How to Afford a Baby on a Very Tight Budget
When you are pregnant without a job or with a low income, it can be very overwhelming to think about how you will afford the things your new baby will need. All the newborn shopping lists online recommend “must have” products that add up to hundreds of dollars. You do not need all that stuff!
What do you need to buy for baby?
As a mom of four (and a pediatric nurse), I am here to tell you that there are very few necessities for a newborn baby, and you are no less of a parent if you can’t afford all of the bells and whistles that other parents have. Your baby just needs a few basic supplies and lots of love.
To help you afford a baby on a tight budget, I have compiled a list of exactly what you must have for your newborn, and where to find it for cheap or free.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item through one of my links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I link to Amazon for most of my products, but please know you can find baby items used at yard sales, thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. Most of the items can also be found at Walmart or Target (but Target usually costs more).
The most important thing your baby needs is a safe place to sleep.
Babies need a firm mattress without fluffy bedding, pillows, or stuffed animals. So all those cute bedding sets that you see are unnecessary and in many cases, unsafe.
Your baby needs a Baby Box, bassinet, or crib. If your baby must sleep with you, please read about co-sleeping safety to ensure that you create the safest sleep environment possible for your baby.
Baby Box– Baby Boxes are sustainably designed safe sleeping spaces. Baby Boxes are given to all parents in Finland, which has a SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) rate of less than half of the U.S. You may be able to get a FREE Baby box through Baby Box University.
Once you click the link, you will watch educational videos and request your FREE Baby Box. Your Baby Box should last your baby around 5-6 months.
Many hospitals in the United States have also joined with Baby Box in creating a safe place for babies to sleep. I know of moms who have been sent home from the hospital with a brand new Baby Box full of baby products samples, so check with the hospital where you will be delivering as well.
A bassinet– If you are unable to obtain a Baby Box for free, I would move on to a bassinet because they cost less than purchasing a Baby Box.
You can buy a used bassinet on Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, yardsales, or Craiglist for around twenty dollars. However, when buying used baby gear, always check for recalls, and never purchase baby items from a smoker. Cigarette smoke is unhealthy for babies and linked to a higher risk of SIDS.
When purchasing a bassinet new, the Delta Children’s Sweet Beginnings Bassinet is the best deal by far. Coming in at under 40 dollars, you cannot find a better price on a new bassinet. A mattress and sheet are included with the bassinet. It also has a built in music module for playing lullabies.
The Sweet Beginnings bassinet is very pretty in a gender neutral gray. This bassinet will work for babies up to 15 pounds (usually 5 months). I purchased mine on Amazon, but I have also seen these at Walmart in store.
A Crib– A crib will cost more upfront, but will last you a couple of years. It really all depends on if you are able to afford it before your baby is born. If so, it will save you money because you can skip the bassinet. Cribs can usually be found used, but always check for recalls. Many cribs have been recalled due to drop-sides or the rails being too far apart.
If you are purchasing a crib new, the Dream on Me Synergy 5 in 1 is the very best deal. It is around 100 dollars and can be converted to a toddler bed, and then a full bed. It comes in nine different colors, which is uncommon for cribs.
When purchasing a crib, you will also need a waterproof mattress and a sheet. These sheets are ultra soft and affordable. It would be best to have two sheets (for changing wet sheets at night) available.
Your baby must have a rear-facing car seat for safe riding.
Babies must always be restrained in a rear-facing car seat when traveling. You can often find a used car seat, but be sure to ask if it has been in any accidents (in which case you don’t want it), and also check the expiration date. You may even be able to get a FREE car seat for your baby from one of the following sources:
WIC– If you qualify for WIC, you may be able to obtain a free car seat for your little one. Contact your local WIC office for details.
Ask your pediatrician– Your pediatrician can point you in the direction of local agencies who provide free car seats.
Medicaid– Depending on your state, Medicaid may provide an infant car seat for your newborn. Call the number on the back of your card to find out if you qualify.
United Way- Many branches of United Way offer free car seats as part of their injury prevention program. Check with your local United Way to find out how to get one of these seats.
Police and Fire Departments- Many police and fire departments have programs to help underprivileged families maintain safe homes for their children. Call your local police station or fire department to ask if they offer free infant seats.
