Today I welcome my lovely wife Amanda. She recently read an article about a woman who obtained the necessities in preparation for a baby for “only” a few thousand dollars. This led her to reflect on her own experience and whip out this insightful glimpse into how she did it for a few hundred…
Some say that everything you need for your first baby could cost you well over $5,000. Even the “frugal” plans I’ve read suggest about $1,000 as the bare minimum. I seemed to remember spending much less, but I wasn’t sure, so I decided to take a look to see if it’s really possible to prepare for a baby for under $500.
I had three months between finishing graduate school and my due date. That left me with lots of free time to get ready for the baby, while spending as little money as possible.
What does a baby cost?
I could also say “what could a baby cost.” The following list contains everything we purchased in preparation for our first baby.
Decorating/cooling the nursery: $0
We did not decorate a nursery. We lived in a small, old, one-bedroom apartment that cost $650 per month. The only 2 windows were north facing (important for saving money on air conditioning in AZ).
I bought a new Graco Pack N Play Playard–the single most expensive item I bought. (When our first was 8 months old someone offered us a hand-me-down crib which we used for the rest of the babies).
I can still remember my very pregnant person laboring (get it?) over this decision in the store. Two pack-and-play sheets for $12. It seemed like so much money at the time.
Baby Clothes: $6
Yes, six dollars. My trusty “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” said I needed 12 sleepers for the first 3 months, I found 12 sleepers for 50 cents each at a garage sale one morning. That is what we used for the first 3-4 months. No cute church clothes, no infant jackets, no tiny shoes.
Receiving blanket: $8
I bought one new and found a few more for 50 cents each at a garage sale. My mother and mother-in-law also made some beautiful blankets that they gave us.
Infant Car seat: Borrowed.
We borrowed a car seat from my sister-in-law who let us use it while she was between babies.
Breastfeeding supplies: $65
Boppy, boppy cover, cream, pads, etc.
Moby Wrap Baby Carrier: $30
This was before moby wraps were the next cool thing. While I was pregnant, I saw a woman in a grocery store using one of these and asked her what it was called. I am forever glad I did. It has been a well-used item with all 3 kids and is a life-saver with a colicky baby. They were cheaper back then.
I found a dresser at a garage sale that was fairly old but still usable. We all used it.
Changing “table”: $10
I bought a travel changing pad and just used it on the floor.
Diapers, wipes, desitin: $50
This was just to get us started. I didn’t try cloth diapers until my 3rd baby.
Hospital prep class: $50
I really wanted to do a more expensive natural birth course but decided to wait until the next baby.
Diaper bag: Free from our baby-prep class.
Breast pump: Free through Mark’s work insurance (I think this might be common among large companies).
Items we were gifted
Stroller: gifted from friends (original plan was to use my mom’s old stroller).
Rocking chair: gifted from family.
Baby bouncer: gifted from family.
Warm Blankets: gifted from friends & family.
Items we bought (in desperation) after the baby was born
Lactation consultant: $100
The cost to get breastfeeding going after a difficult start. The savings here were even more than anticipated because the first baby had bad allergies, which I learned to address through my own diet. The formula equivalent (nutramigen) would have been about $250+ per month.
Baby Pacifiers: $10
Price details are hazy. I thought I would go the no pacifier route but the early colic convinced me otherwise.
Baby swing: about $40
Baby gas drops: $14/month.
Total cost: About $470
Factors that made this possible:
- While I did not have a traditional baby shower, the more expensive items (stroller, rocking chair, bouncer) were gifted to us.
- We lived in Phoenix. You don’t really need to wear clothes or real shoes there unless you are an adult (even that is negotiable). I was amazed once we moved to the Midwest, and I had to buy shoes, winter coats, boots, etc for my kids. (But then you also have grass and trees which I think is more than a fair trade.)
- The apartment was small: no need for a baby monitor.
- I figured out how to make breastfeeding work: not always an easy task. Also, lactation consultants are worth their weight in gold.
- I was a stay-at-home mom, so did not need things such as child care, baby bottles, etc.
It’s a lifestyle
When people post their questions here on the site, many indicate a strong desire to pay off their debt but also a hesitation to give up their fun. Mark values the importance of having fun and tends to advise others not to cut it completely out of the budget. We both acknowledge, however, that this reflects a change in our mindset from just a few years ago.
We used to spend very little on anything besides the necessities of life. (I remember being floored that other young couples our age were spending money to rent movies on a weekly basis, buying brand new furniture at IKEA, and buying baby clothes at $10+ an outfit.)
Making similar financial sacrifices in other areas of our lives early on allowed us to go (in one year’s time) from having $3,000 in school debt to being debt-free with a 6-month emergency fund–all on a single annual income of just over $45K. (This was a huge deal for us because a few months later 2008 hit, and so did the lay-off we never expected).
Today, we no longer set the thermostat at 87 degrees, and we do occasionally spend money on movies and other entertainement. We think it would be hard to go back to living as frugally as we did.
Regrets? I have NEVER looked back and thought “I wish we bought more tiny infant clothes, decorated the nursery, and bought matching baby furniture.”
Save that money for when the kids are older. While kids don’t cost as much as a lot of the literature claims, the costs do go up.
Infancy is the time to save money with regard to your kids. Our kids now eat more food, have swim lessons & dental appointments, and they are old enough to benefit from time-sensitive opportunities like music lessons.
Interestingly, the only things I do regret were not having more knowledge-spending on a better birthing course and taking some breastfeeding classes. Those are the things that would have actually helped with the baby.
Trust me, you’re not going to look back on your life when your kids are older and think, “if only we had purchased a $1,000+ baby furniture set.”
We made it through without many of those things. And our baby, now 7 years old, sure as heck doesn’t care.
Do you still live as frugally as you used to? Did you go overkill with your babies (or do you plan to)? Would you have done anything differently?