Ways to Prepare for a Baby

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Every year you hear statistics of how much it costs to raise a child. The number is staggering, but I think sometimes misleading. While some costs are non-negotiable in life, there are things we can do to cut expenses and not go into hock while we raise a family.

Here are some of things couples can do to make ends meet a little more easily as they grow their family:

1. Start budgeting each month.

Give every dollar a name. Expenses will rise as your family goes so practice financial responsibility as soon as you can.

2. Create an emergency fund.

This can provide tremendous peace of mind, especially if you are moving to one income. Sock away whatever extra cash you have. Even consider selling stuff to develop a cushion between you and disaster.

3. Buy used.

Babies don’t need fancy cars — or strollers. They need to be safe and they need YOU. Pretty simple. Check up on the recall status of items you’re buying, but you can save a bundle buying second-hand items.

4. Live frugally.

Babies can “cramp your style” or give you permission not to live beyond your means. Ask yourself:

  • do I need it?
  • can I make do without it?
  • can something else serve the same purpose.

5. Try out coupons and stockpiling.

With the last FishBaby, I used coupons combined with sales to buy months’ worth of diapers and other baby supplies for just a few dollars. I started stockpiling as soon as I knew I was pregnant to not feel rushed later.

6. Read good money books alongside good parenting books.

Teaching our kids healthy attitudes about money certainly falls in the realm of good parenting. Keep yourself sharp when it comes to dollars and cents.

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  1. Hi Jessica!
    I love this post. I was wondering, though, if you could offer any additional advice for a mid-twenties couple both working entry-level jobs in 2023…would you change or add to any of your tips? What would be a good amount of emergency fund money that you might suggest? We live in the South-East, by the way, in that case that is a factor. I imagine food is probably cheaper here than in CA.
    Thank you!
    -Nikki C.

    1. A very delayed reply…. my apologies. This post could definitely get beefed up, something that’s on my list for this year as a love project for my own kids now. I would definitely spend as much time as you can honing your frugal living strategies as well as saving as much as you can. We currently have a 6-month emergency fund. If we were in your shoes, I would beef it up to a year or even two, if you were planning to move to a single income after the baby. That said, parenting is an act of faith and trusting that God’s timing is always good. 🙂

  2. Some other big tips from a new mom:

    1. Ask friends and family to buy you baby gifts for months when they’re older – ie.for 3-6, 6-o etc. if you get all newborn stuff you won’t be able to cycle through it all or use it meaningfully as they grow so fast. I have a collection of clothes for the whole first year for my daughter.

    2. If you are going to buy something new as you’re child is driving you to distraction, lie a sling, make sure you can return it if the baby doesn’t like it. We’re in sling #3 as my daughter just won’t use the other two.

    3. check to make sure you are buying the right product. Being sleep addled means you make mistakes. We bought the wrong isofix base and ended up throwing out the packaging and couldn’t return it. Could have saved $100.

    4. Buy the basics til the baby comes. The things you really need you won’t know you need til they’re here and the stuff you think you do won’t need at all. For example we have lots of bed covers due to guidance in SIDS. I shod have just bought two sleeps sacks and been done with it.

    5. Don’t buy it all at once. Kids grow into things and some things you don’t need til they’re bigger. It can help you spread out bigger purchases. For example we started with a moses basket and only now bought a cot that the baby is moving into her room.

    6. Incontinence pads – slice em in half and put them under things where your child goes (car seat). The number of things that have been saved from the baby (if you get my drift) which reduces clean up and hassle saves us costs in washing, dry cleaning,etc.

    7. General household items make the best toys.

    8, eBay. Says it all.

    9. Spend money on quality items and things you will use a lot. The car seat and our pram (we live in the city) we splurged on but let family get for us as they wanted to do something special. We also spent money on the one children’s toy we want our daughter to grow up with (a bunny) but bought several extras so we have spares in the future. Everything else comes from consignment stores, hand me downs, or sales.

    10. Baby gadgets are useless. Forget a bottle steriliser and bottle warmer. Our daughter takes formula cold (we never gave it to her warm) and the microwave steriliser which cost $10 is our best purchase.

  3. Soups! Making soups can really stretch out the dollar and save alot of money as well as being healthy!

  4. I second breastfeeding as a huge cost saver. Of course, not everyone can breastfeed, and formula is better than a starving baby. But, if you can make it work it’s a huge money saver.

    Cloth diapering can also save a lot of money, but only if you go into it with the idea that you are doing it to save money. You can easily spend a fortune on brand name cloth diapers. But, you don’t need to to make it work.

