Small Baby, Small Apartment, Small Budget

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by Serge Bertasius

credit: freedigitalphotos.net by Serge Bertasius


Those of us living in NYC are used to living in tight spaces. While many who live in a house may have a family room, a living room, a dining room, and maybe a child’s playroom, a lot of us New Yorkers have a living room/dining room/kitchen combo (add bedroom if it’s a studio apartment). My wife and I live in a one bedroom apartment which is approximately 600 square feet, and we have a 9 month old baby. It’s still doable with a little one. His stuff does take up room, but it’s not as bad as you may think. Although it’s fine for now, we do plan on expanding our family and are hoping to move into a bigger space. Babies have a lot of stuff, but not all of it is necessary. Here are a few tips for those who are living in a small space with a baby.

Crib

The single biggest item that most babies have is a crib. Cribs can take up a lot of room, so I would go for a smaller one. But honestly, a crib is not really even necessary if you are tight on space. For a good amount of time, my son slept on a Pack ‘n Play. According to Dr. Eileen Tyrala, Medical Director of Cribs for Kids, using the Pack ‘n Play as the primary sleeping surface for a baby is just fine, as long as the baby is under 35 pounds. I’ve read many people on different mommy blogs and baby care forums (yes that’s where I spend my time when I’m not reading personal finance blogs!), who have mentioned that the padding on the Pack ‘n Play bassinet is too hard. Dr. Tyrala says that the padding is fine and little babies really don’t care, it’s probably the parents who worry about it. But if you really want something that may be more comfortable, you can always get a Pack ‘n Play Mattress. Some playards come with more functions such as a napper and changing table. The Pack ‘n Play with the extra features are approximately $100 whereas the basic one goes for around $68. My son is sleeping in a crib now, which was given to us by my wife’s friend who no longer needs it. However, he still sleeps on the Pack ‘n Play at grandma’s house who watches him while we’re at work.

Changing Table

Another piece of furniture that many parents buy is the changing table which can be costly. We thought about buying one, but there just wasn’t any room. When my son was still small, we would change him on the changing table that was attached to the Pack ‘N Play, and now that he has outgrown it, we just change him on the bed or on the floor with a changing pad.

Look for items with words like Travel, Portable or Foldable

When we looked at high chairs, I thought it was pretty ridiculous that a chair would cost over $100. My friend told me that she had an expensive high chair, but ended up using a $20 one from IKEA which she liked even better. We didn’t get a traditional high chair mainly because it seemed to take up a lot of room. Instead we got a booster seat which attaches to a chair, and it only costs $20. You can also get a high chair which hooks onto the table.

Wall decals my wife bought for $2.99.

Wall decals my wife bought for $2.99.

Decor

A separate nursery for the baby? Nope, there’s no separate nursery when you live in a one-bedroom apartment. I know many moms parents love to decorate the nursery to welcome the arrival of their little one, but honestly the decorative pillows and canopies are really not necessary. But just because you don’t have a nursery doesn’t mean you can’t make the space you have look cute. My wife bought wall decals for $2.99 and Baby LRC seems to like it.

Toys

Baby LRC has a good amount of toys he got as gifts. I’m glad we didn’t buy too many because he really doesn’t play with a lot of it. Babies have short attention spans. Baby LRC is more excited playing with a balloon we got for free at a child’s birthday party. He also likes playing with boxes and crumpling up paper.

Ultimately, your baby really only needs YOU. They want your love and attention, and the other stuff is just a bonus.

Other related articles that I found interesting:
Holly who blogs at Club Thrifty, wrote Things that Babies Just Don’t Need on Get Rich Slowly, and mentioned that some parents bought pacifier wipes! I’ve never seen them and would not buy them.

Another item that I want to add to the list of things not to buy is this:

DO NOT BUY IT! Yes that is an attachment so your baby can look at an iPad while sitting on a bouncer!

Also, check out the comprehensive list by Matt from Mom and Dad Money who wrote 21 Things Newborn Kids Ever Really Needed

Have you had to live in a small space with a baby? Any other ideas how to handle it?

68 thoughts on “Small Baby, Small Apartment, Small Budget

    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Not really on the back burner, just haven’t found the right one and there’s not much inventory. Haha oysters! Better use all the miles you racked up before the babies come, you guys won’t be traveling much after that.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea I probably would miss NYC if I left but I’d really like more space too!

      Reply
  1. C. the Romanian

    We also live in a small space with our baby and so far he doesn’t seem to be too upset about it :) However, we spent the last few weeks at my mother in law’s apartment which is bigger than what we have and the little one loved to explore it all. So there are certainly advantages of owning a bigger space, but many kids were raised in even less space so that should not be the problems.

