Baby on a Budget

My husband and I have three kids – two sons (7 and 5) and one daughter (19 months – that’s her at 2 weeks!).

Surrounded by friends who have four or more kids, I’m practically a newbie in the world of motherhood. So while I would never dream of doling out parenting advice on this blog, I have learned a thing or two about how to save money while raising (at least for the first few years) said babies — which I am more than happy to share! Here are my eight favorite tips:

1. Gladly accept hand-me-downs

We didn’t have a lot of friends with kids when DS1 was born, so we couldn’t really experience the love of hand-me-downs. Thanks to overly generous grandparents, however, we did have a very well dressed kiddo — whose duds we happily passed down to our second son, saving a bundle.

Our daughter, on the other hand, has been blessed beyond measure with passed-down clothing from so many good friends. I have spent less than $50 on clothing for her, and she has tubs filled with outfits that will last her ’til kindergarten!

Depending on how you shop, hand-me downs can save you hundreds of dollars – if not much more – in clothing alone!

2. Remember: Hand me downs aren’t just for clothing

Once your friends are offering clothing, you might find they have some gear to give away as well. (If you give a mom a hand-me down onesie, she’s going to want a pack-n-play to go with it…)

From strollers to swings, this stuff costs a fortune to buy new! And given that you often use it for only a few months, it’s not always money well spent.

We bought a lot of the basics for DS1, which we used for DS2 as well. When we moved back to the United States, we decided to sell almost everything – since the cost of shipping across the Atlantic was more than buying the items new again here.

By the time we had #3, we had realized how truly short-lived the baby gear phase is and that buying new usually doesn’t pay.

3. Buy second hand

If you don’t have a great source for FREE hand-me-down clothing and gear, the next best option is to buy second-hand. Here are some of my favorite venues:

  • Thrift stores – Consignment-type stores tend to be the most expensive of the second-hand options, but they often have very high-end stuff at a fraction of the cost. While I am not a crafty maven, I have seen many bloggers remaking Good Will furniture finds into GORGEOUS nursery sets – if that’s your thing.
  • ThredUp – I haven’t used this service personally, but a number of friends have told me about it. Basically, you sign up for a free membership, which allows you to swap boxes of clothing or toys with other members. It’s like paperbackswap, but for baby stuff! (If you’ve had a good ThredUp experience, please chime in!)
  • Garage sales – When DD was less than two weeks old, my husband and I took her out for a morning of garage sale-ing. We hit an amazing house – a mom of twin girls, who had tons of high-end clothing, priced at $.50 a piece. For less than the cost of one new ensemble at Gymboree, I walked away with two dozen, barely-worn dresses and play outfits. Garage sales have also been great to me in terms of gear, including the Fisher Price Aquarium Soother for $5, which we play every night before DD goes to bed.
  • Craigslist – The prices on Craigslist aren’t as low as garage sales, but if you have a baby who is born in the winter, you may not have garage sale options. The other plus of Craigslist is that you can search for exactly what you want – like when I was looking for a white Jenny Lind crib (we disabled the drop side, don’t worry!). After using Craigslist for a number of purchases, I have become pretty good at “screening” sellers, so I don’t waste my time – or theirs. Don’t forget: You can – and should – bargain on the price.

By the way, my two exceptions to buying things second-hand are car seats and mattresses. We bought both of these purchases new, including getting a really lovely organic mattress for DD. It was a splurge, but by paying pennies for the rest of her gear and clothing, we had created margin in our budget.

4. Make do & do without

Everyone has their list of “essentials”, but keeping that list to a minimum has definitely helped us to save money – even when we are buying our stuff second-hand.

Despite my lusting over the Bugaboo, we have used the same Maclaren for all three kids; and we’ve never splurged for a changing table, preferring to use the (free) floor, couch or bed.

I will confess that our big indulgence has been slings (we have four), but we have collected them over the course of parenting three babies. And truly, for the way we schlep our kids around, they are essential for us!

5. Breastfeed

While nursing is wonderful for many reasons, I will just say that, apropos to this blog and all things being equal, breastfeeding is FAR less expensive than formula. If you are having your first, and are at all on the fence about how you will feed, I would strongly encourage you to give nursing a major go.

