Ultimate Baby on a Budget Checklist for New Parents

Preparing for a baby on a budget might seem like some far-fetched concept, but trust me, it can be done and this post will walk you through a rock-solid baby on a budget checklist that’ll cross everything off of your list! While this post was written with new parents in mind, I also think seasoned parents bringing a new baby home will find value as well.

This post covers it all from how to budget for a baby with your current family income to the best baby gear + baby items on a budget required for making it through the baby’s first year.

Now, grab yourself a beverage because this post is lengthy and covers a lot. You are going to want to take notes as you read, or better yet, keep this tab open to refer back to as you begin collecting baby products and planning your baby shower.

This post covers a lot but it does not cover how to save money in order to prepare for your baby. If you need some creative ideas to save money, I’ve got you covered with my blog post on how to save money FAST!

learn how to preare for a baby on a budget - picture of ultrasounds and baby items

Did you know that on average the first year with your baby can cost up to $8,000 or more?! That is without child care or health insurance. The $8,000+ is made up of baby items such as a breast pump, formula for formula feeding, disposable diapers, baby clothes, and helpful items such as a quality stroller and baby swing.

You can get your own personalized estimate from Baby Center’s baby’s first year calculator.

When you put that into perspective, that might seem a bit overwhelming, right? It definitely was for me! And let’s just be real here, that is an estimate. Odds are that you will be spending so much more than that once life actually happens. SO what do you do? How do you prepare? Well, for starters, you can read this post and start planning for what it is going to financially be like as a first time parent.

You can also take a look at my Money Fit Moms freebie which’ll walk you through everything you need to know in order to get a better grip of your finances.

Build Your Emergency Fund

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Financial anxiety is one of the worst kinds, right? It used to keep me up at night for years. I was desperate to find a fix but nothing was working until it did. Luckily for you, I kept a note of everything I did along the way and now I am here and ready to teach you how to build your emergency fund (amongst many other things). For everything from the basics of understanding your finances, to creating your monthly budget, I have covered it all. Click the button below to learn more!

Other posts you might like…

Baby on a Budget Checklist

Like I mentioned earlier, this post covers it all. Here is a rundown of what you’ll find next:

  • budgeting tips for preparing to have your first baby
  • baby stuff you’ll need as a first-time parent
  • how to cut down on baby costs during the first year
  • other things to consider when planning for the arrival of a new baby

That should cover the essentials of your baby on a budget checklist. Let’s dive in!

Budgeting Tips to Prepare for Baby

  1. Early Planning Pays Off: Start budgeting well before the due date to spread costs over several months. This proactive approach eases financial strain, allowing you to tackle baby-related expenses incrementally and avoid last-minute stress.
  2. Create a Baby Budget: Develop a dedicated budget for baby-related expenses, including both one-time and ongoing costs. This comprehensive budget helps you allocate funds for essentials, plan for unexpected expenses, and maintain financial control during this transformative period.
  3. Track Your Spending: Use budgeting apps or spreadsheets to monitor your spending and identify areas where you can cut back. Tracking your expenses provides a clear picture of your financial habits, enabling you to make informed decisions and redirect funds towards baby necessities.
  4. Prioritize Essentials: Focus on the essential baby items like a safe crib, car seat, and diapers before splurging on extras. By prioritizing must-haves, you ensure that your initial baby purchases align with critical safety and well-being needs.
  5. Explore Second-hand Options: Check out thrift stores, online marketplaces, and community groups for gently used baby gear and clothes. Embracing second-hand items allows you to acquire quality essentials at a fraction of the cost, contributing to both savings and sustainability.
  6. Stock Up on Basics: Take advantage of sales to stock up on diapers, wipes, and formula if you’re formula-feeding. Strategic bulk buying during sales events helps you build a baby essentials stockpile at a discounted rate, saving you money in the long run.
  7. DIY Nursery Decor: Get creative with DIY nursery decor to save on pricey decorations. Personalized, homemade decor not only adds a unique touch to your baby’s space but also eliminates the need for costly store-bought items.
  8. Family and Friends Contributions: Don’t shy away from hand-me-downs and gifts from family and friends. Accepting contributions from your network not only fosters a sense of community but also provides valuable items that can significantly alleviate financial pressure.
  9. Consider Cloth Diapers: Explore the cost-effectiveness of cloth diapers for long-term savings. While the initial investment may be higher, reusable cloth diapers prove economical over time, reducing ongoing expenses associated with disposable alternatives.
  10. Review Health Insurance: Understand your health insurance coverage for prenatal and delivery expenses to avoid surprises. A thorough review of your insurance plan ensures that you are financially prepared for medical costs, preventing unexpected financial strain during pregnancy and childbirth.
  11. Parental Leave Planning:
    • Plan financially for any time off work during parental leave. Strategic financial planning for parental leave, including exploring available paid leave options, helps you navigate this period without compromising your financial stability.
  12. Meal Prep and Freezer Meals: Prepare and freeze meals in advance to avoid the temptation of expensive takeout during the chaotic early days. Meal prepping ensures that you have nutritious, cost-effective options readily available, reducing the need for pricey convenience foods.
  13. Check Out Parenting Classes: Attend budget-friendly parenting classes that often provide valuable tips and freebies. Many community centers and online platforms offer affordable parenting classes, providing not only educational insights but also potential cost-saving resources.
  14. Build an Emergency Fund: Establish or beef up your emergency fund to handle unexpected baby-related expenses. An emergency fund acts as a financial safety net, offering peace of mind and the ability to handle unforeseen costs that may arise during the early stages of parenthood.
  15. Review and Adjust Regularly: Regularly review and adjust your budget as your family’s needs change and your baby grows. Flexibility is key, and routinely revisiting your budget ensures that it remains relevant to your evolving family dynamics, allowing for continued financial stability.

