When my husband and I were shopping for our firstborn five years ago, we were shocked at some of the price tags.
Yes, we wanted the Bugaboo stroller that everyone in the neighborhood had, but $1,000 for a stroller? We could think of so many other things a grand could cover.
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Prices have only gone up: As we prepped for our second child—five years later—we stumbled upon strollers that were double that price. We couldn't swing a price tag in the thousands, but as a New York City resident, a reliable, durable stroller was key, and we were willing to shell out a little more.
We decided to splurge on the stroller (we found the $463 Quinny Buzz to our liking), but scrimped on the full nursery furniture set and went with a convertible crib that hit under $200, as we’d be spending more time outside exploring the city than in our daughter’s tiny bedroom.
If you haven't ventured into the baby world, you might be surprised how expensive some of this stuff can run. Fortunately, there’s a range for every category, from gear to clothing. It’s up to you where you want to splurge and where you want to save, but if you let them, the following categories can easily make the biggest dents in your wallet.
Wheeling your baby around can cost a little ... or a lot. The $1,775 Viktor & Rolf for Bugaboo stroller was limited-edition, with only 200 produced. Obviously, you’re paying for the name (Bugaboo strollers are expensive to begin with) and for the rarity of the model.
How to Save: Check out your local baby gear store to see a full range of options—they range from "stratospheric" to "affordable." And don't buy more stroller than you need: If you’re in the suburbs, maybe you don’t need all-terrain wheels; if you’re hitting the city streets daily, then this might be an area in which to invest.
Also, your local mommy boards, Facebook groups and even Craigslist are full of moms looking to sell gently used goods, including strollers their family has outgrown. If even a mid-range model gives you sticker shock, amortize the price on a per-use basis, and it's a little easier to justify. (Our Purchase Appraiser calculator is also a good bet when you're truly on the fence about whether an item you're contemplating is worth it.)
Image Credit: Bugaboo
Furniture is one of those categories that falls under "you get what you pay for." Materials and workmanship are often subpar with inexpensive options, so there's value in solidly made cribs, dressers and changing tables.
You might need to shell out a little to get something that will last through multiple children. But the Vetro Lucite crib, which rings in at $3,500 (a down payment on a modest home these days), really makes me wonder.
Budget-Friendly Alternative: Experts caution against buying or taking used cribs because of the ever-changing safety standards and product recalls in the United States (in fact, some models of used cribs can no longer be sold), so this is the place you can definitely justify buying new. It’s not so much where you buy, but what you buy: Look at the materials and construction (solid wood, for example). Also, budget options abound at stores like IKEA (where cribs start at $70) or JCPenney, but read the customer reviews before adding items to your cart. Bonus: If you’re a DIY-er, you can upgrade or add your own twist to a basic model, like this blogger did.
Image Credit: Giggle.com
3. Designer Baby Clothes
Does a two-month-old need to wear labels? At this age, they only stay in a size for a matter of weeks, which really doesn't work out on a per-wear basis.
Yet designer baby clothing is a huge market. Even beyond the sized-for-babies-priced-for-adults collections at retailers like J.Crew and Ralph Lauren, you can shell out $130 for a baby shirt from Gucci (pictured) or $190 for Dolce & Gabbana baby shoes.
Budget-Friendly Alternative: Well, first, look for hand-me-downs from friends and local mommy boards. LearnVest Planning Services certified financial planner ™ Rachel Sanborn says she spent a total of $100 on clothes for her son between nine and 18 months, thanks to Facebook meetups where moms she knew swapped barely worn baby duds.
If you just love a high-end label, hit mass-market stores, which regularly offer pint-sized designer collaborations (like Zutano’s current collection for Target); outlets (I love Egg by Susan Lazar—and the outlet prices make it bearable); and even eBay to scoop up pieces that have hardly any wear, like these Splendid Littles options.
Image Credit: Gucci
4. Diaper Bags
For $1,000, we'd want a diaper bag made of solid gold. Or at least leather. Burberry’s $950 acrylic(!) bag has leather trim to justify its price, as well as the company's signature check pattern. And I must say, I love a little designer touch, but not where I'm storing wipes and burp cloths.
Budget-Friendly Alternative: Loads of options. You can grab a durable, washable, and attractive diaper bag starting as low as $40, like this $40 Liz Lange bag from Target. In fact, we dug up these 10 cute and budget-friendly options.
Image Credit: Nordstrom
5. Baby Monitors
For $240, the Motorola Digital Video Monitor offers infrared night vision and sound indicator lights and allows you to zoom, pan and rotate. Doesn't sound paranoia-inducing at all.
Budget-Friendly Alternative: Seeing your baby’s every breath can make you obsessive, and more likely to burst into the nursery to correct a problem that might not need correction. If your home is large enough to warrant a monitor, go for a simple audio version, like this VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio Monitor, $75, and know you're keeping a careful ear out for trouble.
Image Credit: Target
6. Baby Food
Fresh, organic baby food purees from companies like Petit Organics offer servings at a reasonable $6. Well, reasonable compared to a $1,000 diaper bag.
But add up a $6 serving for every meal (if your child is eating just one), and that’s $20 a day, or $140 a week just for baby food.
Budget-Friendly Alternative: If organic purees are your thing, buy fruits and veggies at the store and blend them in bulk yourself, freezing the overage for future servings. You can check out sites like Diapers.com, Homemade Baby Food Recipes and Parents.com to find directions and recipes.
Image Credit: Petit Organics
Want more great advice on how to prepare for a baby (financially)? Take our free Baby on Board Bootcamp.