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Dads Toolbox : Costs of a baby

How to save on baby costs


One income? No way!

set up

You may feel anxious about money – many men do when they are expecting a baby. Many couples are looking at one income when they have had been two. And they may hear people saying how expensive a baby is! Is your income going to cover it?


First: don’t panic. While your income may be going down, your expenses don't have to come up. They may even drop. Part of this is about understanding:

  • what you think you need and what you actually need

  • what you want or think you are entitled to

  • what you are used to spending (before the baby)

Up to now, you might not have had to be too clear about those things. But with a baby, your family is getting bigger and, for most couples – your household income is getting smaller. This is one of the changes and challenges couples need to get their heads around. And to talk through with each other.


Baby Set Up Costs


There are set-up costs around a baby, but how much these set-up costs are, are up to the couple. Setting up for a baby can be very expensive - but it doesn't have to be. Two ways people may think of this:

The "buy everything before the baby arrives" approach:

Some people go all out and buy everything they think they are going to need for their baby. One or both of you may think you must to do this in order to be good parents - or that if you don't, you're not looking after your baby properly. Buying everything new and ahead of time may make an expecting couple feel well-prepared. But they may end up with stuff they never use.

"Get the basics to start" with and go from there:

Ask around and find out what other parents say they needed to get started and get those things together. After that, look for things as you need them. This spreads the costs out and you will still have what your baby needs.


The new or used question

Babies don’t care. If, as a couple, you decide that everything has to be new and just-so, be aware that you are doing that for yourselves and the people who will come to visit – not for the baby. As long as things are clean, do what they are supposed to, and you feel comfortable with them – that's what's important.

You may decide you want a new mattress for the baby’s cot. But the cot itself, a changing table, and toys are often available second-hand. With a good clean – lots of baby-gear is good as new because babies grow so quickly that they generally don't use them or wear them long enough to wear them out.

new or used
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Baby clothes

Babies don’t wear clothes out, they grow out of them, quite quickly. New baby clothes are expensive, and second-hand or hand-me-downs are often just as good if not better. People don’t throw out good baby gear, they put them away. If they don't use them for their own next baby, they:

  • Give them away or hand them down

  • Give them to an op-shop

  • Sell them at a garage sale or on-line


These are often perfectly good ways to put good clothes on your baby. And you can put them back in the system when your baby out-grows out of them.

Car seats

If you have a car, you'll need a car seat "capsule" before you leave the hospital.

A second-hand car seats can be tricky because – because even if they look perfectly good – they have expiry dates of between 5-10 years, depending on the manufacturer. Click here for a list of car seats that are sold in Aotearoa and their lifespans.


Since children are required to ride in a car seat for many years, used ones are often near their legal use by date. You might want to consider that your child is going to be using a car seat for years and if you can get one that you can adjust as the baby gets bigger, a new one might be best. That said, you may find a second-hand one that will get you home and see you through for a year or two and you can get another one once they are out of the capsule stage.

Change table

Many parents find having a change table has some real advantages. A change table helps keep all the changing gear in one place, so you don't have too much set -up effort when there's another nappy to change. They are usually at a height that saves a lot of bending over. But this also means that the baby is up high can't be left if you have forgot get water or something, because they may wriggle off the table.

Just like everything else with babies, change tables are only useful until the baby is out of nappies - which means a change table could provide service for many babies. Second hand change tables are certainly worth a consideration.

Other ways to save money

A baby changes their parents’ lifestyle. You and your partner will find yourselves not doing many of the things you were doing before the baby. Not going out to the movies or clubs or whatever you did before the baby arrived means that some of your spending will go down.

Breastfeeding saves money. Your partner eating well is less expensive than buying formula for a year. This links points out costs associated with breastfeeding, but also points out that the benefits of breastfeeding are more than financial.

Cloth nappies are probably cheaper over the long term than disposable nappies. It's difficult to be certain about this because we haven't found any reliable way to compare.

If you’re a smoker – having a baby is may be the best-ever reason to quit. Not only is a smoke-free dad better for your baby’s health (and yours) and it can save serious money.

Alcohol is expensive and doesn’t go well with looking after a baby. Eliminating or cutting down on alcohol saves money and can create a safer environment for your baby.

Thinking these things through, and talking with your partner about them, can help you both make good distinctions between what is really important and what isn't so.

Couples and money

Before a baby arrives, money might not have been an issue for the couple. Or maybe it was, but it wasn't talked about because it didn't matter that much. But once a baby arrives, money is something that a couple cannot ignore and it can be a hot spot in their relationship.

New parents may not agree about how to spend money and have different ideas about what is important to buy. Some examples:

  • A mum may want to buy things whose main function is to make the baby look good. The dad might think that's frivolous and expensive. He may not realise that it's  important to his partner that people like the baby and think the baby is gorgeous.

  • The dad might want to buy every baby-related gadget or labour saving device. The mum might think some of these things are frivolous and expensive. The dad might be thinking they are saving time and energy or keeping the baby safe.


One may feel the other is just being cheap while the other might be worried that their partner doesn’t see that there is only so much money to live on. One might be content to live on credit while the other isn't comfortable with that.

Talking about money


Money is often a touchy subject. We all have attitudes towards money that we get from our own upbringing and history. How we think about money and what it means to us is often so much a part of us that most people aren’t even aware of it. And we may not realise that how they think about money may be different from how their partner thinks about it.

It's best if couples can get onto the same page about money. If you have disagreements about money or different priorities about to spend on, talking through this an be helpful. This is not about it is not arguing - it's about discovering what both of your attitudes are towards money and how this is important to each of you.

Understanding each other's attitudes toward money can be a way of couples feeling they understand each other a bit better.


One way to get beyond this is to talk about it. If you can discuss why each of you think certain spending is a good (or bad) idea, you will be on the road to better understanding how each other feels about money.

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