Baby Budgeting: 9 Great Ways to Baby Shop During a Pandemic

After sweet congratulations, perhaps the most common reaction to me being pregnant during a pandemic is, “Of COURSE this would happen now.” And people don’t mean it in a rude way — it’s a fair, rather hilarious point. It does feel peculiar that after trying nonstop for four years we find out we’re expecting merely days before any sense of normalcy goes to shit. I obviously wouldn’t change a thing and am tickled beyond belief about our upcoming bundle of joy, but I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be easier to enjoy this experience in a slightly more normal world. A world where I could safely, easily go to my medical appointments. Or the store. Or thrifting. Or, dare I dream, one where my job wasn’t negatively impacted before the single most expensive experience of my life. 

That being said, we aren’t in horrible shape. I honestly don’t mean to sound so melancholy, but since we’re all in the same quarantine boat I’m sure you understand exactly what I mean. In the scheme of what’s happening in America we are incredibly lucky: we’re both healthy, we’re both able to work, and neither of us were terminated because of these circumstances. (You might see on social media that Lance shifted jobs but that had been in discussion for years. My business is afloat, but most of my clients have felt the COVID hit hard which sincerely decreases the amount of work I am then hired to do.) Things aren’t bad — they’re just harder right now.

I feel incredibly lucky to have this distraction of prepping for baby. Worried about work? Research car seats! Worried about how much car seats cost? Research something cheaper! In case you’re in a similar ‘baby budget during a pandemic’ boat, here’s how I’ve been trying to find the best baby and pregnancy deals to fill our nursery without breaking the bank.

1. Check your favorite discount stores.

It didn’t dawn on me how many stores would have baby items available, including online. The latest wins come from Marshalls but were only found because I actively dug through the pages instead of relying on Google Shopping. I forgot some stores can’t list the brand name when the sales are too good, so I was able to find both a DockATot baby nest ($100 instead of $200) and a Graco playard/bassinet ($59 instead of $140) for way less than retail. 

I didn’t even know you could ever find something as popular as that on sale — I literally squealed “clearance DockATot!” to my husband when I saw it — so checking often is the way to go. Pop on a movie, grab your computer, and start really digging through the pages of the major discount chains: T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, Off Fifth, Nordstrom Rack, Last Call… Sure, a lot of it is overpriced baby clothing but there are necessities mixed in like strollers, carriers, and diaper bags.

2. And the sale page of your favorite brands.

When I was searching for a baby bag everything I saw was wildly expensive… until I specifically looked up the sale selection of a major retailer and found one almost identical to what I wanted for merely $27. It can be time consuming but if possible, do the digging and stretch your budget as far as you can.

3. Search for bundles.

 Looking to buy a lot of something similar? Try checking out bundles aimed at gift givers and then give that shit to yourself. From travel system deals to bath gift baskets, crib sheet bundles to swaddle groupings, sometimes buying more makes sense. 

Just remember to always actively check the price on the included items at a variety of stores to see if you really are getting a great deal. For example, my travel system was $600 which is a discount off the regular prices; however, I found the stroller on sale and I can use my baby registry completion coupon code (more on that a bit down) on the car seat, which means it is only $545 to buy them separately. Sure, a $55 difference on a purchase that high isn’t life changing but it is enough to also knock another item or two off the must-buy list!

4. Make a registry early and monitor the prices.

A registry is meant for gifts, yes, but the world of baby showers is very different now and even during normal times it feels ill advised to assume you’ll get all you need as presents. (One should not expect or plan on gifts, right? Right.) I put nearly all our necessities on our Babylist registry early before anyone else had the link, then monitored price changes for great deals on must-have items. So far I’ve saved $100 on our stroller, which rarely goes on sale, because I was able to spot an overnight Amazon price change that lasted literally a few hours. Score!

5. Then use your registry discount.

I mentioned this above but most registries offer some kind of completion discount a certain number of days before the baby is born. Use it on whatever you still need that you haven’t been able to find on sale! It probably isn’t a huge percent off but every bit helps.

6. And get the registry freebies.

While Babylist may be the registry I’m sharing with friends and family, I’ve made them at other stores to access the baby registry freebies. Amazon, Walmart, and Target all have free sample boxes available — although the Target one requires in-person pickup, so I haven’t done that yet — and Babylist just asks you to pay shipping for theirs. If nothing else it will be fun to get some exciting mail while stuck at home 

7. Try secondhand online.

The cleaning craze of COVID has resulted in a huge increase of secondhand sales and I am here for it. Crib? Baby clothes? Nursery decor? You know I’m looking at secondhand whenever I can and this feels safer to me than going inside many thrift stores. 

We’ve also been very clear with any seller that we are taking COVID seriously, will be masked, and would like to remain as distanced as possible. I prefer having these conversations in advance so everyone is on the same page — and so I can back out should they express any idiotic views about the current state of health safety — before we meet IRL. So far everyone has been more than respectful! 

8. Check inventory before heading to a store.

Need something from the physical store that cannot be shipped? See if there’s a way to check inventory before you go out. For example, we were able to call the Ikea hotline and check the stock on a few necessities before deciding if it was worth it to venture to the store. 

And for the love of god, in case you didn’t get it from the previous mentions, put your mask on and keep six-plus feet between your party (including your kids!) and those around you. We’re all sick of cleaning up after your mess, anti-maskers. 

9. Prioritize what is important.

Nursery decor? Cool but unnecessary. A car seat? Much more important. Cute baby outfits? Fun but pricey. A crib? Kind of a huge deal. As someone who both loves shopping and designing — be it outfits or rooms — it’s a hard pill to swallow, but I’m working to prioritize what we actually need over what I want just in case this year gets any weirder. 

Wondering what I’m still shopping for? Here are a few of the items on my want list, should I find them at the right price!

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