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What Does Baby Really Need? A List of Essentials and Stuff to Skip

From delivery costs to decking the nursery, costs add up. But not everything in the baby store is necessary. Here's what's needed – and what's not.

From bibs to cribs, keeping junior comfortably cared for can be costly. Financial experts estimate that the first year of your child's life can set you back about $9,000 to $11,000. Again – that's just in year No. 1. So, how can parents rein in the seemingly steep bill for baby? Being mindful of how they finance the five following expenses that pack the biggest punch to the pocketbook.

Food

Medical experts will tell you that breastfeeding is best for baby, offering health benefits that can last throughout your child's life.

But breastfeeding also has economic advantages. For one, the milk is free. Even when accounting for a couple hundred dollars in set-up equipment, such as a breast pump, it's still cheaper than the roughly $1,500 a year it will cost to purchase formula. If you do opt for formula, consider a generic brand, sold under the name of your local supermarket. Generics are often virtually identical to name-brand formulas.

But what do you do when baby is ready for solid food?

While those adorable little jars of food may be tempting and clearly light years ahead of the old strained peas days, they're also a lot pricier. Instead, consider making your own baby food.

All it takes is a few minutes, a blender or food processor and a few ice cube trays to keep your baby full and happy while saving you some cash.

Moms can see additional savings by shopping at local warehouse clubs or taking advantage of sales at their local grocery stores.

Diapers

Modern parents have swooned over disposable diapers for a generation or two, thanks to the convenience of pitching the foul bum-covers. After all, who wants to wash poopy diapers?

Well, those who want to save a few bucks – and be more Earth-friendly – will realize that a poopy cloth diaper isn't so bad after all. Especially when they consider that they'll cut their baby's diapering costs by at least half.

Even when factoring in the initial investment into cloth diapers and the cost of laundering them, the savings can be astounding. And today's cloth diapers aren't such a hassle. Velcro and snap closings have replaced the quaint but inconvenient pins of yore.

Cloth diapers offer additional savings when passed down to the next child.

Clothes

One thing all new parents realize early on is that there are some gosh-darned adorable outfits for kids. Sharp tiny dresses, snappy small Ts and funky little finds abound. And, if you're a hipster parent who prides herself on dressing your kids in the coolest clothes, you may have a bit of a problem cutting corners in your clothing budget.

But rest assured. You don't have to spend a mint to make your kid look cool.

One way to cut clothing costs is by shopping thrift stores in affluent neighborhoods and buying clothes off-season. Be savvy with color choices, too, like honing in on neutrals and whites – especially if it's your first kid, so you can reuse down the road.

Other options include outlet stores, clothing swaps with friends and, of course, mom-to-mom sales in southeast Michigan.

Equipment

The "mother" of expenses in baby's first year is no doubt the initial outlay you'll make for big-ticket items like strollers, cribs and car seats. First, find out if any family or friends have hand-me-down furniture and equipment that they'll either give to you or sell to you for a reduced price.

If you're having a baby shower, which is a great way to stock up on essentials, encourage people to pool what they'd spend and buy one of the pricier items.

While most moms consider high chairs, cribs, strollers and car seats essential, some items – like bassinettes, rocking chairs, elaborate bedding, changing tables and bouncer seats – often are optional.

Frills

Maybe you've got the basics down to a science as to where to get the best price on what you need, or you have used cloth diapers since Day One. But did you ever notice that the little extras still add up? It doesn't help that we're always hearing about the latest, greatest thing.

But frugal moms do three things when considering a non-essential purchase. First, they delay the purchase. Next, they decide if it's something they really, truly want. And third, they determine if the cost is really worth it – or if perhaps they could make it themselves or get it cheaper elsewhere.

And, of course, sometimes you'll give in and treat yourself a little – and that's OK, too. Just be sure the cost is worth it to you!

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