8 Great Off-Registry Gifts to Give at a Baby Shower

Here are eight great off-registry gifts to give at a baby shower.

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Your $10,000 Bundle of Joy: How to Budget for Your New Baby

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Having a baby is a life-changing experience. Every aspect of your life will change, especially how you spend and save money. A recent BabyCenter survey found that parents should expect to spend almost $10,000 in their first year with baby.

With some forethought and careful budgeting, you and your family can moderate some of the costs associated with the first year of your baby’s life. While you can’t foresee every cost, being proactive will minimize surprises and increase peace of mind and enjoyment when your beautiful new addition arrives.

Giving Birth

Labor and delivery costs vary wildly. Location is a big factor. Where you are in the country and where you choose to give birth (home, hospital or birthing center) can alter your plans and budget.

According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the average cost of a normal (no C-section or complications) birth in a hospital is around $3,200. Add in the costs of pre- and postnatal care and you’re looking at thousands more added to your hospital bill, and this is after insurance. If there are any kinds of complications, such as low birth weight or jaundice, you can realistically expect to pay more.

When you find out you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance company to find out what kind of coverage you have, and if you have it, what your health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) will cover. If you’re insured through your work, you may want to talk to your human resources department. You will likely have several conversations in their office, especially if you plan to take parental leave.

Taking Time Off

Finding out what kind of family leave your company offers (or doesn’t offer) will affect your budget. It may be surprising, but only about one-third of all working women in the United States are offered any sort of maternity leave. If your company offers leave, find out if you get the full amount or only a percentage of your regular paycheck. This may affect how long you take. If your company doesn’t provide leave, they’re still required to honor 12 weeks, unpaid, under federal law. Fully understanding your own benefits will give you a clear idea of how to create a feasible budget for your growing family.

Budgeting for Baby

Once you have a clear idea of how much money will be coming in, you can begin creating a budget for the months leading up to, and after, giving birth. You may use a “first year” calculator to figure out what you’ll need to save. The numbers may surprise you, so expect to make some adjustments in your spending. Curious about how to start making cuts? Start by figuring out where your money is going now. To do this, you can track your expenses in Excel, or if you’re more comfortable on your phone or the computer, you can try using an app/program like You Need A Budget.

With big purchases on the horizon, it might also be a good time to check your credit score. You can see two of yours free on Credit.com.

Once you’ve figured out where your money is going, you can create a budget with savings in mind. More importantly, start that budget before the baby is born and stick to it. If you’re spending more than you’re earning (or saving), you can start cutting unnecessary expenses like cable or magazine subscriptions. You may also want to consider things like limiting your travel and avoiding eating out too often. Packing a lunch instead of ordering a sandwich can add up quickly. (Want more ideas for smart spending habits? Consider these 50 ways to stay out of debt.)

Buying for Baby

Buying furniture and supplies as you prepare your home for your little one is where a lot of families tend to blow their budgets. First-time parents are often unsure about what and how much they will need to care for their newborn.

Before you build a registry or go on a shopping spree, have an honest conversation with your partner, yourself and other parents about what’s truly necessary.

You may also want to bring a friend or relative who is already a parent on your registry trip – they will give you the lowdown on strategic purchases and can assist your internal debate between that fancy baby Jacuzzi or $10 plastic tub. That doesn’t mean you can’t splurge on something adorable you love. Just call a splurge a splurge, save for it and buy other things more affordably.

Don’t buy anything without seeing what your friends or family members are willing to lend or give you for free. Some babies grow so quickly they never get the chance to wear their newborn outfits or onesies. The same can be said of furniture like gliders or high chairs – parents may discover that their kids prefer their car seats or booster chairs. Buying gently used clothing, furniture and supplies can save you a lot of money over time. Also, consider registering or purchasing gender-neutral clothing and equipment. If you plan on having more children, you won’t feel pressured to buy new things.

Lastly, if you’re planning on using day care or home care, the sooner you can start interviewing centers or home care candidates, the better. Some have an admissions process, waiting lists or deposits so if you have a certain person or location in mind, schedule your visit well before your due date. With this sort of prudence and planning, you’ll feel more confident about bringing your baby home.

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5 Things to Reconsider Putting on Your Baby Registry

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Babies sure do need a lot of stuff.

Luckily for first-time moms, a baby shower provides the perfect opportunity to stock up on most of the goods you’ll need (not to mention the ability to celebrate your soon-to-be-bundle of joy with all your loved ones, of course). On the other hand, the physical act of registering for what you need can be daunting … at least it was for me. My first tip — after having gone through it myself — would be to never go it alone. Bring a trusted mom with you who has been-there-done-that to help you out.

Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that for as shiny, cute and fun as everything in that baby store may look, some of it will be just downright unnecessary. The trick to walking away from your shower feeling prepped for the baby is to carefully curate what you put on your registry, so that you know your gifts will really come in handy when your little one arrives. To that end, here are a couple things that you might want to consider leaving off your registry. Of course every mom will be different, and a registry is a personal thing, but in my experience (and those of my friends and family who have gone through it), avoiding the following things can help you ensure that what you get is what you really need.

