Baby Costs: Saving Up for a Newborn

A wrought-iron crib might be taking things a bit too far, no?

Sounds silly, doesn’t it, to ‘save up’ for a baby? But besides being a life-changing presence in your life, a child comes with tons of expenses. And if you’re planning to get pregnant, it’s very important to talk to your partner about how that little bundle of joy will affect your finances.


Some would argue that a newborn doesn’t need a lot of things, but the parents definitely will. At the very least, you’ll need a car seat to bring the little one home from the hospital (and drive him/her to doctors’ appointments), a bassinet, a clean, sanitary place to change diapers, the diapers themselves, clothes, baby formula if you’re not breastfeeding, and bottles for the formula.

Then there are the other things that most parents will like to have — a crib, perhaps a dresser, a stroller or a baby carrier, Pack ‘n’ Play (which really is just a glorified crib, but much cooler), bouncer and rattles/teethers. And all the other accessories that come with raising a baby. The crib will need a mattress, sheets and blankets.

Anticipating Your Costs

If you really want to scare yourself — uh, I mean, be prepared for the costs of your newborn — BabyCenter has a neat little calculator to give you an estimate of your first-year expenses. I inputted the anticipated first-year and “startup” costs for my child (surprise, I’m pregnant!) and got an estimate of $11,602, with $4,800 of that daycare costs alone (and only for 6 months).

So as you can see, daycare costs are what will really eat up your income, if you’re not going to have a stay-at-home parent. Especially here in New Jersey, our costs relative to income are sky-high — $800 a month for childcare may be a conservative estimate on my part, as I’m not ready to talk to daycare providers just yet.

Where to Find Savings

One word (well, three hyphenated words): hand-me-downs!

Think of all the baby items that are barely used because of how fast a child grows. There are barely-worn clothes, infant car seats that can’t be used anymore, baby swings, infant tubs and even cribs. Why spend full retail price on brand-new items if you can get slightly-used stuff at little to no cost, particularly if you have friends who have stuff they no longer need. Some ways to find these items:

1. Ask friends and family if they have clothes or furniture that they’re no longer using. And these things don’t have to specifically be baby-related. For example, I already have a glider chair from a neighbor who was giving it away because she’d changed her decor. I can sew new cushion covers on it to match the decor in the baby’s room.

2. Check Craigslist or Freecycle. There are so many posting on these sites for stuff that’s free or priced pretty low. Just be careful about meeting a stranger — if you decide to look at items or buy them, conduct the transaction in a public place to be safe.

3. Scour yard sales. Many people sell whatever they no longer need at cut-rate prices. You could score a box full of hardly-used infant clothes, a baby swing or toys.

4. Look at the Salvation Army or Goodwill stores. You may not find a ton of smaller items here, but you may luck out with furniture, toys and strollers.

5. Get crafty! If you’re any good with a sewing machine, you can make a ton of stuff, from a diaper bag to fitted crib sheets to clothes, and even curtains and decorations for the nursery room. Knitters can make baby blankets and sweaters. I plan to make curtains, a diaper bag and anything else I can get use out of (and it will help kill time since I’m now unable to help with our home renovations, such as painting).

I plan to use a combination of all five suggestions to keep our costs as reasonable as possible.

Is there anything I’ve missed? Share your tips!

21 comments to Baby Costs: Saving Up for a Newborn

  • My wife just had a baby and we did most of what you posted. Letting people know you are open to hand-me-downs can lead to getting way more than you anticipated! We had so much stuff we had to give a lot away. But, it was insurance for our budget because we didn’t have a lot to spend. We were grateful for people’s generosity.

  • Rachael Simmons

    Also, get on all the baby company websites: pampers, huggies, formula companies, baby center, etc. They send out all types of free samples to moms to be..

  • Rachael Simmons

    Be careful with hand-me-down car seats and cribs. These types of things are re-called quite frequency and as mentioned before the car seat (unless you know the person) could have been in an accident or be expired…I never knew a car seat could expired before listening to a local news report.
    Best of luck and congratulations!!

    • Rachael Simmons

      Also, check out and sign up for all the baby related companies you can: pampers, huggies, formula companies, etc. They send out great samples and coupons.

