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3 Tips for Setting Up a Nursery on a Budget

Save money on newborn costs with these strategies.

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Setting up a nursery for your newborn can be expensive.

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A favorite activity of soon-to-be parents (or at least, soon-to-be moms) during the nesting period: setting up the baby nursery. However, it’s easy to get carried away creating the perfect nursery, racking up a lot of expenses along the way.

According to BabyCenter’s first-year baby costs calculator, setting up a nursery with all the fixings (from cribs and mobiles to changing tables and decorations) can run at least $1,500, just the beginning of the long-list of expenses you’ll face as a parent.

The good news, however, is that there are many ways to cut the various costs related to baby’s first year, and particularly the expenses related to nursery set-up. So, if you’re on a budget or even if you just don’t want to invest a lot in a nursery look since you’ll eventually have to update the room anyway, here are three ways to spruce up your baby’s nursery for less. 

Make your own wall art. The BabyCenter first-year baby costs calculator estimates that nursery decorations alone can run you roughly $150. But here’s one way to trim that expense: Instead of spending money on expensive wall decals, pictures and hanging letters, make your own. And you don’t have to be crafty to make nice wall art for your baby’s nursery. There are very easy techniques you can employ.

For instance, you can frame pictures from old children’s books or calendars, or you could staple fabric to wooden, fabric stretcher bars. If you want to hang letters on the wall that spell your child’s name, a popular nursery décor option, you can buy inexpensive basic wooden letters from a store like Michaels and paint them yourself. Other ideas to consider include painting a wall with chalkboard paint or using stencils and paint to create a wall image of your choice.

Get a little help from your friends. Obviously, the easiest way to save money when setting up a nursery is collect hand-me-downs, from used changing tables to second-hand gliders, that your friends and family are willing to pass down to you for free. This method, for example, is how I scored a free changing table for my daughter’s nursery.

So, if you know your friends’ kids have outgrown nursery items, don’t be ashamed to ask for hand-me-downs, whether to keep or just to borrow. (If you don’t have friends and family that fit this bill, ask your extended network – think coworkers and fellow members of local parent groups – for second-hand baby gear you can borrow or purchase).

There also are other ways your friends and family can help with setting up the new baby digs. You could put nursery items on your baby registry, and hope that friends and family will buy them for you as baby shower, and or baby, gifts. Or you could incorporate nursery decoration into the baby shower itself, making stenciling walls or painting wooden letters the baby shower activity. 

Go for nursery gear and décor with staying power. Another tactic for cutting nursery costs is to go from the get go for items and décor that can grow with your child and with your family.

For example, you could opt for a living-room worthy glider design that you’ll get years of use out of even after the nursing and bottle feeding days are over. Or, you could consider a crib that transforms into always-useful furniture like toddler beds and chairs (yes, this crib feature exists). Another related idea is to opt for a dresser rather than a changing table, and simply stick a changing pad on top of the dresser for as long as your little one wears diapers.

While some such nursery gear -- like upholstered gliders and convertible cribs -- may be more expensive than their more basic counterparts initially, you’ll likely save money over the long run by skipping having to buy more furniture down the road.

Finally, if you plan to have more than one child, another way to save is to opt for gender-neutral colored nursery gear and décor, from wall paint to rugs, so you won’t necessarily have to repurchase such items for future children.

What tricks for setting up a budget-friendly nursery did I miss? What are your favorite tactics for setting up a nursery for less?