15 Helpful Baby Items for First-Time Parents

I know, you have probably already saved a few lists claiming to have “essentials” your baby will need their first year. Well, I am here to give you the run down on 19 things you do need because no, you do not need the wipe warmer or specific cloths for any event that may happen.

First, you are never going to use that diaper warmer or better yet, your baby will get used to warm wipes and become hysterical every time you are out of the house and do not have warm wipes to use. Forget it. Save the $20.

Second, you don’t need a specific item for specific events, such as dedicated burp cloths. Anything will work as a burp cloth. What works best is a towel that will actually soak up the spit up.

  1. Convertible Crib: A convertible crib grows with your baby, transforming from a crib to a toddler bed. This versatile piece of furniture is a long-term investment, providing a safe and comfortable sleep environment throughout the early years.
  2. Baby Monitor with Camera: A baby monitor with a camera allows you to keep a close eye on your little one, providing peace of mind during naps and bedtime. The visual reassurance and ability to monitor your baby remotely enhance safety and parental confidence. Some say this isn’t a necessity but personally, I think the cost is worth the peace of mind.
  3. Bassinet: A bassinet offers a cozy and compact sleeping space for your newborn, fitting perfectly beside your bed. What is most handy about a bassinet is that you can move it around.
  4. Bassinet: A bassinet offers a cozy and compact sleeping space for your newborn, fitting perfectly beside your bed. What is most handy about a bassinet is that you can move it around.
  5. Bassinet: A bassinet offers a cozy and compact sleeping space for your newborn, fitting perfectly beside your bed. What is most handy about a bassinet is that you can move it around. I suggest something like a pack-n-play, that way not only can you use it at home, but you can fold it up and take it elsewhere as well.
  6. Car Seat and Stroller Combo: A travel system with a car seat and stroller simplifies transportation, seamlessly transitioning from car to stroller without disturbing your sleeping baby. This convenient combo ensures a smooth and efficient travel experience for both parent and child. Not only that, but the combo is typically more cost-effective in comparison to buying each of them separately.
  7. Diaper Bag with Changing Station: A diaper bag with a built-in changing station keeps diapering essentials organized and provides a clean and convenient space for on-the-go diaper changes. Some will say that you can just use a backpack and sure, you can, but a bag specifically made to be a diaper bag will make life a whole lot easier on you.
  8. Baby Swing: A baby swing offers a soothing and rhythmic motion that helps calm fussy babies and encourages naps. Its gentle swaying mimics the comforting sensation of being held, providing parents with a hands-free moment while keeping the baby content.
  9. Breast Pump: A breast pump allows nursing mothers to express milk, providing flexibility for feeding and allowing others to share in the bonding experience. This essential tool supports breastfeeding goals and ensures that your baby receives nourishment even when you’re not present.
  10. Baby Carrier: A baby carrier promotes bonding and convenience by allowing parents to keep their baby close while having hands free. Ideal for multitasking and on-the-go parenting, a carrier provides a sense of security for the baby and encourages parent-child connection.
  11. High Chair: A high chair provides a safe and elevated space for your baby to join family meals, fostering social interaction and healthy eating habits. Its sturdy design accommodates your growing baby, making mealtime a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
  12. Play Mat: A play mat with colorful patterns and textures stimulates your baby’s sensory development during tummy time. This versatile surface provides a safe and engaging space for exploration, encouraging motor skills and cognitive development.
  13. Baby Clothes in Various Sizes: Stocking up on baby clothes in various sizes ensures your little one is comfortably dressed as they grow. Having a range of sizes accommodates rapid changes in your baby’s size during the first year, preventing the need for frequent wardrobe updates.
  14. Baby Bath Tub: A baby bath tub with a supportive design makes bath time safe and enjoyable. This specialized tub provides a secure space for washing your baby, making the experience more comfortable for both the baby and the parent.
  15. Teething Toys: Teething toys offer relief during the teething phase, soothing sore gums and providing a safe object for exploration. These toys serve as a comforting distraction and help your baby develop healthy oral habits.
  16. Baby Thermometer: A reliable baby thermometer ensures you can monitor your baby’s temperature accurately, allowing for prompt response to any signs of fever or illness. This essential tool provides peace of mind and facilitates timely healthcare decisions.
  17. Baby Clothes with Front Snaps: Choosing baby clothes with front snaps simplifies dressing and changing, especially during those early days when babies aren’t fans of over-the-head outfits. This practical design minimizes fuss and makes diaper changes and outfit swaps a breeze for both parent and baby.
  18. Baby Bouncer: A baby bouncer provides a cozy, secure seat for your little one, offering gentle bouncing motions that soothe and entertain. It’s an excellent way to keep your baby engaged while allowing you some hands-free time for quick tasks around the house.
  19. Nursing Pillow: A nursing pillow supports comfortable breastfeeding or bottle-feeding positions, reducing strain on your back and arms. Its versatile design also serves as a tummy time aid, helping your baby develop neck strength and motor skills.
  20. Baby Play Gym: A baby play gym features hanging toys and a soft mat, encouraging sensory exploration and tummy time. This interactive space stimulates your baby’s visual and tactile senses, promoting early development in a safe and engaging environment.
  21. Baby Swing: A versatile baby swing that combines the soothing gliding motion with a reclining seat is a godsend for so many. Find a budget-friendly one that offers multiple features and not only will you be able to go baby-free during the day, but baby will have a comfy place to relax.

