13 Money Saving Tips for Buying Baby Clothes and Gear on a Budget
Baby Items on a Budget
Babies never seem to arrive at convenient times, do they? But inexpensive, high-quality baby stuff is out there, and you don't have to break the bank getting the stuff your baby will need. These practical money-saving tips can help you get the baby gear you need when you are on a tight budget.
Figure out what your baby really needs
Ok, so this first one is pretty obvious, but it needs to be said. First-time parents are often bombarded with media messages and advertisements for overpriced baby products, especially at their obstetrician and pediatrician's offices! It can be a challenge to know just what is necessary for your baby, versus what is popular or trendy. Do you really need that video crib monitor or a light that projects stars onto the ceiling? If you are unsure what baby items are essential, it can be helpful to enlist the help of a friend or family member who has recently had a baby herself to identify the most-needed items for your area. Sit down with your friend and make a list of what you will need for your baby, then break down the list into three categories: Take home from the hospital, every day, and later. Factors affecting your list include will your breastfeed or bottle feed and what season will you need to buy for?
Bring your friend along with you when you register at a baby store for shower items. He or she can advise you away from items that will be less useful to you. If your budget is really tight, your trusted friend can help you pare down your list to the bare necessities, such as a car seat, a crib, some seasonally-appropriate sleepers for infants, blankets and feeding supplies.
Parents who need to purchase baby items for their second, third, or fourth children probably already have some things on hand, but they may need to replenish their supplies of certain things. After you have experienced life as a parent, you probably remember the things you really needed, and those that weren''t as useful to you. My recommendation to these parents is to inventory what you have, including its general condition. It's always helpful to make do with what you already have, but if you are on your third or even your seventh child, some items may be worn out and just need to be replaced.
Some things you probably don't need to buy
On a really tight budget? Examples of items you probably don't need for your newborn include wipes warmers, bottle warmers, baby video monitors (they are nice to have, but not necessary), keepsake baby books, and specialized baby carriers. If you are on an extremely tight budget and you don't anticipate help from friends and family, you can do without items like baby bouncers, diaper genies, and even a changing table, since you can always change the baby on a towel on the bed (though be sure to use a waterproof sheet under the towel to avoid ruining your bedding.)
Strategically buy a few quality items
Regardless of where your baby places in children's birth order, you can use one question to help you decide how much to spend on your baby stuff. Are you planning to have more children? If the answer is yes, then you may want to purchase a few items that will last through the family-planning stages of your life. If possible, I recommend you purchase a durable new baby crib and new car seat, if possible. Most people use their baby cribs for two or three years per child, unless they need to move an older child into a toddler bed to make room for another baby. The inexpensive second-hand crib I bought was affordable but it wasn't well-made and started to fall apart when I was using it for my third child.
You won't need it right away, but once baby is in her own room, look for a large, sturdy, well-made dresser. These can be hard to find, but some second-hand dressers are more well made than comparably priced new ones. Children can share dressers when they are small, since their clothes do not take up much space. If you buy a large enough dresser, you can designate a few drawers to diapers, wipes, and burp cloths and avoid the need to buy a changing table.
If you plan to have more than two children, try to invest in a high-quality crib. If you plan to nurse, some people feel a hospital-grade breast pump is a must-have baby item.
Gender-neutral items can save money now and later
Some people adore dressing their girls in pink, but don't worry, this money-saving tip is strategic! If you are going with a long-term money-saving strategy, make sure your big-ticket baby items and selected clothing and bedding items are in gender neutral colors that you could use for future children. A cute unisex nursery theme can be targeted to your baby's sex with one or two masculine or feminine touches.
To save money in the nursery and on toddler beds, avoid buying "themey" girls-only or boys-only versions of cribs, toddler beds, car seats, carriers, etc.
You can take the gender-neutral strategy to the next level if you are a first-time parent who is going to have a large baby shower. Ask your guests to purchase onesies, sleepers, pajamas, and crib sheets or any baby gear that might be saved for a future child in gender neutral solid colors. You will get much use out of these, can launder clothing repeatedly, and reuse what you have while focusing on a few special outfits for child number two or three or eight.
