Making the decision to have a baby is huge! There’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into it (well, some of the time, surprise babies happen, too). There’s also a huge amount of worry and stress. Not just about the pregnancy itself, but about what comes after. You have to take this baby home, and raise it, and pay for allllllllllll the stuff that they require. It’s a huge financial commitment. In fact, the cost of raising a child to the age of 18 has jumped to over $200,000 per child. Just let that marinate for a second. That’s … a lot of money. While you won’t be able to cut corners on all of it, parenting on a budget can definitely help you save some big bucks in that first year.

There a lot of ways that parenting on a budget can make the first 12 months a little easier on your pocket book.

1. It starts in the hospital!

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Hospitals are notorious for up-charging the most ridiculous shit. Like $800 for a dose of Ibuprofen. I’m not suggesting you forgo pain meds (take ’em if you need ’em!), but there are other ways to reduce the cost of your stay. Prior to being admitted to give birth, ask your hospital for a list of itemized charges you might be hit with, like a private room charge, “transport” (literally the wheelchair ride from your room to your car when you’re discharged), and TV charges. Yes, some hospitals charge you to watch TV. Then, make a list of all the stuff you can do without, and make sure your support person or partner knows what they are, too.

Don’t forget to take your samples home, either! Lots of the goodies under the bassinet are yours to keep, like formula samples, bottle nipples, alcohol swabs, and those hospital blankets. It can save you a trip to the drugstore. Also take all the mesh panties. TAKE THEM ALL.

2. Once you’re home, one of the biggest money-savers is breastfeeding.

I know, I know, it’s not an option for everyone. I wish it were, because it’s free, and the cost of formula in the first year is astronomical. Sure, you’ll need a few items to make your breastfeeding journey a little easier, like a good pump, nursing bras, and breast pads. But you can cut corners there, too. Borrow a pump from a friend, skip the fancy nursing bras for a shelf tank or sports bra that unzips in the middle, and don’t buy disposable breast pads. The reusable ones are soft and easy to wash, and you won’t have to buy more.

3. Don’t buy tons of baby clothes. The first few months, all you’ll need is some onesies and blanket sleepers, anyway. By the time your baby can wear all those cute outfits, they will have probably outgrown them!

People LOVE to buy baby clothes. And they will buy you so much. So don’t spend your own money on a bunch of outfits for your newborn! Also, you probably have lots of friends who already have kids, so ask them for their hand-me-downs. Don’t bother buying baby shoes for your kid’s little potato feet. Wait until they’re walking to spring for those, they can live in socks or barefoot for months.

4. Think smart about baby gear.

pug sleeping GIF by Cheezburger

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If you have a baby registry, put some of the bigger stuff on it so people can go in on a gift together. And really, you don’t NEED much. Baby needs a place to sleep, somewhere to put their clothes would be nice, and a car seat is necessary. Speaking of car seats: do your research! Rather than get a “travel system” that includes an infant bucket seat and stroller, put your money toward a good car seat that will last from the newborn stage all the way through kindergarten. There’s no need to buy three different car seats in their first year of life! I happen to love the Chicco NetxFit Convertible Car Seat.

For other big stuff, check out consignment shops and secondhand stores. Sure, you’ll need a stroller, but do you need the latest model with all the bells and whistles? Highly unlikely. Parenting on a budget sometimes means forgoing the fancy stuff for the more practical stuff, and that’s perfectly OK.

5. Parenting on a budget can mean you will do things you never imagined doing. Like using cloth diapers.

Here’s the fact: diapers are fucking expensive. It’s a travesty, honestly. But if that’s one expense you can’t justify, you can always cloth diaper! You can get what you need to get started from friends or consignment shops, and then you’re set for a good long while. (Confession: I did not and would not cloth diaper, we all have our limits, but I have immense respect for those who do!)

If you are like me and cloth diapering is not your thing, sign up for a buy and save program for diapers on Amazon, Target, or another site. You can buy in bulk and have them delivered to your home, and you end up saving a few bucks off each box.

6. Clip those coupons!

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If you sign up for even one mailing list from a brand that deals in babies, your inbox and mailbox will be inundated with coupons for the rest of your life. Boxes of coupons and formula samples showed up at my door for months after my kids were born. Save the samples and use the coupons! You might be breastfeeding now, but that can change, and you’ll be glad you have a few of each on-hand if you need to supplement or switch gears suddenly.

Don’t toss out those Sunday coupon mailers, either. They’re full of ways to save money on diapers, wipes, medicines, and toiletries. Plus, this is one way parenting on a budget can be fun. The satisfaction you will feel when you double coupon at the register on a pack of diapers that’s already on sale will surprise you.

7. If you’re going to use formula right out of the starting gate, buy smart.

Skip the pre-made bottles and buy the powdered formula, it’s about 50% cheaper. Don’t worry about brand names; the generic formulas all have to go through the same rigorous testing, and your baby does not give a shit.

8. Speaking of formula: don’t buy a bunch of bottles before the baby is even born.

kitten GIF by Best Friends Animal Society

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Babies are rude, and just your luck, yours will reject every single one of the 25 bottles you bought in preparation for their arrival. And you probably opened and washed and sanitized them, so guess what? You’re stuck with them! Buy one or two of a brand you’ve heard good things about from friends, and see how it goes. Same goes for pacifiers. I stocked up on some expensive ones for my oldest, and wouldn’t you know, she loved the ones I stole from the hospital! My youngest was ESPECIALLY rude and rejected every single paci I gave her, so that was $60 down the drain.

9. Parenting on a budget means getting a little creative in the kitchen.

Sorry, it can’t be cheap AND easy. But making your own baby food will save you so much money. It can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it. And it doesn’t have to be fancy; boil some carrots and apples and blend that shit up. You can find cheap containers to freeze them in, and thaw as needed. Single-serve jars and containers of pre-made baby food are convenient, yes. But the cost can add up.

10. Be smart about medical stuff.

Ask your pediatrician for samples of formula, meds, whatever. They have them, and they will give them to you. Rather than running off to the office for every sneeze and throwing away your $20-40 copay each time, make use of your office’s nurse hotline, or ask if your doctor is available for phone consultations.

Don’t blow your wad on some fancy techy thermometer. The readings on so many of them are atrocious. A cheap digital oral or rectal thermometer is the way to go, and the most accurate.

Parenting on a budget requires you to get smart about where you’re spending your money. It might take some getting used to, but I promise you, by your second kid, you will have no problem asking your friends for their old baby gear and begging samples off your doc.

(Image: iStock/Rostislav_Sedlacek)