Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
If you have lots of friends and family members having babies, you’ve probably realized that the cost of baby shower gifts can quickly add up, especially if you’re opting to give cute designer baby duds.
However, baby gifts don’t necessarily have to break the bank. No etiquette rule says you have to spend a certain amount on a baby shower gift (or on a baby gift given after birth).
There’s no requirement that a baby shower gift must come from the registry or cost a certain amount. In fact, some of the most meaningful and appreciated gifts won’t cost you that much.
Following are several such great and cheap baby shower gifts to consider if you’re on a budget.
1. Diapers and baby necessities
If there’s one thing new parents really need and want, it’s diapers and other relatively inexpensive newborn necessities, such as wipes, baby shampoo, onesies and baby clothes. As blogger Post Emily Post aptly pointed out, “the most-appreciated gifts are the practical ones … even if the parents don’t know it yet.”
For a cheaper gift, buy store brands of diapers and wipes; Costco and Target brand products are solid and a great value, so you can give more for the same budget. To make these items feel a bit more like gifts, you can present them in a diaper cake or as a “baby care package.” Find a pretty basket at a thrift store and arrange your gifts with some ribbons and colorful shredded paper filler; you could even tie a dollar-store balloon to the handle.
2. Babysitting or housework help
After the basics, what many new parents most need is child care and household help. Give a homemade gift certificate offering a night of your babysitting services or help with laundry or other housework. As The Emily Post Institute staff writes, such certificates are “priceless gifts” that “won’t cost you much more than your time.”
And follow up. Exhausted moms might not think to call in their gift, so make a point to call a few weeks after the baby is born, and name a few dates you can come over to do laundry, wash dishes or snuggle the baby while mama takes a shower.
3. Homemade meal
New parents have their hands full, so they need all the help they can get with feeding themselves. Who has time to cook a homemade meal when the baby is nursing, fussing and pooping constantly?
If cooking is your thing, consider giving a certificate for a post-birth homemade meal, whether it’s one you drop off (along with a card and a bottle of wine) or cook at the new parents’ home.
Cheap meals you can make that harried parents can eat now and freeze the rest for later include soups, stews and lasagna; look for easy meals you can make in your crockpot. Throw in a simple banana or zucchini bread or batch of muffins for midnight munchies after those late-night feeding sessions.
4. Favorite board book or inexpensive toy
Board books make great cheap gifts. To add a personal touch to such a gift, give two or three that were your baby’s favorites, or your favorites from your childhood, and explain the story behind the book gifts in your card.
Another similar idea is to give an inexpensive toy (think in the $10 to $15 range) that is, or was, a favorite of your little one.
Babies quickly outgrow the rattles and squishy plastic books they play with in the early months, so a cheap baby shower gift idea for those on a budget is to seek out used plastic baby toys at thrift stores and through online buy/sell or Freecycle groups.
Many look brand new because they weren’t played with for very long. Give them a good cleaning, and arrange them in a gift bag, for an affordable gift that a new mama will appreciate.
5. Meaningful onesie
These days, you can find a onesie that says pretty much anything for $10 or less, so consider giving one that displays something meaningful to the couple, like their hometown or school mascot.
You can find baby outfits themed around sports teams, hobbies like wine (I had a “vintage 2011” onesie for one child) and careers (“future scientist”). If you can’t find what you want, there are plenty of online sites that will print your own design or message.
6. Homemade baby gear
If you’re crafty, consider making a gift, like knitting or sewing a baby blanket, crocheting a sweet bunny or bear, or even framing your own artwork to put up in the baby’s room.
Anyone can put together a homemade baby advice book with your favorite tips. Other homemade baby gear gift ideas include making a memory box for storing baby mementos or DIY flannel burp cloths and taggie blankets.
7. Clearance items
Finally, be sure to check out the clearance and sale sections at local and online baby and dollar stores for cute items at discount prices. Sign up for coupons or look for discount days (such as Grandparent Wednesdays at Carter’s).
Remember, new parents will get inundated with newborn and 3-month size clothing, which their baby will soon outgrow.
Shop the end-of-season sales and buy in larger sizes; you’ll be pleased with a cheap baby shower gift, and your recipient will appreciate having a stash of clothes for six or nine months down the road.