Baby Checklist: Essential Items To Buy

Are you expecting your first child and wondering how much does it cost to have a baby?

This guide will help you figure out the essential items you need to have on your baby checklist, without overloading on useless stuff and going way over your budget.


Preparing for the birth of your first baby is SUPER exciting, but equally as nerve racking, because feeling tremendous responsibility you want to do everything right. One of the things that new parents spend countless hours pouring over is what do I need to buy? What makes this so hard is that there are simply too many cute, “top rated” toys, personal care, furniture, and clothing items to choose from. Oh, and also there is all this stuff that your friends or relatives, who just had a baby, bought and say are “must haves”…

Luckily, being a single mother on a very tight budget, with no friends or relatives to get advice from, I quickly figured what items were REALLY necessary for my newborn daughter. As it turns out, the Cost of Raising a Child during the first few year of life does not have to break your wallet.

So here is my baby checklist:

Baby Formula

My baby formula was my own breast milk, and I am really happy that I was able to breastfeed my daughter until she was 13 months. Needless to say that in addition to saving a lot of money on formula, my daughter got all the health benefits of breastfeeding.

If breastfeeding is not an option for you, I would recommend buying organic baby formula. While it costs twice as much as conventional formula, this is THE ONE item I would NOT save money on, even if you are on a tight budget (there plenty of other areas where you can cut your expenses). You don’t want to take any chances with your baby’s current and future health, and many ingredients in conventional formula are of very questionable quality.

Baby Clothing

I don’t have to tell you how absolutely adorable baby girl clothes are and how tempting it is to want to buy EVERYTHING! But the nice brand name items can be pretty expensive; I could not afford to spend $15-20 dollars on a Gymboree or Gap onesie or $25-35 on a dress from those or similar quality brands. So I found the following ways to save money, while still managing to buy cute clothes that I loved:

1. I bought LESS stuff.

It might not seem like it, but a newborn baby or a toddler really does not need that many items of clothing, especially given the fact that they outgrow everything at the speed of lightning.

Today, I see my friends buying 15-20 onesies, 10-15 bodysuites, and other clothes and they end up having around at least 40-50 items of clothing for their newborn, and keep buying more. I had about 10-12 items of clothing total for every stage: 0-3, 6-9, 9-12 months.

How did I manage? Easily:I did laundry more frequently, and also I didn’t fully dress my daughter when she was at home. In fact, most of the time, she would just wear a diaper at home. And she didn’t get sick??? Nope, in fact she was not sick once in her first year of life before she went to daycare. Obviously, I kept the apartment warm, used extra heaters during the cold months, and dressed her when I felt like it was getting too cold. But, doing this saved me a lot of money on clothes, because I was able to avoid all the clothing changes that happen as a result of diaper leaks, food spills, etc., and most of these incidents happen at home!

2. I spend a lot of time looking for sales and took advantage of rewards programs

I never paid full price for a single item of my daughter’s clothing. In fact, I managed to buy most items from the stores that I really liked at least 50% off. Each item of clothing cost me between $5-15 dollars.

In addition to having sales, stores like Gap, Gymboree, H&M offer different types of rewards: store credit cards (these are actually worth it, because you end up saving a lot of money when you use them. I had and still have one from Gap), free coupons when you sign up for email newsletters, Gymbucks, etc.

Another great way to save on baby clothing and actually buy a ton of it at a cheap price (if you really feel like you need a lot of clothes) is to buy used clothes from Craigslist. Many people give away bags of barely used clothing from good to high-end brands for a very modest price. I personally did not take advantage of this because I prefer for clothing to be new.

Baby Furniture

Most people have a separate room for their baby, and with that somehow comes the notion that this space should have furniture. In reality, the only furniture your baby really needs is a crib. No bassinets, swings, etc are not really necessary for comfortable sleep, if you don’t have the money for it. My daughter only had a crib from Ikea ($100), and did just fine. There is also no need to overspend on furniture, as these are not items you will be using for many years to come. The one item I recommend spending money on is a good quality mattress, because your baby’s posture when she sleeps is very important for health and development.

Because my daughter didn’t have a a lot of clothes, I didn’t need to buy her a separate dresser, everything fit into mine. I also didn’t buy a changing table, and just put the changing pad on my own dresser or bed. Other unnecessary items are diaper disposal pails (just put a diaper in a plastic bag and throw it out right away), rocking chair, toy storage (clear bins from Target or Wall-Mart work just as well).

Toys and Entertainment Centers

Boy, you can spend a fortune on your baby’s toys and entertainment. All those play mats, walkers, gyms, entertainment centers and endless variety of developmental toys can seem very alluring, especially if you are into the idea of keeping your baby entertained on his own, while you do your thing.

But guess what? Your baby does not need ANY of these items, because none of them can come close to replacing your attention and interaction. This is what truly counts, if you want your baby to develop well both physically and emotionally.

My daughter did not have any of the items I just listed. I played with her on the sofa or on the floor (on a nice soft comforter), and took her outside A LOT. The truth is babies don’t need special toys or other gimmicks to develop. The entire world, with all the simple, everyday objects is a fascinating playground for exploration to them. In fact, your own (or another human) face, hands, clothing, jewelry and other accessories can keep your baby entertained for a while. Also, a baby can be just as, if not more, entertained playing with a twig or a small stone, as with the most expensive toy.

My daughter had 4-5 stuffed animals, wooden stacking cubes, 2-3 wooden puzzles and a bunch of books. She started crawling when she was 5 months, and took her first independent step at 9 months.

One long-lasting benefit of buying less toys for your child is that as they get older they are not as dependent on external stuff for pleasure and satisfaction. They also have a better developed sense of imagination, and can find ways to keep themselves busy.


Diapers are a major expense during your baby’s first year, and can cost about $1,200. I used Pampers and really like them. Because I had no help, I chose not to use washable/reusable diapers, but I find them to be a great choice for people who have time for the extra effort, want to save money and help our environment. If you use reusable diapers from the very beginning, you can save about $500-600 during the first year.

I also wanted to save money on diapers, so I decided to potty train my daughter early on and get rid of diapers as fast as I could. I started potty training her at 5 months, took it slowly, and by about 10 months she was fully potty trained during day time (at night I still used diapers). By 15 months she didn’t need to use diapers at night.

Bath time

There can be a lot of fuss and anxiety over how to bathe a newborn baby. You can also end up spending a lot of money of special tubs, seats and other gadgets used to make bath time safe, easy and fun. I didn’t spend money on any of this stuff. Instead, I took baths together with my daughter up until she was about 3 months old, and then I showered with her. Completely safe, as you are always holding your baby and completely FREE. I almost never washed her with any soap/shampoo, but when I did, I used California Baby Body Wash/Shampoo.

Baby Checklist: Summary

To summarize, here is my baby checklist. If you don’t see something on this list that you were expecting, it means I didn’t have it and did just fine. (Note, I didn’t have a car, so I didn’t need car seats).

Crib (Ikea)
Crib Mattress (Ikea)
Crib Mobile
Changing pad
One set of cotton sheets
High Chair
Inglesina Stroller
Stroller bunting bag for cold months
Baby Carrier (Baby Bjorn)
Medela Nipple Shields (when I was breastfeeding)
Nursing pillow
Clothes (about 10-12 items for every growth stage)
2 pairs of warm shoes and 2 pairs of sandals
2 hooded towels
3 blankets
Diapers and wipes (Pampers)
Body Wash/Shampoo (California Baby)
Diaper Rash Cream (Boudreaux Butt Paste)
Comforter (for floor play time)
2-3 wood puzzles
4-5 stuffed animal toys
1 set of wooden blocks
5-7 books
2 Clear bins for toys and books