  5. I am a volunteer and teach “Budgeting for Baby” classes. The biggest way to save money is to never let yourself fall intot he trap that your baby needs all of the things that sellers start pushing on you. Comapnies prey upon our desire to be good parents. But babies don’t need all of the gadgets, toys, fancy clothes, picture clubs, book clubs, life insurance and classes that are pitched to new parents. Okay, stepping off my soap box. 🙂

  6. For anyone who uses formula, give store brand formula a try. It is significantly cheaper than name brand and has to conform to the same quality standards. The price difference is mainly due to marketing costs.

    Make your own baby food. Freeze pureed veggies or fruits in ice cube trays & warm up when needed- super easy and cheap!

  7. All those great parenting books and baby dev books? They are at the LIBRARY! I went to Borders and wrote up a list of the books I liked and then I did inter-library loan. You can also get them from friends who are between pregnancies or are done with the baby stages.

    1. @Cathy, great point! Though if it’s a really good book to reference often, I like to have a copy of my own.

  8. We also found breastfeeding and cloth diapering to be money savers, as well as lifestyle choices… At one point, I wasn’t up to washing my own diapers, but used a diaper service, which still came in cheaper than disposables. But, washing our own, even given the cost of buying the diapers and outer wraps, came in at a much lower cost.

  9. I agree. When they are little they don’t need a lot. There are a lot more expenses as they get older. Glasses, braces, tutoring, etc. Save when they are babies so you afford it later on.

  10. We don’t have any children yet, but we are taking Dave Ramsey’s class, “Financial Peace University”. There are so many classes available, at least where we live, so we go to one 5 minutes from our house! We have learned so much already!!!

  11. Do you need it has been a phrase of mine for awhile?
    I buy nearly all baby stuff used. Or it’s been given.
    Thanks for the challenges!

  12. One thing I would caution against buying second-hand is a carseat. Carseats which have been involved in accidents should never be re-used, and it’s impossible to know if that’s happened when you’re buying from Goodwill or a consignment shop. I did accept a hand-me-down carseat from a trusted friend, but my husband wasn’t even comfortable using that, so we purchased one brand new.

  13. I would add to not turn your nose up to hand-me-downs, which is the same as buying used. I have friends who don’t like hand-me-downs though. We received quite a bit of hand-me-downs like our crib, high chair and running stroller.

    Instead of buying a changing table, I used a dresser and just added a changing pad. It has worked great. I am almost 5’11 and the dresser sits higher than any bed or store-bought changing table.

    I agree with pp Mara, if you can do it, nurse as long as possible. My kids didn’t have a drop of formula and that saved me a bundle.

    Thanks for the link-up.

  14. Great post, I totally agree that having a baby doesn’t have to cost a fortune. (It’s when they get to be older, but… that’s another topic for another day, right?!) I’d also add breastfeeding and cloth diapering to the list of money savers (although odds are we’d do them both even if they weren’t!).

  15. Great tips. Wish I’d had resources like this back when I was having my first child. I had to quit work while pregnant due to being so sick. We adjusted to single income living several months earlier than expected.

  16. I second Craigslist. I got a barely used non-recalled (I checked 100xs) carseat for $40! The retail on it is $110! There is no way I would pay that much in this season of our lives! Some things, like tubs, clothes, and accessories, don’t have to be new. And with research on recalls, cribs, carseats, high chairs, and swings can be found cheaper on Craigslist or garage sales.

    1. @Lindsey,

      Please use caution in buying carseats used. If the carseat has been involved in a crash, the belts were washed incorrectly, it was reassembled incorrectly, etc it may not provide the maximum protection for your little one.

  17. Buying used is always a great way to save money (and the planet), but ESPECIALLY on baby gear, which you only use for a short period. I’ve had such great luck finding stuff on Craig’s List.

  18. I definitely agree about your suggestion of, “Do I need it?”. I purchased so many unnecessary items the first time I was pregnant. I wish I had asked more friends and family about what they really used or didn’t use and why.

    I would also add shop at consignment stores since so baby/kid items are only used for a short amount of time and are usually in good condition.

    Plus ask friends and family for any unwanted items. I received many like new toys that she wasn’t using anymore from my friend’s, friend (a person I have never met).

    1. @Cheryl @ Swap Savers, YES, letting people know we were open to hand-me-downs was a huge blessing. A former co-worker gave us beautiful things for our son, including a Pack-n-Play, a high chair, some very expensive Fisher Price toys, and clothes that looked like they had never been worn. Another friend passed along her daughter’s crib mattress, in nearly perfect condition. And the majority of my son’s books and toys once belonged to his Uncle Mike (now 16!)