6. Use Cloth Diapers

I know I have been promising a post on cloth diapering and it is coming, so I’m going to just tease you with the headline and ask you to stay tuned… If you are currently a cloth diapering ima (or aba) and would like to contribute to that future post in any way, please contact me!

7. Be Patient

One of the best things about the minhag of not buying stuff before the baby is born is that it prevents us from going completely overboard. I know how worrisome it can be, primarily with your first, to fret over the details. And yet somehow, once the baby is born, it always seems to fall into place.

Likewise with older kids, when the urge to splurge on some fancy new thing hits, just sit with it – patiently. Unless it’s an urgent need, a week or two of patiently waiting won’t hurt — and it might help you save a lot!

8. Be a Savvy Shopper

I’ve done countless posts on wipes and diaper deals, so I won’t rehash that here, beyond to say that you truly can get a deal on just about anything.

I shop for baby stuff the same way I shop for groceries. I research, I buy on sale, I use coupons (or coupon codes for online sales), and I take advantage of other store incentives. So if you are planning to buy new from a “first-hand” store, don’t leave your savvy shopping skills at home!

What about you? How have you raised your babies on a budget? What are your best tips for saving money in an arena that can get costly – quickly?


  1. It’s nice to see that we’re on the same page for baby savings. It seems like the industry is really bent on getting parents to overspend! We also benefited greatly from hand-me-downs, as well as my mom being an avid garage saler (and these being her first two grandkids, well…).

    Something that I’m hoping to do more with DS2 is spend a lot less on baby food (as in, not buy the jars but give him regular ol’ mashed up food).

    • Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I forgot to talk about the baby food! Good one, Rivki. We have never bought jarred food (or baby cereal for that matter). I should do another whole post on that! At first we did homemade baby foods with DS1, and then we learned about “Baby Led Weaning” and “did” that with the other two. Either way, it’s a huge savings — HUGE! — and better for baby, too 🙂

  2. Buying second hand is my favorite way to save money on kids clothes. My daughter is 2 and I am obsessed with buying clothes for her. In Maryland we have a great consignment program called Totswap ( I can buy her a shirts and pants for $1 or $2, shabbos dresses for $5, and winter coats for $10. There are also kids equipment there and we bought 2 booster seats for $2 each!!!

  3. I use Baby Cheapskate as a resource for deals on baby items-from diapers to gear. She rounds up all the weekly diaper and formula deals each Sunday as well as shares links to coupons. Super helpful. I am obsessed with saving money on diapers. If I only I could channel that into saving more money on food. Baby steps.

  4. If you like slings and nursing covers, then try this out:
    If you type in the discount code “onefree” then the $32 cover goes down to $0. Then your email address becomes a discount code for a free sling at Basically, you get a sling and a nursing cover for $20 in shipping costs only.
    There was some hype about the website not being so secure, but if you pay with paypal (which they take) then you should be fine. They have an A rating with the Better Business Bureau.

    • Hi Shira – Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂 I had also heard the same hype about Udder Covers, which is why I’d never shared the free sling deals on the blog. Good to know they have a A rating with the BB.

  5. I don’t get so many hand me downs from other people, but my younger son gets all his older brothers clothes. I also love garage sales and last year go tons of clothes for my daughter for a quarter each!
    The only things I usually splurge on, and buy new, are shabbos/yom tov clothes. I usually buy in the last season(for next year) 75% off with a coupon. But I still won’t pay more than $10 per outfit.

  6. Great list, Mara! We do everything on your list, plus the baby food. 😉 One thing I would add is that when you are buying things that you want to last for a veerrrry long time (I’m thinking vehicles or furniture type things), plan ahead and don’t be afraid to spend more for quality. I wish we had bought a bigger vehicle, I think we’ve outgrown ours too soon. And I wish we’d bought higher quality furniture for the kids’s room; I feel we’ve already repaired too many times.

    One thing I’ve found, as my kids get older, is that babies are CHEAP!! Now that we have ‘kids’ as opposed to ‘babies,’ we have to have a TON of everything – food, car seats, clothes, beds, cereal bowls, chairs, school supplies… you get the idea! 🙂 Relatively, babies need very little resources.

