When you’re pregnant, it can be overwhelming just thinking about all the stuff you’ll have to buy and get ready — but thankfully, parents can find plenty of ways to save money on baby gear. Before you run out to start your registry at a baby gear superstore like Babies “R” Us or Buy Buy Baby — or before you click over to Amazon — do your research and think about what you’ll really need. If there’s something that you won’t use right away (i.e., something for an older baby, not a newborn), consider putting off the purchase until you know whether it’s really necessary.
To complement our baby registry series, we thought we’d gather some money-saving tips for new parents and parents-to-be. Please add your own in the comments! What are your favorite ways to save money on baby gear? Did you (or will you) set a budget for pre-baby purchases or just play it by ear?
Check out baby-related deals and freebies
Visit these sites for tips on how to save money on baby gear, including one-time deals:
- Check out lists of free stuff for new moms (with some overlap) from Brad’s Deals, The Penny Hoarder, and The Krazy Coupon Lady.
- Find savings tips and deals at sites like The Savvy Bump, BabyCheapskate, BabySteals (which sells one discounted baby/maternity product each day), and Brad’s Deals.
- To pay less for diapers, try these tips from Parents and Momtricks.
Know when to buy new and when to buy used
Of course, it’s great to save money on baby gear by going to garage sales, using Craigslist, and accepting hand-me-downs, but be careful: Some things can be dangerous if you or your baby aren’t the first ones to use them. If you buy used clothing, toys, or other baby items, check past recalls and be aware of recent safety regulations regarding drop-side cribs and pre-2013 play yards, for example. Here are some general guidelines:
- Things that are fine to buy used: baby clothes, books, toys, changing table, high chair, baby gym, furniture (gliders, dressers, etc.), baby bathtub
- Things that may be OK to buy used: crib, playpen, stroller, baby carrier, bouncer/rocker
- Things that are best to buy brand-new: car seat, breast pump, crib mattress, bottles and other feeding items, bath toys (prone to mold)
Don’t assume that you’ll need everything
Sure, it’s exciting to buy stuff for your baby’s nursery and start collecting cute outfits, but try not to splurge on a particular item just because your mom friend just got it, or the baby store has it, or a parenting magazine raves about it. A great way to determine whether an item is necessary or simply a nice extra is to check out Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields (a book we’ve recommended before). To save money on baby gear, start with these suggestions to help you determine what’s essential and what’s optional — or just a waste of money. (This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good starting point!)
- Must-haves, or at least very useful: diapers and wipes, car seat, crib/mattress/sheet, dresser, feeding supplies (e.g., breastmlk bags, bottles, formula), nursing bras, electric breast pump (your health insurance must pay for a pump), breastfeeding pillow, stroller, high chair, bag/backpack for baby supplies, baby carrier, babyproofing items, burp cloths, baby bath items, baby bathtub, swing, pacifiers, thermometer and first aid supplies
- Nice to have, but not essential: glider chair, baby monitor, fancy diaper bag, special diaper pail (e.g., Diaper Genie), changing table (you can use the floor, or a changing pad on a dresser), hands-free pumping bra (5,000+ good reviews on Amazon!), wedge pillow if you are having a C-section, co-sleeper, stand-alone high chair, wearable blanket (e.g., Halo SleepSack), humidifer, nursing tops, play yard, mobile
- May not need at all: wipe warmer (room temperature is fine!), Bumbo seat (baby may not benefit anyway), bottle warmer (YMMV), baby food processor, special “baby” detergent (just buy a fragrance- and dye-free brand), bassinet, baby socks (will probably just come off; buy footed sleepers), baby shoes, Pee-pee teepees (they don’t work), pacifier wipes, shopping cart cover (though, as a bit of a germaphobe, I saw it as a must), bottle sterilizer (no need), bath thermometer; Boogie Wipes; diaper stacker
- Safety issues: complete baby bedding sets and pillows (for safety, use only a tightly-fitted sheet), crib bumper (unsafe; try a breathable bumper), baby sleep positioner (doesn’t prevent SIDS), baby movement monitor (not proven to prevent SIDS), baby walker (unsafe), car mirror (not a good idea), jumper (not ideal)
What to do with the money you’ve saved
Consider setting up a 529 Plan for college tuition right away (and also consider mentioning it to grandparents!) and at least put a little money in it regularly. You should also start a dependent care FSA with your employer so that you can pay for childcare costs with pre-tax dollars.
Moms-to-be and new moms: What did you skip and what did you splurge on when preparing for baby? What advice did you get from mom friends about which baby gear items aren’t necessary? Did you buy anything that you later realized you didn’t really need? Did you not buy something that you later missed?
- Baby Shopping Guide [Parents]
- Baby Items You Can Live Without [Parents]
- The Absolutely Most Useless Baby Products Ever [Alpha Mom]
- Registry Rejects: 12 Baby Products You Don’t Need [Red Tricycle]
- 19 Things Your Baby Doesn’t Actually Need [BuzzFeed]
- Safety Tips for Buying Used Baby Clothes and Gear [SheKnows]