I think I scared a lot of you when I shared how much we spent on raising Charlie in the past year. That was a post that I threw together really quickly, and I should have been more thoughtful about listing out our yearly expenses. But if you take out the cost of childcare, which varies drastically from region to region, we spent less than $3700 on diapers, clothes, toys, etc. We didn't make an effort to cut back on most of our expenses, so that number could definitely be drastically reduced. Without childcare, our monthly costs to raise Charlie breaks down to about $300/month. We spent more than that on going out before we had Charlie!

Yes babies are expensive, but if you can figure out affordable childcare, they don't have to be the huge money pit they're often made out to be, and there are many areas you can cut back. The biggest thing we do to save money is we try to buy almost all our gear and toys used, and then we resell anything and everything we can once we're done with them. We're definitely doing a lot more to save money with our second child because we're more experienced parents, and we'll be able to reuse most of Charlie's things for Olive. These are some of the money saving tips I've been marinating in my head when I nurse Olive:

Things You Can Do

- breastfeed. It's free while formula costs thousands of dollars a year.
- make your own baby food. It's cheaper, it's fresher, and it's healthier.
- don't move to a larger place. Your largest expense is probably your rent or mortgage payment, and if you can avoid or postpone moving to a bigger place, you'll be able to save a lot of money.
- buy a convertible car seat. While infant car seats may allow your baby to use it to 30 pounds or more, your baby will probably outgrow the height limit way before the weight limit (Charlie outgrew his around the 1 year mark). A convertible car seat on the other hand enables you to get 2-3 years of use out of it.
- be a sahm/sahd. Childcare is the biggest expense, and if one parent can stay home to offset that cost, the monthly costs of raising a child can be quite low.
- use cloth diapers. The upfront purchasing costs may be high, but you definitely save money in the long run.  You can buy also cloth diapers used, use them for 2 kids, and resell everything when you're done.
- use cloth wipes. I expected to spend a lot on diapers, but I was pretty shocked at how much we spend on wipes in a year. It's easy to make your own wipes using paper towels, and it's even easier to make cloth wipes out of receiving blankets.
- ask friends and family for hand me downs.
- buy gender neutral clothes and furnishings so they'll last through more than one child.
- don't announce your baby's gender to friends and family so you won't get gender specific gifts.
- join a babysitting coop so you can get free babysitting.
- sign up for imaginationlibrary.com if it's available in your neighborhood. Your child will get a free book mailed to them once a month until they're 5! Charlie loves the free books he's received.
- analyze your budget and spending habits and figure out how much money you can spend on a baby.
- review your medical insurance and find out exactly what it covers.
- look into childcare tax deductions.
- sign up for a college savings program such as upromise.com.
- sign up for company newsletters and mailing lists for coupons on everything from diapers to formula.
- sign up for your favorite companies' Facebook and Twitter feeds for coupons and promotions.
- use a stroller frame + car seat to avoid purchasing an expensive bassinet stroller attachment for the first 6 months.
- Ikea is your friend. They have a wonderful inexpensive crib, high chair, potty, and toys.

Things You Don't Have to Buy

- don't set up a nursery. All a baby needs is a place to sleep. They won't care whether or not they have a color coordinated nursery at all.
- don't buy any crib bedding. The American Academy of Pediatrics just came out against bumpers. All you need is a waterproof mattress pad and a sheet.
- don't buy a changing table. A changing pad on top of a dresser works just as fine.
- don't buy a baby monitor.
- baby furniture is usually overpriced so look for dressers, bookcases, etc. at more affordable regular furniture stores.
- don't buy a diaper pail. Once your baby starts consuming mostly solids, diaper pails won't be able to contain all the smell anyway. A regular trashcan emptied frequently works just as well, if not better (this is what we do).
- use household items such as spoons, whisks, pots, tupperware, and boxes as toys.
- don't buy a diaper bag -- use a backpack, tote bag, or a large purse.
- don't buy special baby detergent - any fragrance free detergent should be fine.
- use a solution of 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water to clean just about anything instead of using expensive baby specific cleaning products.

Things You Can Buy/Sell Used

- buy maternity clothing used. I was able to buy and sell designer maternity clothes at a fraction of the cost at local consignment stores.
- buy toys and any baby gear you can used. Check out craigslist and freecycle. Babies outgrow toys so quickly, and the smaller they are, the bigger their toys so parents are always trying to get rid of them.
- buy clothing used from local listservs, thrift stores, consignment shops, yard sales, and online sites like thredup.
- buy larger sizes of current season clothes when they're on clearance to wear next year.
- join local parenting listservs that have classifieds. While they're a great place to buy and sell used baby items, often maternity and baby items are offered for free. The most common things that are given away include maternity clothes, body pillows, baby bathtubs, breastfeeding pillows, breastfeeding supplies, and clothes for babies under 1.
- buy a stroller used. Strollers can be very pricey, but it's pretty easy to find a used high end stroller in great condition at a fraction of the cost.
- sell anything and everything you can after you're done with it.

Finally if you find yourself wondering if you really need an item, ask yourself if your parents were able to raise you without it. The answer is probably yes! If you're on a tight budget or just a savvy shopper, that may help you decide on what the true essentials are.

What are some of your best baby money saving tips?