Raising an Infant on a Budget: Nursery Items

posted by Andrea | 04/16/2012

Before Nora was born, I shared a few tips for having a baby on a budget and how I managed to get almost everything I needed for less than $300!

And in the months since Nora was born, I’ve received a crazy number of emails asking what items I would suggest for soon-to-be-moms looking to stay clutter-free and stick to a tight budget. While I definitely don’t have ALL the answers; after almost 5 months, I can at least share the items we regularly used for the newborn/infant stage.

So for the rest of the week, I’ll be sharing my “must-have” items for infants.

Monday = Nursery Items

Tuesday = Baby Gear

Wednesday = Food, Medicine, Toiletries

Thursday = Clothing

Friday = Items for the New Mom

Saturday = Recap, a few more tips, and a FREE Printable!

However, before I get started, I want to mention that almost every mom I’ve ever talked to has stressed the fact that EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT. So while these might be the must-have items for Nora, your child (and even our future children) might prefer something completely different!

Also, I’m sure there are tons of different opinions on what you do and don’t need; so again, I just want to stress that these are the things that worked for us. They might not work for everyone!

My Must-Have Nursery Items for Infants

Of course you want your nursery to be a safe, comfortable place for you and your baby — but you most definitely do not have to spend a ton of money to achieve that. You can see the full tour of our simple nursery here, but below is a list of the nursery items I’m glad we had.


We found our crib and mattress on Craigslist and received them as a gift from my parents. Yes, I know that our crib has a drop-down side and those aren’t “legal” to sell in stores anymore; but it’s the exact crib I wanted and Dave and I feel it is safe for Nora.


I purchased 2 white sheets and 2 mattress pads and I actually have them ALL on the bed at the same time. That way, if there is an accident, all I have to do it take the top layer off.

I also purchased 3 of these sheet protectors – and I can’t even tell you how much laundry those have saved me! Nora drools all the time, so instead of washing her sheets, I just wash the sheet protectors. Oh, and I made a quilt for the crib, but that was just for decorative purposes!


We purchased a used dresser on Craigslist and secured a changing pad on top (after I painted the dresser). It serves as our changing table and has tons of extra storage for blankets, diapers, clothes, etc.


We purchased the Poang chair from IKEA because it was cheap and it didn’t take up much room. It’s super comfortable and we actually ended up purchasing two more for our living room!


We have a small table next to the chair for a lamp and a clock; we also have  a small book case for books, toys, etc. The table is a great place for me to set my water bottle, phone, or Nora’s pipe when I’m feeding her in the middle of the night.


We found a small $5 fan and use that to make white noise, which seems to help her sleep better and blocks out some of the noise from the rest of our house.

I should also mention that we put a small heater in our nursery too — but that’s just because we turn our heat down to 55 at night 🙂


We sleep with a fan on, so we had to have a monitor in order to hear Nora cry. However, we found this Angel Care monitor on Craigslist for $20 and we love it. If your room is right next to your nursery, you probably don’t even need a monitor.


We keep a small nightlight on all night long so I don’t have to turn the main light on in the middle of the night. Our nightlight might possibly be the best $2 we spent 🙂


You don’t necessarily need the exact same kind we have, but you will want some type of heavy curtains or shades that darken the room for nap time.

{you can hardly see our shades… they just blend into the window trim, which is what I wanted}


We actually just use paper grocery bags with newspaper layered on the bottom. Every few days, we change the bag or sprinkle a little baking soda in to remove odor.


We put a small clothes basket in the bottom of our nursery closet which is right next to our changing table. This works well for quickly “disposing” of her dirty clothes.

Here are a few items we didn’t feel the need to purchase for our nursery:

  • Matching furniture — seriously, it’s so expensive, and I just LOVE our mix-n-match nursery!
  • Bassinet — we put Nora in her crib from day one
  • Video monitor
  • Fancy decorations
  • Matching sheets/window treatments — I just went with all white
  • Diaper Genie — our paper grocery bags work just fine!
  • Toy box
  • Mobile — I honestly just don’t like how they look 🙂

As I mentioned before, our nursery is pretty simple… but it works for us!

What were/are your must-have nursery items for infants?

Filed under: LifeOrganizingKids StuffFrugal Living

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  4. Steph @ DairyFreeOmnivore


    I love this post! While I am done having babies and am now in the toddler and big kid stages with mine, it’s so refreshing to see someone not giving in to all the super pricey baby trends! Babies really do not need all the junk baby stores try to sell. We were very simple with our nurseries too- mismatched furniture is much cuter. My mother did buy the matching crib set for all of her grandbabies (it was tradition after the 1st two) but other than that we didn’t do a whole theme thing. And the Ikea chair- we still have ours too! The best chair ever! In fact they make kid size ones and our oldest daughters each have one.


  5. Beth A


    We used the bassinet that was my dad’s as a baby. It had a lot of sentimental value because my dad and aunts slept in it as babies, then my cousins, siblings, and self slept in it, and now all our babies are sleeping in it! I absolutely love it!
    We bought a crib for when the babies outgrew the bassinet. We got the floor model on clearance at Babies R Us for a fraction of the cost and I don’t think it even had a single scratch or dent! We’ve used it for two babies and now have it converted to a toddler bed for my younger son. We also bought a really nice glider rocking chair, which was a great investment! I rocked both my boys to sleep in it and we still read stories at nap time in it with our younger son. Once he outgrows that, we’re planning to move it to the living room because it is so comfy!!
    In hindsight, I wish I had saved money on the dresser. We bought one to match the crib and I could have saved a lot of money getting a used or cheaper dresser.


