It’s no secret that babies are expensive. From diapers and a car seat to carriers and clothes they keep growing out of, it’s amazing how one tiny person can mean spending so much money. Try these smart money-saving tricks to stay on budget during that first (expensive!) year.

photo: iStock

1. Join Buy/Sell/Trade Groups
Join a Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade group and a Buy Nothing group in your area to look for big-ticket items like cribs. It’s also a good spot to sell items your baby has outgrown or doesn’t need.

2. Choose Baby Gear That Grows with Your Child
Some high chairs convert into seats for toddlers and older kids. Some cribs can be turned into toddler beds. And some bottles transform into straw cups and open cups. Look for products called 2-in-1 or 3-in1. A little research can mean buying items that your child can enjoy for far longer than you might think.

3. Borrow, Don’t Buy
Ask friends with older kids if they have items you can borrow before you buy something for yourself. Many parents save gear like bassinets and gliders if they plan to have another child, but they may not be using them at this time. Maintain what you borrow (and the friendship!), and your friends may lend you other pricey items, like balance bikes, as your child gets older.

4. Ask Moms What You Really Need
Straight talk with other moms will help you cross items off your shopping list. Some may regret buying a wipes warmer, baby swing or baby food maker, while others discover they prefer the flexibility of a changing pad over lugging baby over to a changing table for every new diaper. Keep the must-haves and leave the nice-to-haves until you figure out whether your child would actually benefit from them.

5. Be Realistic About Your Lifestyle
If you don’t plan to jog or go over rough terrain, you may not need a high-tech, pricey jogging stroller. A less expensive traditional stroller may work just great for your walks and errands. If you do decide to take a walk on uneven or unpaved ground, just put your baby in a carrier, and you’re on your way.

6. Set Up Swaps with Friends
Set up clothing and gear swaps with your mom friends and mom-to-be friends. Meet up at a local park where you can lay out all the items you’re giving away, or upload photos to a private Facebook group if you can’t all get together. Your pregnant friend might love your baby bathtub, maternity tops and newborn clothes, and you can snap up toys and clothes in your baby’s size. Meet up a few times a year as seasons and kids’ needs change.

7. Request Group Gifts
For holidays and birthdays, ask family and friends to contribute to big-ticket items, like a stroller, rather than buying toys or clothes you don’t need.

photo: iStock

8. Swap Babysitting Duties with a Friend
A free babysitter for date night? Sign us up! Here’s how it works: Ask a couple you know and trust if they’d like to take turns babysitting with you. You babysit your friends’ kid(s) at their house while your partner stays home with your own kid(s) and the other couple gets a night off. Then they return the favor.

9. Sample Diaper Brands Before You Buy
Ask any mom for the best diaper and wipes and be prepared to get lots of different answers. It depends on the baby’s body type and other factors. To find out which ones work best for you, ask friends who use different brands to swap a few (five of each) so you can test out multiple brands and see which work best for your child.

10. Buy Necessities in Bulk
Once you’ve determined your favorite brands, buying necessities like diapers, wipes and formula in bulk and signing up for automatic deliveries can save you lots of money in the long run. But before you buy everything in bulk, read on to find out why that’s not the most cost-effective solution for all of your baby purchases….

11. Test Items Before You Invest
When it comes to certain items like baby bottles and pacifiers, only buy a few to start. Babies are known for having strong preferences and changing their minds with no warning. Welcome to parenthood.

12. Stock Up on Clothing Basics in Larger Sizes
If the clothing you like is on major sale, buy items in sizes larger than what your child wears. Stick to items kids can wear year-round, like leggings and socks, rather than guessing what size your child might be next summer or winter.

13. Get Secondhand Special-Occasion Outfits
Hit Poshmark, consignment shops or yard sales for special occasion outfits, like holiday-themed baby clothes and fancy dresses. Many have only been worn once or twice and look brand new.

photo: iStock

14. Keep Clothes Shopping Simple
We know baby clothes are adorable, but think about what you’ll really use before you splurge. The first few months, babies will mostly be lounging at home with you, so onesies are the main thing you need. Babies can wear them on their own, under their clothes and to sleep in, so they’re worth buying in cost-saving multipacks. But you won’t need baby shoes until your child is walking outdoors. And if you plan to visit a climate that’s colder or warmer than yours, ask friends if you can borrow bathing suits or snowsuits instead of investing in something you’ll only wear a few times.

15. Less Is More with Nursery Decor
When it comes to decorating baby spaces, less is definitely more. Once your baby gets mobile, you risk that tiny terror knocking down the glass snow globe and drawing on the rug before you can stop them. A wipeable playmat, soft pillows to sit and lay on, and baskets to hold toys and stuffies may be all the decor you need until baby gets older.

16. Keep Nursery Style Timeless
It’s so tempting to choose a theme for your nursery and do it up big. But choosing fewer baby-specific colors and decor items means not having to buy new items in a few years. And the more you can DIY, the cheaper it will be. Try these 16 ways to DIY your nursery on a budget.

17. Babyproof on a Budget
Babyproofing gadgets and services can get really pricey. But there’s a lot you can DIY for cheap, using items you may already own. Consider these 14 DIY ways to make your home safer for baby.

18. Find Free Local Fun
Explore your area for free spots you and your child can visit, from parks and walking trails to your local library. A shady outdoor spot or the children’s section of your local library (if you’re comfortable being in indoor public spaces) gets you out of your home without an entrance fee.

19. Check Out Your Local Library (Virtually or in Person)
Whether in person or online, the library can be tons of fun for babies. Many libraries offer storytime and kids activities, so check the website or ask a librarian for a schedule of upcoming events. Borrowing baby books, instead of buying them, will also save you lots of money. Either go in person or find out if your library offers an online checkout system and curbside pickup.

photo: iStock

20. Go Minimalist with Baby Toys
Aside from a comforting lovie, sensory ball, mobile and stuffed animal, babies don’t need lots of storebought toys. They’re interested in colors, fabrics, textures and noises, so household objects and even your purse or diaper bag hold their attention as well as toys. And in fact, interacting with you can provide most of their entertainment. From singing to imitating each other’s sounds and expressions to blowing bubbles and playing peekaboo, there are lots of free, fun ways to entertain your baby and have quality bonding time. When you need a break from the action, give your baby some wooden spoons or plastic measuring cups from the kitchen and watch them have a ball all on their own. Here are 16 baby games you can play together.

21. Create Your Own Baby Classes
Instead of signing up for baby music classes and baby gyms, invite local moms to meet at a local park or another baby-friendly area. Bring small balls and noisemakers and have your own baby class. Decide as a group how socially distanced you’ll stay and how much babies can interact with one another. If you’re not sure what activities to try, YouTube is an amazing resource for free videos of baby gym class, baby music class, baby yoga and more.

22. Make Your Own Mom Workout Group Too
Stroller workout groups are a great way to prioritize exercise while spending time with your baby and fellow moms. But just as with the baby classes, ask friends or post on a local Facebook moms group to see who’s interested in meeting up weekly to take a stroller walk and then do a quick workout or stretching session. Again, YouTube is your best friend when it comes to high-quality free workouts at all skill levels.

23. Don’t Fall for Baby Marketing
No, you don’t need a special baby laundry detergent. Switch to a fragrance-free detergent, and you can wash the whole family’s clothes at the same time. The same goes for soap and body lotion. Switch to a gentle, fragrance-free brand like Vanicream for baby’s sensitive skin and you can both use the same products.

24. Call Your Pediatrician Before Scheduling a Visit
Every baby concern may not require a doctor’s appointment and the co-pay that goes along with it. Call the nurses’ line first to see if they can help without you coming into the office. Take photos of any rashes or bumps and take detailed notes about your concerns and your child’s symptoms (like what time you noticed the fever and how high it was) to make it easier for them to help you.

25. Skip the Jarred Baby Food
Do you need to buy expensive jars of baby food? Not necessarily. Consider baby-led weaning, in which babies six months and up gnaw on finger foods instead of purees. If you’re not comfortable with that, make your own baby food in bulk from leftovers or fruits and veggies you bought on sale, and store it in your freezer. Freeze the purees you make in ice cube containers. Once frozen, transfer them to plastic bags. Each will be a one-ounce serving you can thaw out and heat up when it’s mealtime.

—Eva Ingvarson Cerise

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