New baby on the way? Congratulations! If you’ve dared to enter a baby superstore, you might be thinking to yourself, “Do I really need all this stuff?” The good news is you don’t.

Preparing for a baby can be overwhelming, and even more so when you’re trying to economize. But, there are ways to cut back without depriving your baby.

First of all, you don’t have to buy everything at once. A lot of purchases can be put off until six months or even a year after your baby’s born.

Then, when you do buy, don’t base your decision on ticket price. While some items are cheaper up front, they may only get used for a year or two. If you can spend a little more off the bat, you can pick a product that will last. Maybe it’s because the item is better made and will stand up to use. Or maybe it’s because it’s a multi-stage product that grows with your child. Either way, sometimes a little splurge can pay off immensely in the long run.

Something else to think about: Hand-me-downs are a great way to save money. Just make sure you’re taking the right hand-me-downs. As safety standards are always evolving, a used car seat, crib or high chair may not be worth the savings— especially if the item in question is an antique! When in doubt, buy new.

Now let’s talk about some of the must-haves, the nice-to-haves, the things you can put off a bit and the few totally worth-it buys.

The Must-Haves

  • Car Seat. You’ll need a car seat; most hospitals won’t let you take your baby home without one. But an infant car seat is only designed for your tot’s first six to nine months, before your child moves on to a toddler seat. Save a purchase by buying a convertible car seat that serves as both your infant and toddler seat. Though it lacks the portability of a true infant seat, if you don’t drive much— or when every dollar counts— a convertible car seat might be your best bet.
  • Crib. If you’re planning on having more than one child, opt for a good and economical standard crib. If you aren’t planning on more children— at least not anytime soon— consider a multi-stage crib that grows with your child to become a toddler bed. It’s an investment that could save you a purchase down the road.
  • Bedding. Your baby should only sleep with a breathable woven blanket. Skip the cute quilts and pillow shams, which are merely decorative. All you really need is a fitted sheet, as babies don’t use flat sheets, and the aforementioned blanket— or a sleep sack, a blanket-like garment that baby wears.
  • Highchair. Fully-loaded highchairs with all the bells and whistles only get used for about a year, making them not always worth a big splurge. Go for a simple, streamlined model that’s less expensive, or invest in a Scandinavian-style highchair like the Svab Child that grows with your child.

Where You Can Cut Corners

  • Changing Table. Sure, they’re handy. Yet, if you need to cut out a furniture purchase, you could get away with diaper changes on the bed, as long as you always keep one hand on baby. Or, you can buy a dresser with a changing tray. You’ll have to buy a dresser eventually, meaning that’s one less furniture purchase down the line.
  • Stroller. While you’ll need a stroller at some point, for the first few months with your tot, you can get where you need to go with just a baby carrier. If you can make it through the first six months, you don’t have to invest in a stroller that has a bassinet stage. 

Where to Hold Off for Now

  • Clothes. You don’t have to buy a whole wardrobe for your child. A baby outgrows most of his clothes in just a few months. Go for simple, organic cotton garments and focus on comfortable onesies, hats, mits and booties. Your baby is plenty adorable without the fancy outfits.
  • Toys. Newborns can’t sit up or hold anything, thus you don’t need to spend a lot on toys. I suggest a crib mobile and a soft toy that attaches to the crib, car seat or stroller. The rest can wait.
  • Bottles. You need a few to start out with, even if you’re breastfeeding. However, you certainly don’t have to stock up on bottles. In fact, you shouldn’t invest in too many of the same kind until you know for sure what your baby will accept.
  • Diapers. You’ll need a starter set. But wait until you’ve established a clear preference between cloth or disposable diapers before you buy the store.
  • Toiletries. For those first few months, a little warm water and a cloth are all you need to keep baby clean. Don’t worry about rushing out to buy baby wash.

Worth the Money

  • Bath Seat. Nervous about those first baths? For less than $15 you can buy a bath seat that holds your baby in the proper position in your sink. Bathing your tot is a whole lot easier when you’re not worried about holding on to your slippery little one. You definitely get your money’s worth with this item.
  • Food Mill. These let you puree baby food in minutes. Such a purchase saves you money and grants your child fresher, healthier food. Although there are fancy electric models that cost more, a $15 handheld version does a surprisingly good job.
  • Receiving Blankets. These are the utility infielders of the nursery. You’ll use them for swaddling, holding, warming, changing, playing and coaxing baby to sleep. You can never have too many blankets.
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