What To Buy For Baby On A Tiny Budget

What To Buy For Baby On A Tiny Budget

I look huge. That’s what I’m told every time I step out of the house these days. “Well you look like you’re about to pop! Are you ready for baby?”

Shock, murmurs of ‘god damn’ and awkwardness follow when I respond that I’ve still got 6 weeks of gestating to do.

So, baby isn’t ready, but we are. Well, except for a girl’s name…any suggestions? Admittedly we haven’t actually bought anything yet.

I’ve been to a baby shop just once in my life, I’m still recovering from the experience. Our entire nursery outlay 20 months ago before our first baby was born involved 1 visit to Big W, 1 visit to IKEA and around $200. Second hand rocking duck included.

We set up our baby nursery on a shoestring budget, but it’s not the norm.

Babies, like weddings are big business. In fact, a friend once suggested that the best business to get into is child related. Even in a downturn, when all other household spending is cut, people keep buying things for children.

On average, new Australian parents are estimated to spend $6,000 on a nursery setup. In the first year of life, that figure is estimated to be a whopping $16,000, but parents can spend as little $4545 in the first year if they are careful about what they add to their newborn baby list.

Honestly, preparing for baby doesn’t have to run into the thousands. Apart from consumables and swimming lessons, we spent next to nothing in the first year of our baby’s life. And she’s fine. And a good swimmer.

Preparing for number 2 has so far involved adding newborn nappies to the shopping list.

The Problem With All The New Born Baby Products

You’ve got 8 or so months to prepare for your baby’s arrival. And you might have dreamed of the moment you bring your little one home for several months or even years before that.

You want to be prepared. The problem is, in those 8 long months of preparation, it’s easy to fall for the idea that being prepared for life with a newborn means having all the right stuff for a baby.

And the options of what you can, nay should, buy for baby are endless. No expenses spared, you want everything to be perfect, especially in the last 6 weeks when you just can’t wait any longer to meet the little person that’s hiccuping in your pelvis and taking up prime bladder real estate.

Truth is, a Pinterest worthy nursery design will not prepare you for what’s coming when that baby finally arrives.

Checking off each baby essential from a guide on ‘things to buy for baby’ will not help with all the doubt, fear and confusion of parenting a tiny human. It does nothing to alleviate your up-coming sleep deprivation, soreness or need for industrial strength ear plugs to block out the sound of crying that you can’t do anything about.

What will help, is not being stressed about money. Or worrying about how you’re going to make ends meet if your partner needs to take a few extra weeks off to help you in the early weeks. Or if you want to extend your maternity leave.

Save your money when shopping for baby so that your finances are one thing you don’t need to worry about in the early months.

No amount of new born baby products will prepare you for what lies ahead, both chaos and joy.

What Baby Items Are Actually Essential?

If you want contradictions, Google ‘Newborn Essentials’. Every parent has an opinion, stuff that worked for them and things that they or their baby couldn’t live without. Babies don't have to be expensive

The point is, a lot of what you will find to be an essential baby item is dependent on;

  1. Your parenting style;
  2. Your baby;
  3. Your house.

Your Parenting Style

You probably have a pretty strong opinion on how you want to bring up your baby. Are you planning to try attachment parenting or a more traditional style? Does Benjamin Spock’s approach resonate with you?

However you see yourself as a parent, your personal style will determine a lot of the things you need for a baby.

While for some families, a co-sleeper might be an essential, other families might choose to have their newborns sleeping in their own room with a baby monitor. You might breastfeed, or formula feed or a combination.

Your Baby

From the moment they’re born, babies have preferences. They have one way of communicating those preferences and you better listen up. What works for one baby, may very well not work for another.

Some will love their baby bouncer / pram / car seat, others will hate it.

I imagined the first weeks of my baby’s life would be spent in the kitchen making gourmet dinners while my newborn watched from her bouncer. In reality, she lasted about 5 minutes before screaming to go back into my arms.

While other parents totted around their sleeping angels to cafes in a capsule, mine expressed her dislike loudly the entire time she spent in the car and ended up sitting on my lap during coffee meetups.

Luckily, I never hired a capsule or paid for a bouncer.

Your House

The amount of room you physically have to accommodate baby stuff will be top of mind for some parents. In a small room, a change table might take a precious room that simply isn’t available.

If you want your baby to sleep right next to you, a bassinet might be essential if a full sized cot won’t fit. It all depends on how much space you have. Creating a nursery when space is limited will require a more simple living, savvy approach.

5 Actual Newborn Necessities

Newborn Essentials Baby NecessitiesWith that out of the way, here are the 5 essentials for baby.

  1. You. You are everything that matters to your newborn. No toy will ever be as interesting as your face and the sound of your voice. No carrier or device as comforting as your arms. Look after yourself. Rest when you can, especially on the very first day of your baby’s life when they are extra sleepy and recovering from the birth themselves. Accept help whenever it’s offered.
  2. A safe place to sleep, be it a bassinet or cot. Second only to you and food, this will be your baby’s top priority.
  3. A car seat. If you are driving your baby anywhere in a private vehicle, you have to have a car seat. Taxis in Australia are exempt.
  4. Clothes. Essential for keeping baby warm. Useful in warm weather for getting a good grip on the little sucker.
  5. Nappies. I’ve seen elimination communication done and have full respect for parents who choose to go nappy-less from birth, but I’m guessing this fits into the essentials category for most parents.