Nowadays you can find adorable unisex clothing at Target and other retailers that sell children's clothes.
Lighter-colored gender-neutral white clothing items have the additional advantage of being able to be bleached occasionally, which may be necessary especially if you are formula-feeding your baby. Items with formula stains don't store well at all, and tend to develop smells, so this is a plus. By getting underthings and sleepers that are gender neutral, if you have another child that is a different sex than your first, you can focus on buying some cute new outfits when the time comes, but you will still be able to reuse what you had the first time.
Do double duty
My favorite new baby item that has came on the market after my daughter was born thirteen years ago is a clever portable baby crib that comes with a bassinet insert, a baby diaper storage area, and a built-in changing table. I was fortunate enough to find a basic model of one of these multi-use portable cribs that I plan to use during the first few months of my fourth child's life as a co-sleeper next to my bed. I won't need to purchase a bassinet or even a crib for a few months, and I can take this with me anywhere, which is good in my case, because my family is moving cross-country with our other three children and a newborn shortly after the birth. I will be able to take the portable crib in our minivan and set it up in our temporary living quarters while we wait for our other stuff to arrive.
Car seats that start as an infant seat and transition to a front-facing toddler car seat may cost more initially, but they won't have to be replaced after the baby grows out of his baby carrier car seat.
Cribs that convert into toddler beds and then into bed frames are a good purchase. You'll be using these for a long time.
Buy travel-sized items for everyday use
For most people storage space is at a premium when you are raising a family. A large part of the reason people get rid of their baby items too quickly is that they are too big and bulky to store. One way to avoid this problem, and sometimes save money on the cost of baby items at the same time, is to keep away from large "deluxe" versions of items, and to purchase travel-sized versions instead. A high chair isn't something you will need for the first 4-5 months of your baby's life, but when you do get one, consider how much easier it will be for you if you get one that you can toss in the car and take with you to grandma's house.
Remember babies grow quickly
During the first three months of life babies are usually in three sizes of clothes. These include newborn (unless your child is a big healthy baby and is over 8 pounds at birth, then you may find yourself skipping the newborn size altogether). 0-3 month size, and 3-6 month. During the first month to six weeks of life, your baby may sleep as much as 18 hours a day, and your doctor will probably advise you to keep your baby at home during flu season as much as possible. All this adds up to the simple fact that you don't need very many outfits in smaller sizes. If you are a new or first-time parent, onesies, sleepers, and rompers will get you through most of your first month or so. Ask friends who want to buy you cute outfits to buy in a 3-6 month sizes and up, keeping in mind what will be seasonally appropriate.
Online swap sites are a goldmine for high-quality baby items
In my four-season climate, yard sales just aren't common during the winter months. But Facebook swap groups are wildly popular. This is a great resource for parents on a budget. Look for swap sites that are specialized to children and families. People often resale the unworn items from their baby showers, and toys and clothing are especially abundant on these sites.
Search yard sales and consignment shops first
You can buy your baby gear second-hand at a considerable savings over the price of new items. In fact, most baby items depreciate more than a used car when you "drive them off the lot." Many baby items that originally cost $10 or more a piece will sell for 50 cents to a dollar an item at a yard sale. Check items at yard sales for their condition, and check clothing for stains, tears, and smoke smells.
At consignment stores and used children's clothing stores, clothing may cost more than at yard sales, but they can still be a big savings for you, because they have to be in good or excellent condition to be consigned at these stores. You can get especially good savings at consignment stores when purchase items out of season like clothing, furniture, and coats, or at end of season sales. By mindful of the seasons your child will be wearing their clothes. It may be helpful to make a calendar chart and try to project sizes so you can anticipate needs.
