- Family and Parenting
Having a Baby Whilst Not Breaking the Bank!
When I was expecting my first child I had started trying to live a simpler life. I started thinking hard about what I'd actually need for the baby and how I could get it without spending ridiculous amounts of money.
I'm not a fan of spending lots of money, especially not on things that are only going to be used for a few months or a couple of years at most.
I love trawling charity shops and online auctions for gently used items or working out what I can make for myself - for example I tried learning how to make my own cloth diapers.
On this page I look at:
What I made myself out of things I already owned,
Making reusuable items rather than buying disposables,
What can be bought cheaply secondhand.
I want my life style to be as uncluttered, frugal and eco friendly as possible. I've had some successes and I've made some mistakes and I've documented them below.
Please bear in mind, I live in the UK so everything is more expensive anyway.
Buying Secondhand Baby Clothes
I went through my local charity shops and found all the decent second-hand baby clothes that I could get my hands on.
I made sure that I got a good range of sizes - I avoided the newborn size because I used cloth diapers which add a lot more bulk to your baby. I also figured that I don't want to have to rush out to the shops and get bigger sizes the moment my baby grows out of the smaller sizes.
The problem I've noticed with the larger sizes is that they become a lot more gender-specific which is annoying if you don't know if you're having a boy or a girl.
One thing I would watch out for is that clothes can shrink or stretch so they're often not the size you think they are. I often ignored the sizes and put my baby in whatever would fit.
There were a few things which I never used either because they were too small or they were wrong for the temperature at that time of year. There were also things I just didn't like - like denim which didn't seem comfortable. Dungarees are also a pain when you have to regularly change cloth diapers.
I still buy second-hand kids clothes on eBay - I prefer it in some ways because you can buy bundles of clothing for quite cheap and that way you don't have to search out lots of different items - you pretty much get what you need in one package.
- Used clothes may have shrunk in the wash or they might have stretched from wear. Find out the standard sizes for baby clothes and take a tape measure with you.
- What time of year is your baby due? Make a rough calculation of what season it will be as your child grows.
- Are you using cloth diapers? Take that extra bulk into account.
- Think about how many poppers and fastenings you actually want to deal with when changing your baby.
- Can the clothes be tumble-dried - this is important to think about if you live in a cold damp climate.
- Buying bundles of used clothes saves time, effort and money.
Thrifty Baby ClothesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Making Baby Clothes
I planned to make a lot of baby clothes seeing as I had quite a big stash of fabric and yarn. I was hoping to de-clutter my craft supplies, entertain myself and save some money at the same time.
There are just so many cute free knitting patterns available.
Of course, if you don't already have the materials then it'll probably cost you a whole lot more to make baby clothes rather than buy them.
I made a few things, but not a lot, as I received so many clothes (probably enough for twins!) and I also had problems with my hands towards the end of my pregnancy.
I'm now thinking of using my fabrics to make patchwork curtains and a quilt for my child's bedroom.
By the way - the jacket shown here never got finished but the yarn is being used in another project so it wasn't wasted.
- If you’re already pregnant don’t push yourself too hard into making too many things.
- Your child not going to be wearing the clothes for very long so don’t worry about making things look spectacular.
- Focus on making special outfits and things that you don’t think you’ll receive as a gift.
Freecycle can be pretty awesome for picking up some much-needed baby stuff - you just need to be quick off the mark.
My first experience with Freecycle has been pretty awesome. I was too late for an offer but the lady contacted me after another de-cluttering session. She had a huge bag of baby clothes for me to pick up (all older sizes which is great as I was overwhelmed with newborn sizes), 2 stair-gates, nappy wraps, cot blankets, a Moses basket stand, a changing mat and even some little shoes.
- Even if you think you're too late, try contacting the person anyway as they may have more stuff at a later date.
- Just because it's free doesn't mean it's unusable. People get rid of some pretty cool stuff because they can't be bothered with the effort of selling it.
- Try Freecycle first before you buy or make anything. Free is the best price when you're on a tight budget!
Of course friends and family will want to buy stuff for the new baby too which is lovely.
Often it pays to wait and see what other people are going to buy before you get anything - that's why I've ended up with a load of newborn clothes. I had no idea how generous everyone would be.
Luckily most people know my preference for using up what's already out there and I've received some awesome charity shop buys.
If you live in a close community people may even offer you stuff. We had a looks-new baby bath given to us by our landlady's brother.
- People are most likely to buy you newborn outfits so concentrate on finding and buying 3-6 months, 6-9 months etc
- Wait and see what people give you before spending money.
- Put the word out that you're looking for baby stuff - who knows what people have lurking in their houses.
- Siblings and close friends might have complete sets of baby stuff to hand down to you.
- Work out what you need as some friends and family might want you to set up a wishlist.
Rita's Rump Pocket
Rita's Rump Pocket has been my favorite cloth diaper pattern so far.
Opposite: One of my cloth diapers.
I had 3 meters of fabric which cost £6.90 and some elastic which cost around £2. I made 5 Rita's Rump Pockets, 1other type of cloth diaper and 2 prefolds from that.
Cheaper cloth diapers usually cost around the £5 mark each in the UK at the time of publishing this article.
