How To Prepare For Your Big Arrival On A Small Budget

When you find out you’re pregnant, it’s tempting to immediately go into a baby store and purchase the first cute baby thing you see.

I did this! My first purchase was a baby fleece onesie. He never wore it because when it was winter, he was too small for it. By the time the next winter rolled around, he was way too big for it.

If you want to get the best baby things for the best value, the first thing you should do is create a baby shopping list. By keeping yourself focused on a list, you won’t be spending randomly.

After that fleece onesie purchase, I created a spreadsheet with all of the things I wanted to purchase for the baby. Each line had:

  • the brand and name of the product
  • a link to the item
  • the price
  • quantity I’ll need
  • total cost of the product (price * quantity)
  • time period I’ll need it
  • any important comments to consider

When I purchased the item, I highlighted the line in green to keep things organized.

1) Only Buy Baby Essentials

Baby products are a multi-billion dollar industry. Just because there’s a baby product available, doesn’t mean you need it. It doesn’t make you a worst parent for not buying it.

If you want to raise your baby on a budget, stick with the newborn essentials like:

  • Diapers: We use Pampers diapers as it resulted in fewer blowouts, but it depends on the baby. If your baby has a sensitivity, the Honest Company Diapers or Pampers Pure Diapers are made from hypoallergenic materials.
  • Wipes: We use the Kirkland Signature Baby Wipes from Costco as they’re budget-friendly and durable. 
  • Diaper rash cream: The hospital we delivered at recommended Vaseline to help with cleaning the meconium and treating diaper rash. It worked for a while until he had major diarrhea and we realized the Vaseline was not enough. Now we use organic diaper balm, which works fast! I’ve heard if you’re a cloth diapering family, it works with cloth diapers too!
  • Baby clothes essentials: Items that typically fall in this list are onesies, pjs, swaddles, etc. There are SOOO many good lists available with a quick google search! 

 2) Items I Purchased But Never Used

  • Nursing pads: Every list I saw online for baby must haves contained nursing pads. I never used them! I leaked, but not enough to need breast pads. In hindsight, I could have easily used baby wash cloths in place of the breast pads just to see if I leaked enough to require breast pads. If I layered on a dark shirt or sweater, you couldn’t even see the stain if I by chance leaked!

  • Onesies specifically for the umbilical cord: When we were putting together our registry, a sales associate told us we needed to buy this. We never ended up using it. We just used a regular onesie and he was fine.

Raising a baby on a budget

Mom Tip: Check the wheels of the stroller. Is it plastic or rubber? If you live in areas with extreme winters or regularly use your stroller on uneven terrain, you won’t want to get a stroller with plastic wheels.

3) Know Your Baby Budget During Maternity Leave

Now that you know what baby items you need, you might be wondering:

How much money should you have saved if you’re having a baby on a budget?

This depends on many factors.

Bottom line:

For when your maternity/paternity leave starts, you have to know:

  1. What income will be coming in
  2. What expenses will be going out

This way you can understand your cash flow and how much money you will need to save.

You can pull out an excel sheet and calculate:

  • Household income: add your spouse’s income with your estimation of your maternity or paternity pay (if applicable)
  • Regular expenses: download and summarize the data from your credit card and bank statements over the last month. Also, you’ll want to add in any potential ongoing baby costs like diapers and wipes or formula (if you’re planning on formula feeding).

If you’ve never done any budgeting before, having all the numbers laid out can be overwhelming. Assign a small task each day like downloading the data one day and then summing up the totals the next day.

4) Prepare a Financial Plan for a Tight Budget

If you realize that when you go on maternity leave, your new household income will be tight or insufficient to cover your expenses, you should think about:

  • Can I build an emergency savings fund in time that I can tap into?
  • Is there a low interest line of credit (like a home equity line of credit) I can use to tie me over until I go back to work?
  • Should I go back to work early?
  • If I go back to work, will the numbers make sense now that I’ll have to add child care expenses to the budget?
  • If they don’t make sense, should I return to work at all or look for alternative work options for stay-at-home parents?

