$9,400.

That’s how much less I spent on my son’s first year expenses than the average U.S. family does.

According to the USDA’s Cost of Raising a Child calculator, American parents shell out on average $16,100 for their child’s expenses during the first year, whereas my total was under $6,700.

When it comes to saving up for a baby, it’s all about being smart with what you choose to spend on.

Here were the practical tips I followed that significantly reduced the expenses I had in the first year of my baby son’s life.

In this post, you’ll find:

  • Strategies to cut down your baby-related expenses in the first year
  • How to save even on the most essential baby items that you can’t forego
  • Resources that can help you reduce your costs, sometimes down to $0

This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

useful ways to save up for baby

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TAKE ACTION:

  • Get your health insurance together so you aren’t paying an arm and a leg for the hospital bill
  • Download our baby essentials checklist to figure out what items you actually need
  • Be smart with your shopping to pay way less than you should for baby things

Tips to Save Up for Baby

Rethink newborn “essentials”
The list of things that are truly baby necessities is much shorter than you think. Check out our post on what should and shouldn’t make the list, and see budget friendly options for the most important baby gear.

We even made a convenient checklist of these baby essentials for you. Click on the button below to sign up for our one-page printable.

baby essentials checklist and baby savings plan worksheet tracker printable

WANT A FREE BABY ESSENTIALS CHECKLIST & BABY SAVINGS PLAN?

Get this two-part printable:

  • Essentials checklist:
    • Baby must-have items
    • Highly recommended and optional products
    • Estimated budget per category
  • Savings plan:
    • One major financial task per month
    • Fun savings tracker

Skip making a nursery altogether
As adorable as a nursery may sound, you can get way more out of both your house and your baby budget by forgoing it.

We kept our son in the same room as us, which proved to be super convenient during those feedings at odd hours of the night.

Set up a subscription
Convenience + savings = winning combo. That’s why we love subscription services, which reward you with a discount for setting up a recurring order.

If you have Amazon Prime (free to try for 30 days if you don’t), you can sign up for Amazon Family for free, where you can set up a diaper subscription to get 20% off your diaper orders.

amazon family prime to get 20% off diapers subscription

Time your purchases
Instead of buying stuff as you think of needing it, save up your major shopping for special promotions and typical price slashing periods, like holiday sales.

One of our favorite money-saving tactics is to save up for Target’s $X for $X promotions, when you get free gift cards for spending a minimum amount. Instead of buying diapers one pack at a time, I wait for these promotions to stock up and then use the gift card on future diaper purchases.

It’s like we’re getting free diapers.

target logo

Choose convertible items
Things that can “grow” with the baby are excellent investments. Convertible cribs and car seats are much cheaper overall, since you can stick with just one as your child ages rather than buying separate items as they get older.

graco milestone convertible car seat baby gear budget friendly

Use coupons
Whether they’re manufacturer’s coupons or online discount codes, take advantage of any opportunity to spend less on things that you were going to buy anyway.

If you’re a fan of online shopping, use CHANGREADERDISCOUNT at checkout to get these free baby items (just pay for shipping):

free baby stuff - nursing pillow

free baby stuff - nursing cover

free baby stuff - car seat stretch cover with polka dots

free baby stuff - baby bibs

free baby stuff - onesie clothing

free baby stuff - hooded towel

free baby stuff - board books

free baby stuff - baby shoes

free baby stuff - pacifier

Just remember to enter code CHANGREADERDISCOUNT at checkout to get your free baby items.

Remember that you’re buying for baby, not you
Cool toy with 50 different functions catch your eye? Chances are, your baby won’t have the attention span to play with it in the intended manner and it will just end up in their mouth.

Seriously, everything is so brand new to your child that they can stay amused by the simplest pleasures. Soak this up while you can because it’s surprisingly sweet to see how excited they are by pieces of paper or toilet paper rolls.

Sign up for baby registries
Baby registries are just straight up awesome. In fact, I highly recommend that you sign up for multiple registries to reap the benefits from all the retailers who are happy to offer perks galore to soon-to-be mothers.

Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy:

  • Goodie bag with free baby samples
  • Manufacturer’s coupons
  • Registry completion discount
  • Shipping perks
  • And more!

My top two favorite registries are this one and this one.

amazon baby box for free banner

target baby registry - free welcome bag and discounts

Repurpose things around the house
Products that have the word “baby” on it are automatically marked up, so find ways to use general household items to fulfill your needs.

For example, we used regular old shirts as bibs, and a bath towel as our changing pad.

stack of cloth diapers - save money on cloth vs disposable diapers

Try using cloth diapers
Cloth diapers are not as bad as you think, and can help you save a nice chunk of change.

We didn’t mind washing the diapers, since we soaked the soiled diapers in a bucket of water with soap or baking soda before we threw it in the laundry.

Add some vinegar to your load, and it really isn’t that stinky at all to do the whole cloth diapering thing.

