When you're expecting your first baby, one of the most exciting aspects of the experience (other than finding out if it's a boy or a girl) is picking out baby gear. First-time parents are especially susceptible to the idea that babies need tons of stuff, and often end up spending money on things they only use a handful of times. It's easy to get wrapped up in the idea that your baby should have only fresh-from-the-store items, but if you're willing to accept hand-me-downs, you'll save a ton of money in the long run. Honed from my own experience raising two kids, I'm sharing eight easy ways to save money when you're expecting a new baby.
1. Borrow, don't buy
Baby gear, especially if it's the latest and greatest model, can be incredibly expensive, which means that you might end up with a $200 baby swing that your kid hates and that becomes a repository for piles of dirty laundry and outgrown diapers. Instead, ask your friends with kids if you can borrow any big items that they are no longer using. You'd be surprised how many people have piles of baby gear in their attic or garage, and most are happy to loan items out, especially to clueless new parents. We scored a MamaRoo baby rocker (our kid hated it) and an exersaucer from friends with older kids who were thrilled to pass on their gently used items.
2. Think long-term
While it may seem as though the days crawl by, babies change and develop so quickly throughout the first 12 months of life that they often grow out of toys and gear within a matter of weeks. Don't spend a lot of money on items that won't be used for very long — bouncy chairs, jumperoos, and walkers come to mind — and splurge instead on more important and long-lasting gear such as a stroller and a convertible carseat.
3. Don't buy it, consign it
Find out about your local children's consignment shops, and always shop there first. The prices are well below retail, and you'll often find like-new high-end children's clothing at bargain prices. Some boutiques also consign gear in addition to clothing, which makes them a great place to snap up barely used items like booster-seats or bouncers. You can also consign your children's outgrown clothes for either cash or store credit. You usually make more money if you're willing to take store credit, so your best bet is to use the credit to refresh your children's wardrobes each season.
4. You don't need every single thing
Putting together a baby registry is a rite of passage for expectant parents, but the list of items that you supposedly "need" can be overwhelming. I was so out of my element when I tried to register for my first child that I ended up sobbing in the stroller aisle of Buy Buy Baby. Don't let this happen to you! Remember that the reason the store gives you a long list of suggested items is because it wants to make money off of you. Honestly, you don't really need 96 percent of the stuff on the list — specifically a wipes warmer or Sophie la Girafe — and you'll be better off in the long run registering for fewer, more practical items, like a good quality crib mattress.
5. Reuse and repurpose
All of the furniture in both of my kids' nurseries was either a hand-me-down or purchased on Craigslist. I scored a gorgeous designer crib and two changing tables for less than half of their original cost. By painting the changing tables and swapping out the drawer pulls (total cost: $25), I gave them a whole new look. A good scrub, a fresh coat of paint, and new slipcovers on upholstered pieces can transform even the most dingy items for a fraction of the cost of new ones. If the furniture is still in good condition once your kids outgrow it, you can resell it and recoup some, if not all, of your original investment.
6. Register for lots of diapers
Diapers are one of the few things you really, really need when you have a baby, and they happen to be ridiculously expensive. Even if you take all the free diapers they give you at the hospital (which you absolutely should), you're still going to have to buy diapers, because newborns go through six to 10 of them every single day. Save yourself money and the hassle of having to go out and buy diapers in the middle of the night by registering for several different sizes of diapers (I would suggest 1-2-3). If you keep your registry to the bare minimum for other items, you should end up with a nice stash of diapers to last you through the first few months.
7. Get on the Mealtrain
There is no way to understand how exhausting it is to care for a baby until you have one. It's also very possible that you'll have a tough recovery after giving birth, which can make doing even the most basic chores difficult. I had planned to cook healthy, organic meals for myself, but I was bedridden for almost six weeks, which meant we ended up ordering in almost every night. Newsflash: Takeout is expensive! Rather than eating mediocre Thai food for a month straight, ask a friend to set up a Mealtrain for your first few weeks at home. Friends and family can sign up to bring you meals while you're home getting acclimated to life with a new baby. My local moms' group put together a Mealtrain for me after the birth of my second child, and I was so thankful for the home-cooked food. It was by far one of the best gifts I received.
8. Spend money on self-care
Instead of purchasing a fancy baby swing, spend that money on something to make your life easier after the baby arrives. Hire a housekeeper to come once a month so you're not trying to keep up with a new baby and the housework. If you don't have a laundry machine in your apartment, budget a few extra dollars for fluff and fold. There's no shame in asking (or paying) for help, especially if it makes it possible for you to find some time to take a shower or a nap. Trust me, you'll need both of those things a whole lot more than a stupid rubber giraffe.