The hospital- Hospitals compete for customers, and one of the ways they do this is by offering free stuff to new parents. Your hospital may offer a free infant car seat.
If you cannot find a free seat, buy a convertible car seat.
Convertible car seats work for both newborns and toddlers. This keeps you from having to purchase two seats.
The car seat really only serves two purposes: to keep your baby safe and comfortable while riding, and to hold mass amounts of Cheerios and other random food crumbs. We could seriously end world hunger if we just emptied the crumbs out of all our kids’ car seats and combined them.
There are several inexpensive options available, and I will list a few below. I have had many car seats over the last 13 years, and I can tell you this: the cheaper car seats work just as well as the expensive models. All of the seats below get great reviews and come in under 70 dollars!
Diapers- I have found diapers to be most affordable at Aldi. Aldi has packs of Little Journeys diapers for 4.99. Large boxes cost a little more, but are still much more affordable than any other option I have found. I use them for my toddler and have not had any problem with rashes or leaking.
Another thing to keep in mind about diapers, is that you do not have to change them every time they are slightly wet. Diapers are designed to keep baby’s dry. I talk to new parents all the time who change their baby’s diaper several times a night. If they are asleep and it isn’t poop, leave it. If it is barely damp and they are happy, leave it. You will save a lot of money and time by not changing your baby so often.
Many of the same places that help with free infant seats, can also help you with diapers if you are unable to afford them.
Some people believe that cloth diapers are less expensive since you reuse them, but they typically do not pay for themselves until after the first year or if you have more children.
Wipes– you need unscented baby wipes for when you are out and about. I buy my wipes at Aldi too. When you are at home, you can rinse your baby’s bottom in the sink and then pat it dry. This is actually healthier than baby wipes because wipes leave a film of bacteria on your baby’s skin.
Clothing– The clothing you need really depends on the season. The great thing about baby clothing is that it is super cheap to buy used, and it is usually like new since babies grow so fast.
You can find baby clothing at yard sales for less than a dollar an item. I also see people listing them in large garbage bagfuls on Facebook Marketplace.
Try not to go overboard on the newborn stuff because your baby will outgrow it quickly. Just get a few basics, and a special outfit if you’d like one.
Pacifier-Your hospital will send you home with a paci if you request one.
Nail clippers– You can purchase Safety 1st clippers at Walmart for a couple of dollars. I prefer them over any other brand. It is also possible that the hospital can send you home with these as well.
Rectal thermometer– It is important to be able to check your baby’s temp rectally if you suspect he has a fever. Ask the hospital if they will let you take your baby’s thermometer home. They usually don’t mind at all. If not, I like this no-fear rectal thermometer.
Books-Babies who are read to are more likely to meet developmental milestones, bond with their parents, and build larger vocabularies. They are more likely to become strong readers when they are older and surpass their peers in academics. While most people don’t consider books a newborn necessity, I absolutely do.
The best thing about books? They are free at the library or through Dolly’s Parton Imagination Library.
If you live in a qualifying area, all you have to do is sign up, and your child will receive a new book 100% free every month until he is five. That is 60 free books! You don’t even have to pay for shipping!
I have so much respect for Dolly Parton, and the Imagination Library has been a blessing in our home for all four of our children.
Bottles– This one is debatable or negotiable, depending on how you think about it. I have two girls who never drank from a bottle. Breast milk is free, and you already own the supplies. It is obviously the more affordable option.
However, if you think you may give formula (which is covered on WIC), or expressed breast milk, then having a few bottles on hand is a good idea. I prefer Playtex, but the bags are an added expense, so I would go with Avent if I were choosing bottles that are high quality, and cost effective.
Baby wash- You will need a mild, tear-free baby wash for your baby. You can save money by getting a combo of body and hair wash. I don’t however, think it is necessary to purchase special laundry detergent. Just use an extra rinse on your baby’s clothes, and you should be fine. You can always start purchasing a free and clear laundry detergent for the entire family if you find that your baby has sensitive skin.
No need for baby towels or a baby tub, just bathe your baby in your sink and then wrap them up in one of your softest towels.
These are the most essential things a newborn baby needs. There are many other items that are fun to have or make parenting a little easier, but if you have just the items on this list, you can bring your baby home and be able to take care of him well. I hope you find this list helpful. Please comment below!