Cartoon of a baby developing from 0 to 12 months.

Preparing for your first baby is both exciting and nerve-wracking. You want to provide the best life possible for your child right from the start, but you might have no idea how to achieve that financially. When is the best time to buy those big-ticket items? What about everyday essentials? And how do you stop yourself from buying every cute toy and onesie you see?

Saving for a baby begins with planning a budget for baby’s first year. From the more expensive items, like a crib, stroller and car seat, to everyday items, like diapers, food and clothes, a simple budget can take the stress out of spending, so you can focus on enjoying every second with your little one.

Budgeting for baby

The first step in planning a budget for baby’s first year is knowing how much you need to set aside.

However, there’s no consensus on just how expensive the first year of a baby’s life can be. Probably because it’s a relatively subjective figure with many contributing factors, such as the parent’s income level and where they live.

Some research has shown that a baby’s first year could cost parents anywhere from $12,000 to $50,000. No matter where you fall in that range, it’s safe to say that it will be an expensive year.

The 50/30/20 budget approach can be helpful in situations like this. This is how you’d split your income:

  • 50% on household bills (e.g., rent/mortgage, gas, insurance, utilities, food, etc.), loan payments and baby expenses
  • 30% on things you want (e.g., travel, entertainment, memberships, etc.)
  • 20% on savings and credit card debt

In the first year of your baby’s life, that top category may absorb that 30%, as the “things you want” start looking a bit more like the “things baby wants.” That’s okay — just keep working toward a split along these lines to keep your spending (and sanity) in check.

Here are some typical infant-related, first-year expenses and how you can handle them.

Big-ticket items

Before baby even arrives, you’ll need to buy a collection of pricier items that you’ll (hopefully) only have to buy once — so consider investing in something high quality. These items might include:

  • Nursery furniture: $300 to $1,700
  • Crib: $200 to $750
  • Stroller: $50 to $800
  • Car seat: $50 to $300

You’ll also need other equipment like a swing, bouncer seat, high chair and baby monitor. If you’re having a baby shower, put these items on your wish list and see what friends and family will pick up for you. If you’re shopping for yourself, consider going out in November, as deep discounts can often be found around Black Friday. Secondhand stores and Facebook Marketplace are also great places to find lightly used furniture, supplies or toys.

Everyday necessities

While expensive purchases like a crib or stroller definitely bump that first-year figure up, it’s the everyday, ongoing necessities that really add up. Here are some examples of what you might be looking at monthly (and just so you know, we’re using the lower-end figure):

  • Formula: $70/month
  • Diapers: $75/month
  • Food: $50/month
  • Clothes: $50/month

You can find ways to save on these necessities. Coupons can help cut down the cost of diapers and food, and cash back offers — easily accessible on our app — can actually put some money back into your wallet (or, in our case, your PayPal account) on these necessary purchases.

Also, think about buying in bulk. Newborns average up to eight to 10 diaper changes per day. Over the first three months of their lives, babies can go through about 700 diapers. So, if you see a good deal on diapers — even if it’s a 500 pack — grab it.

Emergency savings

While this isn’t a traditional expense, having a line item on your budget for emergency savings is wise. Aim for $1,000 to start by putting $50 or $100 a month or more into it until you reach six months of living expenses.

You’ll find that an emergency fund provides peace of mind because you know you’ll have the funds for unexpected health bills, accidents or other issues (though we hope these things never happen to your little one). It also eliminates the need to put these expenses on a credit card, potentially going into debt because of them.

Also, talk through important decisions that will impact your household’s finances early, like extended and perhaps unpaid maternity/paternity leave or a parent’s desire to become a stay-at-home caregiver. Have an honest conversation about what each partner wants, so you can both be on the same page. That way, you can calculate how much your household income will be impacted and start saving up long before baby arrives.

Spreading out your spending

In addition to making a 50/30/20 budget, you might consider spreading out your spending by:

  • Buying ahead when you find a good sale. For instance, buy clothes in advance if you find them at a deep discount. You know your baby will quickly grow out of onesies and those cute baby socks. So if you find cheaper baby clothes for ages three, six or eight months even if you still have a newborn, buy them (if your budget allows).
  • Buying items in bulk. As previously mentioned, babies fly through diapers. Formula, too. So if you have a month in which you come under budget, go to your local wholesale club and stock up. This will alleviate spending in future months that might not be so well managed.
  • Buying supplies at certain times of the year. Keep an eye out for when sales happen at your favorite stores, for example, semi-annual sales or end-of-season sales. Plan to buy what you need around those. Consignment and secondhand stores often have designated “sale weeks” for baby and kid items, so it’s good to pop in there every so often. Finally, the trusty back-to-school season is a great time to buy toddler clothes early and cheaply.

Having a baby is a joy — and the first year tends to fly by. So, don’t waste time worrying about finances. Soak up every moment with these helpful budgeting and savings tips on everything you need for baby’s first year.