How to Afford All of Your New Baby Needs

Are you expecting a new addition to your family but finding the finances are pretty tight? This is a common situation for many parents. Even wealthy parents will want to formulate a baby budget to help them keep track of their baby related expenses. While it's tempting to splurge on all the newest and coolest baby themed gadgets and toys, sometimes it's smarter to save the money for things your child will need later (such as a college fund).

It's fun to splurge when you have it and if you can afford it, it's certainly nice to give your baby the best. However, taking care of your baby's needs doesn't have to break the bank and the best isn't always the most expensive. There are many affordable ways of getting what your baby needs and still having some money left for those special "wants" as well. Here's a guide to how you can have a baby on a budget; what you need and what you don't, where to find discounted baby items and how to keep baby safe and healthy at all times.

When it comes to baby items, you can classify things in two main groups: things you need and things you want. There are some items that are great for convenience and make life with baby easier but may not actually be necessary. Only you can decide how much you can afford for those "wants" when compared to the needs for you and your baby.

The best way to begin planning for your baby on a budget is to formulate a list of your needs. The average healthy baby needs:

Love (Good news parents, this one's free!)

A safe place to sleep

Safe, healthy food to eat

Clean clothing

Clean, dry diapers

Method of bathing regularly

Regular medical care and treatment

A car safety seat

These are the basic, daily needs of a baby. There are different factors that will determine how you as a parent or guardian will meet these baby needs. Let's begin at the top of the list and make our way down.

Sleep- Your baby needs a safe place to sleep. The most common place to put a sleeping baby is a crib but depending on your family, your budget and your personal beliefs, there are other options as well. Some parents use bassinets and mini-cribs while the baby is still an infant and may place these in their rooms by their beds so they can always hear the baby throughout the night. Some parents want baby to sleep in the bed with them. There are many varying opinions to co-sleeping with a baby but when it comes right down to it, the most important thing is the safety of the baby. If you cannot afford a crib or if you simply prefer your baby to be close to you at night, you can allow the baby to sleep in the bed with you as long as you follow a few safety precautions. Be sure the baby is safe from excess bedding, pillows and other items. Make sure baby can not roll off the bed to the floor and become injured. Be sure no other people sleeping in the bed will unknowingly roll over onto baby and smother him. It is usually not recommended to co-sleep with a baby in a water bed or if someone else in the bed has a sleep disorder that could endanger the baby. In addition to these ideas, there are crib-alternatives or makeshift cribs that often work for parents on a budget. Small babies have been known to sleep in beds made from large strollers that adjust to a lying position, dresser drawers and even laundry baskets. While these ideas may work, they should be considered a temporary arrangement only as it can become dangerous as baby grows bigger and learns to move.

Food- Your baby has to eat. What and how he eats will depend on different factors. Many mothers choose to breastfeed their babies. There are many health benefits to breastfeeding and it also provides an extra special social connection between mother and child. Accommodations are now available to make breastfeeding easier on moms. There are pumps that allow you to pump and bottle store your breast milk for when you are not able to feed baby yourself. Many cities have organizations that will help you get a pump if you want to breastfeed and are unable to afford one. Some mothers are unable to breastfeed or choose not to for personal reasons. In some cases, such as adoption or the death of the mother after birth, the remaining care providers of the baby will have no choice but to use formula. There are many formulas available on the market for babies and usually your baby's physician can help you in choosing the right one. The most important thing is that your baby gets the proper nutrients to grow and be healthy. Regular cow's milk cannot be digested by a small infant and even if it was, it would not provide the nutrients needed to sustain healthy life in the baby. There are programs available to help parents with feeding their babies such as the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Program. WIC is a great option for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding mothers and will help you by providing knowledge, information on diet and nutrition, and vouchers for formula for bottle babies and healthy food for mom for breastfeeding babies. Contact the local WIC office near you to find out if you qualify. If you are low income and fear you cannot afford to feed your baby, there are also local food centers and food banks in all communities that will help you ensure your baby receives a healthy daily diet. Don't be afraid to seek help before you allow your child to suffer.

Clothing- Your baby will need clean, dry clothes to wear each day. Keep in mind that a baby will go through several changes of clothing in a day. If you do not have a washing machine at home or easy access to a washer or Laundromat, you will probably want extra changes of clothes so you can be sure your baby is always clean and fresh. It's also easy to wash many small baby items in your sink or bathtub at home and allow them to air dry to be sure baby always has something clean to wear. The type of clothing will depend on how often your baby goes out in public, what climate you live in and what your budget is. While there are many cute (and expensive) outfits available for baby, these are not necessary and if you are on a tight budget, they can be skipped. Dressing baby in t-shirts, the infamous "Onesies" and other simple clothing will usually do just fine on a daily basis. Most of these items can be found pretty inexpensively new but can also be found from yard sales, second hand stores and even eBay. Be sure you wash all used clothing thoroughly and check for strings or frayed edges, loose snaps or buttons or anything else that could be dangerous to baby. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with using used baby items. Most children grow so fast at this age it isn't feasible to buy new items all the time anyway. You might decide on just a few "fancy" outfits for when your baby is going on and save the others for everyday use.

