The Absolute Minimum You Need for a New Baby

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Believe it or not, you do not need much for a new baby. The baby care industry made $23 billion in 2013 convincing new parents that they need a whole list of things in order to take care of a newborn, but that just isn’t true.  When you fall prey to their advertising, I guarantee you that you will end up spending far too much money.

When I was pregnant, I was so excited that I went a little crazy buying all of the things I was told that I “needed.”  We got a fat tax return that year, and we spent every dime on nursery decor and baby stuff.  Looking back, I wish I hadn’t done this.

Now that my son is a bit older, most of the stuff I purchased for him has been shoved into a corner of my basement to collect dust.  When I have to edge my way around this pile of junk every day, I am reminded of how wasteful I was when preparing for the baby—and how much the baby industry influenced me about what to buy and what to put on my baby registry.

I want to take this opportunity to give it to you straight—to let you know what you actually need so that you do not overspend when you are preparing for baby.

1. A car seat

If you give birth at home and do not intend on ever traveling by car, I suppose you can skip this one.  But for the rest of us, a car seat is an absolute necessity—you can’t go home with your baby from a hospital or birth center without one (not that you would want to—your baby’s safety is more important than anything else).

Car seats are expensive, but there are a few things you can do to get around the steep cost.  First, shop around like crazy.   You have 9 months to find a deal on a car seat, but don’t wait until the very last minute or you could be missing out on seasonal sales and coupons.  Keep tabs on what new car seats are coming out, because the store will likely lower the price on older (but brand new) models when the new ones come in.  This is your best chance to grab one.

Experts recommend that you avoid buying a used car seat because the seats can’t be reused after being in a car crash—and that is probably something the seller would not tell you about.  And I don’t know about you, but that is not a gamble I am willing to take with my baby.  Always buy new.

This is the car seat I chose to buy for my child after lots of research.

If you are still unable to find a safe car seat in your budget, there are car seat assistance programs out there like Safe Kids USA that can help you out.

2. Baby clothes

Baby will need some clothes, but avoid those absolutely adorable little outfits if you are trying to save money and just buy the minimum for your baby.  All you need is about 5 onesies if your baby was born in the summer, or 5 footie pajamas for fall/winter babies.  Keep it simple—your child can just wear these all day.  There is no need to change into a fancy outfit.

In fact, those fancy outfits get very little use because your little one will grow out of them quickly.  I also find that in my family, the grandparents love to shop for cute clothes.  If you are blessed to have a family of shoppers, you can avoid the temptation of shopping for outfits because you know grandma is going to buy him plenty for Christmas and his birthday.

3. Diapering supplies

You absolutely will need diapers.  There is no getting around this one, folks.

If you are on a tight budget and intend to spend the least amount of money possible on your baby, cloth diapers are the way to go.  You can save thousands of dollars on diapers for all your children by forgoing the wasteful disposables.  If you are new to cloth diapering, and want to learn how to do it and what to buy, check out this article.

4. Food for Baby

You have to invest in some kind of feeding system for your child.  Breastfeeding is free, and it is healthy for both baby and mom.  However, it requires a big time investment.  If you are planning to return to work and you are breastfeeding, you will have to get a breast pump and milk storage system.  But there is good news—if you have insurance, they are required to provide a breast pump for you at no cost!  Call them up and get it sent to you before the baby is born so that you have it ready to go.

If you choose to bottle feed your baby, you will obviously need bottles and formula.  But there is no need to go nuts and get a bunch of bottles.  We have two bottles—that’s it.  We wash them a lot, but we saved a lot of money by keeping things to a minimum.

Formula is costly, but there is a way to save money on this expense.  We ended up saving over $1,000 a year by switching to Kirkland Signature Baby Formula!

5. A safe place to sleep

You need a place for your baby to sleep that is a firm and flat surface.  This could be the floor with a blanket spread out (we called this the “nap station” when my son was a newborn), or even your own bed.  You will need a crib eventually, and I was really glad I bought one up front.  However, you don’t need fancy linens, bumpers, a bassinet, or even a mobile.  All you need is a crib with a firm mattress and a fitted sheet.  I recommend getting a convertible crib like this one—it changes from crib to toddler bed to full-size bed as your child grows.

When you are preparing for the birth of your child, it can be really overwhelming to figure out exactly what you need while tuning out the advertising and advice of other people.  To save money, only invest in what you absolutely need—a car seat, a few simple clothes, diapers, feeding supplies, and a safe place to sleep.   Everything else is unnecessary, and it will eventually end up contributing to an expensive obstacle course in your basement.

Did you end up buying anything you didn’t need?  Share in the comments!

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