Having a Baby on a Budget: 3 Ways to Save Money


Nothing brings joy to a couple’s life more than finding out they are expecting their first child. But after a few months of basking in the glow, they generally begin to realize that having a baby can cost a lot of money – especially if they cave to the advertising campaigns for baby gear. I can think of three key areas to save on the baby budget. Let me share them with you here.

1. Save on pre-natal care and delivery.

According to Doran Richards, Certified Professional Midwife from Virginia and founder of Blessing God’s Way, an uncomplicated hospital birth averages $8-$10,000. Yet the cost of using a trained midwife for prenatal and homebirth care runs about $3,000. Think you need to give birth in a hospital? “Midwives see birth as a normal life process,” said Richards in a recent interview, “not an illness or disease that needs fixing.”

She went on to explain that the Cesarean section rate for moms using a Certified Professional Midwife is 3.7%. The rate for physician-assisted, hospital births is well over the World Health Organization’s recommended 15%. If a mom is healthy and passes a risk screening, there is no reason for her to fear giving birth outside the hospital setting.

2. Save on the nursery.

A new, expectant father recently shared with me his purchase of a crib. “That will make a great laundry basket,” I shared, “after you realize all you really need is a king-sized bed.” Seriously, what you actually need to raise a baby is minimal. I counsel first-time parents to buy a king-sized bed and a baby sling; then, after the baby is born, see what you just can’t live without.

A stroller is nice if you like to go places that require a lot of walking. I used mine a lot living in the city. But after moving to a rural area with dirt roads, I never used a stroller again. A playpen is great for outdoors or public places. My mom said that she used hers a lot at the bowling alley when she and my dad bowled on leagues several nights a week. At home, I just kept the floor swept and things picked up.

3. Save on food and diapers.

The scientific evidence proving the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby are so overwhelming, the Policy Statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk, states that breastfeeding “should not be considered as a lifestyle choice but rather as a basic health issue.” According to the La Leche League International website, “the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that babies be breastfed for at least two years.” In light of these recommendations, and the fact that purchasing infant formula can cost at least $100 a month, I would advise the cost-conscious parents feed their babies the way God designed.

A disposable diaper, on average, costs about 20 cents. Considering that a newborn will need at least 6-8 diaper changes in a day, many new parents opt for cloth diapers. Not only are they cheaper, they are more comfortable for baby. With new designs that include elastic legs and snap closures, cloth diapers can even be used for families on the go. Here is a good tutorial on how to wash cloth diapers.

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Follow these three recommendations and you’ll save almost $10,000 the first year. I know there are a lot of other ways to have a baby on a budget. Why not share what you’ve done in the comments.

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  1. kristi

    I wish I had this knowledge three kids ago. However, I’m reluctant to argree with the home birth option. My out of pocket costs for my third child were $605. I had the priveledge of good insurance and a Midwifery center in-hospital with that one. My costs for the first two were somewhere around $2400 for the first and $1200 for the second, both in-hospital (midwifery center) and both under the care and delivery of a midwife. I would have easily passed a risk screening for each of my pregnancies but the deliveries proved otherwise. One was septic due to meconium, one had shoulder dystosia and the thrid was an emergency induction. All three were under the care of a midwife and all three were delivered – without unnecessary medication – in a hospital and I’m SO grateful for that. I’m not suggesting that the MD and hospital are the way to go, rather, if your midwife has priveleges at your hospital you can certainly “save” beyond simple dollars.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      There are always exceptions, Kristi, but I don’t think we should put aside our faith in God for the fear that we will always be the exception. I gave birth outside of the hospital to both a baby with shoulder dystosia and aspirated meconium. The first came out just fine. The latter, successfully transferred to the hospital a block away. I think the key begins with having a qualified and competent care provider that has experience dealing with emergency situations and ends with prayer and trust in God.

    • kristi

      With the pastor’s wife as my doula, God was certainly not “put aside” at any stage in my pregnancy or delivery. My point was more to the fact that not all hospital births mean physician-assisted and that you can still save money at the hospital with insurance. Delivering at the hospital in care of a midwife can still be the normal life process God intended it to be. We shouldn’t put aside our faith in God for fear that we will be the exception, nor should we put aside our faith in God for fear of the hospital. I think the key begins with asking God for guidance and ends with selecting a qualified and competent care provider. God’s answer to your prayer may be to deliver at the hospital and trust the hands He gave to those attending to you and your newborn.

    • Carol

      Well said, Kristi. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Tom

    As a first time dad (5 week old healthy baby girl!), a full time student and working full time as the sole bread winner for our family, at the age of 22, not being overwhelmed with finances can be hard. We have tried to make wise decisions but the fact is God blessed us in so many ways it’s hard to count. We did all of these that you listed, knowing they would save money but also that after lots of research and prayer, we felt they were the best choices for our family and in trying to honor God.

    Hospital births pre-insurance will run over $30K easy, while our birth center birth averages around $12K before, yes we are battling with insurance to cover more of it and had to pay some out of pocket, but the level of care was amazing and what we felt was the best option and more how God designed it to be; pregnancy and birth are very misrepresented in our country sadly.