Short newborn baby essentials list hey?

What about everything else that is marketed to parents and rendered as baby essentials? As I said, it’s down to personal preference and convenience, oh and parting you with your sweet, sweet cash.

How To Decide What To Buy For Baby

Deciding what you’ll actually use for a job you’ve got no experience isn’t easy. That’s probably why lists of baby items that turned out to be a waste of money are as common as those touting the essentials.

In situations like that, my approach is to buy as little as possible upfront. Figure out what you’ll need once you’re on the job.

You have plenty of time and any excuse to get out of the house will be a godsend.

If you decide you really need a wipe warmer, buy it once your baby is born.

Before adding anything to your newborn baby shopping list, consider how long you’ll actually use something for. Babies grow very, very quickly. Often before you even remember you’ve got that thing, they’ve grown out of it. With some items like a bassinet, we’re sometimes talking weeks. Is it really worth it?

Another approach is to be skeptical of everything. To put it in perspective, the global baby care industry is worth an estimated $66.8 billion in sales despite a declining birth rate. Shops are there to sell and just because the salesperson recommends something or your friends have it doesn’t mean it’s a must have baby item or even actually useful.

There has never been so many baby accessories available to parents as there are now and trust me, most are there to make the manufacturer money, not to make your job of parenting any easier.

So if you are in doubt regarding a baby accessory, leave it.

How To Set Up A Nursery On A Shoestring Budget

Most of our nursery set up cost nothing. By starting our family a few years after our siblings and friends, they were getting rid of their stuff just when we needed it. What weren’t given, we bought second hand, found on the side of the road or borrowed.

Be Grateful For Whatever You’re Offered

Getting rid of kids’ stuff is surprisingly hard, so if your friends or family offer something, they’ll be very grateful if you take it.

In our case a colleague dropped by unexpectedly a few weeks after our baby was born. He arrived with a near new pram that he and his wife had initially tried to sell, then to give away with no luck. He was relieved we took it off their hands.

It was a win-win for both of us.

Yes, what others choose to buy may not match your ideal specs, but most of the time it’ll serve its purpose just the same. Plus you’ll save significantly money and the giver will be grateful to you.

Buy Second Hand

Just 1 in 3 Australian parents has bought second hand. That’s outrageous. Baby gear has such a short lifespan, that for the most part you often can’t tell it’s been used at all.

Babies get through 4 sizes of clothing in around one year. That’s 3 months or less per size or around 12 wears per item if you wash weekly. What’s more, nicer items often get forgotten about, or used for a special occasion that happens once. You can buy baby clothes at regular weekend markets, op shops or specialty baby markets.

Other items are used for a period of mere weeks because babies develop so damn fast. For bassinets is often just 6 weeks.

Save yourself some serious money and score cheap baby stuff second hand. Used baby furniture just makes sense.

The exception is car seats. Unless you can get one that is less than 10 years old from a trusted friend who can guarantee it hasn’t been involved in a crash, buy new.

Borrow where possible

Chances are, if you’re having a baby, your friends and siblings are as well. Of course if they haven’t finished their family yet, they probably won’t be ready to sell or hand something down. But more than likely you’ll be able to borrow baby stuff that is used for a short period of time like baby bouncers and bassinets, until they need it for the next one.

Wait until after the baby shower before buying

New babies are odd creatures. They’re stinky and unsocial yet EVERYONE wants to meet them. Don’t be surprised if neighbours you’ve never met land on your doorstep requesting to meet your little one.

And even stranger is that they attract gifts from even the unlikeliest sources, like your neighbours.

Plus of course there’s the baby shower, long lost relatives etc. So it’s best to wait until after your baby shower before buying too much gear. You’ll probably receive a lot of what you need.

Figure out the baby gear hacks

There are a million baby items you could buy. Or you could figure out a clever way to use something you’ve already got.

For example, infant sheet sets usually come with a pillow, which you’ll never use because it’s against the SIDS guidelines. One of our midwives suggested using it as a change table cover – genius!

Keep One Eye to the Future

You’re expecting a girl! Congratulations. Before you rush off to fill your trolley with pink everything, consider if you’re going to have a second child. If you are, then going gender neutral for around 80% of the clothes you buy for the first year, means you’ll be set for baby number 2. Otherwise you might need a entirely new wardrobe next time. Splash out on the remaining 20% and don’t forget you can always accessorize.

Pick up for free on the side of the road

Finally, you can’t go past free stuff on the side of the road. Our council does a regular kerbside collection and guess what one of the most popular items is? Baby and kids stuff.Frugal nursery setup

Expensive neighbourhoods in particular offer free baby stuff in excellent condition and that are good quality. We’ve picked up a walker and activity table from a local footpath, not to mention our outdoor table.

