7 Ways to Outfit Your Nursery on a Budget

Ryan Ong



Thanks to 50 years of unregulated childcare magazines, we no longer put babies in rooms. Instead, we build little universes around them. We build rooms choked with purple stars, and ponies that puke rainbows. Because what better way to prepare a child for the real world, than to assure them a fantasy universe revolves around them? That sure didn’t mess us up on the way to adulthood. But hey, nothing’s too good for your precious. So in this article, I look at ways to build your little Lord’s room, without costing the equivalent of Buckingham palace:


1. Use Stencil Kits

The most expensive wall decorations tend to be wallpaper or posters. A strip of decorative wallpaper can cost you over $250, and for less material than a Megan Fox outfit. Posters are cheaper (about $12 – $20), but they’re usually too small to dominate the wall. Also, posters and wallpaper tend to get ripped, or turn yellow.

To get around all that, use a stencil kit. For about $110, you’ll get enough templates and equipment to decorate an entire wall. And because stencils have that charming home-made look, any imperfections blend right in. I’ve stencilled two walls in four hours before, and I barely have enough skill to vandalize a toilet door.

Stencils are also quite easy to wipe off and replace. That way, baby won’t get sick of staring at your pink oak tree for the next few years.


Stencils on the wall
3 years of art school takes you from “terrible”to “just bad”.


2. Use a Cot, Skip the Cradle

This has been popular in Singapore for years now: forget buying a cradle, and go straight for the cot.

A cradle, or Moses basket, is for newborns. It’s outgrown in about four to six months, and has a ridiculous price average of $300. People see it in the hospital’s infant care unit, and assume they need one. But really, it’s blowing $300 on a glorified picnic basket.

Also, most cradles and Moses baskets aren’t as safe as they look. They can tip over, which doesn’t happen with a sturdy cot. Convertible cots (from $350 – $1000) are worth their price; these last, and can be extended or even converted to beds.


A baby cot
A young Singaporean gets used to staring at bars.


3. Choose Two Colours

Nurseries look best with two (or at most three) colours. It’s a nursery, not an ADHD research clinic. Babies don’t appreciate riotous colour clashes any more than you do.

Besides, using fewer colours means buying less paint. At $20 a litre, anything exceeding three colours is an overpriced, eye-straining nightmare. On that note, you’ll also want to dodge colours like sky blue and baby pink . They’re cute, but quickly outgrown. You’ll be paying about $250 for a good paint job, so minimize the number of times it happens.


Two colour room with brown giraffes and unfinished floor
Two dominant colours (stencils not counted). Note the unfinished floor. Minimal cost with good impact.


4. Don’t Buy Packaged Nursery Bedding

A lot of department stores like to bundle nursery bedding into packages; shrink wrapped parcels that include comforters, quilts, and pillow cases. These cost around $60 – $70. Since individual bedding products (like pillow cases) can cost $20 each, most parents think the bundle is a bargain. It’s not.

Three different pillow cases is way better than a pillow case, a quilt, and a comforter. In Singapore’s climate, why would you want a quilt and a comforter? That cot’s for sleeping, not baking. Also, you’ll find you need about four or five bundles to get enough pillow cases or bed sheets. That’s about $300. For half that price, you can buy the specific products you need. And you won’t be up to your neck in spare quilts.


packaged baby bedding
“Is this for one baby or one orphanage?”


5. Look Beyond Furniture For Storage

Get rounded-edge, baby-safe storage instead of more furniture.

Baby things aren’t very big, so even moderately sized baskets will hold most of them. A large cupboard is probably unnecessary, as your child won’t be using it until much later. The biggest wastes of money are  baby sized cupboards or drawers: they’re too small for anything else, and pointless to keep once your child grows up.

Plastic tubs can hold clothes and toys just as well as cupboards; as a bonus, many of them are also transparent. It beats digging through drawers trying to find a  bottle or pacifier. And because they’re not hard and edged, there’s nothing for your baby to collide with. Other alternative storage includes luggage carriers or decorated shoe boxes.


Boxes of Lego
You know you’ve gone too far when Lego calls to make a purchase.


6. Use One Table

A lot of nurseries break the budget because of separate table surfaces. Most commonly, parents will have a dresser and a changing table.

This isn’t necessary. If you get a good enough changing table, why can’t it serve as the dresser? Your baby’s too young to care about mirrors and drawers; and while dressers look good, an average of $300 – $500 makes it an overpriced decoration. Throw a nice drape or decorative vase on your changing table, and it’s as good a focal point as any dresser.

Alternatively, if you must have a dresser, then let it double as the changing table. But don’t have both. Heck, I could do with neither and just use the floor, so long as it’s clean.


Changing a diaper
“We need another table for the technical schematics here.”


7. Buy Second Hand

Baby furniture isn’t meant to be permanent, any more than babies are meant to stay babies. They’re discarded (hidden joke), just like diapers and Jack Neo’s ex-girlfriends. So it’s no surprise that, when you go to the flea market, you can’t take three steps without seeing a cot or pram.

You can even get second hand baby equipment online, with about eight seconds of searching. Most second hand baby accessories are barely used, and are 30 – 40% below store price. Also, this is one of the products where the secondary market actually has a bigger selection than the retailers.

So don’t be too worried about second-hand gear; remember, it was probably only used for two or three years. And that’s how long you’ll be needing it too.

How did you outfit your nursery? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.