Having babies is expensive, however I tentatively put forwards that we make them more expensive than they need to be. Every baby forum, store, website and magazine seems to have a list as long as your arm telling you what you ‘need’ to buy. But with a little restraint and a little creativity you can avoid buying most of these must have ‘necessities’. Now I am not saying you have to parent frugally if you don’t want to and I imagine there are a load of things you are looking forwards to buying, also, what one person finds useful another will find useless. Nor is this a list of commandments, choose to utilise or ignore my advice as you decide. But this is me telling you that you don’t have to buy all of the things. You can get by with less and not miss it, if you choose to.
Most people know you can save money by going cloth with nappies, just one nappy can save you approximately $320 per year. There is a little problem in that once people go cloth they fall into a wormhole of cute MCN madness and buy ALL OF THE NAPPIES. If you can avoid this trap and stick to prefolds or old fashioned flats then you can save a bundle. The saving schedule for this one is a little complex and includes calculations for savings over 3 years vs outlay, laundry costs versus disposal cost and purchase cost for nappies. The figure reached is approximate based on information provided by Nudey Rudey.
Cost for disposable $4510 Cost for cloth $595 (calculated over a 3 year period)
If you decide to give Elimination Communication a go you won’t even need nappies or you could certainly get by with less. If you are doing dedicated EC you would need a potty, no more than 5 cloth nappies and some baby knickers or baby training pants.
Cost for cloth $595 Cost for EC $85
While we are on the topic of nappies and changing, babies don’t need to have a change table. It might be useful to store nappies in, but an old basket will do just as well for that. We change our son on the floor or bed, it’s safer and cheaper. You can use a change mat, or even an old towel will do.
Cost of nappy change table $479 Cost of change mat $29
Wipes are one of the highest nappy rash factors, to save your baby’s bum and your wallet Instead you can buy a couple of sets of facecloths and use warm water for changes.
Cost for commercial wipes $622 Cost for facecloths $30 (calculated over 3 years)
Purpose made nappy bags are handy, the really fancy ones are a fashion statement and a convenient carry all for baby related stuff. But you don’t need them. A large purse, existing back pack or sturdy shopping bag will do. You can put your nappy related stuff in a handy plastic ziplock back and tuck it into whatever you currently use. I have made an art of not needing a bulky nappy bag, it means I can get around a lot more easily
Cost of nappy bag $140 Cost of no nappy bag $0
Strollers are handy, I used our stroller almost every day for nap time. But they are usually expensive (Between $299-$1300 for sturdy ones) and they are not essential. I know that is a huge paradigm shift for most parents but since I ditched the stroller I have found getting around easier, more comfortable and much quicker. If you get a baby carrier instead, which range in cost from $80-$230 you can save yourself some dollars and get some nice one on one time with your baby, it also means you can get to a lot of places much more easily than parents who are trying to wrangle a stroller.
Cost of stroller $399 Cost of baby carrier $120
I get it, breastfeeding is not for everyone and for some of us it can be hard hard work. But if you can get the support you need and work through any issues then it can be a huge cost saver. Most women don’t have to increase their diet much if at all to account for the extra 300 calories used to make breastmilk and even then it’s just another sandwich and some fruit. If you avoid the need for pumping you save any more. Most nursing mothers need nothing more than some loose comfortable tops, some reusable nursing pads and a really great nursing bra or two. When you compare this with the cost of formula, bottles and steriliser it’s a big saving.
Cost of formula and equipment $1429 Cost of breastfeeding $195
Nursing or feeding cushion
Any old pillow will do, or even better use nursing techniques that don’t require cushions. If you are bottle feeding, instead of propping you can hold your baby.
Cost for specialised nursing cushion $109 Cost for existing cushion $0
Babies need to eat at some stage, this is true. But they don’t need to eat as early as 4 months and they don’t need pre packaged food. You can skip the puree stage altogether and at $1.50 per jar that’s not small change. Babies can eat what you eat or you can make your own puree for them if you are taking that route. Overall a much cheaper proposition by up to half the cost of pre prepared baby food.
