The Real Cost of Baby’s First Year

Before I had my first baby, I stumbled upon a cost calculator on Babycenter. (You can find it here.) At first glance with everything filled in, it appeared that baby’s first year would cost over $10,000, not including the hospital bills! I was floored, but I knew it couldn’t be true. I decided to buy as little as possible for my baby, and if I ended up needing more, I’d get it later.

I realize that preference has a lot to do with what you buy for your baby, but this is how it all worked out for me. A few numbers are estimates, and I did receive many generous gifts. However, my total is much smaller than $10,000! I put FREE for items I received as gifts but would’ve bought anyway because I consider them essentials. Baby’s first year does not have to cost a fortune.


I know that not everyone can be a stay-at-home mom or breastfeed. My situation allowed me to get the cheapest price possible by not having to buy formula or pay for daycare. Also, I have heard that cloth diapers can be cheaper, but I never had a desire to use them. Many figures comparing cloth and disposable diapers use really high estimates for disposables and low ones for cloth, which makes the comparison inaccurate.

Bare Essentials

  • Diapers and wipes – $40 per month X 12 = $480. I completely disagree with Babycenter’s estimate of $92 a month. I’ve been tracking what I pay for diapers, and $40 is actually my average for BOTH children together (currently), neither newborns. I’ll leave it at $40 because my kids don’t require lots of diapers per day, but I still think this is a HIGH estimate for 1 child’s first year. I buy off-brand diapers in large boxes, and they work just fine.
  • Food – $0 on formula, about $60 on solids ($10 X 6 months). I make my own baby food (or skip it entirely), but my kids don’t like purees for very long. After that, it’s bits of bread, fruit, veggies, and cereal, maybe a few eggs – a very small cost when compared to those pricey toddler snacks.
  • Medicine – $20. This covers one antibiotic, one bottle of ibuprofen, and one bottle of acetaminophen. I haven’t used anything else, and I still have the same bottles from a few years ago.
  • Clothing – $100. I received lots of clothes from my baby shower. This figure represents the entire first year’s wardrobe. I bought a few things new, but most are from a thrift store.

Feeding Supplies

  • Bottles – $3 from Walmart. I will always buy new ones for each child. They don’t last forever and get gross over time.
  • High chair – $4 from a yard sale.
  • Spoons, cups – $3 from Dollar Tree (Set of 12 spoons for only $1 and cups $1 each.)
  • Burp cloths – FREE. All received as gifts. I don’t use them very often since my kids don’t spit up a lot.
  • Bottle brush – $3 from Walmart.
  • Bibs – FREE. Got them as gifts, and I don’t remember to use them most of the time.
  • Nursing bras & pads – $75. Bought new. I ended up using the pads for all 5 kids but never found a nursing bra I loved.
  • Nursing pillow – $25, bought new at Walmart. My arms would be very sore without it.


  • Baby shampoo – $2. We still have the same bottle almost 3 years later. I only wash my boys’ hair once a week.
  • Hooded towel – FREE. Received a couple as gifts. With later kids, I found some cute ones online for $10.
  • Brush, comb, clippers set – $8 at Walmart. I still have the clippers 10 years later!

Large Items

  • Car seat and stroller – $60. Bought used. I got hand-me-downs for later kids, so I never had to buy a new car seat or stroller.
  • Pack ‘N’ Play (used as a crib, with bassinet attachment for smaller babies) – $10 from D.I.
  • Diaper bag (I use a duffel bag or backpack.) – FREE
  • Changing table – FREE (a fold down shelf on a dresser that was given to us). For later kids, I was given a foldable changing pad that is also great for travel.
  • Chair – FREE. It was a gift from D.I., though it cost the giver $30.
  • Blankets – FREE. I received about 15 as gifts! Some are hand-me-downs.
  • Dresser – $5. Bought from students moving out.


  • Toys – $10. Children less than a year old need maybe 2-3 soft toys, and that’s it.
  • Childproofing set – $10 at Walmart. I like both the outlet and doorknob covers.
  • Pacifiers – $5 for a pack of 3, Walmart. Only my first 2 would take them anyway.
  • Baby book – $5 from Walmart.
  • Pictures – $10. I did 100 prints of my baby’s first year for 9 cents a print from Shipping was only a dollar or two.

Total cost: $898, about 9% of the estimated cost according to Babycenter!

Don’t get me wrong; having a baby still isn’t cheap, but it doesn’t have to cost $10,000 to provide for that baby for a year. As I made the list, I realized that it’s still a pretty long one. My babies definitely get everything they need, and it’s nice not to be tripping over big things like walkers, swings, or a million toys. Simple is good, and my kids are happy and healthy.

Cost of My Second Baby’s First Year

Our second baby was also a boy, so this list reflects the cost for his first year.

  • Diapers: $480
  • Clothes, probably $20 worth to replace a few worn-out ones.
  • Food : $60
  • Bottles: $3
  • An additional Pack ‘N’ Play: $10
  • Pacifiers: $5
  • Double stroller: $20.
  • Total: $598. (Remember that $480 of that is diapers/wipes, so it’s not a big up-front cost.)

Our third baby was a girl, so I went out for 2 weekends and purchased all the clothes I needed for her first 2 years at yard sales. It cost me $130, so I’ll say $100 for the first year. The cost of clothes minus the stroller and crib means her first year cost us $668. Though I haven’t calculated for babies 4 and 5, I know that I stuck to this list pretty faithfully, so their numbers would be within the $600-$650 range.

What did I buy differently after having more babies?

  • I gave up on nursing bras. The 3 brands I tried always wore out after 6 months, didn’t have enough support, and cost a lot. I switched to $10 regular bras and just pulled them down to nurse. They lasted over a year with only minimal stretching around the cups.
  • I started considering a swing to be an essential baby item. My neighbors gave me one for my third baby, and when it died a few years later, I bought another one for $15 at D.I. I didn’t realize how much it would help me calm my babies. Though I didn’t use it for long (4 months or so for each child), I considered that $15 to be well worth it.
  • I skipped baby food with the last 2 children because the others never really liked it.
  • I stopped worrying about buying my kids secondhand clothes. They don’t care.
  • I stopped buying baby shampoo and started using kids’ shampoo. It comes in a bigger bottle and is cheaper.
  • Instead of printing pictures and making baby books, I do everything digitally now. The cost is lower because I scrapbook all the family’s stuff on Shutterfly for $16 a year, the cost of 2 free books with shipping.

If you made it this far, congratulations! I hope you’ve found some helpful ideas for saving on your baby’s first year.

2 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Baby’s First Year”

  1. Expecting baby #2 (different gender than baby #1 and many years later) this was such a nice, frugal refresher course on essentials and needs vs. wants. I like the idea of using a tear free children’s shampoo for the baby: hadn’t thought of that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *