But human babies have survived for millennia before industrialisation brought us every conceivable appliances for a life with kids. And it is still possible to raise healthy, happy babies without leaving your credit card and bank account with post-traumatic stress.
Downsizing and minimizing your shopping list also helps you stay organised. The more redundant things you buy, the more clutter, cleaning and maintenance will follow! Here are our best tips for raising baby on a budget.
Finding good second-hand alternatives: clothes, equipment, and toys for your baby
Finding good second-hand things for your baby not only saves you money, it can help others as well.
- If you have friends or family members whose babies have outgrown any (or all) of the things on your wish list, ask them if you can borrow, rent or buy anything from them. Most parents will happily jump at the chance to clear out and make room for the things their growing kids no longer need. Win-win!
- Look for great second-hand items, clothes and deals at stores near you or online. Proceeds from second-hand stores often go to charity work that helps people in need either locally or around the world. Another win-win!
- Check your social media platforms for swap meets or sharing communities – or start one yourself. You can also resell or trade your gear and help someone else this way, once your baby outgrows their gear.
What makes sense to buy second-hand, and what to look for
In theory, you can get almost everything you need for your baby’s first couple of years second-hand. You can still treat yourself and baby to new swag, of course! Just choose what you want to prioritise buying new, whether it’s shoes, linens, furniture, or something different, and have fun with your second-hand shopping:
- Clothes. Your baby will grow out of their outfits very quickly over the first couple of years. Which means any second-hand clothes you borrow or buy will only have been used very few times and still be in great condition. Your baby won’t care what they look like, as long as the clothes are soft and comfortable. Natural fibres like cotton or wool lets the skin breathe, and loose or adjustable waistbands let your baby wriggle around freely.
- Changing table, crib or other baby furniture. Not something families typically choose to keep once their kids are out of diapers, so you can luck out and find these in great condition, too. It’s easy to freshen up with a sand-down and a fresh coat of paint if you’re up for it. But we recommend that you buy a new mattress for the crib.
- Baby alarm. These can be quite pricy from new, and you can save a bunch if you can buy them second-hand. If you plan to use them outdoors, make sure they’re designed to withstand shifts in temperature. If you don’t recognise the brand name, search for descriptions and specifications online.
- Baby toys. Ah. It’s tempting to put every educational toy, game, and book in the basket to make sure baby gets the best start in life! Plus, everything is just so cute! But friends and family (we’re looking at you, grandparents) can quickly fill baby’s room to the brim with plush toys, toy cars, dolls, and anything else under the sun. Which is really sweet of them, of course. For the first couple of years, however, less can be so much more. Your baby’s motor skills, focus, and attention span are not developed to relate to or cope with a room full of toys with advanced functions. You can easily stick to just a few classic, age appropriate basics, like baby books, a few brightly-coloured soft toys, toy animals, vehicles, stacking blocks, and things they can practice grabbing (and chewing on). When you buy second-hand toys, look for brands you trust, and items that can be easily washed with a mild detergent, frozen, disinfected or otherwise sterilised when needed. Remember, to your baby, everything in the world is a potential toy to be explored. Everyday household items can be just as entertaining as expensive toys. Just ask any kid with a wooden spoon and a plate, or a cardboard box in their hands. Hey, for some babies, the laundry label on their teddy bear may become their favourite chew toy.
- Pram, stroller, and baby carrier. Also expensive items on the budget, if you buy them new. As long as your second-hand transportation gear is still intact, clean, and in working condition, your baby will be just as happy in a used model.
Free fun and activities with your baby
Yes, your baby’s development benefits from stimulating activities, but in general, your baby is not in any immediate danger of feeling bored or neglected, as long as their physical and emotional needs are met. When it comes to socialising or participating in activities, or going on vacation, your baby is really very easy to please the first few years. You don’t need to take them to big amusement parks or exotic locations to expand their horizon. (They won’t remember anything, anyway!)
Interacting with other kids, grown-ups, and maybe pets and other animals in your everyday environment is an exciting, stimulating learning experience for them. Take time to dwell in one place or situation – whether it’s your baby and your pet playing, you’re watching a puppet play together at the library, watching flowers and grass move in the wind in your garden, or meeting and playing with others outside or at a friend’s house. Imagine what the world looks like through your baby’s eyes, watch how your baby reacts, what triggers their curiosity, draws their attention, what makes them laugh – and allow them to explore it. It’s enough to let your child discover and develop their social skills, motor skills, language skills, and creativity.
Making your own baby food
If you have time, energy, and room in your freezer, you can make your own baby food when your baby is ready to transition to soft and solid foods. Making bigger bulks of food and conserving them in portion-sized bags or containers may seem like a lot of work. But the soft food phase will most likely only last a few months before your baby can start eating small bites of whatever you are eating. You can prepare a lot of portions if you have a couple of hours every couple of weeks.
Trimming your budget
Go over your current budget or ask your bank advisor to help you get an overview of your expenses to identify exactly where your money goes now. Is there anything you can cut down on? It may hurt a little to say goodbye to some of your favourite treats and vices right now, but once baby is born, we promise, it won’t feel like a big sacrifice.
Some posts to consider:
- Streaming services/TV packages – Can you cancel or downsize?
- Magazine or newspaper subscriptions – Decide what you want to prioritise.
- Mobile plans – Can you get a better deal or family plan with another carrier?
- Dining out – Maybe you can cut back a little without your relationship suffering?
- Vacations – Decide how much you can/want to spend on your vacations – and find a destination within your budget range.
- Car payments/mortgages/other loans – Can you renegotiate your loans and save money?
- Insurance policies – NEVER cancel your insurance policies, of course. On the contrary – let your provider know of your upcoming family expansion so they can add baby to your policy and adjust coverage when the time comes. Get estimates and offers from alternative carriers – you may be able to save on your premium without compromising coverage.
- Candy/non-essentials – You know, the stuff supermarkets keep on shelves by the check-out line… Become aware of what you put in your shopping cart at a moment’s notice.
- Grocery shopping – Experiment with different discount stores and generic labels as alternatives to brand names – you may discover new favourites!
- Clothes – The whole family can get a long way by buying classic items that supplement what you already have and last more than one season.
The more options you explore, the more creative ways you can find to add a little extra buffer to your baby budget. Share your best tips on our Facebook page or Instagram!