“I Need a Baby Budget? I Don’t Even Know the Cost of Diapers!”

Updated 1/17/2024

If you’re expecting a new addition to your family or maybe you’re starting to try for one, I have a name recommendation for you…


I’m kidding, but man, children are NOT CHEAP!  Don’t worry, I’m here to tell you about my trials and tribulations and most importantly, the cost of diapers!

I’m a nerd, and I love budgeting (I mean, I literally call myself Doctor Budget). So, the first thing I did when my wife told me that she was pregnant was to create my own “baby budget.”  It sounds ridiculous, but it’s an absolute must, and I somewhat regret not doing it before we even started trying. 

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A mother and daughter using a piggy bank

It’s not necessarily that we were in a bad spot and couldn’t afford a child, but the fact that I pride myself on always being prepared, and this was something that I could obviously prepare for, and I hadn’t totally done that. 

Lesson learned – I’m continuing to learn, adapt, and grow personally, and that’s the important thing about personal finance in my mind!

So, what types of things did I put in my budget?

Well, there are really two different phases – there’s a “prep” and then an “implementation” phase. They’re really about what you need before your baby arrives and then what you will need as an ongoing basis.  Things to consider are:

Prep Phase

  • Stroller – $150 – $1000
  • Car Seat(s) – $100 – $300
  • Bassinet – $120
  • Pack and Play – $100 – $300
  • Bottles – $25 – $50
  • Things to wash bottles
    • Bottle Part holder – $7
    • Drying Rack – $30
    • Scrub Brush – $10
  • Bath Time
    • Baby Supporter – $25
    • Waterspout Cover – $10
    • Toys – depends how much of a child you are.  I am a big one!
  • Changing Table – $80
  • Clothes – $100+
  • Boppy – $30
  • Boppy (for breastfeeding) – $15
  • White Noise Machine – $20
  • Diaper Pail – $30
  • Baby Carrier – $130
  • Crib Sheets – $35
  • Thermometer – $20
  • Pacifiers – $5 – $10
  • Night Light – $10 – $15
  • Sleep Sack/Swaddle – $40 – $100.  I recommend two because guess what, your baby is not the best at always keeping fluids in, and the worst time to have a dirty sleep sack is at 2AM.  You’ll be happy you have a 2nd one.
  • Toys – This also depends on you completely!
  • Toy chest – $0 – $400
  • Crib – $0 – $500
  • Formula (if not breast feeding) – Plan on a month supply, so around $100
  • Dresser – $0 – $500
  • Diapers – $15/week, so a good starting point is about $75 since you won’t know the exact size needed

All in all, I added up around a minimum of $1,100 of things that you will need in the prep phase.  Of course, you won’t necessarily need all of these things right off the bat, or even at all, if you’ll be financially strapped.

For instance, you don’t have to have a pack-and-play (we have barely used ours, but we also haven’t been traveling due to the coronavirus, so my opinion might be skewed).  You also don’t have to have the baby carrier…you can simply just carry your baby or put the baby in a stroller. 

Even if you want it, you might not need it on day 1 because the baby won’t be able to hold their head up on their own for a couple of months, and even then, they say the baby should be 14+ pounds, so you could have 3-4 months if you have a small child.

Prep Must-Haves

Some things that I wanted to call out that you might not think you need but are absolute MUST-HAVES include the following:

  • Thermometer – you are a new parent.  You are going to freak out.  Having a thermometer is one of the best ways to help soothe any concerns that you might have that your baby is running a fever.  Make sure you get a rectal one, though. The skin temperature thermometers are worthless and seem to be even more expensive.  They can fluctuate +/- 3 degrees, meaning it might show 97 but the actual temp of your baby is 103.  That’s not a good situation.
  • Diaper Pail – I was soooo against getting one of these and even asked my wife, “Why can’t we just use the trash in the kitchen or the dumpster?  Can’t we just not spend the $30?”  Man, I was wrong.  Babies poop.  A lot.  Like sometimes 15 times a day lol.  Having to take that all the way out to the kitchen would be so annoying and also very disgusting.  It probably saves 1 minute every time a diaper is changed, so say 12 times/day on average is 12 minutes/day.  A baby wears diapers for about 18 months, so 18 months*30 days*12 minutes = 6,480 minutes, or 108 hours saved.  Yeah…. it’s legitimately the best $30 I ever spent.  Well worth it.
  • White Noise Machine – this has been a life saver for our baby’s sleep.  The noise calms him a lot and it also calms us as new parents so we don’t freak out over every little sound.  Sure, you could use your phone, but the machine is louder and also if your phone died for whatever reason then the baby would 100% wake up when the sound stopped.  It’s worth the money!

The beauty of many of these things is that they are upfront purchases that can be used for future children as well.  If you think you’ll have more than one child, think about that when buying things like the stroller.  We bought an expensive stroller, but it can be converted to have two kids on it at the same time.  So, if we decide to have another, we’re already prepared for that situation. 

Just try to think about the future and what you want when making these costly decisions!

One way to really cut down on these costs is to have a baby shower.  My wife did this, and we got many of these things as gifts.  People want to celebrate you (if you’re the lady) and your baby!  If you’re the man, nobody cares about you.  You did your job. Now stay out of the way!

