Overrated Baby Items (And Their Thrifty Replacements)

thrifty replacement

There are so many expensive baby products that have a thriftier alternative. Whether you’re already a parent, have a baby on the way, or are just looking for creative ideas for a baby shower, I’ve got great suggestions for you!

Prior to becoming a parent, there’s a lot of prep work to be done – babies are insanely expensive, time-consuming, needy, and completely worth it.

Companies like Fisher-Price and  Graco know that parents, especially those having their first child, are eager to give their babies the best of the best so they work to develop multiple products that only serve singular needs. Singlular-use tools like bottles are fine, because we only need them to feed the baby, but then there’s thing like wipes – you’ve got booger wipes, butt wipes, pacifier wipes, hand wipes…it’s insane!

1 – Bottle Warmers

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Truthfully, if I had a child that looked like that, I’d feed it via long-range apparatus as well.

Those who already have kids might not initially agree – I know that my child wouldn’t take a cold bottle of formula, no matter how hungry he was. I thought for sure a bottle warmer was one of the top necessities…until I had my second child and the warmer stayed in its box until we re-sold it on Craigslist.

Most bottle warmers work by heating a small amount of water to create steam to heat the bottle. If you, as a bleary-eyed parent stumbling around in the middle of the night, forget to put water in it before you turn it on, the hotplate at the bottom of the warmer will heat up without actually heating the bottle. Make that mistake and you’ll have to wait ten minutes or more for it to cool down before you can re-start it. Meanwhile you’re left with cold milk, a wailing baby, and the acrid aroma of burning metal. I wish I could say I only made that mistake once…

Thrifty Solution: Place the bottle in a coffee mug and let hot water from your faucet slowly run over the bottle for a couple minutes. Pluck the bottle out, swirl it to make sure the heat is evenly distributed, and then check the temperature of the milk by squirting a little on your wrist. You should just barely be able to feel it. You’ll likely know if it’s too hot. Voila! Mostly free, uses less energy, and can be done with stuff you already have.

2 – Wipe Warmers

"Necessary" Baby Items and Their Thifty (Just as Useful!) Alternatives!
Warm or cold, it doesn’t matter; you’re not sleeping through the night for another fifteen years.

Sounds like the last entry, but these things seem so logical – a nice, warm wipe for the middle of the night when you’re changing your baby will feel good for them and keep them from waking up. The reality here is that your baby is either sleeping well enough that a quick diaper change in the middle of the night won’t bother them, or they’re not, and anything you do is going to make them scream.

Thrifty Solution: A quick balling up of the wipe in your hand and holding it there for a second will warm it up enough that it shouldn’t be as much of a cold shock to a little baby butt. Your diaper station will be cluttered with so much stuff as it is, you really shouldn’t waste your energy finding room for yet another thing to plug in and work around.

3 – Baby Shoes

"Necessary" Baby Items and Their Thifty (Just as Useful!) Alternatives!
I originally bought those from a garage sale for his sister but hey! Whatever keeps the toddler happy!

A caveat before I continue: I don’t mean toddler shoes. I mean infant shoes. A toddler, or any child old enough to actually walk, really should be wearing shoes. I frequent Facebook resale sites and I see people selling baby shoes for $20-$30+ and it just makes me laugh.

Baby shoes aren’t functional, and while they’re cute, they’re just a HUGE waste of money. Truth told, I haven’t spent a red cent on full priced kids’ shoes, not even once.

Thrifty Solution: Clearance, garage sales, or re-sale sites!

It might sound like I’m going overboard on not wanting to spend money on my kids (you know I don’t pay for their clothes either!) but kids wear shoes for a few months at most and I just don’t think it’s worth spending half a day’s pay on a pair of shoes.

For the price of a new pair of sneakers (let’s say $30) you can get nearly 15 pairs of shoes at most garage sales. Also, because of the rate at which kids go through shoes, second-hand shopping often yields sneakers that are next to new.