How to Cut Down on Baby Costs

Saving a little money here and there really does add up! Here are some sure-fire ways to get you on the right track for saving money on baby items!

  1. Create a Budget: Start with a comprehensive budget that outlines expected expenses, helping you prioritize and allocate funds wisely.
  2. Shop Second Hand: Explore thrift stores for baby clothes, gear, and furniture. Quality second-hand items can save a significant amount.
  3. Utilize Facebook Marketplace: Check out the Facebook Marketplace for gently used baby items at affordable prices. It’s a treasure trove for budget-friendly finds.
  4. Build a Minimalist Registry: Include only essential items on your baby registry to avoid unnecessary expenses. Focus on items that align with your lifestyle and needs.
  5. Consider Cloth Diapers: Invest in cloth diapers for long-term savings. While the initial cost may be higher, it significantly reduces ongoing diaper expenses.
  6. Breastfeeding Support: Seek breastfeeding support to ensure a successful breastfeeding journey, reducing the need for formula expenses.
  7. DIY Nursery Decor: Get creative with do-it-yourself nursery decor to personalize the space without breaking the bank.
  8. Buy in Bulk: Purchase baby essentials like diapers and wipes in bulk to take advantage of discounts and reduce the per-unit cost.
  9. Accept Hand-Me-Downs: Embrace hand-me-downs from friends and family for baby clothes and gear. Babies grow quickly, and these items are often gently used.
  10. Attend Parenting Classes: Take advantage of parenting classes, which may offer discounts, freebies, and valuable information.
  11. Meal Prep: Plan and prepare freezer meals before the baby arrives to avoid relying on expensive takeout during those hectic early days.
  12. Opt for Gender-Neutral Items: Choose gender-neutral clothing and nursery items to make them reusable for future siblings, maximizing their value.
  13. DIY Baby Shower Decor: If you’re planning a baby shower, consider creating your own decorations to save on event expenses.
  14. Explore Generic Brands: Opt for generic or store-brand baby products, which are often more budget-friendly than name brands.
  15. Research Health Insurance: Understand your health insurance coverage for prenatal and delivery expenses to avoid unexpected medical bills.
  16. Join Parenting Communities: Connect with local parenting communities to exchange advice, tips, and even baby items.
  17. Compare Prices Online: Compare prices online before making purchases to ensure you’re getting the best deal on baby gear and supplies.
  18. Handy Down Baby Gear: Borrow larger baby gear items like strollers and high chairs from friends or family if possible.
  19. Clothing Swap with Other Parents: Organize clothing swaps with other parents to exchange baby clothes that your little one has outgrown.
  20. DIY Baby Photography: Take your own baby photos instead of hiring a professional photographer for baby milestones, saving on photography costs.

