Spend Nothing When Having a Baby

When we found out that our family was growing, I immediately thought about our finances. We had heard projections on how much it costs to raise a child. But my first musing was, is it possible to rear children for less? Blasphemy, amiright? Nonetheless, I quietly set a personal goal to spend nothing when having a baby. It was such a daunting task that it took me a few days to voice the idea to my husband. Aside from hospital bills, I wanted to spend $0 buying the consumerist stuff. And it has been a wild success so far!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not so delusional as to think that this endeavor will be entirely free. (It sounds endearing, though!) We are already projected to spend $8-10k on the birthing itself, even with the help of PPO insurance coverage which covers 80% of the costs of childbirth in the state of California. But with a lot of intention, I think it can be made more affordable. As in, MUCH more affordable.

My personal goal is to spend close to nothing on getting ready for the babe. I’ve been able to stick to my budget, but three months is still a long way to go. I may get cold feet. FOMO might set in. Or the guilt that I am not being a good provider. For now, those thoughts are at bay. I truly believe that children learn through our actions, and this is my first lesson. Do with less, be with less, keep more to spare.

How to Spend Nothing When Having A Baby

Be intentional about what you need.

The internet is full of kid-items ready to sell to anxious moms and dads. As parents, we have a job to do for our children – to provide for and take care of. But we are also the gatekeepers of their worlds, the guardians of their lives and homes. And sellers, they have their goals too – to sell what they make as best they can.

What helps me stay grounded is to think back on me and Mike’s childhoods. We grew up with very little. I grew up in a third-world country and Mike lived in an apartment his entire life, sharing a bedroom with his dad until junior year of high-school. Our happiest joys were the simple moments – both in childhood and in adulthood. I remember collecting lady bugs in the backyard with my sister, catching mussels by a lake, and going to the playground behind the church. I like to think that we’ve already provided enough by situating our family in a beautiful community filled with amenities and outdoor activities.

In exchange for all the toys, Mike’s dad never missed a track meet or soccer game and my mother quit her job and cooked dinner every night. That’s my second motivating thought to being intentional: the less we spend, the less we have to work. The more we can be around for the important stuff. I can keep my part-time job. Mike can work from home whenever I go into the dental office. We hope to have at least one of us home with our kid every single day. In essence, my ability to not spend on non-essential items is my second source of income. AND it’s not taxed!

Be Open to Hand-Me-Downs

Hand-me-downs for most baby items are perfectly fine. They don’t have to be brand new, especially when newborns outgrow things in 3 months time. Baby stuff costs way too much these days. Rompers and footsies cost $20 each. That is a LOT of money. You could feed a family of three a decent meal with that! Cuter outfits cost twice as much. Remember, little ones aren’t even conscious of what they look like.

Embracing hand-me-downs also reduces waste. So many parents throw out their old stuff – toys, books, plastic dinner utensils, Tupperware, clothes – these could have lots of life left! Not to mention, it’s a bit of a pain trying to decide what to do with old stuff. Old parents may appreciate you offering to take things off their hands. It would spare them the guilt of throwing things away and give them the comfort that their items are going to be of use to someone else.

Already, we have a large number of items being handed down by aunties, co-workers, and friends!

Which brings me to my third point…

Rely On Your Community

In 2019, when we returned from New Zealand, I wrote a post lamenting the lack of community in California. I yearned for what Kiwis had – a rural, farm-life type of dependence amongst neighbors in small towns. I joined a bakery team BECAUSE I was looking for a community. I wanted to be a part of a group, instead of working in isolation as a dentist and writing in isolation as a blogger. Slowly, I learned that community was what you made of it.

I’ve come a long way since then. Despite a pandemic, I developed a community at both dental offices I work at. I connected with people in my area by volunteering at the farms. My work-out crew is the most motivating group of people I have. And I met a lot of dog-owners and cat-parents who have become dear friends.

Most importantly, we moved out of the city. I loved our live-work loft and the convenience of downtown living but we knew it wasn’t a place to raise a family. It also was a more solitary life. At the time, it was fine since we had a roommate living with us. We formed a mini-faux-family. But when we lost our roommate, it was “just us” in a world recovering from a pandemic. So we transported ourselves to the mountains, in a suburban area filled with multi-generational families. We live down the street from my parents, about five miles from where I lived since my teen years. And it was the best decision we made.

Make Use of Your Local Buy Nothing Group

I am really grateful to live in a community filled with families because it makes for a great buy-nothing group. Reminiscent of how moms in the past relied on each other for things such as spare eggs or a loaf of bread, the Facebook Buy Nothing group is filled with graciously gifted goods. We have turned to our Buy Nothing group to get a lot of things we need for our newborn. It is the #1 tool we have to spending $0 when having a baby. We have saved thousands of dollars because of our Buy Nothing community!

So far, we have received the following baby items from the Local Buy Nothing Group:

  • Two boppy pillows for nursing
  • Coterie Diapers for Newborns
  • A Graco High Chair
  • A Graco Baby Swing
  • Clothing 0-3 months
  • Clothing 3-6 months
  • Clothing 6-9 months
  • Clothing 9-12 mos
  • Baby shoes
  • A wooden crib

List the Must-Haves on the Baby Registry and Wait for the Baby Shower

My mom is throwing us a baby shower a month and a half before the baby arrives. We are constantly updating and evaluating the baby registry. As we collect more FREE stuff from relatives and the Buy Nothing Group, we remove items that would otherwise be doubled. In this way, we save the resources of our loved ones and focus in on the necessities. I refuse to purchase anything until after the baby shower. It could be that we receive everything we need!

Have tough conversations with your immediate family.

There are going to be many tough conversations with family members. For us, we started discussing expectations from the get-go. While they want what is best, sometimes, it helps to share what IS best for your family. I had to reiterate our hope to not accumulate a lot of stuff by way of books, toys, and clothes. We hope for our family members to save their hard-earned dollars and avoid buying children’s books (which we can borrow from the library down the street at a moment’s notice) and baby toys (which could be substituted by every day items). Our baby doesn’t need fancy clothes, and hand-me-downs will more than make do. If they could substitute STUFF with baby-sitting help, home-cooked meals, or free advice, we would be happy. These are tough conversations for grandparents, aunties and uncles who want to give your child the world and more. Telling them you don’t want what they wish to buy you may come off as being ungrateful. But it is necessary in order to foster a healthy relationship between you and your baby’s most important community.

Work for It

Lastly, you can do as I do and work for it. I created this blog space to share my story. But I also consider blogging a job. Here, I partner with brands that I believe in and exchange product for reviews, blog posts, creative content, or social media exposure. I think it’s a great gig for expecting mothers who don’t mind sharing their experiences with products! It is flexible, creative, fun, and totally in your control.

If you are interested in growing a blog, check out these posts I have written to get started!

As I said before, I am not so foolish as to think this will be the most frugal venture yet. But just like we’ve travel-hacked our way around the world, leveraged house-hacking to save money to buy our home, and paid my student debt down working part-time through frugal living, I think there are many CREATIVE ways to avoid over-spending when raising children. I believe parenting has gotten away from us. I fear companies and corporations have hijacked our anxious minds and convinced us of our need for yet more stuff. I am curious to see how much of it is truly necessary and am willing to challenge some of today’s assumptions.

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash