From tiny clothes to tiny spoons, having a baby is filled with a lot of cute, tiny things, but unfortunately, a tiny budget isn’t one of them.
If you’re preparing for a baby, you know the list of things you need is long and overwhelming, but we’ve compiled some steps you can take to make sure you’re meeting all of your baby’s needs without breaking the bank.
Determine Your Parenting Style
While you won’t have all the answers about your parenting style before your baby arrives, there are some questions you should consider that will help you plan your purchases.
- What are you willing to buy used? Baby items can be expensive and are often only used for a short period of time before they’re outgrown. If you’re comfortable with it, you can save a lot of money buying baby items second hand. If purchasing items that have been used by a stranger isn’t up your alley, you might want to consider asking friends or family members for items their children have outgrown. They could be willing to either lend them to you or let them go for a low price.
- How much are you willing/able to pay for convenience? Plenty of products may streamline the parenting process and help you get things done more quickly and efficiently. But of course, they come at a price.
- What are you and your partner’s non-negotiables? There are some things that are sticking points for everyone. For instance, it’s likely one of you will be up at night often with your baby, and it may be worth the investment of a comfortable chair to rock your little one back to sleep.
Make a Wish List
Once you have an idea of what you’re willing to buy used or borrow, and what you’re not willing to go without, it’s time to start brainstorming a list of everything you’d like to have for your baby. When you’re making your wish list, plan ahead and consider the entire first year of the baby’s life.
If you’re not sure what you might need during the first year, take some time to do research. There are plenty of online resources that will help you compile a list of the necessities. Friends and family members can be great resources, too. Reach out to people in your life who have recently had a new addition to their family and see what products they loved, hated, used daily, and never took out of the box.
Consider Needs vs. Wants
Once you have your wish list complete, the real work begins. You’ll need to determine your needs vs. wants. This sounds simple, but it can be tough – especially for first-time parents. Marketing campaigns are designed to make you feel like you need every product, and as a parent-to-be, it can be hard to determine what products are the “best” or “safest.”
Highlight the items on your wish list that you must have. These should be the things that keep your baby safe, and meet the basic needs of your baby, yourself, and other caretakers. This isn’t to say that you won’t get any of the things you “want,” but it’s a good place to start after creating an overwhelming list of future purchases.
Focus on Your Needs
Your highlighted items will serve as a starting point in narrowing down what things you purchase on your own or put on your baby registry. Before planning to buy something new, ask for baby gear you can borrow from family or friends at no cost, or offer to purchase it for a reasonable price.
Next, scope out local consignment shops or yard sales. If you’re comfortable with buying items used, there are countless child consignment stores, pop-up sales, and yard sales to shop at. Before registering for something brand new, look for the item used, making sure it’s in good condition and safe, for a much lower cost.
Once you have an idea of what you can borrow or get secondhand, it’s time to create a registry.
Create a Registry
Once you’ve determined what you’ll need to purchase, the fun part begins – you get to create your registry!
As you’re creating your registry, try to keep in mind the needs and wants you’ve identified, as well as your style and willingness or ability to pay for convenience.
It can be easy to get caught up in scanning unplanned items onto your registry at the store or adding them to your list online. Let yourself have fun as you check out everything you could buy for baby. Then, before you make your registry public, take a day or two to clear your mind and declutter your list. Going back through your registry once it’s completed will allow you to remove items you don’t really need or realistically won’t use.
As you’re making your list of items to borrow, buy, or register for, there are a few things that are important to consider.
- Safety of used items. If you’re buying something used, be sure you know how safe it is. There are certain items recommended to be purchased new due to safety concerns. These include car seats, cribs, and mattresses. These are items in which safety is of the utmost importance.
If you buy a used car seat, you won’t know if it’s ever been in an accident or if it’s been stored improperly since it’s last use. Safety standards for cribs and mattresses may change regularly, too, and you’ll want to make sure you’re using items that aren’t damaged.
- True value of a “sale” or consignment price. It can be tempting to snatch something up once it goes on sale, but be sure you know if the price is worth it. Some stores may mark items up before discounting them (i.e. retail for $10, usually sell for $8, but are “on sale” for 2 for $20). And some consignment sale prices may not be as good as they seem either. For instance, if a used onesie is $3 at a consignment sale, but a local store sells a brand new one for $4, it might be worth spending the extra dollar so you don’t have to worry about the onesie being stained or stretched out before you get it home.
- Necessity of baby-specific items. If you pause to think about it, many items that are marketed as being baby-specific are just smaller versions of items you may already have. You’ll have to determine if it’s always worth it to get the “baby version.” For instance, if you’re planning to make homemade baby food, it’s easy to find products marketed to new parents and branded for babies. But, if you already have a food processor at home, you can forego the extra purchase and put the money toward something you really need.
- How much use it will get. When you’re determining what to buy used, or at all, think about how much use it will get. Babies grow quickly and may not use bouncy seats, exersaucers, or other items for a long period of time. These are great items to consider borrowing or buying second hand since your little one may not get much use out of them, or may not like them.
- Your realistic ability to follow through. Making your own baby food or using cloth diapers are both great ways to save money, but may require special supplies or additional time. Before you commit, think about whether or not you’ll be able to follow through. If you buy supplies that never get used, it’ll be a waste of money in the end.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
For first-time parents, there are some common mistakes to avoid. Being aware of these before you start shopping can result in big savings:
- Going overboard on newborn-sized clothing. It’s super cute, but won’t fit for long (if at all)!
- Buying and washing clothes too far in advance. Your baby may not grow the way you expect, and you could end up with clothes that never get used. Try to limit shopping ahead to just one season, when you’ll have a better idea of what size your baby will be.
- Buying before trying. Some babies will take any bottle you offer them, while others may be a bit more selective. Try to stock up on free samples so you can test them out before you buy a full set.
- Buying gender-specific. If you think you may have more children down the line, you can save money by purchasing items that are gender neutral and can be reused multiple times.
As you prepare for this new chapter in your life, it’s important to think ahead and save for unplanned expenses, too. Check out our savings shares that allow you to save year-round for the costs that come along with the joy of a little one. And once your baby arrives, get them started on the right track with a Youth Savings Share that offers a special interest rate for those under 18.
Check out more tips for managing your money on our WalletWorks page.