Do everyone’s laundry together
Your little one is not as fragile as you think, so you probably don’t need to separate laundry and use super special (i.e., expensive) baby detergent.

If you’re really concerned, test an article of baby clothing with your regular wash and see if your baby’s skin is sensitive to your detergent.

If not, then go ahead and combine all the laundry into one load. Saves you so much time and energy, trust us.

Get healthy before you get pregnant
For starters, better health usually leads to better chances of conceiving so there’s the potential to save money if you don’t need fertility-related interventions like IVF.

Getting into shape also helps reduce the chances of complications for the mothers, which means a more manageable hospital bill. 

Try to exercise as regularly as you can, especially at the start of your pregnancy. Speaking from personal experience, it’s gets harder to stay motivated to keep up with fitness when it starts to feel like you’re carrying a permanent kettleball in your tummy during those last months.

Significant others, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be joining in the exercise too. It’ll be so much more bearable for both of you if you follow the restrictive diet and activities together.

baby essentials checklist and baby savings plan worksheet tracker printable

WANT A FREE BABY ESSENTIALS CHECKLIST & BABY SAVINGS PLAN?

Get this two-part printable:

  • Essentials checklist:
    • Baby must-have items
    • Highly recommended and optional products
    • Estimated budget per category
  • Savings plan:
    • One major financial task per month
    • Fun savings tracker

Let it be known that you are expecting
You’d be surprised who has old clothes that they no longer need and are willing to pass on you. Take them all.

Or how many people want to buy stuff for your baby just because BABY. We had coworkers of coworkers who were giving us stuff because they simply wanted to shower another cute human being with cute stuff. Fine by us!

Extend the life of your maternity wardrobe
As your tummy gets rounder through the months, you might be tempted to go out and buy a new wardrobe.

Instead of doing that, consider the many other smart ways to get cute, inexpensive maternity clothes without spending a fortune, including hacks to use your current clothes longer or strategically buying pieces that you can use beyond maternity.

Check insurance coverage
Research your health insurance options to compare which plan would be the most economical for you.

Make sure you take into account the amount of the premium deducted from your paycheck as well as any deductibles and out-of-pocket costs when calculating the overall costs of each plan.

newborn baby in bassinet with hospital band on leg

Sign up for a tax savings plan
Health savings accounts or flex spending accounts allow you to put money into a separate account specifically for the purpose of paying health-related costs without that money getting taxed, meaning you save big on taxes.

This was definitely a mistake I wish I didn’t make. I was one day too late to enroll in the flex spending program through my employer, so I ultimately lost out on $500 of savings on my hospital birth bill.

Go for secondhand items
Babies grow so fast that there are some things where it makes far more sense to go with secondhand options.

The perfect example? Clothes.

They won’t fit in a few months, so go with hand-me-downs, thrift shops, or online sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace whenever possible.

CAUTION:

For safety reasons, there are some items where it is wiser to buy brand new, such as car seats or strollers. If you buy used, you might miss out on important recall notices or not qualify for recall-related replacements.

Check for free or dirt cheap stuff through online marketplaces
If you’re lucky, you might be able to score free stuff from Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace by filtering through their free listings.

I’ve seen clothes, feeding supplies, and old baby gear. If you are okay with getting the big-ticket items secondhand, just be careful about recall information to ensure the safety of your baby.

baby essentials checklist and baby savings plan worksheet tracker printable

WANT A FREE BABY ESSENTIALS CHECKLIST & BABY SAVINGS PLAN?

Get this two-part printable:

  • Essentials checklist:
    • Baby must-have items
    • Highly recommended and optional products
    • Estimated budget per category
  • Savings plan:
    • One major financial task per month
    • Fun savings tracker

Consider generic, less expensive brands
When it came to diapers, we went with Target’s Up and Up brand. Not only did they do their job, they were at a fraction of the cost of the other name brands.

Invest in things that will last
Similar to the note above, investing in quality for higher ticket items that you’ll be using often is totally worth it.

One example is an ergonomic baby carrier. If you plan to babywear, keeping baby physically close to connect with you, go for a carrier that is comfortable for you to carry your baby in so that the experience is enjoyable for both of you.

ergonomic baby carrier budget friendly

Bring someone along when you’re shopping
If you’re easily swayed to spend or find yourself unduly influenced by pregnancy hormones (so, every mother), bring another level-headed person with you who can make a better judgment call to keep your spending in check.

But make sure that person isn’t soon-to-be grandma. They tend to express their love for their grandchild with stuff, stuff, and more stuff.

Shop clearance
If you’re like me and don’t care about having the latest and greatest, help stores clear out their inventory by snagging stuff from the clearance aisle at a greatly reduced price.

TIP:

You can probably haggle for an even lower price. Stores that really want to get rid of stuff are prone to say yes if you ask for an added discount.

Your chances are higher if you can find a blemish or scratch to justify the lower price.

Trade
Figured out that you didn’t need that thing you put on your registry after all?

