Spending Diary: How I'm Saving Hundreds on Baby No. 3

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It's funny how spending priorities change from the first child to the second or, gasp, the third. With my first son, I registered for all the newest, brightest, and most expensive baby items. The nursery was all set, the closet was full of clothes organized by size, and my hospital bag was packed weeks ahead. With my second son I cut some corners: no new baby furniture or gear, and hand-me-down clothes even if they were slightly too large or out of season. With our third child, nothing was ready. I was sure No. 3 would be another boy. Surprise! Our daughter's arrival presented some spending challenges. Here's how we dealt with each one.

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Granted, clothes aren't the most important necessity, but finally I have a little girl to dress. My husband sees nothing but dollar signs when I mention this. So for this phase, when infants soil their outfits and outgrow them within weeks, I'm erring on the side of thrift. Day to day, she sleeps in her brothers' onesies. I did buy two outfits -- one for Christmas and one that I couldn't resist. We graciously accept donations of gently used girl clothes from family, friends, and acquaintances, including neighbors we barely know and my husband's co-workers. We've already saved a good $200 to $300, with more to come as she grows into the larger sizes we've collected.

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This expense was easy to eliminate. Our boys are 5 and 2, so the nursery furniture isn't outdated. Their sister uses the same crib, changing table, rocker, and dresser. For safety reasons I checked with the crib manufacturer to make sure there had been no recalls. Excluding the rocker, which was a gift, we saved about $550 by recycling the furniture for the third baby.

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The pale green walls of the boys' nursery match well with pink and purple. A mobile with blue stars and baseballs gave way to a gently used pink butterfly mobile that cost $8 (versus $50 for a similar item at Toys R Us). We painted wooden letters pink to spell out our daughter's name on the wall and replaced the bedding with a secondhand pink and purple set that included a sheet, bumper, and crib skirt for $15, a significant saving over the triple-digit multipiece sets (which come with blankets) at retailers such as Toys R Us.

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One of the boys was formula-fed; the other was breastfed and refused a bottle for an entire year. With our third child I knew better than to have any expectations one way or the other. I didn't buy anything in anticipation -- and still haven't. My nursing bras still fit, which saved me about $54 per bra. The pump still works, for a savings of $30, and there were leftover freezer bags for storing breast milk. I sanitize everything in the dishwasher once a day.

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Advance planning paid off here. Several months ago Target offered a super-cheap deal on diapers and another on baby supplies, each tied in with a gift card. After spending $155 on diapers, I received $65 worth of gift cards. I bought one box of newborn, two of size 1, and one each of size 2 and size 3 diapers -- plus one size-5 box for my younger son. Finally, with baby No. 3, we plan to move up a size in diapers without leftovers. Once our daughter hits a size she'll stay in for a while, I'll add diapers to our Amazon Prime Subscribe & Save order, which will shave 20 percent off the cost.

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Big disappointment on the car seat front: We used the same infant car seat for the two boys, but it's due to expire in March. But instead of spending about $100 on a new one, I borrowed one from a friend who has never been in an accident. Alternatively, I would have taken advantage of the Toys R Us "great trade-in event," which happens several times a year: Bring in an expired car seat (or any used baby gear or furniture) and save 25 percent off the price of something new.

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For the two boys I dutifully set up all the baby gear, from swing to bounce seat, at the appropriate ages. Now I barely bother; the boys keep the baby thoroughly entertained. Instead of a huge activity mat, she lays on a blanket for tummy time and watches her brothers playing. Many of the toys the boys used also sit dormant. When I do pull them out, it will be to sell them. Which brings me to ...

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This third baby is our last planned child. As she outgrows or no longer uses things, we will sell them. I've already started with the boys' clothes: Gone are newborn and sizes 0 to 3. I've also sold the boys' crib bedding, stuffed animals, and baby toys. Most went to our local buy/sell/trade Facebook group, and what remains will show up at a garage sale this spring. So far I've taken in more than $300.

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I've come to realize that experiences, memories, and time together are what matter most. Instead of being overly frugal, as I have been in the past, I'm spending on family pictures, activities for the kids, and a family vacation. I'm mostly using the money made from selling baby stuff, but some things are worth the extra outlay. I want my children to have memories of outings such as a family vacation, Disney on Ice, mom-and-son movie dates, ice skating, and so on. They won't get all the material things they might want, but they will get the family time they need and the pictures to show for it.