Cost for packaged baby food $864 Cost for home made baby food $432
Bouncer/Walker/ Jolly Jumper/ Entertainment unit
Okay well the last one was a joke, kind of. I was in a baby store the other day and saw a wiggling, jiggling, music playing, hypnotising strap in baby pod. I had flashbacks to the matrix. Now babies do love to be jiggled, sung to and held it’s true but you don’t need to buy something to do it.You may want to, but if you are money conscious you don’t have to, and there is actually plenty of evidence that indicates a lot of these things can be developmentally inappropriate or downright dangerous. Best to skip them or if you really want a baby gym then a string tied between some furniture with socks or pegs hanging off of it is just as exciting.
Cost of bouncer or equivalent unit $149 Cost of alternative $0
Babies don’t need shoes. Shoes will not help them walk faster or better. Shoes DO make great chew toys, they are excellent at falling off of feet and making your child’s journey from rolling to crawling and sitting a little more cumbersome
Cost of shoes $80 Cost of no shoes $0
$ 80 SAVED
Okay you got me, babies probably DO need clothes, but I bet they don’t need as many as you have bought. For newborns, the best way to regulate temperature and keep baby content and protected is to wear them close to you and to wear them skin to skin. Wearing a baby means less layers and less clothes overall. Especially in newborn sizes. Babies also don’t need to be changed and bathed every day. Layers close to the skin can be left on for up to 3 days or more barring any poosplosions.
Cost of full layette for newborn baby $199 Cost of baby basics $100
If you are skipping the puree at early ages you can ditch the special plastic weaning spoons, you can also skip the food storage containers and food bowls. If you choose to do baby led weaning then the only utensils baby needs are known as ‘left’ and ‘right’ and they have five fingers each. When your miniature gourmand moves on to cutlery there is nothing wrong with the family cutlery, family plates and family cups. Learning to drink from a cup is a steep learning curve but it is surprisingly quickly mastered if you just let them have at it and accept a short period of mess. If you really must have a sippy cup you can jerry rig one out of a mason jar and a straw or use your own reusable eco coffee cup.
Cost of full utensil and dish set with sippy cup $59 Cost of eco cup and existing foodware $7
You know what works just as well as a bib? A teatowel and a peg. High tech I know but you should try it one day!
Cost of bib set $30 Cost of existing teatowels $0
Highchair or specialised seat
It’s often assumed that a high chair is essential to feeding your baby, but they are not. Especially if you are using baby led weaning, a rug on the floor is sufficient. Highchairs are really only essential if you are starting to feed your child before they are able to sit unsupported and even if you are doing this there is nothing wrong with sitting your baby on your lap, at the table and feeding them this way. If you are handy with a sewing machine you could even sew a strap in seat for the family dining chairs. We have a high chair, but 90% of the meals are eaten on the floor on a kai mat. Easy as and much less cleaning.
Cost of high chair $199 Cost of washable rug $24
Babies don’t need toys, they don’t need flashing lights, canned music or bright colours. A full toy box does not necessarily indicate a happy engaged child. Babies are happy exploring anything really and can learn more about the worlds from an interesting stone or a bowl of water than they can from the latest gee gaw. Before toys became a commercial endeavour babies played with piles of stones, they emptied out the pot cupboard and explored the wooden spoons. Mums scarf collection became a sensory adventure and dads tie collection became a visual smorgasbord. Entertain your tot with a bowl full of pegs or a bowl full of soapy water. Macaroni becomes a great threading toy and can be eaten later, autumn leaves are a great rustly toy and can be composted. An afternoon strolling at the beach can fill a toybox with wonders that can be returned to the ocean when we are finished. And don’t feel that you are depriving your child with less toys. There is every reason to believe that the opposite is true.
Cost of a range of toys and toybox $299 Cost of home made toys $0
There is a perfect skincare regime for babies, it’s called use-nothing and water. When babies are born they come with their own protective layer, they don’t need a hasty bath. Later on they only really need to be bathed if they have had a poosplosion and in almost all cases water will suffice. A little sensitive or natural bar soap is sufficient to remove any stubborn grime and if their skin needs moisturising then a skin friendly carrier oil will do. Olive oil is fine and most people have that in their pantry.