Stock up during seasonal clearance sales
You can find some excellent bargains on new baby clothing at stores like Kohl's, Carter's, Children's Place, and even Gymborree at the end of each season. Stores may still have clothes from the previous season and need to get rid of their inventory. I have seen clothes marked down as low as 50-90% at certain stores. At 70-90% off, clothing prices at department stores may rival those at consignment and used clothing stores. Even used clothing stores have clearance sales, so look there, too.
Be sure to check your local paper and get on any stores' mailing lists that offer coupons. One store sends me a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $20 every month or so. I can save 50% on items that are already on clearance this way. Another store will send a 20% off coupon to be used on the next purchase. Using your 20% off coupon on clearance items is a way to get nice new baby clothing for thrift store prices.
Remember, Babies Grow Quickly
Buying in bulk is not just for groceries
Buy used items sold as "lots" from sites like Craigslist, Ebay, and other similar sites. Craigslist has a Kids' and Babies section where you can often buy as many as 100 articles of clothing for $40 or $50. Similarly, you can purchase items grouped in lots on eBay at auction or a "buy it now" price.
I used this principle to purchase over 100 items for my newborn son. He was a surprise and I had given away all of his brother's clothes a few years earlier. It was a hot day in Phoenix, Arizona in August and she was ready to quit. The owner of the clothing was eager to empty out her garage and offered her items priced per box. Twenty-five dollars later I was completely outfitted for baby number four with about 15 onesies in each of three different sizes, outfits, hats, mittens, and booties--even two jackets.
Some people like to buy baby clothes grouped in lots, go through the items, keep what they want, then sell the rest back to secondhand stores or give away to charities. I was so happy with my recent purchase that I am planning to purchase more items in lots for my other children as well, who are still very young and growing quickly.
Swap with a friend or relative
My husband has seven brothers and sisters, all grown and married and rearing families of children in different ages and stages. Some families are well out of the baby stage, but others are just getting started. We often bring items our children have outgrown to family get-togethers for people to pick through, or give larger things to Grandma to distribute when she goes visiting in her car. Swapping is an excellent way to stretch the use of outgrown toys and books, too.
Some churches have a "give and take" table. The idea is to bring children's and baby clothes and shoes in good condition to donate to the table. If you make a donation, you can take approximately the number of items in similar condition in sizes that fit your children. This idea works well in large churches where many families can participate. Our church has done this in several areas where I have lived, and it is a popular way to help families help themselves. It just requires an organized and committed volunteer.
Use Freecycle or other online barter sites
Freecycle is the online equivalent of a give and take table. This online site uses an honors system but excpects that everyone who participates give at least one donation. You post what you need and what you have to exchange. Freecycle is an excellent way to reach a broad base of people who may need your unwanted items and to keep things out of the landfill.
Make it yourself
Some baby items can be made inexpensively from items on hand. A flat or fitted sheet set can be sewn into three or four crib-sized or bassinet-sized sheets with rudimentary sewing skills. Warm fitted flannel sheets can be made very inexpensively when combining coupons and sales at fabric stores.
You can find free layette patterns online from a number of sites like Craftsy and AllFreeSewing.com. An especially popular but expensive baby product it the snuggle-style receiving blankets that wrap your baby like a burrito. These can be sewn much cheaper with higher quality fabrics bought on sale.
If you don't sew, friends and relatives who enjoy knitting, crochet, or quilting can make booties, hats, bibs, crib-quilts, and receiving blankets (remember some in neutral colors). These can be as ornate or simple as you like, and often have the added advantage of becoming heirlooms!
Cost of Onesies
Onesies are thin baby undershirts or bodysuits that fit like a t-shirt and snap at the bottom. They are an indespensible baby item for hot or cold climates, either worn alone or layered under under other warm clothes. They are typically sold new in packs of 4 or 5. Here is a breakdown of costs I have recently seen.
Price Comparison For Onesies
Number of Onesies
Will you buy second hand items for your baby?
Buying second hand is a great money-saving strategy for buying cheap baby stuff. Is it part of your strategy?
© 2010 Carolyn Augustine