- Your baby wasn’t born with expectations about you or their stuff
- The one place not to skimp when buying for your baby is safety, like car seats
- Many items are outgrown so quickly that it makes sense to borrow or buy used
- It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but you don’t have to have everything when your baby arrives
- Don’t forget to have a financial plan that will put your money to work for you and your new addition
For being so little, babies sure need a lot of stuff, though not as much as we might want to buy them. And everyone — everyone — can’t wait to give you unsolicited advice. Some of it sounds more like a command. “You have to get this,” or “I couldn’t imagine not having at least three of these.” The implication is that your baby will be living a deprived life without the latest and greatest.
There are certain baby items you can’t do without, and there are some products where saving money shouldn’t be the goal. But peel back the hype and pressure and there are plenty of places to save money and many items that are nice-to-haves vs. must-haves.
Where to spend
Spend on safety. Yard sale car seats may seem like a bargain, but you have no idea how that seat has been used or maintained. Was the vehicle in an accident? Are the straps still as strong as they were when the seat was brand new? That vintage crib may be the poster child for retro chic, but the gap between the mattress and railing could be dangerous. Unless you’re 100% sure that swings, bassinets, strollers and other items are safe and in excellent repair, buy them new. And always check the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CSPC), Consumer Reports, and other sources to make sure the item hasn’t been recalled or has other safety issues. (Recalls are fairly common in baby products.)
As mentioned above, buying a new car seat is best. Seats that can be attached to a base in your vehicle or snapped into a stroller are convenient, and an easier way to avoid waking a peacefully sleeping child.
You’ll also need a changing table or pad; comfortable chair for holding, rocking, and nursing your baby; and several extra sets of sheets for that crib. Whatever you buy, make sure it’s easy to clean. You’ll be cleaning it often.
Feeding supplies, such as bottles, breast pumps, and other equipment should be new for each baby. You may be able to obtain some of these supplies at little or no cost through local hospitals, government agencies, or nonprofit organizations. Breast pumps and counseling are covered by many health insurance plans. Many firms will help you obtain pumps for little or no cost; the Affordable Care Act includes helpful information as well.
Where to save
One of the easiest items to save on when shopping for a new baby is clothing, particularly special outfits for the holidays or family photos. You’ll find lots of adorable, Instagram-worthy clothes at yard sales and consignment shops. Until children are crawling, clothes tend to be outgrown long before they’re worn out. Wash them thoroughly before using, take cute photos, and then pass them along.
When it comes to toys, you really won’t need a lot. How many rattles can your baby shake at one time? If you find them at yard sales, make sure they’re clean and in excellent condition, then wash and disinfect them. And unless you’re absolutely sure they don’t use lead paint or other toxic materials, avoid any vintage items. As noted above, check to see if they’ve been recalled. Many toys that have been recalled can still be found on store shelves. And be very conscious about potential choking hazards from small parts.
Items such as blankets and other soft goods are also smart to buy used. Keep an eye on your baby to make sure there’s no reaction to any materials; your baby’s skin can be very sensitive. Start with natural fibers such as cotton, linen, or bamboo, which are easier on the skin. And make sure you follow the washing instructions for flame retardant garments.
The best way to get the latest information on recalls and product safety is to sign up at Recall.gov. It’s free, and you may subscribe to as many lists from different federal agencies as you wish. If a safer family vehicle is part of the plan, here’s how to choose the right one.
Finding local info
Local parent and community groups can be excellent sources of area information, as well as a place to obtain baby supplies. Check with your local hospitals, religious organizations, and on Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor as well. Yard sales are excellent places to find used baby gear as well.
Remember, too, that having a baby means more than just diapers and baby food. You’ll want a financial plan to cover supplies, childcare, and other expenses, and you’ll probably be thinking about paying for college. With expenses for a four-year college well into six figures for many students, getting an early start and letting compound interest work for you is an excellent strategy. Here’s a complete guide to financially planning for your new baby.
Above all, enjoy every minute with your baby, even the sleep deprivation. There’s a saying for parents of young children: The days are long, but the years are short. Soon you’ll understand just how true that is.