  • Nicole, congratulations! That’s awesome…you guys must be so excited!

    Using hand me downs is great advice. We saved a fortune that way for our son who is 11 months old now. After 2 girls, we would have had to get all new stuff for the little guy.

    But one thing you should never take as a hand me down is a car seat. You never know if it has been in an accident or damaged in some way and that can be deadly to your little one. Also, they are only good for 6 years from the manufacturing date.

    We already gave away or donated a ton of baby clothes and stuff but if we have anything left you’re welcome to them.

    • Nicole

      @Mike: Thanks so much — we have a ton of offers so far for stuff. Lots of friends/family know how frugal I am, haha. We’ll definitely get our own car seat — good to know.

  • Hello!

    It boggles my mind how much daycare truly costs. I wonder how most parents can afford it!

    Thanks for the article.

  • Congrats! There’s nothing like being a parent to put the whole world in perspective.
    Yes – an infant doesn’t know if clothes are used. That’s not the place to throw money away. Put that money aside for emergency, college, whatever. We had a nanny, just for the day, not live in, so that was through the roof. Research and find good day care, your numbers look reasonable.

  • Congratulations! It’s wonderful news.

    As for the cost, I think you’re tips are very smart. Babies grow so quickly, I would also think you can score some lightly-used clothes at garage sales and thrift stores (maternity clothes too!) Also, since you can sew, another idea to keep costs down is if you find a nice outfit with a little stain, you can sew an embroidered patch over the stain. A lot of times babies only wear an outfit once, spit-up on it and the parents discard it. Just a thought!

    As for day care, I’m clueless about such things. I would definitely ask friends with children about their daycare options and who they trust, how much they pay, etc. Also, is there any way you could work from home a couple of days a week to reduce your childcare expenses? Some friends I know are arranging their schedules so that she is home during the day, then her husband is home in the evening when she goes off to teach a class as a jr. college. Think flexibility!

    • Nicole

      @Little House: I would love to work at home a few days a week, but it’s not feasible at my current job — too much running around and interaction is required to put out our publication every week.

  • Congrats! The Wife is 6 months here…I couldn’t believe how much baby furniture, the glider, the BEDDING, etc was!

    I am pumped for you guys!

  • Congratulations and best wishes! – We pay around $1000/month for daycare. We picked the place because we got the sense that our kids would love it. And they do. I think places like Kindercare are a little more expensive. Please let me know if you want to take a peek at size 10 pregnancy (winter) clothes.

    • Nicole

      @Money Obedience: Oh, size 10 winter maternity clothes would be PERFECT. I will email you! Do you pay $1,000/month for more than one child, then?

  • Congrats on the wee one!

    For daycare expenses, you might have underestimated. It’s hard to tell because my experience is from southern Ontario vs. you are in NJ. The daycare I worked at was around $80/day for infant care (6-18 months) which would be a lot more than $800 month. There are options though like subsidized daycare, tax credits and government benefits depending on where you live and your income.

    • Nicole

      @Jenn: Thanks! I think Ontario has higher expenses in general, from what I’ve seen. I’ve talked to a few friends with small children, so I have an idea of how much it will cost in my area of NJ. Probably closer to $1000/month, but nowhere near the $2400/month ($80×30 days) that you’re quoting. EDIT: Sorry, that was pregnancy brain math. Let’s say $80×20 days of work per month = $1600! Plus, we tend to prefer in-house daycares (licensed, of course) so they’re cheaper than the big “retail” daycare places.

  • Yay! Congratulations! I am so happy for you! Great tips too. Between Hand-me-downs and Craigslist…oh and a baby shower, we spent very little to get ready for our little guy. Clothes especially, it’s amazing how quickly they grow. Our baby is 3 months old (today!) and is already wearing 6-9 month clothes.

    And daycare, I have a friend here in California who pays over $1000 a month. Daycare can be more expensive than college!

    Congrats again!

  • Congrats on being pregnant! Yay!

    I couldn’t agree more, used baby clothing and most items work just fine. I cannot remember anything from being 1 or 2 except for a few choice toys that stayed with me forever (a stuffed dog named Andy and some building blocks).

    Congrats again and good luck!

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