And it’s another win-win because it stops useable toys going into landfill.

My Newborn Baby Shopping List

I leave you with my list of baby products that we actually used all the tie in the first year of our babies life.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase.

  1. IKEA Gulliver Cot (second hand) with new mattress, sheets and mattress protector – this just squeezed into our room at the foot of our bed for the first 6 months
  2. Convertible Car seat (second hand) with new seat cover – used rear facing for the first year and forward facing until baby is 4 years old
  3. Kathmandu Nappy Bag (second hand) with new change mat – it’s stylishly multi purpose so it could be reused as a regular bag in the future
  4. IKEA Gulliver change table – excellent from an ergonomic perspective, not getting wee and poo on the bed and keeping an older child from rolling away (IKEA offer very affordable nursery furniture sets that are tough)
  5. Aldi Nappies from newborn right up to toddler – they’re well reviewed by Choice Magazine as well; we tried reusable but our baby got constant rashes
  6. Coles Little Explorer Wipes – they’re thick and inexpensive
  7. Nappy rash cream – initially we used all the samples we received while I was pregnant, then moved onto Honey & Herb Baby Botty Butter and I’ve since made my own
  8. Baby bath on stand (second hand) and IKEA non slip crocodile mat – we don’t have a bath, so this was a good ergonomic option for the first 6 months until the baby started standing up, then she moved to the shower
  9. Clothes (third hand) – an excellent list of what’s recommended is provided by Raising Children
  10. Baby Bjorn baby carrier (third hand) – couldn’t live without it because our baby wouldn’t nap in her cot initially and hated every other device like the pram or car seat
  11. IKEA Antillop High Chair (second hand) – the best feature is that you can take it outside and hose it
  12. Tommee Tippee Roll N Go Bibs – I can’t understate how much I love these. They catch some food and don’t require laundering and stain removal. We have two and stopped using all our cloth bibs once we got these.
  13. Play mat or blanket to put baby on the floor for tummy time and to give your arms a break – we could have easily done without a bouncer but not the play mat
  14. Muslin Wraps for swaddling & sun protection – we swaddled for 11 weeks and then baby was over it, but we used wraps for sun protection for most of the first year
  15. Toys – any random household object that’s a baby safe object, think cookie cutters, old milk bottles, an old phone, a stack of magazines etc
  16. Books – libraries have stacks of board books perfect for babies to eat and even toy libraries so neither you nor baby gets bored
  17. Best Parenting Book – How to Get Your Kid To Eat: But Not Too Much by Ellyn Satter is as much about food as an overall parenting approach that covers breastfeeding right through to teens
  18. Internet Access – every question under the sun has been answered, my favourite sites are Raising Children Network for general trustworthy information and Precious Little Sleep for specific sleep issues

A Word On Nursery Decorating On A Budget

You would think being an architect, the nursery decor would be of high priority to me. It wasn’t. Call me lazy, but we actually didn’t do anything to decorate the nursery except throw a few of my stuffed toys on a shelf and put up a picture of a koala that I’d had unframed for 20 or so years.

We didn’t know the gender of our child and took the approach that the room would be decorated over time to his or her taste and personality.

I’m glad we waited. In the first year we spent hardly any time in the nursery anyway and we’ve since bought and made things that reflect our daughter’s nickname and individuality. It’s now really her room, not the baby that I was imagining while carrying her.

And in the last week it’s changed dramatically because grown up so much and soon it will need to accommodate her baby brother or sister and their personality as well. While I won’t be posting photos to Pinterest anytime soon, it’s a perfect space.

Despite our frugal nursery setup, our child is a healthy and happy toddler and we signed up for a second one, so the first year couldn’t have been that bad!

Have I missed something? What did you find indispensable in the first year of babies life? What could you have done without?

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2 thoughts on “What To Buy For Baby On A Tiny Budget”

  • Congratulations – didn’t know you were expecting and excited for you.

    I like your 5 essentials list. I always caught myself thinking (when all of the products were being marketed hard), “What would a little cavebaby need?” I think your list pretty much hits it (assuming that cavemen could drive).

    The only things I really needed in the first year beyond your list were more swaddling blankets (for some reason, the ones for sale in the U.S. were all smaller than the ones in the hospital – we ended up having some shipped from Japan which seems like a market failure of sorts) and pee teepees. Pee teepees are awesome if you have a boy 🙂

    Good luck!

    • Thanks Paul! We’re very excited, although this time I’m in much less of a hurry to meet the little one since I know what’s coming and I’m very much enjoying my sleep at the moment 😉

      Yeah, I actually thought about the cave babies too, when we were considering what we needed for the first one, although I still stand by using nappies! There’s a great documentary called ‘Babies’ that shows the difference between babies brought up in the US, Japan, Namibia and Mongolia. There’s no commentary, just a view of everyday life and it really drives the point home about how little humans need to survive and thrive.

      I had to look up pee teepees and they’re hilarious. I know of a few friends that have been hit, so I can see how they’d be useful. Thanks for the tip 🙂

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