Parenthood can wipe out finances. Learn frugal tips for new moms to make sure that doesn’t happen. Perfect for thrifty moms to save money!
You’ve heard the horror stories.
How raising a child from birth to 18 years of age can cost the average family $245,000. The expensive gear you “need” to keep your baby safe and comfortable. The childcare, the formula, and the zillions of diapers.
Is there a way to avoid the financial trap of raising kids?
I had already been frugal before my kids were born, and even I was frantic about all the expenses that were adding up. When my twins came along a few years after my eldest, I felt the same anxiety about how this would all pan out. I could barely afford to work, what with a huge portion of my salary going to childcare and preschool costs.
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Frugal tips for new moms
Thankfully, things usually work out, but sometimes that means changing a few habits to make it work. You might even see that being frugal isn’t about sacrificing so much as it is about changing what you value in life.
This is especially important during those first few months before and after your baby is born. With the onset of parenthood and one-time (but expensive) costs, this is when you need frugal tips the most. Check out these frugal tips for new moms that actually save you money:
1. Don’t do themed nurseries
A coworker asked me what the theme of my new baby’s room would be.
“Um… beige?” I replied.
I eschewed the firetrucks, safaris, and Winnie the Pooh. Instead, I bought a good-quality mattress and a tight-fitting beige sheet. No paintings, special blankets, matching diaper bags, or decals.
Unless you enjoy decorating rooms, don’t worry about fixing your baby’s room with themes. Babies won’t notice them, and most parents I know have had to redo the room once the baby outgrew the decoration.
Instead, buy what’s necessary: a crib, a mattress, and a changing table so you don’t break your back with every change. Diapers can go into cubbies and shelves, and your baby won’t need bumpers or blankets just yet. (They’re safety hazards anyway.)
Once you’ve got the basics, buy as you go along. Maybe you realize your baby would like a mobile, or that feedings are easier with a rocking chair. The point is, don’t buy these all at once. You may find you’ve instead avoided buying another “must have” that you didn’t need.
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2. Use hand-me-downs
One way to avoid buying new items is by using hand-me-downs from friends and family. Once you’ve announced your pregnancy, fellow parents can unload gear their kids have outgrown.
I received a baby carrier, baby chairs, books, toys, and clothes among other things. And I’ve given away a bathtub, maternity clothes, baby food storage, and more. These things add up! For two years, we didn’t buy clothes for my eldest thanks to generous hand-me-downs.
If family and friends don’t live nearby, find a “Buy Nothing” group online. You can ask for specific items you need that others can gladly give you. When you’re ready to part with them, you can return the favor to other new parents.
3. Shop at consignment stores
I know, I get it. You have no idea what the previous kids have done to those clothes before. But having sold and bought clothes at consignment stores, I can tell you that they only take the highest quality. If you sell items, you can even use store credit (which is often worth more than cash) to purchase new ones.
Sure, some things aren’t sold at consignment stores, like socks and underwear. But you can find some great picks at much lower prices. This is also a fantastic option for items like snow clothes or heavy coats you won’t use often.
4. Get cloth diapers and reusable wipes
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Babies go through a lot of diapers and wipes that many parents have to replenish every month.
Instead of assuming you have to make monthly expenses for these disposable items, invest in reusable ones. Think reusable, not disposable. Your one-time investment in cloth diapers and reusable baby wipes might be more expensive at first, but over time, you can save so much money.
5. Save before maternity leave
If you’re like most of us, you might have reduced pay when you’re on leave. The figures vary, but expect to receive less than your normal pay for a chunk, if not all, of your maternity leave.
Secure yourself a nice cushion by saving as much as you can now while you’re still working. For instance:
- Pack your lunch to work.
- Borrow books from the library.
- Set a budget for flexible purchases like clothes and entertainment.
- Slash your grocery budget.
- Start a savings account to dip into during your maternity leave.
