Becoming a parent for the first-time is incredibly expensive. There’s all the furniture and other room preparation required for bub, clothes, blankets, etc before the baby even arrives. Then there’s all the medical costs for doctor’s appointments and scans. If you can’t fall pregnant naturally, or are same-sex parents, then adding on fertility treatments sends the baby preparation budget through the roof, with bub alone costing in the ten’s of thousands of dollars before they even arrive.
All of these costs can be incredibly overwhelming and stressful. But, there are a few simple things you can do to save money and be eco-friendly as a new parent. The following list can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
I’m not the first person to say it, and I won’t be the last… But, honestly, don’t buy all new clothes or outfits with all the bells and whistles for your new bub. Babies grow so quick, and really don’t need to be dressed in much more than singlets, socks and onesies for the first few months. And, they really don’t need shoes while they’re a newborn.
As a new parent, buying a few cute new clothes is exciting and a fun part of becoming a parent. But, instead of buying your child’s entire wardrobe new, hit up an op shop instead. Op shops are a great way to dress your new bub up until they’re about one. Most op shops have a vast range of clothing for 0000-0 sizing. So, other than a few 00000 onesies for your newborn if they are teenie tiny when they arrive, you should be able to sort most of your bub’s wardrobe out for around $1 an outfit.
If you’re not fussy on the items you purchase, an even cheaper way to build your bub’s wardrobe is to buy second-hand clothing bundles from other parents on sites such as Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. Quite often you’ll be able to find a full wardrobe for your bub in either gendered, or gender neutral colours and styles. These bundles usually work out at around 50 cents per item, so make sure you shop around to get yourself a good deal.
Whilst you can buy baby clothes from stores such as Kmart for a few dollars a piece, the environmental cost is high as these pieces require new resources to be grown and manufactured, and then transported internationally before they land on the shelves of your local store. Buying second-hand reduces the environmental impact significantly as the impacts of growing, manufacturing, and international transport are mostly removed.
Toys are another area that you can save some money with a bit of frugal savviness. Second-hand toy bundles from Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree are a fantastic way to pick up good quality eco-friendly toys such as the USA made Green Toys brand, which are made entirely from recycled plastic and are solid as a rock.
Additionally, books and high-quality wooden toys, with non-toxic paints, are also a great option to pick up second-hand. Unfortunately, cheap toys, especially painted wood, are often terrible for the environment as unsustainably sourced wood from developing countries may be used. Op shops are a great option for good-quality wooden toys and books at a bargain price. However, make sure you do your brand research for toys first to ensure that any paints or lacquers are non-toxic/lead free.
The cheapest way to clothe and entertain your child is through hand-me-downs from friends and family. There is a negative a stigma these days regarding hand-me-downs because of a fear of germs, and also because of a want of brand name clothing or toys. But, seriously, when it comes to children… There are germs and poos everywhere, and 99% of the time, it’s nothing that a wash or some dettol can’t fix. And, secondly, when it comes to brand named clothing… The moment your kid goes to school they’ll want all the branded or themed stuff because that’s what their friends have. So, just keep in mind that the ages of 0-4 will likely be the only time you’ll be able to get away with second-hand clothes and toys… So, save the money while you have the chance and say yes to hand-me-downs!
Note: For any second-hand furniture, especially decades old heirlooms, ensure that any item meets current Australian Standards before use to ensure your child’s safety.
Heirloom furniture, such as a cot handed down from generation to generation, is another great way to save money on setting up your child’s room, and usually requires a simple ask-around in your family. The great thing about heirlooms is that they have great sentimental value, and are often better quality craftsmanship than the mass-produced items of today. However, just be careful that these items meet the current Australian Standards and are not coated in lead paint to ensure your little one is safe.
A great way to save money on setting up your home for your child is to scavenge items from curbside collections. From high chairs, to change tables, to cots… It’s amazing what people just discard onto the street. Local Council’s usually have free curbside collections at least once a year, so it’s worth keeping an eye on your Council’s social media pages so you can mark the day in your calendar and book in a ‘scavenge date’.
Just like furniture, curbside collection days are a great opportunity to pick up larger toys, such as bikes, trikes and plastic ride-alongs for when bub is a little older. If you’re really lucky, you may even find a hidden gem like a mud kitchen or rocking horse that just needs a clean and new coat of paint.
If you miss the curbside collection day, or scavenging is just not your thing, you may have some luck picking up some great items at the other end of the process for a small fee through your local tip shop. But, make sure you follow the social media accounts of your local tip shop as they usually post pictures of their stock. That way you can keep an eye on what they have and only make the trip when they have something you’re keen on.
Newborns use between 8-12 nappies per day, with toddlers using around half that, so you’re looking at using around 3000 nappies in the first year alone. If you solely use disposable nappies, you’re looking at around $1000-$1500 for the first year of bub’s life.
However, there are alternatives. Modern Cloth Nappies, or MCN’s as they’re known, are affordable, easy to use, and easy to wash. The better brands, such as Econaps, cost around $35 per nappy. These nappies come with bamboo inserts and can be washed over and over again. Better yet, if you buy a well-known brand new, the resale value is quite high, so you’ll most likely be able to get around half the cost back after your child is done with nappies. Alternatively, you can also pick these up second-hand yourself for around 50% of the new cost. And… If you’re super lucky, your local Council may even have rebates available for using MCN’s, so make sure to check your Council’s website just in case!
Another way to save some money and reduce your environmental impact for the first couple of years of your child’s life, is to use reusable baby wipes instead of disposables. A good stash of DIY cloth squares can save you a fortune over disposable baby wipes. All you need to do is to make some cloth squares from a strong material such as flannel. Then just get a spray bottle and fill it with a mixture of rose water, witch hazel and water. When you need a wipe, just spray some of the liquid on the square and wipe away. Just like MCN’s, these can be washed over and over again, and with a little warm water, detergent and sunshine, they’ll come up just like new each time.
Whilst reusable nappies and wipes use water and electricity for washing, the environmental footprint is still significantly lower than using disposables as you cut back significantly on raw material extraction, transport mileage, and end-of-life disposal impacts. Furthermore, the costs are usually still considerably lower than disposables, even with the washing and drying costs.
You may not be able to use reusables all the time, but if you can manage to use them some or most of the time, you’ll reduce your bub’s environmental impact considerably.
Don’t underestimate the power of DIY parenting. Children often have a tendency to prefer tactile, real-world objects over actual toys. So, chances are even if your child had the largest toy catalogue in the world, a cardboard box, a pan, or even a nappy would be more likely to garner their attention for a reasonable period of time, than a ‘fancy-smancy’ toy. Instead of buying a multitude of toys for your child, just obtain a few actual toys and observe over time what they’re interested in. A plastic container or empty soft drink bottle with some dried pasta in it for shaking can entertain a child for hours, so can an empty box used as a car. Additionally, hand-made sock puppets are usually a hit with toddlers, and are a great way to repurpose a holey sock or two.
Having kids is expensive. There’s no avoiding it. But, there are a multitude of easy ways to save on the cost of becoming a parent. By buying second-hand, picking things up for free, and being a savvy DIY-er, you can save a lot of money as a new parent… Which is money you can use to invest for your little one, invest for yourself, or use on a well-designed holiday instead!