In Part One, I introduced a few ideas on how to reduce the cost of a birthing experience.  Now I’d like to share what I know about how to actually afford to bring the baby home.

The main way to save money in this area is to change your frame of mind when it comes to what you “need” for your baby.  Even if you expect family to throw enough baby showers to provide for your wants, it’s wise to register for the things you really need, so you don’t have to buy them later.

It is very tempting to walk into Babies R Us, grab the registry folder, and absolutely, beyond-a-doubt believe that you need everything listed.  But, three and a half years after my first was born, and 20 months after my second, I have a different way of seeing that list.  It involves a thick black marker.  And lots of crossing-out.

Babies R Us and Pottery Barn would like you to believe you must have a completely furnished nursery with matching crib/glider/changing table/dresser.  Stuffed animals in the corner.  Decorative quilt and valance declaring your baby’s gender.  Um, yeah.  My babies didn’t even sleep in their own room until they were over a year old.

So here’s a list of baby furniture that I deem “necessary”.

  • A Pack n’ Play.  So many things rolled into one.  A changing table, a bassinet, a crib, a place to let baby play with safe toys in an otherwise unsafe area.  And you can put it in your trunk and bring it to Grandma’s.  If you want the absolute cheapest way to do it, I’d say to get a Pack ‘n Play and forget the crib/bassinet/changing table completely.  Perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing, but sometimes, when you’re strapped for cash, aesthetics are the first to go.
  • A dresser.  Consult along with relatives who may be itching for a change of bedroom scenery.
  • If you plan to co-sleep, I’d recommend a railing for the side of the bed where Mommy will be sleeping.
  • Cribs are nice.  I don’t want to downplay the crib.  The railing that slides down makes it much easier to put baby down.  The different settings for the height of the mattress are also extremely convenient and something that a Pack ‘n Play can’t provide.  Not absolutely necessary, of course, but odds are, you have a relative who either really, really wants to get you this or has one already and wants to hand it off to you.

Some people may say they can’t live without their glider.  We can.  We got one – the cheapest one available – and after a couple years, it needed regular appointments with the WD-40 to keep it from waking the dead.  We avoid it like the plague now, as it is completely counter-productive.  I’m wishing we would have gotten a rocker instead, but now that we’ve lived without the glider for the past year or so, I really don’t feel the drive to go out and replace it.

So really, that’s it for baby furniture.  Yes, there are swings and bouncers and lots of fun things some mommies say they wouldn’t have been able to survive without.  Neither one of my babies liked the swing.  Or the bouncer (for longer than five minutes).  If I had to do that over again, I would have registered for something more worthwhile.  Like toddler clothes.

But, to replace the swing and bouncer, I DO highly recommend that a new mommy get a sling of some sort (my favorite is the Maya Wrap).  It’s not technically furniture, but it holds the same function as the swing and bouncer, works soooo much more effectively, and doesn’t take up any of your living room.

One more thing about furniture and decorations, do try to override the desire to paint everything pink, or to plaster pretty blue sailboats all over everything.  I was so mad at my husband for putting his foot down and refusing to let me buy that beautiful pink comforter/crib set.  Less than two years later, when our little boy arrived, I was so grateful he had the common sense I had lacked!  Gender neutral saves money.

Now, onto baby clothes:

Onesies.  They’re a staple.  They’re cheap.  They clothe your baby day and night.  Register for these.  Shop garage sales for these.  Locate the nearest second hand children’s store for these.

Which reminds me.  LOCATE THE NEAREST SECOND HAND CHILDREN’S STORE.  Babies do not wear through their clothes.  They may stain them, but second hand stores generally don’t accept those articles.  The difference between buying them new and buying them second hand is virtually nothing but the price.  In fact, I’ve been able to buy several things NEW WITH TAGS at a second hand store and I thoroughly enjoy seeing the price someone ELSE paid for it, and comparing it to the price I paid.

Oh, and also, I have had extreme blessings in the clothing area, because I have some very generous family who saved buckets of pretty pink girl clothes in organized rubbermaid containers.  Every year, I receive one such container.  I have hardly had to buy anything for Olivia except socks and underwear.  Never turn down a hand-me-down.

I also request clothes at holidays and birthdays for my children, along with select toys.  Of course, they’re still going to receive toys.  But you’ll be able to stock up on enough clothes that you won’t need to buy many at all.