Item 1: Clothing

It’s not that you won’t need clothing, because you will, but the truth is itty bitty baby clothes are so darn cute, you’d be surprised how many people will throw them in as add-ons to their shower gifts, anyway. On top of that, baby clothing is one of the easiest things to borrow from friends and family whose kids have outgrown their own. The point is, even if you leave those adorable onesies off your registry, you can be all but assured that you’ll receive some anyway, or at least be able to find them for free elsewhere.

Item 2: A changing table

Specific changing tables are somewhat of an antiquated notion these days, when it’s just as easy to register for a regular dresser (which your child can use right up until the day she moves out of your home) and throw a changing pad on top of it for as long as you need to. One thing you might want to consider adding to your registry, though, is a portable diaper caddy that you can keep elsewhere in your house, that way you don’t have to keep running to the baby’s room for necessities every time she needs to be changed.

Item 3: A breast pump

Even if you’ll be using bottle-feeding, most moms still need to have a breast pump on hand for when they go back to work or when they simply aren’t around and the baby’s caretaker needs access to breast milk. Electric or manual breast pumps and all the accouterment that goes with them can be expensive, though, so before throwing the latest and greatest version on your registry, check with your health insurance company to see if you qualify to rent one for free (which many people do, thanks to the Affordable Care Act).

Item 4: A wipe warmer

Why have someone drop $20 to $40 on a gadget to warm up wipes for your baby when you can simply hold the wipe in your hand for a minute or two before using to warm it up? This is definitely one item that’s worth waiting until you actually have your baby to determine whether or not you absolutely have to have it.

Item 5: A bassinet

Bassinets can be beautiful, but in actuality your baby will grow out of one pretty quickly, so it’s probably not worth the cost. Instead, if you want the baby to stay in your room with you for a while before putting her directly into her crib, you might consider something like a Pack ‘n Play that easily folds up and can travel with you, and that can be used as a playpen for the baby when she’s awake, as well.

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Your Pregnancy Billing Questions, Answered

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The other month I arrived at my doctor’s office for my 20-week prenatal check up and was presented with a (whopping) bill. “These will be your expenses for the entire pregnancy,” the woman at the front desk informed me. “Not including delivery. And not including any ultrasounds.”

The already-exorbitant bill was enough to send anyone into a tailspin, let alone the fact that it didn’t even include any ultrasound or delivery charges.

To put it another way — having a baby is way expensive.

The first thing any expecting mom should do when she finds out she’s pregnant is call up her insurance company and figure out some of the specifics. (What exactly is covered for the pregnancy, what will my overall out-of-pocket cost be, how can I find doctors in my network, etc.?). Even after doing so, though, there are bound to be some questions. To help, we tapped Adria Goldman Gross, FIPC, president of MedWise Insurance Advocacy and MedWise Billing, Inc., a company that helps patients handle their health claims and medical billing. We asked Gross to answer some of the more pressing billing-related questions that a pregnant woman might have.

MM: What are some of the common reasons that pregnant women come to you for assistance with their billing?

Gross: The cases the come to me are issues that occurred while the client is pregnant, and there are many reasons. They include a change of health insurance carriers while the client is pregnant, relocation of residence, a new employer and therefore new insurance, the loss of a medical provider or dissatisfaction with a medical provider, for example.

MM: How often would you say it’s possible for patients to haggle over maternity bills and/or work out some sort of payment system?

Gross: In New York State, with the Surprise Bill Law, there can be more haggling or negotiations due to the new law. If the patient was not informed ahead of time, it is easier to negotiate. [Although this is a New York specific law, you’ll want to do a little research to determine if similar laws exist in your own state to help you out when it comes to negotiating medical bills.] Plus, sometimes the doctor is willing to decrease the bill by 15 to 25%, especially if they are out-of-network. The percentage discount can be offered anywhere in the U.S. It’s much more difficult to negotiate once you have signed an agreement. If you have an out-of-network provider and are willing to pay upfront, many providers will give you a discount with pre-payment.

MM: What would your main advice be to women who are pregnant and dealing with a slew of confusing healthcare bills?

Gross: To help you negotiate medical bills, there are many resources I would recommend investigating, but before you can begin the research, you must determine the procedure code for the billed service(s). There are many websites that list the procedure codes in the area where services are rendered. If you’re trying to determine the usual, reasonable and customary medical fees for the procedures, try the Fair Health Consumer Cost Lookup tool or the Healthcare Bluebook site.

MM: Are there any specific negotiating tactics you would recommend once you’ve done your research?

Gross: If possible, negotiate the fees prior to having the medical treatment. Very often, providers will accept what is considered to be the usual, reasonable and customary medical fees. Any agreements should be in writing prior to the provider performing the medical services. Many doctors also accept a payment plan and are happy to arrange it, but you need to discuss it once you first start seeing the medical provider. It will be much more difficult if you attempt to do it later.

MM: Is there anything else patients should know about this topic?

Gross: Try to find a doctor you feel you can trust. Discuss financial arrangements as soon as you begin to work with your doctor. If you ever feel you are being overcharged, denied or that you’re going nowhere with your claims, fight for what you deserve.

For more on pregnancy, check out this piece about what to do if you’re in debt and find yourself pregnant, and this one about five surprising financial things you’ll need to be ready for when you’re pregnant.

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