People always ask if I have any useful tips on saving up for a new baby. I do, of course, but usually it’s more fun to say, “No. Sorry. But best of luck with that.” No one helped me. I have two older brothers with kids, and that’s pretty much all the help I got: “best of luck with that.” But I’m not that cruel, so let me give you the best advice I can give you, under the circumstances…

The financial reality of having a baby

Firstly, one, you cannot prepare for how much a child will cost you. As the saying goes, if people waited until they could afford to have a child, no one would actually have one, or two, and especially not three.

Children are little money pits that will eat into your discretionary income with little to no effort. In diapers alone, a child could suck dry all of your beer money. And formula, well don’t get me started on formula. That can quickly eat into your eating out budget, and fast.

But just like buying your first house, you can and should budget when you have your first child. A little patience, preparation and creativity will go a long way. So fear not. Here are some helpful hints on budgeting for a new baby.

Tips for saving money with a baby

1. Don’t buy everything “new.”

Yes, you need a lot of gear when it comes to a new baby, but believe it or not, hand-me-downs are your best friend. You can save hundreds of dollars that can go towards future expenses, like college or university. I know it seems a like a far off idea, and there are baby things you need now, but years will fly past quickly and the sooner you can start saving, it’s less likely that you’ll be scrambling for tuition dollars.

So, just say “yes” and “thank-you” whenever a family member or a friend offers to give you a perfectly good (and legal, because there are laws protecting babies) bassinet or car seat or stroller. And if someone wants to give you 30 bins of baby clothes that you’ll have to wash and sort through for the “good stuff,” so be it. You’ll need it.

Take it and be glad you know people who don’t need this stuff anymore. But, obviously, use some discretion. Some people just have really ugly taste in baby furniture and clothing.

2. Buy in bulk whenever possible

Don’t look at the overall price of the purchase (diapers, formula, wipes, etc.), instead look at the per unit price. The smaller the package, the more expensive the per unit cost, most likely. Why buy one package of wipes at a time for $4.00ea when you can buy 20 packages at once for $2.00. Yes, it’s a bit of an investment, but it’s not like you’re not going to use them all.

Note: This may not always work with diapers as they can outgrow them so fast, but you can still buy larger boxes, you cheapskate.

3. You don’t need all that baby stuff!

Wipe warmer – you don’t need it. Specialized baby bottle cleaner – no need. You can do it. Trendy butt cream? Pass. You’re in cheap and cheerful mode. Keep your wants and needs in check. It could be your ego and your need to keep up with the Joneses that makes you want certain things. You only have a finite amount of money. And, your baby comes before your ego. So don’t be wasteful and buy trendy things that you will most likely never use. It’s not in YOUR budget.

4. Be practical

I often joke that a man can quite happily live in an apartment with couch, TV, bathroom, and a microwave. You notice I didn’t say bed, or kitchen table or even a kitchen sink. Oddly, though, when we get married, we then need an enormous house, a fancy car and a walk-in closet. No! You don’t, especially, if you can’t afford it.

It’s the same idea with a new baby. You need the beginner basics: bassinet, diapers, wipes, maybe formula and a few bottles, car seat or baby bucket, some onesies, and a snap on stroller-type-thingy. And these things won’t set you back thousands of dollars. At most, it will set you back a few hundred dollars – along with some butt cream, ear swabs, no tears baby shampoo and a few other things. Now is not the time to be a consumer. Now is the time to be a saver… for your next box of diapers.

5. Start saving your change

Nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies and twoonies; they all add up.

Use that piggy bank Aunt Ethel bought for the new baby and start saving for something big for down the road; like that dreaded double stroller for when you have your second child, or put it towards a college fund, or braces, or whatever the kid might need in the future.

Now is not the time to forget to save. You may have a lot of expenses now, which will only get worse in the future. And I don’t say this to scare you. Actually, I do. It’s really scary and try not to think about it. Collect your change, invest it, put it away for a rainy day. It will come in handy, one day, hopefully very far down the line.

My last tip is this: enjoy it. Kids are only young once. And although you’ll have no money to spend on yourself, for a very long time, you’ll have a beautiful baby who will take care of you in your old age, which, if you think about it, is the most brilliant budgeting of all.