  6. Jenni


    How did you secure the changing pad to the top of the dresser?

    Our cat absolutely loves to sleep on the changing pad (oh well – much better than in the crib) and knocks it off the dresser top all the time. Having everything on the floor makes quick diaper changes difficult.


  7. Shiann


    With our (now 19 months! gasp) little guy, we were part of a group of young(ish) families that did a ton of trading. Friends passed down and around and back again. It was a huge blessing.

    I don’t think we would have made it without the swing for my office. I got a ton more done. Also, we had a couple of bouncy seats (one at home and one in my office) that helped a lot. He also LOVED the Bumbo. All of this were pass arounds.


  8. Laura


    Great post—I’m definitely saving this link for when we get to the point of decorating the nursery. I love that you didn’t do matching furniture, it’s never been something I liked (in any room) and I think your nursery fits together very well.


  9. Staci


    That is the same crib I always wanted! Then when I was expecting our first baby, I happened to be wandering through a huge flea market and there it was, the ONLY baby furniture we saw in the entire huge place. My husband tightened up all the hardware, we cloroxed all of it, and it’s gotten me through 4 babies. It’s now in the attic, ready for grandbabies.


    Staci Reply:

    Of course we bought a new mattress.


  10. Ruth


    The only thing that I will add to this list is a Nap Nanny – we ordered ours on Amazon brand new for $100 instead of the big stores that sold them for $150. This was essential for the first six months because my baby had acid reflux so badly. I love this thing and will be able to use it again or resell it.


  11. jerilyn


    for nursery items our must haves were the crib, rocker, and sheets. We never decorated, had crib bedding etc. We used a pack n play with the bassinet/changing table as it was very versatile, going on 5 years of use!


  12. Ivy Miller


    SWING !!!!
    If I had to pick only one thing that I must have with a new baby that would be it. They can sleep pretty much any where and diapers can be changed anywhere. All three of mine were swingers lol… I don’t think I would have gotten anything done with out that thing.

    Great list!


  13. Lea Stormhammer


    We had twins so we found that a double stroller was a must – we liked the front to back style more than the side-by-side (easier to handle in store isles and such), I do know people who prefer the side-by-side.

    We also needed a booster or highchair – I wasn’t comfortable with us holding them during meals (what is we spilled something hot on them?) and with two, it was impossible to feed both at once on my lap. We had high chairs but then converted to a booster that strapped to the chairs.

    Great list Andrea!


  14. Barbara


    My son is now 9 and I am still not sure why there are so many “must haves” out there. I was totally not prepared for the Baby’s R Us store on my first trip and NEVER went back. My friend put it perfectly. Babies need very little, it’s the parents who want all the STUFF! I, to this day, cannot figure out why my newborn would care if the wipes were warmed or not. He was going to cry when I stripped him down to change him no matter what I doubt the warm wipe was gonna change that one :). Good for you! Keep it simple!!!!!


  15. Chris


    I don’t know if I would have thought to buy this, but my bosses gave me a swing that had batteries. That thing was awesome when my baby wouldn’t sleep


  16. Heart and Haven


    This series is applicable to me, having a 5 week old 🙂 I am also a frugal momma!

    We currently have our baby in our room for now. I was initially planning on putting my three younger kids all in one room, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit their beds & gear without my 3 & 5 year olds going in a bunkbed (which I wasn’t ready for yet). So, I will have to wait until July when my oldest ships out for boot camp for the Air Force…to turn his room into the baby’s nursery.

    Here’s the items I currently have:
    – bassinet (crib doesn’t fit in my room; he will have crib for his own room)
    – dresser/changing table
    – diaper stacker w/cloth diapers
    – basket w/Bum Genius aio
    – diaper pail w/liner
    – small rocking chair
    – boppy


  17. Heather T.


    We bedshare currently, so we didn’t need anything at all. She sleeps with us, and we can change her diaper anywhere. We ended up just getting a lot of stuff that hasn’t been used at all, and we’ll soon be getting rid of a lot of extra stuff. Like the crib and the changing table.

    We’re going to transition the little one to her own room on her first birthday, and the only thing that we absolutely need is a mattress. But she’ll also have her own dresser, a little play/reading area. We’ll also probably use black out shades.

    We also use my iPad as a video monitor (I just video chat to my phone/desktop), so we never ended up getting one of those either.

    So yeah, definitely think about your preferences for sleep arrangements before buying a ton of furniture. Granted, in our case, we had every intention of room sharing with her in a crib (it’s standard practice in Canada), but we found we slept less when she was in her crib than when we followed safe bedsharing practices.


  18. Anna


    Thanks so much for this post! I’m really looking forward to the rest of the posts this week as well, since my first baby is due this fall and I’m trying to avoid any unneccesary spending.


  19. Diana


    I like that you didn’t feel the need to have a baby theme or elaborately decorate her room (looks like it fits what you have going on in the rest of the house). It looks very nice the way it is!


  20. Nikki


    It’s true that you don’t really need much at all! My son is now a year old, and I don’t feel like I missed any of those “must haves” that people tell you you need. Our crib came from Wal Mart, and a big old mid-century dresser was his changing table and had plenty of room for all of his clothes. We didn’t have room for one of those giant gliders, but it turns out that my little one never needed to be rocked. But, like you said– all babies are different.


  21. Erin


    This is perfect timing. I am due with our first child in June, and I’m determined to avoid spending money on all the “must-haves” that retailers say we need. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your series this week.