Think about it: would God make child-rearing so expensive that most families can barely afford even one child?
A lot of my friends are pregnant right now, and a recurring theme I hear is “Babies are so expensive!” Our culture would certainly make it seem that way. Apparently the average middle-income family spends $12,000 on their baby’s first year.
Given that I’ve had three babies in the past four years—and that our income was $20,000 for our baby’s first year, yet we never had to go into debt—I think I can debunk that “babies are expensive” myth pretty quickly.
Of course every baby (and mother!) has different needs, but we have to remember that mothers all around the world and from all of history have been having babies and thriving on significantly less money than we think we need to spend on babies today. Motherhood is frustrating and difficult but certainly simpler than everyone wants us to think.
I’m not trying to be judgmental or tell every mom that if they’re using a baby swing or infant formula they’re doing a bad job, but I just want you to know that in most cases we really don’t need to be spending all this money on our babies and children.
Here are some things you can most likely cut out of your first-year baby budget, especially if you’re a stay-at-home-mom:
1. New Clothes ($720)
Sure, a well-dressed baby is cute, but is it worth it to go into debt over your infant's appearance?
-Yard. Sales. ($30.)
Scan suburbia in spring and fall (primarily April and October) and you’ll find community yard sales when you can hit 10-30 sales in one morning. You should have no problem finding baby clothes for sale; if you see a lot of them, make an offer on the whole lot.
-Hand-me-downs (free). This is a great part of being a member in a community. Other moms in your church or group can probably help you out in this area and they will be delighted to clear their closets. (Shout-out to all the wonderful mommies who have given hand-me-downs to me!)
2. Complex Travel Carrier Systems ($250) and Swings ($100)
You need a carseat, that’s for sure. But you do not need to be carrying your baby around in the carseat or transferring the carseat to a stroller. The Journal of Pediatrics even says it’s dangerous for kids to be strapped in all the time.
Alternative: Use a sling, wrap, Boba, Ergo, etc. Buy one used or make your own ($15.) Skin to skin is so good for you and your baby.
3) Baby Food and feeding accessories ($300)
Believe it or not, a breastfed baby does not need any solid food its first year for nutrition. The main purpose of solids is to help develop hand/eye coordination and introduce textures and different tastes. And you don’t need to spend all that money and preparation/cleanup time.
Alternative: Baby-Led Weaning ($0.) Look for the signs for when they’re ready, then you can go straight to introducing table food at 6 or 7 months or so. Plus you’ll save a lot of time and frustration, and your baby will eat when you eat. They tend to love the independence too!
4) A Fancy New Crib with Fancy Bedding ($450)
Your baby has just been in a really weird position in your body for 9 months and does not in any way need plush bedding. Crib bumpers, pillows, and blankets, are unsafe for baby anyway.
-Pack-n-Play ($30 used) or a used crib ($50) from Craigslist, yard sale, or a friend (just make sure it’s safe and holds up to today’s standards!)
-Co-sleeping (free.) This is controversial because babies have been hurt by co-sleeping, but it’s the most natural thing in the world and mothers have been doing it forever, as long as you take measures to do it safely (breastfeeding, careful with blankets, no smoking or alcohol, baby isn’t adjacent to Daddy), I can’t recommend co-sleeping enough.
5) Books and Toys From the Store ($100)
Baby toys are so expensive, and the sad things is that there’s a hefty chance the child won’t even show any interest in them.
-Yard sales ($15); everyone is always trying to get rid of books toys that are certainly 80-90% off store price and oftentimes in like-new condition.
-Most babies will be content to play with bowls or measuring cups or washcloths or whatever safe things you have lying around. They really don’t need toys. (Free.)
-The library offers plenty of board books that are excellent. (Free.)
6) Baby Classes ($300)
Baby & Me, Gymboree Play and Learn, etc. are all great ways to stimulate your baby’s mind, enjoy him/her, and meet other moms, but you simply do not need to be paying money for this.
-Library (Free.) My county, at least, has no shortage of awesome programs for every age!
-Family Resource Center (Free). Again, my county offers excellent classes that normally would cost a lot of money but are completely free of charge as long as you sign up and commit to them. This place also offers a variety of resources such as lactation consultants, dental clinics, etc.!
There are a lot of other choices you can make to save money (staying at home ends up saving a lot of money if you calculate formula and childcare costs) but of course every family is different and parenting is hard and awesome no matter how you do it. Way to go, moms and dads!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today