For us, we realized when I went on maternity leave, we would be spending more than we were making. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a savings fund.

While I could go back to work early and pay for child care, I just couldn’t bring myself to leave my baby girl.

We had to look into ways to make and save more money fast!

We went full force into savings mode! We did a no spend challenge and used many money saving techniques that saved us thousands that first year.

There’s only so much money we could save so we eventually shifted our focus to earning more money.

5) Have a Diaper and Wipes Budget Plan

Diapers will be a large cost in your baby budget you’ll want to get ahead of!


How to save money on baby diapers
While cloth diapers and wipes can be arguably cheaper and better for the environment, we went with disposables.

When you think about the time spent washing AND additional money towards energy, water, detergent, machine depreciation, and the cloth diapers and wipes themselves, we thought the additional savings might be minimal.

Especially when you consider the Amazon Prime 20% off diapers subscription and shipping is included (the diapers get delivered right to your door!).

Something to keep in mind is that you don’t have to do an all cloth diapers and wipes OR all disposables plan.

You can start with disposables until you get a handle for diapering and your baby’s diaper habits.

You can try cloth diapers and wipes. Maybe use it during the times you know your baby will most likely be peeing. For example, my toddler doesn’t poop at night anymore. I might introduce cloth diapers at night.

Once you have a feel for disposable and cloth diapers, you can work out a system that best fits your lifestyle and budget.

Mom Tip: Always keep your diaper bag with you or put an emergency bag in the car.

I’m often forgetting the diaper bag at home. A few times, I’ve been on the road when my baby’s had a poop explosion only to realize I have no diapers or wipes in the car! Since then, I’ve placed an emergency stash in the car!

6) Watch your Hospital Expenses

If you don’t have insurance, don’t opt for the private room as this could cost $100’s/day. I opted for the private room as I had insurance, but still had to pay a $50 surcharge for the 24 hours I was there postpartum.

The advantage of having a private room was that my husband could stay in the hospital overnight (and sleep on the pull-out couch next to the bed). Our hospital didn’t allow for spouses or other people to stay in a non private room (2 or 4 beds) overnight.

When you’re already weak from being postpartum, having someone else look after the baby makes such a difference. 

Money saving baby tips
With that in mind, if I didn’t have insurance, I might not have opted for the private room. You most likely won’t be sleeping anyways during those first few nights. There wasn’t a super big need for the privacy. 
The first (out of 2 times) I had to use the toilet, the nurse had to be there to see that I didn’t have difficulties urinating (hospital practice) and to show me how to use the peri bottle (a peri bottle is essentially a squirt bottle that you use to clean your lady parts). Typically hospitals will provide you with one! 

I highly recommend that if you’re uncertain about the hospital charges, ask your maternity ward for a breakdown of all of the potential expenses you could be charged for when you’re having a baby. You can plan in advance what to opt out of and have a more accurate baby budget in mind.

Mom Tip: Ask the nurses for samples, coupons, and toiletries. Maternity wards get many samples and coupons. Sometimes it’s only offered when you ask about them so don’t forget to ask!

7) Buy Used Baby Stuff

There is no shame in buying stuff used! You’re preventing waste and cutting costs on your baby budget!

We didn’t buy every baby product used. We mostly purchased second-hand baby clothes and toys (that could be easily sanitized).

We would bring the goods home, throw all of the clothing and cloth toys into the washer, and wipe down all of the plastic toys with a baby wipe or cloth with hot soapy water.

Most of the baby things we bought “used” were actually new with tags or might as well have had the tags (they were in excellent condition)! Babies grow out of things quickly – sometimes before they use or wear out their stuff!

We bought many baby things at yard sales, baby consignment stores and thrift shops. We also bought things on Facebook Marketplace, Facebook buy/sell and mom groups, Letgo, and Varagesale.

How to afford a baby on a tight budget

We got the best deals at yard sales. At 1 yard sale, we got 12 boxes of baby clothes and products for $50! If you visit the yard sale at the end of the day, you’ll get the best deals and might even get items for free as people often don’t want to move stuff back inside their house.

