Part four and the last in the series on saving money when having a baby. Today’s post is about how we save money on clothes, toys and other miscellaneous things.
As always, it would be great to hear your tips on how you saved money when having a baby.
Living in a warm climate, I find the best way to save money on kid’s clothes is for them not to wear any. Eating something messy? Top off. Finger painting? Much more fun when you can paint your own nipples (I’m talking about the little fella here. It’s not something I’ve tried, but now that I think about it…) Mud pies? Bring it on.
And there’s less washing – an associated cost of wearing clothes.
Toys are another area where we don’t spend a lot of money, although we do have some favourites. Teddy is the most important toy in our house. The other night, the little fella woke around 3am upset. DH went in to settle him and find teddy, who had fallen under the bed. As DH walked out, I heard:
‘I love teddy.’
The other commercial toys that are very popular in our house at the moment are matchbox cars and Duplo. However, both these toys are much more fun when they can be played with in the dirt or if the little fella builds ramps and bridges with scrap wood offcuts.
Below are some more ways we save money on clothes, toys and miscellaneous baby items.
As babies grow out of clothes so very quickly, second-hand clothing is great. $20 Target clothes at 20% off doesn’t feel like much of a bargain, when you can pick up similar for 50c – $1 at the op-shop.
A tip for op-shop buying is to get clothes in a range of sizes if you see some good ones, and put them away until baby grows into them. There’s stuff the little fella is wearing now that I bought over a year ago at 50c. And I have a few items stashed away that he’ll fit into next summer.
There are however, times when I’ve found Kmart clothes to be cheaper than the op-shop, so keep an eye out for end of season sales.
The other source of second-hand clothes, if it’s available, is friends who can pass down unwanted baby and kid’s clothes, or older siblings. If our bub is a girl, she’ll be wearing blue occasionally.
Lastly, I find Nanna to be an endless source of clothes. Nannas love shopping for baby clothes, between the two of ours, I don’t have to get much.
As a commenter mentioned in a previous post, brand-name / designer clothes aren’t that great. We’ve been given a few and I haven’t liked any of them. Firstly, they are usually not designed to fit over cloth nappies. Secondly, as the clothes are designed to look pretty, there’s lots of zips and buttons and other annoying things you don’t want to be mucking around with every nappy change. Finally, they are often made of stiff fabrics or the design is constrictive and doesn’t allow for freedom of movement, which is very important in the first few years of life. Tracky-daks or cotton onesies from Big W are more comfortable for baby, they can move more freely and it’s cheaper and easier for you too!
For the first few months, a baby doesn’t really need any toys at all. All those flashing, whirring, elevator-music mobiles over the cot…just make it harder for baby to sleep. On the other hand, ceiling fans are endlessly fascinating.
I was tempted by one of those play mats that have dangly things over the top; if I did it all again, I wouldn’t buy one. They aren’t bad actually, the little fella enjoyed it and I will use it again, but it’s just as interesting (and a lot cheaper) for bub to lie under / near a chair with a few things hanging off the chair (just make sure they are secure and bub can’t get tangled in them!).
Once bub can sit up, a treasure basket (see here and here for ideas) filled with things from around the house can keep a baby amused for ages. The items are free and more often than not, a child will be interested in them more than commercial toys. The old ‘prefer the cardboard box to the toy’ is very true. What’s more, open ended toys are not only more interesting, they encourage creativity, imagination and problem solving.
Since the little fella was about 8 months old or so, I would encourage ‘independent play’ in the afternoon after his nap – when he was at his best and I was at my lowest. That’s when I would pick up a book and read while sitting next to him and watching him play. Some days I would get in 10 minutes of reading, other days up to 1 hour. Now that the little fella is two, that time is an accepted part of our routine.
Here are some posts on frugal toys and keeping young kid’s amused:
- frugal toy ideas for baby
- best frugal toy we’ve ever bought (it still get’s played with almost daily, 1 1/2 years later in ways I could never have come up with myself)
- rainy day activities for young toddlers
- a roundup of ideas from other blogs
We purchased a baby bath. I’m thinking of planting potatoes in it. It barely got used, it was a back strain and I don’t think we’ll use it again this time around. After a couple of months, we ended up lying the little fella down in a very shallow (inch or so) amount of water in the normal bath. This meant he could splash around happily and it was easy to wash his hair. We’ll do the same this time around I think, except use the laundry tub for the first few months – much easier on the back! It’s one of those things though, that you don’t know if you’re going to use it until you try it – some people (and babies) love baby baths. If you can, borrow one, at least for a little while. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to worry about where to store it.
Other things you might want to consider (good to put on your baby shower / nanna list or wait until after bub is born to see if you really want / need them):
- an extra towel or two (or use ones you already have)
- cot sheets – if you’re handy, you can make your own from old bed sheets
- nappy bag (you can see the one I made here along with the nappy stacker, change mats and burp cloths)
- wraps – some babies do, some babies don’t.
- Burp cloths – we made a few from terry nappies
- portable cot – we actually use ours quite a bit
- sunshades for the car windows
- nappy rash cream – wait till baby is born to see if you need it. The little fella got thrush from me taking antibiotics to try and get my milk to come in. Now I swear blind by Daktozin – cleared things up within hours! Paw paw ointment was never effective for us.
- a thermometer can be useful – we got an inexpensive digital one, which works fine for a baby, not so good for a squirming toddler. An in ear one can make life easier.
- Baby proofing stuff. What you get will depend on your home. Good for keeping little fingers out of the sharp knives drawer while you’re
having a cup of tea with your feet updoing the vacuuming. We purchased stair gates, which we no longer need to use (at least not until the next baby starts crawling). They do come in handy at night though, in case the little fella wanders around in the dark while we’re asleep and he’s asleep (sleepwalking is genetic and DH is a sleepwalker).
- High chair – I love our high chair! It’s fully adjustable up and down, folds away, the tray is removable (the little fella eats at the table with us now, but sits in his highchair so he can reach), it can be tilted back for comfort… and it cost us $15 from the op-shop. If I had to buy one new though, I would get your basic, inexpensive, plastic-moulded chair – much, much easier to clean!!
Things I wouldn’t buy:
Pretty much everything else on the market . Because I feel babies will sit up / crawl / walk in their own time, and it can be better for their body not to force them into positions their muscles aren’t developed enough to cope with, I never got a bumbo or walker etc.
My only caveat to that is we did find a baby bouncer invaluable! A light, inexpensive one, like the old-fashioned wire and string ones, is all we needed (ours did vibrate – we never used that option). It meant the little fella could look around (which he always liked) while I vacuumed and I could put him in it while I had a shower or hung the washing outside.
Every now and then, you will come across an article in the paper, or in a magazine, stating how expensive it can be to have a baby. It doesn’t have to be expensive at all. For the first few months you will probably have free milk. Cloth nappies are inexpensive. A lot of baby gear can be purchased second-hand (most of it is only used for a little while anyway). Most of the rest isn’t needed.
What are your best tips on saving money when having a baby? What are your must-have items and the items that you regret buying / wouldn’t buy?
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.