Is your baby’s due date approaching like an oncoming train? Do you feel excited but also kind of freaked out by the responsibility and financial weight of caring for an infant?
I’m right there with you.
My second child is due this September, and my husband and I have been scrambling to make sure all our costs are covered — without tapping a credit card or two.
Luckily, our first child, who is now four, taught us a lot about budgeting for a newborn without breaking the bank. If you, like us, want to stay on track financially while welcoming a bouncing bundle of joy into your home, here are my top tips.
1. Don’t Give Baby Too Much Space
Each year, the government puts out a report titled “Expenditures on Children by Families.” It usually includes plenty of crazy-sounding stats, like the fact that 30% of what you’ll spend on your child until he or she is 17 will go towards housing.
Fact: We raised our daughter from birth to age two in a one-bedroom apartment, and we all survived.
If you’re thinking about moving to a larger apartment or home just because you’re having a baby, reconsider. You could save some serious money just by making space for baby where you currently are, even if that means forgoing the themed nursery in favor of a Pack N’ Play in the living room.
2. Put Down Social Media
Modern parenting is rife with budget booby traps like social media sites. Trust me, I’ve been there and failed that. Sites like Pinterest can be great for rounding up hacks for life with a baby. But it can also fill you with unrealistic ideas of what it means to be a good provider.
Let’s get this straight: Babies do not need designer clothing, expensive gadgets, loads of toys, or themed nurseries. Babies need love, cuddles, food, clean diapers and a safe place to sleep. So if you’re finding that Pinterest causes you to overspend before baby even arrives, take a break.
3. List the Essentials
I do not recommend that you get your list of baby essentials from a magazine funded mainly by advertisers who want to sell you more junk for your baby. Instead, talk to other real moms. They’ll tell you what they actually used with their babies and which items collected dust.
If you’re completely new to this baby thing and need a jumping-off list, here’s a list of essentials I really like. Of course, your mileage may vary. What you consider essential will depend largely on your parenting style and even what your baby likes.
One note of advice: You won’t need all these “essentials” right away. Consider just shopping for the first month or two, and then add additional gear as you figure out your parenting rhythm and style.
4. Budget Month-by-Month
Don’t leave all baby expenses until the last second. Instead, create a monthly budget, and start buying things early on. To start your budget, though, price out your list of essentials, and divide that by around six months.
Start working baby expenses into your budget now, and the cost of diapers and formula will hurt a lot less once baby arrives. Plus, you’ll be stocked up and good to go well before the serious nesting phase sets in.
5. Buy Used When You Can
There’s nothing wrong with buying used items for your baby, most of the time. Certain items, such as car seats, breast pumps and crib mattresses, are typically better bought new. But everything else, from swings to high chairs to clothes, can be had at a steep discount on the used market. And the best part is that since babies so quickly outgrow their clothes, toys and gear, many of these used items will be in excellent shape.
Make a habit to check online or your local kids’ consignment shop with your new baby budget. You’ll be surprised just how much you can save by opting for used over new. If you’re concerned about the safety of used items, check a recall finder.
6. Check Out Your Medical Costs
Actually having a baby, the medical part of the process, can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars out of pocket. It all depends on your medical coverage and what type of birth you decide to have.
Chances are your insurance company will have a cost estimator tool online, so check it out. And if not, you can check with your company’s HR department to get some approximate costs for having a child using your health insurance. Then, if you have the option, start saving money in an FSA or HSA to cover at least some of your costs, tax-free.
What if baby is rather unexpected and you just can’t save $2,000 for medical costs while also getting the gear and baby clothes you need? Don’t sweat it. Nearly all hospitals will put you on an interest-free payment plan if you’re upfront about your needs. If you have to go into some sort of debt related to your baby, an interest-free medical bill kind is the way to go.
7. Secure Childcare As Soon As Possible
Childcare will likely be one of your biggest baby-related costs if both parents are returning to work. The sooner you start looking for affordable, high-quality childcare, the better off you’ll be. If you’re in a high-demand area, just getting a slot could cost you months on a waitlist.
You can save on childcare by choosing faith-based centers or home-based care. You could also consider nanny-sharing with another local family. This can get you more personalized childcare for a lower cost than if you paid the nanny’s full fees on your own. Whatever you do, though, start looking for childcare shortly after you know you’re pregnant, and budget for those costs right away.
8. Create a Gift Registry
Even if you aren’t planning to have a formal baby shower, take time to create a gift registry. Many registries, such as those offered by Amazon, will actually offer you a fulfillment discount on any items you haven’t purchased. This can save you 10% or more on your last-minute baby-related purchases.
Plus, even without a shower, you’ll likely have friends and family members asking what they can buy for the baby. People just love to buy tiny, adorable baby things. If you don’t want to get more newborn-sized clothes than your infant could possibly wear, set up a registry to help guide people’s purchasing decisions, should they so choose.
9. Don’t Forget About Maternity Leave
Maternity leave is another one of those things you should start planning for right away. While you don’t need to inform your employer about your pregnancy at any particular time, you should do some digging early on to discover what maternity leave benefits you may get.
Whether you’ve got paid, partially-paid or unpaid leave, you may want to bank vacation and sick time so that you can extend or fund your maternity leave. Then, plan what your budget will look like during leave, and put as much as you can into savings so that you can cover your expenses while one or both parents are off work.
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