If you’re looking to trim costs even further, contact the people selling used goods you want and ask if they’re open to trading. If you have items listed in the same platform, it’ll be easy for them to browse and see if they need anything you have available.

Mom tip: Sell your baby things after you use them. Baby products are constantly updated. The sooner you sell them, the better price point you can get.

You’ll want to sell them online. If you sell them at a yard sale or through a children’s consignment store, you’ll get significantly less.

If it’s a good you originally purchased used, you might even be able to get your full cost back or make money! In the sales ad, it’s a good practice to declare that your good was originally purchased used.

8) Shop Online for New Baby Items

While we bought some items used, there are many baby items we bought new for safety purposes like a car seat. Car seats that have been in an accident are not safe to use.

How to save money for a baby on the way

9) Get FREE Baby Things

There are many free baby things you can get just for being an expecting or new parent.

You can sign up for baby registries like Amazon Baby Registry, Target or BuyBuy Baby and get FREE welcome gift bags in addition to registry completion discounts!

Baby on a budget checklist

There are many companies offering FREE baby stuff where you only have to pay for shopping! A quick google search will pull those all up for you!

Mom Tip: Use the library! The library is a great resource for kid’s books and programs.

We went to many free baby circle time and sensory play activities at our local library. The library also had a play area with toys for kids, which was great whenever we just needed to get out of the house and go to a kid-friendly place!

10) Buy Baby Items Early

When should you start shopping for baby stuff?

This is a personal decision. I didn’t want to start shopping too early in case there were pregnancy complications. I also wanted to get a head start on deal hunting.

I started shopping for baby stuff at the end of my first trimester.

How to budget for a baby

It’s important to keep in mind return policies. For baby things you’re on the fence about, it’s better to buy them closer to when your baby will be using the item so you can always return it.

11) Minimize the nursery decor

When I was pregnant, I was constantly searching for ideas on how to decorate the nursery. Then I realized we DON’T REALLY NEED to do any decorating. This is an extra we can cut altogether.

We ended up painting his room a light green because we read about how green is a calming color that promotes learning and cognitive abilities. But that’s it!

How to save money for a baby


12) Feed Your Baby What You Eat

When your baby is able to eat solids, you can save costs by

  • making your own baby food or
  • letting your baby eat what you eat

How to save for a baby

You don’t have to feed her or him “baby food” from the grocery store, but also don’t feel like you need to skip the baby food altogether!

When my baby was 6 months, I fed him a combination of food we ate (e.g. avocado, eggs, bananas etc.) and baby food (iron-fortified cereal and premade food pouches) for convenience. I saved a lot of money from not feeding him JUST baby food.

13) Breastfeed

Using formula is expensive. There’s the high cost with the formula, but then there’s also the bottles, nipples, and bottle cleaning products you’ll have to purchase.

When you factor in the additional time it takes to maintain the bottles and the health benefits to breastfeeding, breastfeeding makes sense. It’s also free.

However, if it going to cause significant stress to you, stick to formula! That make it for a reason! 

14) Ask a Family Member or Friend To Be The Baby Photographer

Newborn or baby photos could cost $100’s per session, which could be a big chunk of your baby budget! That doesn’t even include printing the photos!

Nowadays, the newest iPhones produce great quality pictures. You can easily ask your family member or friend who has access to a good camera or mobile phone to take photos for you. You can do them on a clear day at the park. Bring some props and make it a fun experience!

We did both a casual and professional photo shoot.

We got a professional photo shoot as a gift and my sister-in-law (who is not a professional photographer) also took photos for us. Both were great in their own ways! I actually preferred the ones my sister-in-law took! They were outside with natural lighting. We didn’t feel as rushed. She captured some great moments!

If you’re looking for ideas for props, one common prop are wooden blocks, which are soooo cute! 

baby budget

I think that is about all for today! 

Let me know some of your recommendations down below! 

Thanks so much for reading. 


Kate Emoji


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