I knit a couple of baby blankets - one which has been used a lot. I also received loads of blankets as gifts but I haven't used them all. You might find you need lots of blankets however. Mainly I just used them when my baby was in his pram - I never used them in the cot because he just kicked them off. Those baby sleeping bags seemed to work so much better in cold weather and in warm weather he preferred to go without.
I also bought a couple of those swaddling blankets too - they never worked for us but as I'd bought them secondhand on eBay I didn't lose too much money.
Opposite you can see the Baby Tree of Life Throw - this was the first thing I made after finding out I was pregnant.
- You might not need everything you think you need - ask around and find out what other people needed.
- If you're not sure acquire a couple of blankets first before you go mad buying and making them (this goes for everything else too).
- Buy secondhand so that you don't waste too much money.
Cots, Baskets etc
You can often find secondhand cots in charity shops, thrift stores, and places like Freecycle.
I've heard that you should get new bedding for your baby (rather than reuse mattresses) so that's something worth checking.
The Moses Basket below was actually my basket from when I was a baby.
I got it down from the attic and gave it a very hot bath. The wicker work had been squished out of shape. As soon as I put the basket into hot water it was easy to push back into shape. I gave it a good scrubbing and then set it aside to dry.
I lined the inside to protect my child from the wickerwork and had a new mattress made. I found the mattress supplier through eBay and the cost was very reasonable.
The basket only lasted about 3 months as I had a big baby. This is something to keep in mind as I was way too tired to search for a second-hand cot at that point - I ended up buying a new cot bed in desperation.
- Check out safety guidelines with regards to bedding and cots. Some cots are now considered dangerous.
- You will probably find second-hand cots on Freecycle quite often.
- Friends and relatives might be quite willing to give you their old cots etc.
- Plan ahead if you want to find something cheap or free. Once your baby is here you might be too exhausted to do any bargain hunting.
Once you've got a place for the baby to sleep you may want to protect the mattress and sheets.
I really hate the idea of those plastic sheets - apparently they can be really uncomfortable and I've heard some mothers say that they're made their baby too hot.
I read that some moms use felted sweaters as mattress pads - wool is pretty awesome for protecting against spills. I had some raw wool so I decided to layer it all up and felt it to see if I could make a mattress pad - unfortunately it came out of the washing machine really stiff and bobbly.
In the end I discovered that I didn't need to protect the mattress at all. We never had any problems even with cloth diapers. I did buy some washable absorbent pads for the bed but so far I haven't needed them.
- This is another example of how you might not need everything you think you need.
- If there are things that you're not sure about then look at the cheap or free alternatives.
Nursing pads are another disposable item that you can replace with a reusable version to save money.
I made the simple pads (shown opposite) by cutting 5 inch circles out of cloth left over from the diapers I made. I layered 2 layers of toweling between 2 pieces of winceyette or t-shirt fabric.
If you need a more fitted nursing pad then try this tutorial.
You may not need these either. I didn't - but they do make awesome cloths for washing up. I'd also recommend these for removing make up and cleansing your face rather than buying disposable cotton pads.
- It's good to be prepared but make the minimum in case you don't need it.
- Find alternative uses for the things you don't need - they could still save you money.
We did buy a new car seat. If I had known someone personally who had a relatively newish one to spare I gladly would have borrowed or bought it from them but I didn't want to buy a seat second-hand not knowing whether it had been in an accident or not.
Other than that, I bought a second hand Babybjorn Spirit baby carrier from eBay.
I really didn't want a pram - I had visions of me carrying my little one close everywhere but I couldn't manage that in the early weeks. I also found this carrier a little uncomfortable and ended up buying a more expensive one - oh well, at least I'd saved money in other areas.
I'd read endless articles where mothers say they used their strollers maybe once and that was to carry shopping rather than the baby. It seemed like a huge amount of money to put down for something that might not get used. I don't go out shopping a whole lot - my husband does the grocery shopping on his way home from work so I really couldn't see that a stroller or pram would be that useful and I didn't want the clutter in my home.
We ended up getting a cheap pushchair and that's worked well for us - as I don't go into town a lot the cheaper model has seen us through well enough. Of course now I wish we'd picked up a second-hand pushchair somewhere but you live and learn.
- If you can find the bigger items in a good condition for free or cheap then get them whilst you are still getting sleep.
- Safety first - older car seats might not function properly. Older pushchairs might have safety issues.
Frugal Baby Links
- Low-Impact Child Rearing
A blogpost about a simple, vegan family with a new baby. Check out the awesome sleepers her mother-in-law made from some old t-shirts.
- Walking the parent consumerism line: how much is too much?
An Offbeat Mama article about buying stuff for babies.
- Copy 'n' paste phrases for when you don't need more baby crap
An Offbeat Mama article featuring helpful phrases to explain to loved ones why you don't need more baby stuff.
- How do I deal with family members who want to get my kids tons of STUFF?
Another Offbeat Mama article about how to deal with stopping the influx of kid stuff into your home.
- Frugal Baby Tips
A whole blog devoted to frugal baby tips including info on washing diapers, baby wipes, baby clothes etc.
- The Frugal Baby
Because having a baby doesn't have to break the bank!
- Born to Love
Frugal Baby Tips - Index Page
- Frugal Baby - Fun Nursery Ideas
A list of frugal ideas for decorating your baby's nursery.