Extras for Preparing for a Baby

Now, you have the budgeting tips in mind, what next? Here are seven important things to keep in mind when learning how to have a baby on a budget:

  1. Spend Parental Leave/Maternity Leave Time Wisely: Now, this is the most important time to bond with your newborn baby and I do suggest that above all else. However, you can also make the most of this time period by anticipating your baby’s needs and making adjustments where necessary. Reworking your budget will likely be one of the first things you have to do after coming home from your hospital stay because let’s be honest here, we can prepare all we want for something but we don’t actually know until we are in it.
  2. Always Have the Diaper Bag Packed: One of my best tips for new parents is to always have your diaper bag packed. It will save you SO much money in the long run because if you keep it packed (and packed well) you likely won’t need to purchase anything when you are out and about. You will always be prepared and also won’t have to try and remember everything you need when you are actively trying to leave while also getting a newborn ready for a day out of the house.
  3. Plan for Medical Costs: Your insurance policy should outline what all you need to prepare for. Get familiar with it!
  4. Leave Out Non-Essentials Such as Designated Burp Cloths: Save a little money here and there by skipping out on non-essential items (aka the ones not included in this post). You really do not need a wiper warmer, 100 burp cloths, name-brand shoes for your 6-month-old, or brand new anything. Most everything for a baby can be purchased second-hand!
  5. Keep to Your Budget for Financial Security: Watching your cash flow is super important during that first year with a baby if you are someone trying to stick to a budget. A great way to support yourself in the long run is by creating that initial budget and make changes as you go.
  6. Start Planning for Your Child’s Future Early: The need for a university fund will come sooner than you’d expect. If you are in a place for making this a priority, start now.
  7. Keep Important Docs in a Safe Spot: You definitely do not want to lose your new baby’s social security number or birth certificate. Purchasing extras of those do cost money! Invest in a fire-safe safe for ease of mind.

FAQs About Preparing for a Baby on a Budget

How much should I budget for having a baby?

Estimating the budget for welcoming a baby depends on various factors, but setting aside around $8,000 or more for the first year, considering essentials like diapers, clothes, and gear, is a prudent starting point. Keep in mind that this is an estimate, and actual costs may vary based on individual circumstances and preferences.

Best tips for how to have a baby on a low budget?

When navigating parenthood on a tight budget, consider shopping second-hand from thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace for baby essentials, creating a minimalist baby registry to focus on essential items, and exploring cost-effective options like cloth diapers to reduce ongoing expenses. These strategies help cut down costs while ensuring you’re well-prepared for your new arrival.

What are some easy ways to save for a new baby?

Start by creating a dedicated baby fund, setting aside a small amount regularly to accumulate savings specifically for baby-related expenses. Embrace cost-cutting habits, like cooking at home instead of dining out, to redirect those savings into your baby fund. Additionally, explore cashback and reward programs to maximize savings on everyday purchases, contributing to your baby fund effortlessly.

What should new parents know about having a baby?

Here’s a nugget of wisdom for new parents: be ready for the twists and turns in baby-related expenses. Having a budget that can adapt and a financial safety net will help you handle those unexpected costs that might crop up during your baby’s first year and beyond.

What are the top 10 things I need for a newborn baby?

Crib or Bassinet
Car Seat
Diapers and Wipes
Feeding Supplies
Baby Clothes
Swaddle Blankets
Baby Bath Tub
Changing Table or Pad
Baby Thermometer

Now remember. the first month with your baby is likely to be a big wake up call to weather you have enough money saved up or not for the first year. You’ll find out what else you need, outside of what was mentioned here, to help support your new bundle of joy.

I do hope, however, that this post was insightful and that you feel a bit more confident going into this whole baby thing. If you don’t take anything else from this post, I’d go ahead and say that the most important thing to take with you is that you should work now on building up savings for that first year of life because when life happens, it happens.