If you're ever going to max out your credit cards, what better reason than a new baby, right? Not quite. Luckily, you can create a great nursery for not a lot of bank. These excellent baby gear options will leave you with enough money left over to start that college fund.
Sundvik Crib, $119; IKEA stores and ikea.com
A crib is one of the few baby purchases that's hard to get wrong. That's because, regardless of cost, these beds all have to meet the same set of safety standards. But unlike most lower-priced cribs, the Sundvik comes with a few nifty bells and whistles. For starters, its luxe-looking greige tone works beautifully with virtually any color palette. Also, it will grow with your child: The bed base can be placed at two different heights as baby gets bigger, and a conversion kit is included when it's time to transition to a toddler bed. (Note: An IKEA crib mattress is recommended.)
Sealy Soybean Foam-Core Crib Mattress, $140; amazon.com
When it comes to crib mattresses, firmness is the key. This well-priced pick is extra-firm, yet still lightweight enough to make middle-of-the-night sheet changes a breeze. (The mattress comes with a waterproof and stain-resistant cover.) But perhaps the best part is that the foam mattress, which is made with soybean oils, is Greenguard Gold Certified for a healthier indoor environment.
Graco LiteRider Classic Connect Stroller, shown in Smarties, $60; target.com.
If all you need is a comfy way to get your babe from the parking lot to the grocery store, this budget-friendly set of wheels is for you. Just snap on any Graco infant car seat for an instant newborn travel system. But don't let the low price fool you: This stroller is tricked out with some handy extras, like a padded seat that reclines to two positions, a removable snack tray, an adjustable canopy, a drop-down storage basket, and a cup holder for your coffee.
Infantino Flip Front 2 Back Carrier, $29.99; toysrus.com
Want a secure, stylish, comfortable carrier that doesn't cost a fortune? Check out this well-priced model from Infantino. The versatile Flip can be worn three ways -- Baby can face in, out, or ride on your back -- and boasts features that will keep you both comfortable: a lumbar support belt and padded straps for you; and breathable interior fabric to help keep your baby cool when the weather is warm. Plus, a detachable, double-sided WonderCover bib (included) protects the carrier from dirt and spit-up -- and adds an element of style!
Kalencom Monkey Stripes Diaper Bag, $40; Kalencom.com
This stylish sack gives you all the features that make changing dipes on the go easy: plenty of pockets inside and out, a zippered pouch for soiled clothes, a changing pad, and an insulated bottle bag. But it also includes a few details that take it over the top, like a magnetic flap that closes with one hand and a laminated covering that wipes clean.
OXO Tot Seedling High Chair, $120; oxo.com
This high chair isn't just easy on the eyes -- it'll also grow with your child until her third birthday. Five height positions make it easy to feed your baby whether you're standing or sitting, while its contoured seat reclines for added comfort. Cleanup is a snap -- just wipe down the chair and pop the removable tray in the dishwasher.
Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 Infant Car Seat, shown in Maci, $100; gracobaby.com
Though every car seat must pass the same safety tests, this Graco model exceeds some minimum standards, making it a top pick of consumer safety organizations for rear-facing infants from 4 to 30 pounds up to 30 inches tall. Its LATCH-equipped, stay-in-car base has a level indicator to take the guesswork out of installation. Another plus? The five-point harness can be adjusted from the front, taking the hassle out of securing your baby.
Cosco Funsport Play Yard, shown in Ikat Dots, $50; target.com.
Here's a sturdy, safe place to park your babe -- at just the right price. The wheels on one side help you move the play yard from room to room. Hitting the road? Simply fold it up into the included travel bag.
Infant Optics DXR-5 2.4 GHz Digital Video Baby Monitor with Night Vision, $99.39; amazon.com
The high-end features of this monitor belie its low price. You get a 2.4 TFT screen, a super-sensitive built-in microphone, static-free wireless transmission covering 150 feet in an enclosed area, the ability to encrypt data, a voice-activated power saving mode and, oh yeah, night vision. Not too shabby for under $100.
Bright Starts Lion in the Park Activity Gym, $25; kohls.com
No need to spend $50 or more on an activity gym -- your baby will have just as much fun on this less-expensive (but still toy-packed!) option. When he's not practicing tummy time, he'll find a ladybug that plays four melodies, a colorful bead rattle, a spiral bead chaser, a bumble bee teether, and a baby-safe mirror.
Evenflo ExerSaucer Mega Bouncin Day at the Beach, $49; Walmart.com
If you're on a tight budget, you may wonder whether an activity center like this is worth buying at all. In a word: yes. During those few months when your baby no longer puts up with the bouncy seat or playard -- but isn't yet walking -- one of these centers will save your sanity. This pick knocks a good $30 off the price of the fully loaded, massive models, but still gives your baby plenty of chances to rock, spin, and bounce.