6. Save gift cards for later use
Did you receive gift cards during your baby shower? Before running to the store and buying everything now, save them for after the baby is born. Pace your spending so you have some cushion after delivery when you may be more strapped for cash and time.
Place them all in the same envelope so you don’t forget you have them. When the time comes to buy six-month-old clothes or you need a high chair, they can come in handy.
7. Stock up on food now
With little inclination to cook, you might order food pretty often during those first months. Unfortunately, those restaurant meals add up!
Beat the cost by freezing meals now and storing them for later use. Invest in reusable and freezable containers to dip into when you don’t have time to cook.
Or, if your family is like mine, expect to receive a lot of food during those first few weeks. This saves you the time, money, and trouble of finding your next meal. When people ask how they can help, bringing food is often at the top of the list.
8. Open a savings fund
Get a head start on your baby’s savings fund and open one up now, however small the amount. Any monetary gifts he receives can go into that fund.
While this tip doesn’t reduce your spending, it increases your opportunity to save. Child-related costs can tie up your extra cash, but at least you can still set aside a few dollars here and there for your child’s long-term goals.
9. Buy life insurance
Not the most exciting tip, but probably the most money-saving of them all. You should buy life insurance for both you and your partner to cover the remaining spouse or children should one or both of you die.
Ideally, you’d buy life insurance before you even decide to have kids (since the premium does go up once you’re expecting). But life insurance at any point in your life is still better than not having one at all.
10. Plan to breastfeed
I’ve breastfed and formula-fed my kids and crunched the numbers. Even with renting a hospital-grade breast pump, breastfeeding was more economical than buying formula. This includes buying formula at discount prices, too.
11. Make your own baby food
Once your little one is ready and able to eat solid food, save a ton of money by making your own. It’s more frugal to prepare and store baby food than it is to buy their jarred or packaged versions. Plus, they’re fresher and healthier (just compare the color of jarred peas to freshly pureed ones!).
Save jarred food for when you really don’t feel like cooking or when you travel and can’t. The baby food cookbook I used was Petit Appetit by Lisa Barnes, and for storage, these reusable food containers can do the job.
12. Differentiate between “needs” and “wants”
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is not to be attached to supposed “needs.” At the end of the day, we truly have few needs—just look at those who have much less than you but still feel blessed in so many ways.
It’s okay to want and appreciate more comfortable circumstances, but seeing them as a need can set you up for unhappiness either way you go. Why? You’re either unhappy if you don’t have it, or you’re still unhappy when you do because you anticipate the day these comforts might go away.
A healthy view is to appreciate what you have while it’s there, but don’t sweat it if it goes away. The comforts you’ve grown used to are nice to have, but you don’t need them to be happy. You can be just as fine without them!
Here’s what I learned: financial doom isn’t inevitable just because you’re going to be a new mom. You can still spend where it matters and save on those that don’t.
Go for a practical nursery, not one with themes that you’d have to buy and replace anyway. Hand-me-downs can save you from having to buy new items. A one-time investment in cloth diapers and wipes means you never have to buy them again.
Save money now while you’re still working and don’t have as many expenses yet. Stash a few gift cards for future use. Stock up on food now, whether frozen or relying on people’s generous donations. Save your baby’s monetary gifts in a savings fund.
Shop at consignment stores where you can grab quality clothes for much less. Buy life insurance and protect your partner and kids from a heavy financial burden. And finally, breastfeeding and making your own baby food means you won’t have to buy formula or prepared food.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money now that you’re a new parent—certainly not $245,000 outright.
Get more tips:
- What to Do When You’re Stressed about Money
- Essential Breastfeeding Supplies That Can Help
- Surprising Costs of Raising Twins
- 8 Misconceptions about Parenting First Time Moms Make
- 9 Unique Ways to Care for the Environment as a Family
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab your FREE Printable Monthly Expenses Worksheet to estimate recurring expenses and typical costs of raising a baby: