Frugal Baby Stuff

Many of the ideas on this page came from my daughter, Lisa, whose "babies" are now 12 and 14 years old! Her suggestions are all preceded by the letter "L" and are in her own words.


I had no idea that diapers were such a hot topic when I added the baby section to the website! Before you sit down and send off an irate email to me please note that the purpose of this webpage is to save money, not to save the world! I am happy to present both sides of the diaper issue (cloth vs disposable) so if you have pertinent information to help other Moms save money on either type let me know.

L: Use cloth diapers! Even the expensive ones from catalogs are cheaper than buying store brand disposables. Plus, if you have more than one kid you can re-use them, saving even more. (BTW I recommend catalog diapers because the ones from the store are EL-CHEAPO. They don't work well and wear out really quickly.)

This idea was sent by Shari, one of our readers: I have a tip about diapers. I had twins and an older child so I had 3 in diapers for 9 months. My brother works in the same building as a diaper service and they gave him big bags of diapers that they considered rags. They were the great quality diapers and not used for their diaper service once the edge just barely started to fray. They lasted the whole time thatI needed them and now I have lots of rags."

Kristina Wilkens sent us this diaper tip: If a friend or family member works at a hospital (or I've been told even at a pharmacy) they can purchase cases of disposable diapers outrageously cheap! My mother-in-law is a nurse and buys our diapers for us at $25 dollars a case, and each case lasts about a month! That's far less even than using cloth diapers -- and when you take into account bleach and water pollution, they're no worse for the environment than cloth diapers."

This advice about cloth diapers comes from PSWNSati: I love your web site! I just wanted to say that a women mentioned that buying disposables from the hospital were cheaper than cloth when you take in price of bleach... using bleach is NOT recommended as it is bad for the environment and the baby, it also wears diapers out quicker!"

From Shawnee Lubbes in Oregon: I have a one year old daughter and did not discover until she was 9 months old how much I could save on formula and diapers with store brands!! As with most things you really need to weigh what you are giving up to save a dollar. If the diaper leakes every hour or so, is it really a bargain? After trying many store brands I found that I like Walmart's "Mother's Choice" brand of formula the best as a replacement for Enfamil, and for those of you that like using Pamper's and Huggies, Dri-Bottoms brand diapers (also a Walmart brand) work very well with no "over night leaking". Total bi-weekly saving of about $20 to $25.

From Heather: Found your penny pinchin' tips and was thrilled to see mention of cloth diapering. I added them to our Frugal Tips page at The Diaper Hyena for the add'l link on cloth. However, this statement was brought to my attention and I'm afraid it is not good information. I have written several articles on cloth diapering and it is unnecessary to 'take into account bleach and water pollution' as recognized across the line with cloth diapering mommas as a detriment to the life of a diaper and a danger to the environment. In which case, cloth diapering is a significant difference to the environment, uses significantly less water, does not create the carcinogenic dioxins that disposables do . . . and the list goes on. I just wanted to let you know that this comment might be misleading to mothers thinking they can't 'handle' going cloth and if disposables are as easy on the environment, 'why not just go for paper diapers.' There are many myths perpetuated by those that want and can use disposables regularly - and we work to disspell them and at least to get the information out there regarding the ingredients of disposables and the process by which they are produced. Cloth does not have super absorbent gels (sodium polyacrylate), plastic (most covers now are made of breathable, yet waterproof fabric), do not create dioxins - bleached with peroxide based bleaches, can be washed in non-phosphate to low-in-phosphate detergents.

Baby Wipes

L: Use cloth wipies. At $5 for package of 15 they are very frugal. Warm up water for them in an old (disposable) baby wipes container. We use a "wipe warmer". The cloth ones really do a better job on the poop, plus you can use them over and over.

You can also make your own disposable wipes. Take a roll of Bounty paper towels (they won't disintegrate when they get wet) and cut in half. Wet down with a mixture of 1 cup water (distilled), 2 tablespoons of liquid baby soap and a tablespoon of baby oil. Some people add tea tree oil for its antifungal and other properties but if you use the wipes regularly you'll probably use them all up before you have to worry about them getting moldy.

From Kimberly Childers: We make our own baby wipes! Both of my kids have very sensitive skin and these have no alcohol or chemicals in them. I bought a round tupperware type bowl...round enough for a roll of paper towels and tall enough for half of the roll. Then, cut a roll of paper towels (Scott brand works best) in half. Put one half in the tupperware container (save the other half for another batch later). Next, mix together 2 cups hot water, 1 tbs. baby wash, and 1 tbs. either baby lotion or baby oil (I prefer lotion so they're not so oily) If you use lotion, you may need to pop the mixture in the microwave to help mix it up. Then pour the hot mixture over the top of the paper towels, wait a few minutes and pull out the core of the paper towels...the end of the paper towels should come out with it and you have your wipes! Also, I recently made them with without the baby wash and lotion and only used 2 tbs. of Johnson's baby wash with lotion and it worked great).

Tina Brown sent this idea for baby wipes: I have 6 children ages 11 down to 18 months and we home school. My best suggestion for diaper wipes is to purchase a package of washcloths in a different color than what you normally use for yourself. (i.e. Dark blue for baby, all other colors for you). When baby is needing to be changed, you get the washcloth wet with warm water from the sink and add baby soap to it if you want. If you are traveling, put a wet washcloth in a zip type baggie labeled "Clean" on the baggie. Take another baggie labeled "Dirty" on it and put it in the clean baggie. When you use the clean baggie, just put the washcloth in the dirty baggie. When you get home, you can open the baggie and dump it into the washer. You can then wash the baggie and let it air dry.

Feeding Baby

L: Make your own baby food. Some people get really into this, freezing small portions in ice cube trays and pureeing the heck out of everything. I think that's too much trouble so I just put whatever we are eating through the baby food grinder at meal time or chop it into small pieces (depends on food and age of child).

L: Breastfeed if you can... this is a no-brainer as formula is very expensive and breastfeeding will usually keep your child healthier (meaning fewer doctor visits).

For those who choose not to breastfeed here is a money-saving idea for formula sent by Kelly Douglas: Since some women do not prefer to breastfeed, here is an idea to save money on baby formula. Our pediatrician told us that you do not have to stick to one brand of formula as long as you stick to either soy or regular. They are all basically the same ingrediants. The hospital makes it seem like you have to use the brand they start you on. They only give you that type because it is given to them usually for free. You can buy what is on sale, or what you have coupons for, or what you receive as gifts. I signed up for a Carnation Good Start magazine and recieved a lot of checks for free formula. I also bought store brand formula from Meijer and CVS. My baby is 1 year old and she had no problem with the changing of the formulas. In fact, I faithfully used Similac with my first child and he seemed to spit up all the time! I wish I had known this the first time around. Hope you can use this.

A different opinion about formula from Gaynor Campbell-Stewart: In reply to the lady who was told all the formulas are the same, I beg to differ, my baby is 3 months old and underweight because, the formulas over here in the UK are different I tried all the brands including soya which in the last month has cost me nearly £100. At the moment my daughter is happy on SMA Gold and things are looking up for her to except this milk. We think she didn't like the taste of the others, also over here they do not activiley promote bottle feeding and we are unable to get coupons or buy sale milk.

From Megan Kesich in Canada, 1/18/04: Hospitals are given formula for free, I had to bottle feed my daughter and asked for a couple of cases and they were happy to pass it on, along with bottles and nipples (both were suppose to be disposiable but they were fine for a couple uses) the formula was the ready to feed kind so I saved these ready to go bottles for when I had to go out or was just too tired to heat it up

Misc. Baby Stuff

L: Skip all those baby extras like those hooded towels (regular towels work just fine!), crib skirts, "diaper holders", and the list goes on and on. My advice is to wait to buy just about everything until you actually need it (except for onesies and newborn *necessities*). I would even wait on the big stuff like cribs, strollers, etc. We ended up barely using our crib and bassinet because we have a family bed (not planned, it just turned out that way)

Here's a baby towel idea sent by Dena DeMint: I noticed that the frugal baby ideas suggested skipping out on hooded baby towels. I make my own. You just need one bath towel and one wash cloth. I fold the washcloth in half so that it looks like a rectangle. Sew one short end closed, then center the other short end of the wash cloth to the long side of the bath towel and stitch. It makes a great baby towel and I have given quite a few as shower gifts."

Old stained shirts with the sides slit and the sleeves cut off work well for a bib to keep unstained shirts clean. Hem edges or sew on bias tape. Buy shirts that are a couple of sizes too big for your toddler at the thrift store to use for painting smocks.

The following 2 ideas come from David Adams. We placed them in the baby section because that's when you'll be buying a lot of new stuff but they can be applied anytime:

1."If you know you are going to use something a great deal, such as a stroller, back pack, etc., do some research and get the best you can find. Yard sale or consignment shop finds are great ... but don't skimp or you will end up wasting your money on two or three of them! Check how "fixable" an item is, too. A Maclaren stroller or a Burley bike trailer or a Tough Traveller backpack may seem expensive up front, but all are well built and can be serviced with parts at a fraction of the cost of replacement."

2."Having a kid doesn't necessarily mean having a big car, buying a new car, or having two cars. Roof packs and "burgers" can be used to expand interior space for trips, but cost less than the lost fuel economy on a bigger vehicle. Public transit is often a enjoyable excursion for young kids and a means to greater independence for teens who know the system but do not yet drive (or who you can't afford to insure). Every year a teen does not feel the need to drive is a major savings! One less car is one less cost."

Here are a whole list of ideas from Sara (our first contributor from the UK!):

Since this is all you need for the first 6 months or so, it gives you time to work out what you really need to get for later, shop for bargains, put the word out to friends for cast-offs or ask for things as presents.

This list of recipes for baby stuff was sent by Mary Kathryn:

The salt substitute and Kool-Aid are optional. Store in the refrigerator. Be creative; use your special Kool-Aid to make ice cubes so it will stay cool in their bottle or sippy-cup. Or, insert toothpicks into your ice cubes before freezing and make homemade popsicles. This contains sugar; it will eventually go bad (just like regular Kool-Aid), check any that has sat for a long time.

***Infants under three months of age with a fever, or any child with a fever for more than three days must be under the care of a physician. Any child who is showing signs of severe dehydration (no saliva in his mouth, no tears when he cries, loose and sagging skin) must be under the care of a physician. DO NOT withhold formula for more than four hours, if your baby is breast-fed and will take the breast, do not withhold it. DO NOT withhold solid food for more than six hours. Most important, listen to what your baby tells you! ***

Cut the roll of paper towels in half (length-wise) with an electric knife in the center. Put one half of the paper towel roll into the empty wet wipe container. Mix the water, baby oil and baby bath soap together. Pour over the paper towels. Let sit for a few minutes, then pull the cardboard out. Start pulling the towels out from the center of the roll, pull the first towel up through the center of the wet wipe container. (This recipe really saves a lot of money if you use wipes often.)

Mix oil and cornstarch powder until a suspension is formed. Add ointments and mix well. Place in container with lid. Apply with cotton swab. Yields 2 ounces.

Put some flour in the skillet. How ever much you want to make, but not more than will cover the bottom of the pan well. Then you just scorch it. Which means you stir the flour till it is a dark brown. You are almost burning it but not. You don't want it burnt, just brown. The browner you can get it, without letting it burn, the better it works. *I always save an empty baby food jar, and then poke holes in the lid for a shaker. If you like cream better, then mix this with some zinc oxide. **Use oil if you canít get it to the right consistency.

And more ideas from Mary Kathryn: You can store baby's stuffed animals easily. Place a couple of hooks in the wall near the ceiling. Tie a ribbon from one side to the other. Use cloth pins to hang the stuffed animals. Be sure to keep this away from baby's crib! When cleaning baby's room, put the stuffed animals in a pillowcase in the washing machine to keep them clean, protected and smelling fresh. To clean the diaper pail Use a cup of vinegar in two gallons of water to neutralize the urine in cloth diapers. It also helps keep them from staining

From Sally Robichaud in Massachusetts:

From Mira Buttice: Hi there!! i know buying baby bedding is expensive and it only lasts for a couple of years anyhow!! So, for my first born I couldn't find anything in the patterns or colors I liked without forking out over 400.00 which i was not about to do(I love you son, but i'd rather use that towards something more worthy) So, I purchased a bed in a bag in a double size and had someone make me my comforter, crib sheet, skirt, bumper pad, toss pillowsand curtains for less than 100.00!! The pattern and color was a butter yellow with some creative artwork suitable for both boy or girl!!!! Hope you can use this idea to bring some character into your little one's nursery without breaking your bank!!!!

From Ginny: Toddlers are always underfoot when you are trying to fix dinner or wash dishes.... i found best way to keep them happy and out of the way was to fix a low drawer in kitchen with all the thngs they need to pretend they are mimicing you...such as old dishes...plastic ones and a few small pots and safe silverware such as large serving spoons....throw in bowls glasses lids and such, they will keep busy and you can cook and clean while they are busy...better then any toy you might want to buy to keep them busy.

From Shawnee Lubbes in Oregon: Another way we have saved money was to not buy our baby toys, we did this knowing that all the grandparents and great-grandparents would cover that as well as other relatives. The same with the non-essential clothing. We bought the onesies and the sleepers for the newborn stage and left all the cute outfits to the relatives to buy. I also suggest registering when you are expecting a baby, even if you are not going to have a baby shower. It is very easy to just let people know what you will be actually NEEDING instead of getting 100 recieving blankets and no socks. Buying a diaper bag anymore is also a waste unless you really go out alot, most of the time enfamil or some other company is sending freebie ones out to the hospitals with a "starter pack" of their offers in it that you will get when you are there or from you personal Dr. With my last baby I recieved three of them by the time I came home.

From Carol Sly in Ketchikan, Alaska: I found a bartering group. It's called Mama Barter but you can find one on your own, I'm sure. These are a great way to get rid of what you don't need and get things you may not have been able to afford. Example...I am getting a couple of diaper covers and in exchange I am sending the lady some smoked salmon. I have traded books etc. and love this.