Diapers- Your precious little bundle of joy is going to need something clean and dry to put on his bum. There are two main options for you; disposable or cloth. Many parents choose cloth diapers because they can save money by washing and reusing them, because they feel they are better for baby's bottom and skin, or simply because they like them better. Some parents choose disposables because they are easier or because they have to take their child to a daycare provider that doesn't cater to cloth diapers. Whatever you choose is fine as long as your baby is kept clean and dry at all times. Dirty diapers lead to painful diaper rash and in some cases even urinary tract infections or bladder infections. If you are using disposables, there are many "off brands" that are cheaper and work just as well for your baby. You can also help by purchasing diapers during your pregnancy and asking for diapers for your baby shower. You can stockpile them for when baby comes and there will be less expense right away when baby is born.

Bathing- There are many baby items available on the market that make bathing easier but none are really necessary. Baby can be bathed in the sink when he is small and in the bathtub like the rest of the family when he is bigger. Just be sure you follow proper safety precautions to be sure baby is safe. When it comes to bathing products, less is more. One bottle of baby bath will likely last you a very long time. Your baby doesn't need a lot of products to keep clean. In fact, most of the time simple warm water will do the trick. If using a baby product, you can save time and money by getting an all-in-one product that can be used as body wash and shampoo. If you choose to purchase bath items to make bathing easier, keep up to date on recalled items and be careful if using used items to be sure they are still in good working condition. Never leave baby unattended in the bath, not even for a second.

Medical Care- Medical care is a huge problem for many people in the United States as well as other countries but it is important that your baby has access to the care and treatment he needs. Most babies and children will need immunizations before they can attend day care or public school. Babies also need regular appointments to be sure they are growing and developing properly. Depending on your personal beliefs, you may attend a family doctor or pediatrician with your baby or you may have a doctor, nurse or midwife come to your home. Whether your baby is born in a hospital or a homebirth, you will want to have your child checked out by a healthcare professional of some sort as he develops to be sure everything is right with him. Never neglect your baby's health because you think you cannot afford it. If you are low income, there are many resources that can help you. Some low income families may qualify for Medicaid to help pay for their baby's health expenses. If you had Medicaid while you were pregnant, your baby will automatically be covered for one year after his birth. At the one year mark, you will need to reapply to see if you still qualify. If you make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but your job does not offer health-care or you are not eligible for health insurance from your job, there are other options. Most states have state-funded programs to help with insurance and medical expenses for underage children. For example, the state of Texas has CHIPs (Children's Health Insurance Program) for children 18 and under. This is an income based insurance carrier that will set you up with a doctor that meets your income needs.

Car Seat- If you have your baby in a hospital, you will not even be allowed to leave unless you have a safety car seat for your infant. If you have a home birth, you want to be sure you have a car seat before you leave anywhere with your baby in a motor vehicle. Each state has specific laws regarding car seats and how long children should be in them as well as what type of seat is best for your child. You can find more information on car safety seat atSafer Child, Inc. If you cannot afford a car seat, there are many organizations that can help provide you with one so that your child will be safe. In addition to having the car seat, it is important that you know how to install it and use it properly. Most local fire departments and police departments have programs that allow you to bring in your car safety seat to have it checked for proper, safe installation.

Used Baby Items and Recalls

Parents on a budget likely already know that used baby items are a great way to get what you need for less. However, in the interest of safety, be sure you look into any used items you purchase or are given for your baby before using them with baby. Look up the manufacturer and model of the item and be sure it has not been recalled due to a defect or safety issue. Some older items, such as old-fashioned portable cribs, may not have the same safety and quality standards that baby items of today have so you need to be cautious when using older items.

If you are shopping for baby on a budget, you can start by narrowing down these things that you really need. Accept any help from friends and family if they are willing to give it. You can also use hand-me-downs from an older child or from a family member or friend as long as you check them for safety. You can also look at second-hand baby stores, thrift stores, the local Goodwill or Salvation Army, Freecycle, yard sales and garage sales and more to find baby items. Department stores such as Wal-Mart and Target usually have new items cheaper than name brand stores and you can also find many great coupons and sale offers for new parents that help you be even thriftier with baby shopping. Have fun parents and don't forget number one on our list; love!