Preparing for a baby doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Magazines and TV ads will tell you that you need to spend a fortune in preparation for your little darling's arrival, but it's simply not true. When my husband and I were expecting our first child, my husband was working at a small radio station and had a pretty small salary. I was a teaching assistant at our local special education preschool, and my paycheck was also pretty small. Here are some of the things I've learned about preparing for a baby when you don't have a lot of money.
Borrow things. Women love to share maternity and baby items. Don't buy a lot of things before you publicly announce that you're expecting, because once you make the big announcement, you're sure to get offers of gently used maternity clothes, baby clothes, and baby equipment….as well as lots of baby advice. I think it's a rite of passage for women to pass down their maternity clothes to other pregnant women. Take advantage of it.
Buy used. There are many stores that consign strictly baby and children's items. Consignment stores are great for stocking up on baby clothes and baby equipment. Since the owners are usually very strict about what they will accept for sale, the items you'll find in a consignment store are generally in excellent condition.
Garage sales are another great place to pick up baby clothes. You can often find infant clothes in great condition for as little as $1 a piece.
Wait for the gifts. Don't go out and spend a lot of money on the baby as soon as you find out you're pregnant. More than likely, you'll have at least one baby shower, where you'll receive tons of baby clothes and all the little items you'll need, like baby nail clippers, towels, a baby bathtub, and much, much more.
It's also a well known fact that women love shopping for babies. So after your baby is born, you will probably receive even more gifts of baby clothes. So don't feel like you need to buy a whole wardrobe for baby right away. I recommend stocking up on some comfortable baby pajamas for the weeks following your baby's birth. When your baby is a month or so old, take stock of what you still need and shop from there.
You don't need everything. When you visit the baby section in a department store, you might think you need to spend thousands of dollars to buy your baby every last bit of equipment. You don't. You will need a place for the baby to sleep, a car-seat, some clothes, blankets for swaddling, diapers, and alcohol swabs to care for your baby's belly button.
Nice additions are a bouncy seat or swing, a sling, a stroller, a diaper bag, some soft baby towels and washcloths, some bibs for dealing with drooling, and burp cloths for dealing with spitting up. A changing table, bottle warmer, wipe warmer, and lots of toys really aren't necessary at all. Neither is an impeccably decorated nursery. Your baby will quickly outgrow typical nursery decor.
Consider Breastfeeding. This is definitely the least expensive and most convenient way to feed a baby. I was bottle fed as a baby, and my mom bottle fed all of my younger brothers, so I always figured that's what I'd do too…until I saw the price of formula. After nursing my babies, there's no way I'd bottle feed a baby. I'm not morally against it or anything, but breastfeeding is terribly convenient. And again…it's free.
Think about cloth diapering. Cloth diapering is coming back en vogue, and it isn't what it used to be. Now you can buy all-in-one diapers that are a diaper and cover in one easy-to-change package. Today's cloth diapers use snaps or velcro in place of pins, so there's no need to worry about poking baby with a pin. The prints are really cute, too. I used cloth diapers on my second child for a while, and it really wasn't much extra work. It's better for the environment, too. Though the initial expense of cloth diapers is greater than disposables, you'll recoup the cost over time.
If you're considering cloth diapering, The Diaper Pin is a great place to read diaper reviews and find places to buy cloth diapers. As with anything, don't go overboard buying diapers at first. Different diapers work well for different babies, and you don't want to be stuck with a huge stash of diapers that don't work.
Use a midwife. These days you aren't limited to having an obstetrician deliver your baby. Seeing a midwife often means a lower bill for your pregnancy and delivery. Most midwives are very sensitive to helping parents achieve the kind of birth experience that they want to have, rather than having a delivery full of medical interventions. If this appeals to you, a midwife might be a good option. Just make sure that your midwife is affiliated with an obstetrician for backup, in case something comes up that needs a physician's attention.
Skip the circumcision. If you aren't going to circumcise for religious reasons, consider skipping it all together. The AAP now considers circumcision an elective procedure, so many insurance companies aren't covering it anymore.
Prepare in advance for maternity leave. As soon as you find out you're expecting a baby, start saving money for maternity leave. Practice living on one income well in advance of the time your baby is born. This is also good advice if you're not going to be returning to work at all. You're more likely to succeed as a one income family if you have practice living on one income before you actually lose your income. It's hard to learn how to live frugally when you're not getting enough sleep.
Though it's hard to be completely prepared when you're expecting a baby, these are some good ways to minimize the financial impact of your baby's birth. Do you have other suggestions? I'd love to hear your comments!