I remember it well.
Walking into Babies R Us, checklist in hand, ready to buy all the things we “needed” for our first-born son.
Man, were we clueless.
Would four burp clothes be enough or should we get eight? We definitely need a chair for the nursery. Should we get a rocker or a glider?
I think our experience was pretty typical for first-time parents. You have no idea what parenthood is going to be like, so you search online, flip through a couple of books, ask friends and family, make a checklist, and set out to buy just about anything and everything your baby could ever need.
It’s an understandable process. But it also leads a lot of new parents to spend a lot more money than they have to, potentially sacrificing their overall financial security in the process.
To help you fight the urge to overspend, I’ve put together my list of the only 21 things our newborn kids ever really needed. These are the things I find it hard to imagine we could have gone without.
My hope is that this gives you a base to work from. You’ll probably buy more than what’s on here (I know we did!), but you can sleep well knowing that you’ll be totally fine if this is all you have.
The most important
If you can give your baby only these two things and nothing else, you’ll still be in pretty good shape.
Giving your baby plenty of love and attention will help her form a secure attachment to you, which will make her better prepared to handle all of the challenges life will throw her way. That’s really the most important gift you can give her.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to spend every minute of every day with her. As a working dad I’m well aware that life has other priorities that need your attention, and you both need and deserve some “you” time as well.
But at the end of the day, there’s simply no substitute for the love and attention that you and only you can give your child.
I talk to a lot of people who feel like having a baby means they need to either buy their first house or move to a bigger house. And while that might be the right move for some people, it’s worth keeping a couple of things in mind before you make that kind of huge financial commitment:
- There’s nothing wrong with renting. We actually moved from a studio apartment to a 3-bedroom apartment after we got pregnant and ended up paying $100 LESS per month because we were willing to continue renting. Buying a house can be a good long-term move, but it’s almost always more costly in the short-term and there’s just no need to rush into it.
- Your baby won’t know the difference. Wherever you live will feel like home to him.
Pretty self-explanatory. Our kids both nursed so the costs here were pretty minimal, but many women either choose to use formula or have to, and that can be a significant cost.
I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about formula feeding, but your doctor should have plenty of input, as well as friends, family, and online resources like Babycenter.
They don’t need to be stylish. They don’t need to be brand new. You don’t even need a lot of them.
All you realistically need is a few sets of clothes that fit reasonably well and can keep your newborn warm. Depending on where you live, this might include more or less in the way of blankets, hats, little gloves, etc.
But we’ve never needed a ton of clothes, and we’ve definitely never needed anything fancy. We’ve been lucky to get a lot in the way of hand-me-downs, but you can get similar quality at thrift stores and consignment shops.
This does not have to be a huge expense.
Your baby will need checkups, vaccines and access to emergency care (hopefully you never need it). If you aren’t offered health insurance through your employer, you can get it through healthCare.gov.
No matter where you get your health insurance, here’s an article that will help you choose the right plan: How I choose health insurance for my family.
Newborns go through these FAST. Don’t worry though, it gets a little better as they get older (superhero underwear is the coolest!).
The best prices we found on both diapers and wipes were at Costco and the quality there is good. The savings on diapers and wipes alone was worth the cost of the annual Costco membership for us.
9. Car seat
This is the one thing that everyone says you have to buy new. I’m no expert, but I’m certainly not going to disagree. There weren’t going to be any hand-me-downs for us here.
One thing I’ll say is that you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. For a while, your baby is just going to sit in there and either cry or sleep. So there are really two important characteristics for an infant car seat:
- Ease of moving it around. Your baby is going to fall asleep in the car seat and you’re going to want to keep him asleep. We got a car seat with a base so that we could easily just pop it in and out without having to deal with any straps. It didn’t end up being the easiest thing to carry around, but it was manageable.
I will say that it might be worth thinking ahead a little bit if you’re looking to save some money over the long-term. We knew we wanted to have another child within a couple of years, meaning we’d need to buy another car seat soon anyways. So we had no problem buying one of the basic infant car seats to start.