  7. @Rivka – You are SO right about the kids vs. babies in terms of expense! All the more reason to spend LESS on the baby phase (despite the temptation to go nuts at Babies R Us), since you will have MORE expenses soon enough.

    I agree with you about quality – good point. Of course, when you are getting dressers for $15 from garage sales, it’s less of an issue 😉

  8. Freecycle is the way to go. Ask for what you want, (usually) receive it, and offer it to the freecycle community when you are done.

    • Great addition, Julie! I’ve had a lot of luck “unloading” clutter via Freecycle, including a wardrobe I had rescued out of my parents basement, intending to refinish it for the baby’s room. Then I got a lead paint kit (VERY IMPORTANT IF YOU BUY PAINTED 2ND HAND FURNITURE!) and that puppy came up LEAD right away. Oy vey. I fully disclosed on Freecyle and within 4 minutes, I had about 100 people who wanted to take it off my hands.

  9. maybe I can contribute to the cloth diaper post…though I really don’t know my overall savings, I know I’m buying / using less disposable and creating less garbage! I want to do baby led weaning this time – don’t know much about it though.

    as for savings, I shop the consignment sales!

  10. hi! i am so happy to have found this site. i love budget blogs but have never seen a kosher one before. reading posts about 50 things to make with bacon are obviously less than helpful! we cloth diaper and i am totally ineterested in what you have to say.

  11. The thrift stores here are lousy so I use group consignment sales, ebay, consignment stores and seasonal sales first and then look at retail stores. We have two girls 23 months apart so I go for higher end clothes (Gap, Hanna Andersson and LL Bean tends to last longer than Carters and Target) since I want both girls to use them and they have already been owned by someone else.
    Cloth diapers are great, they are limping along with #2, when she is finished I think they will go straight to the rag pile. #1 is toilet training and cloth training pants work. Bummis makes good ones that #2 will use later. We do use some disposable diapers, particularly when going out of the house and Amazon Mom has the best prices anywhere- they deliver too!
    The girls have enough toys but not too much. I prefer Waldorf/Montessori type open ended toys and the expense alone (even used or on sale) means that I have to think carefully about every purchase. I don’t like clutter and the two year is able to keep her room clean with just a little help and everything has a place.
    They have two full shelves of book in their room. The library and used book sales are our friend. They get new books to read every week and then they go back. Half of the books they own cost less than 50 cents each.
    Hand me downs are awesome- we needed to borrow a double stroller for one day and we were given one by someone who no longer used it.
    When we are finished with clothing I get rid of it- I just unloaded the 0-3 months by passing them on.

    • We’re Waldorf -toy people, too! Actually, I should say *I* am. My boys seem to prefer the plastic, battery operated stuff! So, we’ve got a nice blend of both. I agree that the price point makes you weigh every choice carefully – but that’s a good thing 🙂

      We also love the library for books. I never thought I’d get rid of books, but I’ve recently been decluttering them. The kids hardly touch OUR books, when they get NEW ones every week at the library!

  12. We have always made our own baby food and frozen it in the freezer in small portions.

    Even though we have not used cloth diapers, we did make all of our wipes. We found them to be better for our babies and we never got a rash like we did with ones we sometimes used from the store.

    The Original Recipe for Baby Wipes
    1/2 roll of paper towels (cut in half to make short rolls)
    1/8-1/4 c. baby shampoo
    1/8-1/4 c. baby oil
    2 cups lukewarm water
    1 plastic (tupperware) container that the rolls fit in

    Mix liquid ingredients gently. Pour mixture over one half of paper towel roll in container. We pour it down the cardboard tube and then remove the tube as it is moistened. The wipes come up from the center of the roll.

    You can also add a drop or two of tea tree oil.

    • I am VERY flattered that you are commenting on Babies on a Budget, when you just HAD a baby! (If you want to do cloth wipes, let me know – I’ve got a bunch that I made and don’t use anymore.)