    We also went pretty minimalist with the toys purchased for the baby and he also prefers non toys to the expensive, created specifically for babies stuff. Sometimes I wonder if that’s toys for babies are nothing but a scam :)) And talking about scams, it was two days ago that we saw in a baby shop a high chair that was close to $400. Who really needs that?
    C. the Romanian recently posted…Romanian Foods: Eat Like It’s Easter EditionMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      What! A $400 high chair!? What features can it possibly have to cost that much! Does it feed the baby and change it?

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea we’re hoping to upgrade to a bigger place. Most likely 900 s.f and 2 bedrooms.

      Reply
  2. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    LOVE this, Andrew. We never had a changing table, and our son slept in the pack and play for a good several months as our third oldest daughter had not yet outgrown the crib stage and we just couldn’t see spending the cash on a second crib. We need to go back to the olden days where people spent little to nothing above true needs on their infants.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Protein Packed PancakesMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks Laurie! Good to hear we’re not the only ones who used the pack and play for sleeping. I can see how it’s not worth it to get another crib when the older child will be moving on to a toddler bed soon. There really all too many things for babies nowadays that are unnecessary.

      Reply
      1. Christina

        This is thee best sight I’ve seen! Seriously thank you for all this awesomeness! you have no idea how much hope you gave me !! 4 months pregnate first baby in a small one bedroom so cal beach !!! Your awesome! Love how you posted exact items!

        Reply
  3. Shannon @ Financially Blonde

    It’s so true Andrew, babies really don’t need much of anything and yet people pay so much money on stuff for them. I mean the first 8 months or so they don’t even MOVE so what do they care what they have. Even now, my son is 8 and has a room filled with stuff that the family has given him and he plays with none of it. Whether you need a budget or not for baby stuff, you should not spend much, it is just a waste.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Adventures in Secret ShoppingMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea I really don’t understand why people spend so much when the baby really couldn’t care less.

      Reply
  4. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I think a LOT of people are going to find this post extremely helpful. I don’t have children and I don’t live downtown so I do have an extra bedroom for my (future) child, but it’s always nice to make the most out of the space you have. Who knows, I may end up living in a much smaller place down the road due to a job change, etc.

    This is epic, btw -> “Yes that is an attachment so your baby can look at an iPad while sitting on a bouncer!”
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…Which Student Loan Repayment Plan Is Right For You?My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks DC, that’s good to hear. You never know, maybe you guys decide to move to Hawaii! And that iPad bouncer thing is really ridiculous!

      Reply
  5. E.M.

    Those wall decals are so cute! My cousins got an insane amount of things when they had their baby shower. I think everything on their registry was purchased. My family was very generous, and I think my aunt was also just very excited to become a grandma. I guess a lot of first time parents get scared and decide to err on the side of safety when it comes to buying all they think the baby will need. How do you think they did it in the old days, though? We all grew up fine!
    E.M. recently posted…I Joined the Yakezie Challenge!My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks E.M! We also received a lot of gifts at the baby shower. And there are things we got thinking we needed them, but really haven’t used!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      You can definitely fine very gently used baby stuff since they often outgrow clothes or get bored with the toys they have. We also had friends gives us stuff their baby outgrew which was great.

      Reply
  6. John @ Sprout Wealth

    Big props to you for making it work in 600 sq. ft. Our first apartment after getting married was 575 sq. ft. and I don’t know how we could’ve done it with a kid as well. That said, there is so much we think we need for a baby that you really don’t need. We went the booster seat route as well as it saves a good chunk of room. We also found that a bouncy seat or a reclining seat that vibrates also works well when you’re feeding them if they’re not quite ready for the booster seat. Most can be put on the dining room table and works out just fine.
    John @ Sprout Wealth recently posted…How to Start a Side Hustle While in a Day JobMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I’m sure you guys would have managed! We had a bouncy seat too and used it a lot when he was smaller.

      Reply
  7. Matt Becker

    We use our changing table all the time for our firstborn, but for the second we’ve barely used it at all (or at least I haven’t). It’s really an unnecessary piece of furniture. For me, the hardest part about a small place would just be the inability to get some separation, especially at night. When Aiden was crying in the middle of the night one of us would at least be able to take him to a part of the apartment where the other one wasn’t too bothered. Maybe you guys can do that too. But in terms of stuff? You’re spot on that they don’t need a ton of things that take up a lot of space.
    Matt Becker recently posted…Want to Save Money for College? Think About a 529 Plan.My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      As for separation, the only option was to go into the living room which we did do. How’s everything going with 2 kids? We’d definitely like to move to a bigger space before we have another child.