Think about trading it with another mother in need to see if she might have something that you could use.

Another similar option is to refund or exchange the item.

baby essentials checklist and baby savings plan worksheet tracker printable

WANT A FREE BABY ESSENTIALS CHECKLIST & BABY SAVINGS PLAN?

Get this two-part printable:

  • Essentials checklist:
    • Baby must-have items
    • Highly recommended and optional products
    • Estimated budget per category
  • Savings plan:
    • One major financial task per month
    • Fun savings tracker

Breastfeed
Breastfeeding can be a great money saver, especially if you nurse directly versus pumping. That way, you don’t need to worry about all the extra supplies needed like a breast pump, bags to carry the milk, ice packs to prevent the milk from spoiling, and so forth.

Even if you do choose to pump, you’ll at least save the money that would have otherwise been spent on formula.

ultimate breastfeeding class online only $19

Sign up for formula rewards programs
Sometimes formula is what works best for you and your baby, despite any other intentions you might have had to give breastmilk.

I originally wanted to breastfeed exclusively, but my milk supply was too low so I had to supplement with formula.

I was so glad that I had signed up for the Similac and Enfamil’s rewards programs just in case, because I ended up getting tons of free samples of formula during those first months when I truly needed it.

Plus, these companies sent so many coupons that I was always able to get $5 off every time I had to buy formula.

DIY baby food
When your little one graduates to solids, DIY the food instead of buying it premade. All it takes is a nifty thing like this to mash up food.

TIP:

Keep things convenient by blending foods you prepared for our own meal, as opposed to making something separate for your kid.

daycare alternatives - group of asian toddlers at a table

Talk with your partner about your childcare situation
Daycare can easily run thousands of dollars a year, so it’s crucial to hammer out the details now so you can either prepare for the costs or find alternatives to reduce this expense.

When it comes to deciding whether you should stay at home or work and pay for daycare, consider these things:

  • Take-home pay vs cost of daycare
  • How you’ll pay for health insurance if you aren’t working
  • Whether you’ll can stay sane as a stay-at-home parent
  • Whether you can get free or cheap babysitting help from others

Our affordable daycare article has more information on how to plan for childcare to fit within your budget.

Plan ahead for the next baby
When you’re done using baby items, save it for a future kid or pass it along to another expecting mother if you don’t plan to have any more kids.

Donate toys and other baby items
If you don’t know anyone who’s expecting, then consider donating the baby stuff you’re no longer using and getting a tax write-off for your charitable donation.

CAUTION:

There are certain items that donation centers cannot accept for safety reasons, like car seats or high chairs.

Try your best to see if you can pass these items along to anyone one at all before deciding to trash them..

Resell your items
Recoup some of your cost, break even, or better yet, make a profit.

In addition to Craigslist and Facebook, try buying and selling apps like Decluttr or Letgo.

Check out blogs and Youtube
Blogs and Youtube are excellent resources for navigating parenthood. Most content is free, but even paid online courses by bloggers might be cheaper than the traditional classes that are out there.

For example, my healthcare provider charged $100 for prenatal classes. But this course, created by a registered labor and delivery nurse, was way less.

This other course on breastfeeding really helped me with the struggles I was still having after my insurance stopped providing me with lactation services.

baby essentials checklist and baby savings plan worksheet tracker printable

WANT A FREE BABY ESSENTIALS CHECKLIST & BABY SAVINGS PLAN?

Get this two-part printable:

  • Essentials checklist:
    • Baby must-have items
    • Highly recommended and optional products
    • Estimated budget per category
  • Savings plan:
    • One major financial task per month
    • Fun savings tracker

Enlist help of friends and family
Especially during the first month, having others help you out can really save you money (and your sanity). This help can be in the form of babysitting, bringing you food, or helping with other chores & errands.

Team up with other moms
Making friends with other mothers is not just good for your mental and social well-being, it can also be cost-effective.

Here are some ways they can have an impact on your baby bottom line (get it?):

  • Get advice and feedback on what you really do or don’t need to buy for baby
  • Split bulk items so everyone can enjoy low prices without getting stuck with excess inventory
  • Take turns watching each other’s kids to save on childcare

Conclusion

Getting creative can help you save money for a baby. Use these tips to save for your baby in terms of both dollars and time, both of which are better spent on your new bundle of joy.

TAKE ACTION:

  • Get your health insurance together so you aren’t paying an arm and a leg for the hospital bill
  • Download our baby essentials checklist to figure out what items you actually need
  • Be smart with your shopping to pay way less than you should for baby things

SPREAD THE WEALTH! SHARE THIS POST!

KEEP LEARNING & EARNING:

Sylvia aka Mama Chang

AUTHOR BIO

Sylvia, aka Mama Chang, is a personal finance blogger out to prove the possibility of navigating high-cost living on a low-cost budget. Paid off college and condo in her 20's on under $55k salary. She wants to teach others how optimize money to maximize quality of life. Dual income with kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Pinterest | Instagram