4 – Shopping Cart Cover

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Tiny little patient zero in the Walking Dead spinoff “Squeaky Cart of Doom”
While I can see purchasing a cart cover in the hopes of keeping your baby comfortable, I think the over-sanitizing of our world is taken to another level with these bulky, absurd things. Let your kid sit in the cart; it’s not made of lava.

Thrifty Solution: The cart will not eat your child, nor will it disgorge thousands of germs upon their skin. As long as your kid isn’t actively cleaning the surface of the grocery cart with their mouth, you’re good. Even if they are, it’s probably fine. Chances are good they’re doing worse (so, so much worse) at daycare.

5 – Glider

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Prehistoric gliders in their natural habitat.

We bought one of these, thinking that we could feed the baby in comfort at night when he woke up. Let me tell you just how non-functional gliders are for that purpose (or at least ours was!)

The way they’re designed isn’t very conducive to holding a baby at the correct angle to feed him. In addition, because it’s generally straight-backed, if you fall asleep holding the baby, there’s a decent chance he’ll roll off your lap (luckily this never happened to me, but I did hear a similar story from a friend with a two-day old!)

Thrifty Solution: A recliner works just as well, if not better, and also serves the purpose of not being an uncomfortable piece of furniture that has a weirdly specific purpose.

Even if “buy a recliner” doesn’t seem very thrifty, it’s far and away not the worst purchase you can make as new parents, plus you might be able to get one second-hand or on deep discount on Labor Day Weekend (ha…labor day…but seriously…) As a breastfeeding mother, I still stand by our recliner purchase as being the BEST thing we’ve ever bought.

6 – Changing Table

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Fifteen different types of diapers and impeccable organization suggest that this might be a staged photo.

We agonized over what changing table to get, the color of it, how much space we’d need, and then we ended up just putting a changing pad on top of the dresser and haven’t looked back since.

Thrifty Solution: Like I said – use a dresser! All you really need is a changing pad (and even that is debatable). You really don’t need a specific piece of furniture to wipe your child’s butt; don’t fall into the poop-furniture trap!

7 – Bassinet

"Necessary" Baby Items and Their Thifty (Just as Useful!) Alternatives!
Very Pretty. And Very Useless.

Unless you’re getting one of these that was yours and your mothers, and hers, and on and on back to Methuselah, this is something you can skip.

Babies grow very fast, and soon you’ll find that yours has outgrown her bassinet and it’s now just another horizontal surface gathering laundry and other items in the corner of your nursery.

Thrifty Solution: A Rock ‘n Play is amazing for when baby is first born – it keeps them feeling secure and it also folds up for easy store. A Pack n Play or some other “travel yard”, also work great as starter cribs. Bonus: when the child gets older, you can use it as an indoor yard/prison while you do housework or eat your weight in chocolate. Whatever, not here to judge.

8 – Baby food makers

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My baby can only eat food made in tiny spaces.

These are generally little blenders for making baby food. Often they’ve got a built-in storage thing, too. They’re awfully silly, so please don’t waste money on them, because bigger blenders also do this and then some!

Thrifty Solution: Do you already have a blender for making delicious margaritas and … whatever else people blend? Then use that (just clean it first!) You can then deposit the blended food into a storage container, which you also likely already have.

9 – Hyper Elaborate Diaper Bags

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Let’s see – wipes, diapers, bottles, whip, fedora…might not be my bag.

Don’t think they’re not useful, they’re just not THAT useful. We have one that was given to us, and it’s a nice bag, but we kind of just shove stuff into the big middle pocket and everything else where it fits. All those pockets, not enough give-a-dook to organize our stuff into them.

Thrifty Solution: Get a canvas bag and use that instead. You can get cute canvas bags from various sources that cost a fraction of what a diaper bag does, and if you’re anything like every other parent, you’ll pretty much just end up putting everything in the central pocket anyway because you just don’t have time to break down your baby items into various categories based on available pocket sizes and locations.