      Reply
  8. Lauren

    We lived in tight quarters in a big city when our daughter was born, and it was totally fine. I personally found the changing table to be useless, as I much preferred changing her on the bed with a pad underneath. Eventually the changing table ended up getting covered with clothes and other stuff. Babies & parents don’t need most of the junk that the retailers try to push on us today!
    Lauren recently posted…Unconventional Things I’ve Done for MoneyMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      That’s exactly what we do too. We were thinking about getting one, but glad we didn’t.

      Reply
  9. anna

    Wow I’ve never seen those iPad sitter thingies… that just seems really young to expose them to iPads and electronics, yes? But I don’t know, I have some 4 year old nieces/nephews from friends that know technology way better than I do. These are really great tips, especially about the pack and play instead of crib. Thanks Andrew!
    anna recently posted…My Biggest Money A-ha MomentMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yea, at that age they really shouldn’t haven’t much screen time. I don’t know anyone who has one but when I heard about it my jaw just dropped.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Haha, thanks for the offer. If I decide to move to MN, I’d probably take your advice and buy my own place as well as invest in rentals!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Right, it seems to be a given that once you add a child you automatically have to get a bigger place. And you’re right, I’ll have to check out what chemicals are on those wipes!

      Reply
  10. Kay @ Green Money Stream

    The changing table is not needed, as you figured out. Babies definitely increase the amount of “stuff” you have, but a lot of that is the impact of our consumerist society. When I was pregnant, I started having contractions a month before he was due. I remember my mid-wife telling me that I needed to relax and not worry about getting everything “ready” for the baby. She said “All your baby will need is your arms and the food you can provide naturally.” It was an important thing to remember.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Your mid-wife is wise lady. It’s understandable to want to get things ready since it’s a hectic time and you don’t want to scramble for stuff afterwards, but that also leads to buying a lot of unnecessary things.

      Reply
  11. Done by Forty

    We are a fan of small spaces so I imagine we’ll use some of those same techniques, Andrew. At least early on, I’m not sure if we’ll have a separate room just for the baby or if we’ll have our office do double duty as the nursery for the first few years.

    That Amazon video on the pack and plays was oddly entertaining. Maybe that’s a sign I’m ready for children?
    Done by Forty recently posted…Preaching to the ChoirMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Haha…I think watching the video on pack and plays and finding it entertaining is definitely a sign you’re ready!

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      We live in Queens too. Not as expensive as Manhattan but still expensive especially if you live near a subway. Good luck to you too. For some reason I thought you owned a house. Rent does go up every year for us too. Hoping to buy but the prices are a bit unaffordable.

      Reply
      1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

        Yes, the outerboroughs are much more affordable and gives you more room. Glad that the article put you at ease and good luck with the adoption! When the babies are small, they really don’t need that much space! If we had done a better job of getting rid of our clutter and not bought too much junk, we’d have even more room.

        Reply
  12. Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

    When you’re a first-time parents and don’t know what you don’t know – it is much easier to get swayed by whatever tells you need. And so much of that stuff you don’t. Some may be niceties but unnecessary if time and/or space is an issue. And other stuff is just weird and clearly a marketing ploy! 600 square feet would be tough, but New Yorkers are used to making it work in small spaces! And it sounds like baby LRC is doing just great there too, because like you said, love is what matters most.
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…Help Your Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with MoneyMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, so many things were touted as “must haves” but luckily we had recent parents who are practical people telling us what we really needed. But of course every family is different…you just have to learn by experience sometimes.

      Reply
  13. Joshua Rodriguez

    You know, I’ve never had to live in a small space with a baby, but I can see how space can become an issue quickly with all of the bulky items children tend to need. Have you ever considered leaving NYC and going to a place like Portland? There’s tons of jobs out here and I only pay $1,600 a month for a 2 story, 2,800 square foot home with a pretty good size back yard. I guess my big question is, what ties you down to NYC?
    Joshua Rodriguez recently posted…Synthetic Happiness And MoneyMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Good question! Sometimes my wife and I wonder what it would be like if we lived in an lower cost area. But ultimately it is our family and friends that ties us down to NYC. I pay around the same rent as you do for my 600 square foot apartment and I have to pay for parking too!

      Reply
  14. Liz

    In high-school I worked at Babies R Us.. there is no limit to the stuff you can buy for a baby. But like you’ve mentioned… a lot of it isn’t necessarily. Babies need shelter, clean cloths, diapers, food and love. I think when I have kids one day we will do okay controlling our baby spending. I’m not so sure about my mom though.. she is going to want to buy all sorts of stuff for that future grandchild : )
    Liz recently posted…Easy and Effective Couponing StrategyMy Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      That’s fine…grandmas will buy whatever they want =) They love to spoil their grandkids, that’s for sure.

      Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Yes, very true. I was in Hong Kong not too long ago visiting some of my wife’s friends who had kids. And my 600 square foot apartment was big compared to their apartment! Compact and multi-use furniture sounds cool…I think they are building micro apartments in NYC which use those concepts as well.

      Reply
  15. Raquel@ Practical Cents

    I have a couple of baby showers coming up. I usually give a gift card. But is that the best thing? What was the one thing you wish you got more of when you had your baby?

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      I think a gift card would be great. It’s pretty much like cash since I’m sure it’s a gift card to one of the baby stores which I’m sure they’ll use. Most people have a baby registry so I guess it’s easy to figure out what they want. Some people gave us diapers and wipes which was very practical. Unless you know they will be using cloth diapers, I think those were useful. Although I think people like to open gifts at the shower, and diapers might not be exciting.

      Reply
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  19. Financial Samurai

    Andrew, I commend you guys for living in an economical space! How much is the one bedroom for rent? Are you guys looking to buy something bigger, or not yet?

    I’m in contract to buy a smaller, 1,750sqft 3/2… and I’m kinda feeling it may be too cozy… but then again, I don’t have a baby and just read your story… sooo… maybe not! Besides, I’m buying the place for the views of the ocean facing west. Hope this market stays OK.

    How is the real estate market in NYC?
    Financial Samurai recently posted…What’s Hurting My Credit Score And Why Is It Fluctuating So Much?My Profile

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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Rent was about $1475 back in 2009 and is now $1640. We’re moving into a co-op in a few days though! It’s slightly bigger…850 square feet or so. Real estate in NYC is always in demand it seems! I’m priced out! Co-ops are the only thing most people can afford, but they come with a lot downsides, mainly their often strict and annoying co-op board. (sorry for the late reply…must have missed it!)

      Reply
  20. Anita

    Forget the baby buggy, buy a wraparound garment, a ergobaby, manduca, …
    Both of my children loved the ergobaby and I rarely used the baby buggy.
    And as soon I needed the ergobaby for my second one (they are 13 months apart), the first one had to walk.
    It’s good for their health to walk as soon as possible.

    Reply
  21. Jane Allen

    I love the tip about looking for items with words like Travel, Portable or Foldable. It makes perfect sense, if you plan to save space in your apartment. And, you also get to use it on the road, during vacations, campings, etc. It’s like having the best of two worlds for the price of one. Thanks for sharing!
    Jane Allen recently posted…What is the Best Recliner for Sleeping?My Profile

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  22. Vern C. Tan

    Wow! GREAT stuff !
    Love love love some of the ideas in here!
    We are currently in a one bedroom apartment while we are building our new home. My husband, 15 month old daughter, and I will be welcoming home baby number two in six weeks. AHHH! It should only be a couple of months until we’re out of here. But the best space saver for us has been a collapsible card table and folding chairs in lieu of a real dining area. It is not fashionable, but being able to fold it up and slide it all under the bed has been great. More space for our toddler to toddle in. And it’s only temporary!

    Thanks for sharing buddy !
    I will definitely have to look into these!

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks and Congrats on baby #2 coming soon…we have baby#2 coming soon as well! Foldable and collapsible furniture is definitely a great space saver!

      Reply
  23. Sahin Oral

    Still renting, but I want to buy a MODEST forever home for my family. It might be a bit of a fixer-upper but I want it to be a 3 bedder where we can ostensibly settle down for life.

    Reply
    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Nothing wrong with renting…I think the next place we buy will hopefully be our “forever home.” Fixer-uppers can be much more affordable. We may look into that as well but renovations can be stressful too!

      Reply
  24. Edward Winston

    I used to live in NYC and man, the apartment which I rent, is the smallest place i ever been live in my entire life. After a few years, me and i wife decided to have kids so we decided to move to other city cause we want our kids grow up in a better place, a place for our small family. So we are living in a small house now, still a small space home but better then an apartment in NYC. We also have some plans for a small room for babies and we have tried some of your ideas and thanks to your post, we save a bunch of money. Thanks for sharing Andrew! Keep it up!

    Regards,
    Edward.
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    1. livingrichcheaply@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks! As someone who has lived in NYC…you can definitely empathize! Although I live outside of Manhattan, so maybe my space is bigger than the one you and your wife lived in. Just curious…how big is your small house?

      Reply

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