sure not to walk away or leave your baby unattended!).
Swaddle Blankets – These muslin blankets are perfect for swaddling. If you need help learning how to swaddle, just watch Happiest Baby On The Block DVD. These blankets are perfect for swaddling, using as a nursing cover, or just putting over the car seat when you’re in the store. They let air flow through and my youngest son still sleeps with his at night!
Baby Monitor – We have never been the people to have the fancy video baby monitor. They are so expensive and I just couldn’t justify buying one while I was on my debt free journey. My grandmother gifted me the baby monitor that senses motion and breathing, but every time my son moved it would alarm us as if he had stopped breathing. So we stopped using that part and just used the monitor. Would it be nice to have a video monitor? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely not!
Bath Sponge – One thing you’ll see in all the baby sections is those massive blue bathtubs. You’re supposed to bathe your baby in it instead of the normal bathtub that comes in your house. I never bought one because when our youngest was born we lived in a small apartment. I had nowhere to keep it! Instead, we bought this simple bath sponge and either bathed the baby on it in the sink or the bathtub. It’s inexpensive and takes up very little space.
So there you have it! A list of essentials and ways to save money while you’re expecting. I know that many people are waiting until after they are debt free to have children. I promise you that there’s no perfect time to have a baby. It is absolutely possible to continue paying off debt and stick to a budget while also welcoming a little one into this world!