But when you do need to shop, shop the end-of-season sales for the next year.  After shopping this way for awhile, you won’t be able to fathom spending $10 or even $5 on a shirt.  Not when your closet is filled with $0.97 steals.

You really don’t need very many “fancy” outfits for your baby, unless you plan on taking her out every-single-day.  I would guess that my children have perhaps 4 “nice” seasonally appropriate outfits.  Other than that, it’s plain t-shirts (short and long-sleeve), which are cheap enough; and jeans, which can be re-worn often enough that the price makes them worth it.  Oh, and a long-sleeve white t-shirt can nicely extend the seasonal appropriateness of a nice short sleeve shirt.  This actually brings the total of Benjamin’s “nice” outfits up to probably around eight.

Friends and family will want to buy you the tiniest baby clothes available.  You will receive more 0-3 month clothes than any other age, I guarantee it.  Tiny baby clothes are CUTE.  However, in order to balance our your closet and keep you needs in check, you may want to speak to the person planning your shower to see if perhaps they could suggest different sizes.  You’ll most likely have more than one shower.  Perhaps one shower can be for baby clothes, and the next for toddlers.  And there’s always gift receipts.  Pick out your favorite 0-3 month outfits, hang them up, then take the rest back to the store and shop for larger sizes.

And now… the bane of every penny-pinching mommy’s existence… DIAPERS.

If you REALLY want to save money in this area, then you need to buy cloth diapers.  If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, it won’t come as a shock to you that, yes, people do still use cloth diapers.  If you haven’t, well, I should have prepared you, I suppose.  But really.  Did you not see my banner?  🙂

I’ve written a couple in-depth posts about cloth diapers, including the basic how-to’s of folding prefolds and washing instructions and the different kind of conveneince (pocket) diapers that I’ve used and prefer.  Here is one study on the cost of using disposables, where the price ranges from $1862 to $2358 for a 3 1/2 year span, per child.  If you buy a 24-pack of the #1 best selling cloth diaper, your bill will only be $430.  And they are one-size diaper that will fit your baby from birth through potty training.  And there are other one-size diapers out there that have snaps instead of velcro, which, in my theory, will last better for multiple children, making your savings even greater.

And if $430 is a lot to put up in one shopping spree, start out slow with prefolds, which are only $1.50 per diaper, and a handful of covers at $10 each.  You’ll need to buy more when your baby hits 15 and 30 pounds, and babysitters may not be as willing to work with them, but you’ll still be saving enough money that you could afford a pack of Pampers for those occasions.

And if you’re going to be throwing the diaper in the wash, it just makes more sense that you be able to throw the wipe in there, too.  I used to use cloth diapers with disposable wipes and more than I care to admit ended up going through the wash.  After picking the lint from the wipe off the velcro on the diapers entirely too many times, we switched to cloth wipes and have been saving money every since.  Oh, right, and the cloth wipes helped clear up a rash on my baby’s sensitive skin.  Can’t forget that minor detail.

Another way to save thousands of dollars is to nurse your baby.  I’ve never actually bought a can of formula.  But rumor has it, it’s more expensive than breast milk.  Nursing can be difficult at first, so definitely seek professional help, both beforehand to prepare yourself and at the first sign of anxiety – and I’m talking lactation consultants, la leche league leaders,  not your pediatrician.  True, there are women who have no choice except formula, but I encourage every mother to seek professional help before coming to that conclusion.

Breastfeeding also pushes back the age where you need to start introducing solid foods.  Generally, it’s not recommended until six months and not entirely necessary for the first year when the baby is breastfed.  My babies never liked baby food mush, so I never did buy into Gerber, or even experiment with homemade baby food.  I simply made sure they were nursing enough to gain weight and when they expressed interest in table food, I let them try to softer, bite-size parts of the meal.

I’m sure I’ll think of more to add tomorrow, but this post is long enough already!  Plus it’s late and I need to get to bed.  (Why is 1am my preferred blogging time?  Why?!)

Please add to this post in the comments with your suggestions on how to reduce the cost of babies.  I’m sure you’re all smarter than me and can think of things I’ve missed.  Because you probably all went to bed at a reasonable hour.  Silly reasonable people.