    As for a crib, it is a $100 one from Ikea that is just that, a laundry basket, it wont be used for a long time because cosleeping is just fine, even better for early stages (avoid the propoganda scares).

    And we did choose cloth diapers as well, and other then extra laundry, we will save thousands over the course of our lives as parents. It also is more comfortable and ended almost any type of rash and irritation she had from her early days in disposable (have to love maconium).

    I would encourage all parents to pray first and research second, trust God with your family but be an advocate for you and your baby, to do what is best and not just the “normal” or “usual”. Some reading and documentaries can really open eyes to just how off track from evidence based medicine our natal care is. Children are always a blessing, and all situations are meant to bring you back to God and so you can handle them with Him, so if it doesn’t seem like you’re ready, you are.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Thanks for sharing, Tom. I agree that prayer should go before any decisions, especially those that could potentially require medical care. I say it that way because I do not believe pregnancy and childbirth to be a medical condition. God’s blessings for your new family.

  3. Brunette

    I’m a mother of five, ages 7 years-2 months, and I gave birth to the last 4 at home, unassisted. We might have spent $30 per child on birthing supplies.

  4. Mac Hildebrand

    I think people are scared to consider ways to save money when it comes to their children because they are afraid a “short-cut” may not be best for the baby. The fact that you provided readers with further information from respected authorities in the links will help people see that these are safe and healthy options for a baby. Thanks for the information and further references.

  5. LeAnn

    If you and your spouse are not comfortable with home births or there are medical concerns that make it not a viable option, be sure and check with you hospital about pre-pay options. I was blessed to be able to deliver all three of my children at the local hospital with a Nurse Midwife. Also that the insurance company was more than happy to arrange a pre-payment plan which saved us thousands of dollars, with each birth.

    • Carol

      Thanks for sharing that option, LeAnn. Many hospitals are willing to give you a price break, as well, if you pay your bill in full before the delivery.

  6. EmilyInTheGreen

    Even if you don’t do a home birth having a midwife and especially a doula and maternity chiropractor can reduce the risk of costly interventions. I had a doctor with my first child (8.5lb at birth) and had 27 hours of labor the last 17 hours where while under an epidural and 2 hours of pushing. With my second child I had a midwife and a doula and a maternity chiropractor and had no interventions and only 2.5 hours of labor and 7 minute sof pushing and that child weighed 10lb at birth!)

    • Carol

      Thanks for sharing, Emily. A doula, while an added expense, does a lot to intervene for you at a time when you’re more apt to cave to pressure from the medical staff and go against what you wished for in the first place, ie-expensive interventions.

    • EmilyInTheGreen

      I forgot to mention, because I had such a smooth labor and delivery the second time around my recovery was much quicker. I only needed a few days of perscription pain killers instead of a full month and my doula was also a montrice and could do my post partum check up at home as part of her package, saving me a trip and the cost of an office visit with my midwife. more potential cost savings by investing in a doula!

  7. landofoz

    I think cloth diapers can save a lot of money if you have multiple children or if you buy only pre-folds. Having done the math in detail, for one kid I about broke even with cloth when you factor in the water, cost of diapers (I used fitteds, which generally are the second cheapest type of diaper after prefolds. Of course you could spend so much more buying the more expensive all-in-ones.), covers, etc. But since I am about to have baby number three, of course we came out way ahead. I just think it’s worth it to do the math before you commit to cloth if your primary motivation is to save money, especially if you really want the more expensive type of diapers or if you plan to have an only child.

    I would also really look into your health insurance before deciding a home birth (or birth center for those that have that option) is cheaper. Of course, for those without insurance or with a very high deductible, the home birth will definitely come out ahead. We are blessed with really comprehensive health insurance and a hospital birth will cost me $100 or maybe $200 (I am not sure if I have to pay just once for me or once for me and once for baby for our hospital stay) and all my prenatal appointments have no copay and are free, including ultrasounds. Home births are not covered under my plan and our birth center is not in my network. I am having a doula, but I am paying cash as neither my insurance nor fsa will cover a doula. I am pretty bummed because I do not really want a hospital birth, but at the same time it is an option that saves me at least a few thousand dollars so I think the key is researching what your specific situation is.

    I also second asking the hospital for payment arrangement possibilities if you have a hospital birth, especially if you are uninsured. My daughter’s birthmom gave birth in a hospital with no insurance and the bill was something like $20,000, which was our responsibility to pay. Because she was uninsured (and not eligible for something like medicaid) they gave us a cash discount and we paid something closer to $3k or $4k. Not every hospital does that I am sure, but it’s definitely worth calling and talking to someone about your options.

  8. April at Albuquerque CPA

    I think using cloth diapers is a brilliant idea. I heard that it helps minimize diaper rashes that most babies get from using disposable ones. Cloth diapers also help babies get toilet-trained fast since it makes them aware of how wet they are when they pee, unlike disposable diapers that complement a high risk of getting forgotten resulting to early urinary tract infections in babies and toddlers.