But if you think this will be your only child, or it might be several years before the next one, you might consider getting one of the convertible car seats that may last a little longer.
TONS of options here. We chose a simple snap-and-go stroller for our first-born that fit with our car seat rather than getting something fancy. We did this for a few reasons:
- It was less expensive.
- A baby sleeping in the car seat could easily be transferred to the stroller and kept asleep.
- It was lightweight.
- It did everything we needed it to do.
There are some pretty fancy strollers out there with some pretty cool features. And to be honest, there were times where we thought it would be nice to have some of them. But we never needed more than the basics.
12. Mattress (and sheets)
I’ll be honest, our newborns spent a lot of time sleeping right in our bed with us. No, you’re not really supposed to do that (or are you? Parenting advice can be confusing!). But it’s the only way we were able to get any sleep, so that’s just the way it went.
But eventually your baby will need her own place to sleep. Really, it will happen! I promise!
13. Breast pump
It might be a stretch to file a breast pump under the “need” category, but I’m honestly not sure how we would have gotten by without it. I realize there must have been some point in history where people did it, but it was a pretty integral part of our routine so I’m putting it down.
The good news is that, for now anyways, health insurance plans are required to cover the cost of a breast pump. Which means that you should be able to get one for free!
As for bottles, well your baby’s gotta have something to drink all that milk from 🙂
Reading is an awesome way to bond and a great way for your baby to start learning.
We read to our kids a lot when they were newborns, and I’ll never forget when they got older and started reading through their books all by themselves. So cute.
This is one area where I’m happy to spend money, though over the years we’ve also gotten a lot better at utilizing the library.
Do tummy time. Help them practice sitting and standing. Give them space to crawl and eventually to walk and run.
Exercise not only helps them develop physically but it also makes them tired and helps them sleep better. It’s a win-win!
Babies learn through experience. This includes things like playing with toys, but they can just as easily play with household items like measuring cups, bowls, and almost anything else you have lying around.
Some of my favorite memories with Aiden and Nolan are from the walks we used to take around the neighborhood when they were little. We would stop and touch the bark of a tree, the leaves, a sign post, whatever.
As we walked I would talk to them about all of the different things around us. I have no idea how much he understood, but that kind of exploration was fun for me and gave him something different to experience and learn from.
I’m not going to go into detail about these things here but you can follow the links below if you want to learn more.
In short, these are the building blocks of a secure financial foundation that ensures your kids will always have the resources they need, no matter what.
18. Emergency fund (click here to read more)
19. Life insurance (click here to read more)
20. Disability insurance (click here to read more)
21. Wills and other estate planning (click here to read more)
And that’s it!
Now let me be clear. We DEFINITELY bought more than what’s listed here. We had a changing table, a baby bath, a carrier, a mobile, and plenty of other things you won’t find anywhere on here.
That checklist I carried into Babies R Us? It was pretty well checked off by the time we walked out.
But while those things were helpful, they weren’t NEEDED. We could have gotten by without any of them.
And even if they made our lives easier, they might not necessarily make your life easier.
And that point is really the key. People who have been parents before will spend a lot of time telling you about all of the things you need based on what they remember being helpful for them.
But you’re different. And your baby is different. If you try to buy all of the things that other people say are important, you’ll end up with a lot less money in your bank account and a lot of stuff you barely ever use.
If you’re worried about the cost of a baby (and who isn’t?), the best advice I can give is this: before your baby is born, don’t buy any more than you truly need. Keep it as minimal as possible.
Once your baby is here, you can find out for yourself what kinds of additional things you really want. You’ll probably end up with more than what’s on this list, and that’s totally normal. But you’ll also end up with a lot less stuff overall, and particularly a lot less stuff that you never use.
That will save you money. It will save you from clutter. And both of those will make your household a whole lot happier.