Tiny baby clothes. Just pausing to think about the adorableness of these impossibly small onesies, pants and dresses is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face—at least until you begin to add up how much that wardrobe costs when it needs to be replenished every few months.

For new parents, the clothes are just the start of the long list of baby essentials. But before that smile turns into a nervous grimace, there is good news: When it comes to shopping for baby items, more expensive doesn’t always mean better.

As a parent of three kids under four, I’ve quickly learned when it is worth spending money on clothes, gear and all the other baby essentials and when it’s worth saving. Here is my go-to list of questions for when I’m deciding if a pricey baby item is *really* worth it.

How often is the item used?

Let’s circle back to the clothes example for a moment. For the first year of life, clothes are generally sized to last about three months before they are outgrown. During that short period, you will likely want one dozen (or more!) options. Mathematically speaking, that means your baby should only wear each precious piece of clothing just a handful of times.

Thankfully, finding cost-effective baby clothes doesn’t have to come at the expense of style. When my third baby was born in a different season than my first two, I scooped up some extra adorable, organic rompers—and then didn’t feel too bad when he outgrew them in a few weeks’ time.

How much would better quality impact day-to-day life?

When I had my first baby, I learned that all car seats have to pass the same strict safety standards. (Hooray!) I then took that to mean I could skimp on the infant seat we bought, only to realize that “just as safe” doesn’t necessarily mean “just as convenient.”

After spending too long dealing with difficult buckles each and every time we wanted to drive somewhere, I upgraded to a slightly more expensive, infinitely less frustrating Chicco infant seat. As something I used multiple times a day for a full year, this was well worth the investment.

What is the lifespan of the item?

Unlike the clothes that last all of a few months, I am still getting daily use out of a few items purchased for my firstborn. (Including my beloved glider that I am determined to repurpose elsewhere in the house when we no longer need a nursery!)For these kinds of items, spending a bit more upfront on better quality can help ensure that it’s a one-time only purchase. On the other hand, I learned the hard way after buying a cheap diaper bag that trying to cut corners on something that got heavy, long-term use just meant I had to buy another bag after the first year. (The upside was that a much cuter option was then available.)

Is the statement worth the expense?

Because my husband and I hoped to have more children, I wanted to keep my nursery furnishings largely gender neutral when we set it up before my first child was born. But there’s just something special about customizing designs for every kid—so I loved scooping up some pink decor when my daughter came along. (If only I had found this dresser!)

The truth is that deciding where to save and where to splurge is an individual matter. Thankfully, no matter where you land on the question, there are enough options out there to suit any budget.

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