How do you prepare for a baby when you’re on a strict budget? If you’re a soon-to-be new parent, nothing is more overwhelming than venturing into a “baby stuff” superstore. Babies seem to need more stuff than ever before, and most of it comes at a high price tag. I recall wandering into a store to make a registry and being handed a “registry checklist” of all the things I needed to buy before baby got here. There was an absurd amount of stuff on the list, and most of the items were things I’d never even heard of.
Newsflash: you don’t have to buy everything the baby store puts on their new baby “checklist.” Shocking, I know, but baby product manufacturers will recommend a lot more products than you actually need. If you bought everything on that list, you’d probably end up with enough for approximately 5 children. So how do you sort through the “needs” and the “wants” of babyhood? Here are some things you don’t need, as well as some budget alternatives.
Don’t buy a wipes warmer. These contraptions are designed to keep your baby’s butt from getting cold. What happens when baby’s butt gets cold, you ask? If you have a sensitive baby, maybe they’ll get a little mad. Most babies on the other hand, could care less. Instead, use a warm washcloth. If your baby actually cares, just wet a warm washcloth in the sink. Problem solved.
Don’t buy a crib set. Before I even found out my son’s gender, I was online looking at pink leopard-print crib sets. And boy are they PRICEY! Typically, crib sets will run you upwards of $100, and will include sheets, a comforter, a bumper, a few pillows, a mobile, a dust ruffle, and maybe some curtains. I was on track to buy a cutesy crib set until I was reading up on baby safety and realized that bumper pads, while cute, are considered unsafe and a suffocation risk, as are quilts, pillows, and loose blankets. Instead, buy single fitted sheets. All you need for a newborn’s crib is a few sets of fitted sheets, some waterproof mattress pads, and maybe a dust ruffle for looks. You can get curtains separately as well. The rest is unsafe for a baby, so don’t waste your money. If you’re preparing for a baby, take care to avoid baby products hat are unsafe, and do your homework!
Don’t buy a bassinette. I wanted a bassinette so badly before my son was born. As a gift, we received a beautiful bassinette complete with an electric mobile and remote control. It was nice to have him in the room with us, but it didn’t last very long since the weight limit on the bassinette was so low. Instead, buy a pack and play. If you must have some sort of sleeping contraption other than the crib, consider a pack and play, since they’re so versatile. They’re great for travel, as well as keeping an active baby contained while you’re busy. We bought a pack-and-play and use it for overnight travel, as well as a playpen during the day. (We turned ours into a ball pit!) If you’re on a budget, and preparing for a baby, this is the most penny-wise option. Bear in mind that although not all pediatricians would recommend it, co-sleeping is also an option. I ended up allowing Keenan to become a co-sleeper out of pure exhaustion. If you’re going to co-sleep, please be sure to follow safe co-sleeping guidelines.
Don’t buy a highchair. Babies don’t need highchairs until at least 6 months of age. High chairs are expensive, and can take up valuable space if your square footage is limited. Instead, buy a portable booster seat. After purchasing a portable booster, I realized we could have just used it from the very beginning. Ours is similar to this one, and straps into a regular chair. It can be used as a high chair, or the back and tray can be removed to convert it into a booster seat. It’s also great for travel and meals out with friends. When you’re preparing for a baby, it’s important to look for the most economical option, instead of just the most obvious one. Most people buy highchairs, but in my opinion, the booster will get you a lot further.
Don’t buy tons of newborn clothes. Babies grow at the speed of light. Okay, maybe not that fast, but you don’t want all those clothes to go to waste. If you get tons of 0-3 or 3-6 month outfits at your shower, exchange them. They’ll be out of those tiny duds in no time. Instead, buy bigger sizes. Baby will wear them longer. On the other hand, be careful of buying seasonal items too far in advance. That 3T winter coat you buy in July won’t do much good if your child is already wearing 6T by December.
Don’t buy a changing table. It’s tempting, but it’s just another expense, and it takes up space. Instead, buy a changing pad. You can pick up a changing pad for a few bucks at any baby store. Put it on top of a low dresser or desk, or even on the floor. This is also more convenient than having to walk to your child’s room every time your baby has a dirty diaper.
Don’t buy a diaper pail. I was told the diaper pail was an absolute necessity, but in hindsight, I could definitely live without it. The bag refills are SO expensive. A set of three refills usually sets me back about $18. Also, it definitely doesn’t block odors, which is the whole reason I bought it. Instead, buy a lidded garbage can. And if the stink bugs you, buy an air freshener. Keep in mind that when you’re preparing for a baby, people are going to give you tons of advice, but it’s important to do your own research and reach your own judgments.
I can think of so many items that I could’ve done without. Here are some other items I wish I didn’t buy.
Shopping Cart Liner: Germs are good for building baby’s immune system. It did come in handy when Keenan was just learning to sit on his own, but I haven’t used it in months. Plus, this thing is a major pain to haul around when you’re also holding a screaming infant.
Hooded Baby Towels and Washcloths: Sure they’re a little softer. But necessary? Not a chance.
Baby Bathtub: I find it easier to take Keenan in the shower with me. And sinks are another easy option.
Infant Toys: Babies really don’t care about toys until they’re about 4-6 months old. Someone bought us an expensive baby gym, but our cat enjoyed it more than Keenan did.
Some of you might look at this list and see some items that you couldn’t have lived without. Every parent has different wants and needs. It’s probably smart to wait until after baby is born to buy a lot of the major baby gear, so you have a better understanding of what your baby likes, and what you will use. If you’re an expectant parent, good luck and happy shopping!