I'm a SAHM of 3 kids living off of my husband's EMT salary so I understand money being tight! I agree with BusyMommaof2 - Check out all of your local resale shops and Goodwill and Salvation Army before you even set foot in BabiesRUs. But before you do, price things on-line and have a list of average prices for everything you plan to buy. I would not buy something used for more than 1/2 the price of a new item. You may be able to haggle with the owner to bring the prices down if you have a printed add for the same item and you can show them that they are over priced.
Here's my list of what everyone SAYS you need and how to do without or buy it cheaper and what you should go ahead and buy new and spend the money for a good one.
Crib/Matress: You can get by with a pack-n-play for the first 6-12 months. If you decide to buy a crib, I'd buy used but check the current safety standards. But always buy the mattress new. Squishy mattresses are a suffocation hazard and you never know when a mattress will have bedbugs.
Changing table: You can buy a foldable changing table pad and put it on a dresser and works great. Or lay a blanket down and change the baby in the crib! Or buy a pack-n-play with a built in changing table. I also wouldn't spring for fancy changing table covers. As quickly as my kids got them dirty, I just used a receiving blanket under their bottom and changed it when it got yucky.
Sheets: Buy 2 sheets, whether for a crib or a pack-n-play. That way when one is dirty you can wash the other
Blankets: Buy 2 blankets. My kids like the soft fuzzy ones for cuddling but keep them away from their face while they sleep until they are about a year old because they are a SIDs risk. Also buy at least 8 receiving blankets. They are great for swaddleing, using under their bottoms when you change them and as burp clothes.
Waterproof pads: I never needed them. The crib mattress and pack-n-play mattresses are already pretty pee resisitant.
Diapers and Wipes: This is where I don't skimp. I would rather pay the extra money on a good cloth or disposable diaper than try to get out poop stains from clothes. If you go disposable like I did, sign of up for ever mail-out and e-mail out of any store you might buy diapers from and from the diaper manufacters and clip the coupons, shop the sales and buy in bulk. It makes a huge difference.
Diaper pail: You can get by without one but I'd buy one if you can afford it. It's nice not have to smell stinky diapers.
Baby Proofing Gear: These are cheap to buy but you can wait until you baby starts crawling so you have a few months to delay this purchase.
Car Seat: Buy new for safety reasons but if you can afford it, I'd buy a 3-in-1 or a 4-in-1 carseat. It will save you money later.
Car Seat Cushions: Don't waste your money. Kids are going to sleep in awkard positions in the car no matter what you do and the cushions will decrease the safety of the seat if they weren't designed to be used with that particular car seat.
Stroller: Buy used! I can't stress that enough! You should be able to find a good used stroller at a reasonable price. But I wouldn't buy it until after the baby is born and try rolling it around the store with your baby in it before you buy. You'd be surprised how many cool looking strollers don't steer well, won't hold your gear or are difficult to fold and unfold.
Swing: I would buy this before the baby is born but buy one of the small portable ones. They work just as well, you can pack them up to go to Grandma's and they are much less expensive.
Excersaucer and Johnny Jumpup: Buy used. And you can wait on them if you need to. Baby won't be in them until he is about 4-6 months old.
Pack-n-play/Play yard: Like I said, this is an excellent affordable substitute for a crib and it makes a great portable crib and it's a life saver for when you really need to do dishes and baby keeps trying to crawl away.
High Chair: You can wait until Baby is 4-6 months old. And when you buy, buy a booster seat with a seat belt. It is less expensive and it will last you longer because you can take the tray off and push it up to the table for your toddler to sit in.
Carrier: If you can afford it, I'd spring for it. It's not a necessity but it's great to be able to carry Baby hands-free. I always used one of the classic front-packs because that's what I was given when I was pregnant with my oldest and I've been pretty happy with it. Everyone is raving about the Moby Wrap so you might want to look at that one too.
Toys, Mobiles, Books, Baby Gyms: They are great but you can do without for a while. And buy used whenever you can. Just remember to sanitize.
Clothing: To start with all you really need are T-shirts or dresses and shorts or pants, bodysuits, socks and a hat. I steer away from onesies because as the baby grows you can't snap them shut anymore. YOu get more use out of a T-shirt or dress and pants or shorts, especially if you buy them a size too large. The number of outfits you choose to buy depends on how often you plan to do laundry. Plan to have 2 outfits for every day between laundry days. Look for the packaged sets of T-shirts and of pants. YOu can mix and match them and they wind up costing less than buying each individual outfit. And when one gets stained or torn beyond repair you still have other clothes you can mix and match with. Some people recomend buying white because you can bleach it. I prefer dark colors because stains don't show as much. And spit-up turns white a horrible shade of yellow
If you are breastfeeding, call your local health and human services. They can tell you where to rent a low cost breast pump. Check out on-line patterns for nursing covers and make one out of an existing blanket. Use pillows instead of a Boppy to prop up baby while you nurse. Buy re-usable breast pads. And go ahead and pay the good money for a couple well-fitting well-built nursing bras. It's worth it.
If you are bottle feeding I'd buy 9 of the generic bottles. You can get them for about $1 each at Wal-Mart. They work just as good as the expensive ones, I promise. Buy a microwave bottle sterilizer. Dry them on a regular dish drying rack. It works just as good as those bottle racks.
Pacifers: The hospital will probably send you home with one or two. See if you baby even wants to use it before you buy anymore. If your baby likes it, buy at least 2 to use as backups. And stick to the brand your baby likes. My kids were really picky about their pacis.
Diaper Bag: Use a large purse, book bag or the free one the hospital gives you when you check out.
Other Misc to buy new: Nail clippers, brush, thermometer, baby shampoo, diaper ointment, lotion, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer
Don't bother with a baby tub. Bathe her in the sink or the big tub on a towel. Don't bother with baby towels or bath clothes. An adult one works just fine. Don't bother with baby oil. If she gets cradle cap use a little bit of olive oil from your pantry. It works just the same and smells better.
Laundry: Don't buy dreft. It's over priced. All Free and Clear is just as good and MUCH cheaper. And I swear buy Clorox 2 and Oxyclean for stains. They get out everything.
I think that's everything you need and don't need. I know that was a long list but I hope it was helpful.