Cost of skincare range $39 Cost of water and olive oil $3
I don’t know about you but bathing a baby in a baby bath is a pain in the neck, or back to be more precise. I prefer to just hop into the big bath with baby when I have my own bath experience. If baby really needed a clean when I wasn’t going to bathe then a washing tub bucket or sink worked just as well.
Cost of baby bath $20 Cost of using existing bath, bucket or sink $0
Sharing a room is a good money saver, and here is why. Setting up a separate baby nursery has a lot of cost involved. Some people go all out and gussy up a room for baby and others simply put a cot in the spare room but most people stand somewhere in the middle and do a little decorating to make a special space for baby. But here is a newsflash, the most special place for baby is next to you. That’s what they love the most. But that’s not the only benefit from sharing a sleeping space. Moving the cot into the master bedroom means you can ditch the baby monitor as well as any extra baby related furniture. It also means you are heating one room instead of two so you can save on power bills as well.
Cost of nursery décor, baby monitor and heating $1689 Cost of co-sleeping $0
If you’re planning to sleep baby in their own space you should know that a bassinet is not essential. It’s a nice to have, but babies can progress straight to a cot. They don’t need a bassinet and at a pinch, if you really want baby to sleep in a smaller space initially then a banana box made up with a well fitted mattress is perfectly safe. I can hear a collective gasp, but this method is approved by the NZ Parent Centre and if you have nothing else then why not?
Cost of bassinet plus bedding $339 Cost of no bassinet $0
Bed sharing isn’t for everyone; I prefer my own sleeping space even though our second son had a different plan. For many bed sharing is a safety issue, there is however plenty of science to indicate that bedsharing is just as safe, if not safer than isolated cot sleeping. If you choose to bedshare it means you don’t need to buy a cot and if the family bedding is safe then you don’t need to buy any baby blankets. Because you are close enough to regulate and monitor your child’s breathing you also don’t need a breathing alarm system.
Cost of cot, mattress, bedding and sleep alarm. $1600 Cost of bedsharing $0
This is one area where you shouldn’t economise. Don’t get a second hand or expired seat, don’t buy an unknown or unrated brand and certainly don’t do without. For the safety of your child you should buy your seat brand new and get one that rear faces until at least 2 years of age.
As soon as I post this I expect a barrage of people telling me that they personally didn’t spend as much as I have estimated or that with a little ingenuity you can build, beg or borrow any number of these things. Which is totally true, I myself have done this. Using this tactic it’s totally possible to compress the numbers I have estimated somewhat which is another excellent way of saving dollars. The idea of this post is to question the assumptions of need vs want and hopefully offer up alternatives previously unthought of by most. Ideally this post is to acknowledge that to parent well you don’t need things to do this and that the most valuable ‘thing’ you can offer is closeness to your child.
I sourced my prices from NZ based websites and stores. If there was a price range from very cheap to very expensive I tried to pitch close to the middle or median price range. For things like nappies where there is an initial outlay I made a comparison over the expected life span of the products but the final figure calculated for the title of the post was for one year only so in the instance of longer estimations I simply divided the final figure by the number of years I extrapolated for. In some instances you could spend less and in some instances you could spend more but the general figures are based on common prices for common purchases. When there was an option of picking between two kinds of cost saving exercises I chose the most socially acceptable to get to my final figure. In this instance it was cloth nappies and co-sleeping vs Elimination Communication and bedsharing. The final figure if you chose the latter options was $9498. In the instance of breastfeeding I elected not to assume that pumping was a necessary part breastfeeding. I did this because quite simply it isn’t, and often it is a marketing tactic to imply that breastpumps are essential to good parenting and successful breastfeeding. Which can more often than not lead to unnecessary outlay of money and breastfeeding failure. If you wanted to add pumping to the breastfeeding equation the figure is approximately $390 including bottles, steriliser and pump.