  13. kids really are expensive! I am a big fan of hand me downs, both from one kid to the next and from freinds. Our community has a listerv and whenever someone has stuff to give away i jump on it! (i scored two free blow up toddler beds that way). i also trade toys with friends and go garage sale hopping. another great way to score free stuff, check out bulk pick up days! (play kitchen, two ridning toys, a snap and go and a tricycle, all in great condition totally free!) i admit i prefered jarred baby food, but always on sale with a coupon (sometimes stacked coupons). We did buy new cribs, but got a toddler bed at a garage sale.
    it is so true though about how long you use some baby stuff for. my older daughter loved her swing (chanukah gift from aunties), but we only used it for like 6 months! My little one didn’t even like it, it’s gathering dust in the basement. my biggest splurge was the double stroller, we got the city miny, because we felt it was important to have a good one since i walk a lot in town. (and we used money from in laws that was specificall earmarked for something for the baby).
    Anyhow, thanks Mara for all your great advice!

  14. Yes to lots of that! None of my children have ever eaten packaged or jarred baby food. My policy is that as soon as they’re old enough to sit up themselves and feed themselves (with their hands) they are old enough to eat real food. Chunks of whatever the rest of us are eating is fine.

    I also have tons of hand-me-downs. My problem is keeping them organized enough.

    I did cloth diapers for a while with my first two, but the rest of the laundry did me in. If someone wants to buy a decent collection of used cloth diapers I will consider it! (Mostly Fuzzi Bunz, a few Happy Heinys and one or two Kissaluvs and Wonderoos.)

    For now I usually stick to Target diapers – no free advertising on my child’s bottom and decent quality, plus relatively cheap (you get catalina coupons for them fairly often too).

    • It’s funny, we aren’t CDing anymore (hard water issues causing build-up causing rash), but I can’t part with my stash. It’s precious to me 🙂 Even more than the baby clothes.

      Speaking of which, we just sort them by size in those big Rubbermaid tubs. If you don’t have room for that, those big vacuum pack bags work pretty well and can be stored under the bed.

  15. I made my own baby food for all of my kids.
    I also used cloth diapers. We had a diaper service, but it was not expensive. Of course, my baby is now 14 so this was a while ago.

  16. make my own baby food. use alot of hand me down from older sibs and cousins. When i do buy clothing from Carters and oshkosh on sale- rarely more than $8 per outfit.
    Yeah, you can do that with babies. Not so much with 16 year olds. I am finding it very difficult to contain costs with them. They will not wear garage sale stuff, or even clothes from cousin. They insist on certain brands (hollister, american eagle and other obnoxious teenage stores)
    these guys can totally wreck your careful plans…

    • Yikes – that scares me!

      I remember my mom saying “no” to a pair of crazy expensive boots when I was 16. I babysat for 2 months to get them. Silly teenage-self – that money should’ve gone in my college fund, but I guess there’s not getting through to a teenager 😉

  17. I have the same crib for my baby that I bought 18 years ago for my oldest. i have used it for all my kids. worth the $$, especially since my parents paid for it back then!

  18. Great practical tips! I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding as well. I’m still nursing my almost two year old, and he isn’t showing any signs of weaning anytime soon! It has also been a huge money saver.

  19. GREAT tips! What high praise to be part of such an awesome list. I just love trading on thredUP … I have three kids, two boys and one girl, and am totally addicted to swapping out their toys and clothes now. It takes ALL of these tips to keep the budget under control, for sure! ~ Sara at thredUP

  20. The peg perego stroller we’ve used for 9 1/2 years is on its super last legs, any suggestions for a good one? I’m leaning towards an Inglesina trip or a MacLaren Triumph. Any experience with these or other suggestions?

    • Chana – we have the Triumph and it’s lasted through three kids. The sun shade is kind of shot, but the rest of the stroller is in great shape. For best prices, I suggest looking at Craigslist. Also, it’s garage sale season – so you might be able to find some stellar deals ($40 or less) -keep your eyes open. If you want new, check out AlbeeBaby – they have great prices on last year’s models. HTH.

  21. That was quick, thanks SOO much!

  22. I would like to add, since you just linked this article on Facebook – DO NOT buy second hand car seats. You have no idea if the car seat was in an accident and car seats have an expiration date (usually five or seven years after purchase). If a car seat was in an accident, it can undermine the structural integrity of the seat, in ways that aren’t visible to the naked eye. So, in other words, that is one thing to spend money on it.

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