People tend to be very generous, especially parents and grandparents, when these major life changes arise.  Don’t hesitate to put the “wish list” items on the registry and see what you might receive as a gift. 

Many of these major expenses can also be hand-me-downs or used items such as a crib, dresser, toy chest or even clothes!  (Just make sure they still meet the safety standards.) Do not hesitate to use this option if you’re tight on cash.  Babies are expensive and it’s not going to get cheaper.  You’ll also have a hefty medical bill to pay (like $4K or so if you’re like us) so be ready for that.  The more that you can plan, the better. 

Do not let your pride of using a used item get in the way of you being able to provide diapers in the future for your child!

Implementation Phase

Ok, so you have all of your “prep” items and your baby is here – congrats!  That is such an awesome time for you!! 

Things that you’re going to need on an ongoing basis include:

  • Diapers – plan on $15/week to be safe.  Diapers are expensive.  Be sure to price shop and ALWAYS buy in bulk if the deal is right.  Make sure to check out the cost per diaper so you can fairly assess which deal is best because bulk isn’t always the cheapest option, weirdly enough.  We buy our diapers on Amazon and they tend to be cheaper than the big box stores!
  • Formula (if not breastfeeding) – plan on $100 – $125/month.  Also make sure that you’re looking for the best deal and shop around!
  • Daycare – I struggle even to give a range here, but I have seen anywhere from $30 – $75/day.  You need to look around well before your baby arrives and think about all things that go into it.
    • First and foremost, it has to feel like home. Your child is going to spend a lot of time there.  You have to like the feel and trust the employees and management, and it just has to be right.  No cost is worth sacrificing this.  Ok, on to the money stuff:
    • Do you have to pay even if your child isn’t there? 
    • Do you get vacation time?  For instance, we only pay 50 weeks/year for our daycare
    • Do you have lunches provided or do you have to pack them?
    • Does the price get cheaper as the child gets older?
    • Is there a volume discount (lol)?  Like, if you have 2 or 3 kids, will it be cheaper?
  • Clothes – this is really as much or as little as you want to spend, and also likely depends on how many clothes you received from your baby shower!  Encourage people to buy clothes for your child on holidays as gifts like Easter, Christmas, and other random holidays.  People want to see your baby in clothes they buy so they will buy them – trust me.  It’s almost overwhelmingly annoying lol, but then again, I do love free stuff!
  • Misc. Items – you’re going to think of so many random things that you might need that you didn’t think of before.  For instance, we have bought the following:
    • Blackout Curtains
    • More Clothes
    • More Toys
    • Gas Drops and Probiotics (if your poor baby has tummy issues)
    • Drool Bibs – yes, your baby will drool…a lot.  It’s a freaking saliva machine!
    • More Clothes
    • Books!  You’ll likely get a ton of these, and honestly, it’s a great baby shower gift.  We asked for people to bring a book (usually $5 – $10) and just write a note to our baby in the front cover instead of getting a card.  Almost the same cost for them and a keepsake for our baby for years and years.
    • Butt Cream and an Applicator – yes, believe it or not, an applicator is something you will want.  Trust me.
baby butt cream applicator

If you’re like me, you will be worried about diapers!  For me, I was concerned about them because the cost was such an unknown, because I have always heard people say how much they are, I had no idea how frequently I needed to change them, and I just was nervous in general about the poop!

To combat the cost, I had a diaper party!  If you’re not familiar, it’s all of your closest friends will come together for a night out on the town and bring some diapers for the father…well…for the baby, but you get it.  My “haul” was about 600 diapers! 

Not only was this around $150 in free diapers, but we got to try different kinds and there were different sizes as well.  But honestly, it was nice just to see all of my friends again before diving into fatherhood!  I highly recommend you do it and if you’re the future mom-to-be, I highly recommend that you think about even proposing it to your partner!  I know they’d appreciate it and who doesn’t want free diapers?

How to Implement This Yourself

So, how can you implement all of these things into your baby planning process?  I’d do this:

Prep Phase – Look at your likely expenses and budget for everything you think you’ll need.  Look at strollers and car seats.  Do research.  But to be safe, I would plan on spending a minimum of $1,500.  That will give you a buffer from the minimum and then if you have $1,500 planned and you come in under that, just save that extra money for the implementation!

Implementation Phase – The most important thing is to get your daycare secured!  We had to get on the waiting list 7 months in advance, so if you do the quick math, that means we had less than a month to find a place and make a deposit.  I’ve heard of some daycares being over 9 months, and if you do the math there, it just doesn’t work.

So, be prepared.  Do the research before you’re pregnant.  Talk to people about what daycares they have heard good things about or have had good experiences with.  And of course, find the costs and be sure you are planning ahead.  This will be the biggest recurring expense that you will have. 

In addition to daycare, I would plan on $15/week of diapers, $30/week of formula, and $50/week of misc. expenses.  I hate having such a big miscellaneous category in my budget, but with baby stuff, it’s all unknown, so it’s best to just have a catch-all. 

Personally, I changed a line item in Doctor Budget to “baby,” and then I know that’s all of our random expenses for our little one. This is the best way for us, and it’s why I love Doctor Budget because I can customize it to meet my exact needs, but you need to find what works for you.

Do not hesitate to reach out if there is anything else that I can help with!  Whether it’s budgeting or baby experience, I’m always happy to share my experiences!

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