10 – Diaper Genie

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It’s gonna be stinky no matter what it’s in.

These things seem incredible: seal away the foul-smelling diapers and then change it, with not a whiff of displeasure. Except this concept is founded on lies!

The issue with the diaper pails is that they’re great if you go through a ton of diapers and are forced to change it often. More than a few poopy diapers, though, and they’ll overpower it’s high-tech “plastic around the poop” design. They’re a great concept, but they just don’t really function the way they’re intended.

Thrifty Solution: A small garbage can with a disposable grocery bag tucked into it. For exceptionally stinky diapers, just bring them out to your trash and be done with it. It might be an extra step to take some trash out nightly, but the cost of the refills for the Diaper Genie ($20+ dollars for 3 refill rings) coupled with the fact that they’re just kind of “meh” really makes a compelling argument against them.

"Necessary" Baby Items and Their Thifty (Just as Useful!) Alternatives!
May not need a Diaper Genie, definitely need a bouncy dragon.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but after 2 babies, I feel like we’ve got a great handle on what we couldn’t do without versus what kind of just takes up space or would be better if it were any other object.

If you’re in the market for baby items you definitely DO need, go here. Or for tips on how to feed your older babies now that they eat like PacMan, sign up for my email list and get my healthy meals on a budget e-book for free! My weekly emails are packed with useful parenting hacks and thrifty tips to save you time and money!

What item(s) were you certain you’d need for baby…until you actually had the baby?

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Disclosure: The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. My affiliations in no way affect my suggestions or recommendations.

11 Comments

  • Jennifer Reply

    I had changing table for my first child only. Granted I now have 4 children. Usually child gets their diaper changed on a bed or coach, sometimes on the floor.

    • Thrifty Guardian Reply

      Yeah, I can’t imagine worrying about NEEDING a changing table anymore. I only have the 2, but the dresser top or floor work just as well. In fact, with how my little ones wiggle, I don’t think a changing table would suffice!

  • Faye Reply

    YES!! Definitely no need for a bottle warmer (maybe I’m a mean mom, but my kids have always had cold breast milk or formula and been fine with it – maybe because they didn’t know any different?), no need for a wipe warmer (who wants to get into THAT habit??), definitely no need for a bassinet (a Pack ‘n Play works just fine in a pinch), no glider (rocking chair works just fine), no fancy diaper bag (I actually prefer my big roomy canvas tote), and no baby shoes (why does a baby need shoes anyway??)

    The only ones I feel differently about are changing tables (we actually do use ours), baby food maker (the Baby Brezza has changed our lives with its convenience – not a necessity, but a very nice to have), and the Diaper Genie (for us it’s a must – maybe because we have so many kids in diapers!)

    Great post and I enjoyed reading it!

  • Christina Reply

    I completely agree! I can’t tell you how much stuff I returned after our showers!

  • Silly Mummy Reply

    Not even heard of wipe warmers! Yes, there is loads of stuff you don’t need! The advice here is actually that it is bad for their feet to put babies in shoes pre-walking, yet there are STILL loads of expensive shoes for sale for them!

  • Molly Stevens Reply

    Many new items since I had a baby. I remember I didn’t think I needed a changing table until my back went out changing him on too low a surface. A pad on a bureau does work great though. I got an inexpensive changing table for one room and used a bureau with a pad in another to have even more flexibility. Worked great and saved my back. Great suggestions for parents.

  • Mandi Reply

    Lots of great tips. As a first time mom, 8 purchased far too many things. By my third child, I’d pared it down quite a lot!

  • Anna R Palmer Reply

    Funny and true… that might NOT be your diaper bag. Or mine.

  • Skipah Reply

    True story, my baby mama had her friend’s dad build a custom job bassinet for our daughter when she was born. The only thing that ever slept in it was dirty clothes!

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