Buying gear for a baby -- necessities and occasional splurges -- swallows up cash in a hurry. New parents can make baby essentials at home to lighten the budgetary load. Being a sewing pro is not a requirement, but many of these DIY projects require access to a sewing machine and some fabric. Rather than buying off the bolt at a local craft store, look for a remnant bin that holds stray pieces of fabric at significantly reduced prices. (Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, for example, tags remnants at 50 percent off.) Usually these are relatively short cuts, often a couple of yards or less, but just right for baby things. Keep an eye out for sales and coupons, as well.Related:10 ways to lower the costs of a new babySpending diary: How I'm saving hundreds on baby No. 3
With less than 2 yards of flannel and a bit of elastic, DIY beginners can fashion a no-closure pocket cloth diaper for very little upfront cost. Patterns and instructions are free on the web. Before diapering, stuff the pocket with absorbent cloth, such as a folded-up flour sack or microfiber cloth.
Cloth baby wipes (ideal for parents using cloth diapers) are super easy to make. Cut prewashed flannel into squares measuring about 7 by 7 inches. Serge (i.e., bind) the edges with a zig-zag stitch by hand or machine to minimize fraying, and round the corners as you go. Wet finished wipes with warm water as needed or keep a spray bottle handy for diaper-changing time.
There are multitudes of recipes for homemade baby wipes, and nearly all involve a heavy-duty, premium roll of paper towels. They can be used as is, just like cloth wipes (warm water only, please). A wet-on-demand alternative calls for soaking half a roll of good-quality paper towels in a baby-friendly solution, such as distilled water, a small amount of baby soap, and a few drops of essential oils or coconut oil, and storing in a covered plastic container.
DIY receiving blankets are a double bounty. First, they save money. Second, they can be made larger than store-bought varieties that babies outgrow quickly. Choose a flannel remnant measuring at least 1 square yard and serge or zig-zag around the edge. A straight stitch along the edge with a fold-over seam works as well.
Fleece is a popular fabric for homemade blankets because there's no sewing at all -- the fabric doesn't fray. While it's simple enough to purchase a yard or two of fleece and call it a blanket, some DIYers cut fringes along the edges and knot two pieces together for a more attractive, two-sided blanket. Skip the no-sew kits at the craft store and either wait for fleece to go on sale or hit up the remnant bin. Use the blanket for tummy and cuddle time.
Cute and customizable, handmade bibs make efficient use of fabric scraps and save a few bucks in the process. Free tutorials on the web show exactly what to do, from cutting to pinning to sewing. Velcro or snaps complete the job. Experiment with a variety of fabrics, such as a cotton print for the front and a terrycloth back for more absorbency.
It's fun to shop for matching décor for the nursery, but making artwork and accessories is cheaper and arguably more fulfilling. A few ideas: Turn baby-shower cards into keepsake wall art, create silhouette images for the walls, fashion pom-poms to hang from the ceiling, decoupage the baby's name on wooden letter blocks, and so on.
Babies look superb no matter what they wear, even if it's just an old pillowcase turned into a dress. For a DIY dress, start with a pillowcase or about 1 yard of fabric purchased on sale or from the remnant bin. A hem, a couple of seams, and a casing at the top to hold a ribbon are all it takes.
Turn an empty water bottle into a discovery bottle by filling it with small, noisy, and attractive objects that a baby normally can't interact with due to their easily swallowed sizes. Beads, beans, sequins, dried pasta, rice, marbles, and any tiny toys work well. Secure the cap with nontoxic super glue and hand it over.