The story is always the same. You’re married for a few years and your parents eventually ask the question: “So when are we going to get a grandchild?”
My response was, “When we can afford one.” And the quick comeback was always, “Oh honey, you can never really afford one, so there’s no reason to wait.”
Granted, most grandparents-in-waiting aren’t being objective when it comes to the question of being financially ready for children.
But to better understand what being financially prepared for a new child actually implies, you would do well to read through the following advice.
Table of Contents
The True Cost of a Baby
Like many pre-child couples out there, my wife and I were basically ignorant about the overall cost of the birthing process and the yearly expenses associated with a new child.
Not only that, but we were really unprepared about how much a baby would affect our overall financial situation.
“Childbirth and prenatal health care cost averaged $7,090 for normal delivery in the US… [The] US Department of Agriculture estimates that a US family will spend an average of $11,000 to $23,000 per year for the first 17 years of child’s life on a child born in 2007.” – Wikipedia
On the surface, these amounts seem a little high. But after 3 years into parenthood, I can tell you that it’s not that far off. Sure, it varies by state, by hospital, and by personal preferences. But the time and effort you put into researching new-baby costs (immediate, monthly, and yearly) will be greatly rewarded.
Before Labor and Before Delivery
The costs associated with pregnancy and with the delivery process aren’t some big secret, you just need to know where to look and who to ask. So how do you find out?
Ask the People You Work With and Family/Friends
The best place to find out about pregnancy and delivery costs are from people in your life who have recently had a child. Those who live in and around your community probably have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to local hospital and doctor fees.
And think about this, a fellow employee who has a new baby can be a great source of information about your employer’s health care coverage. It will help you plan and prepare if you get a good estimate of your out-of-pocket expenses.
Study Your Current Health Insurance Coverage
The time you take to study up on your health care coverage will be very beneficial. No one likes surprises when it comes to medical bills. Although it might not be exciting, take some time to fully read and understand the charges and percentages that your insurance provider will cover.
My wife and I were allowed to switch our coverage plan after 2 months into her pregnancy. The new plan was more beneficial to our new situation, helping to lower the deductible and increasing the amount that would be covered. Of course, you should check with your provider before you attempt any such transition.
Call a Doctor
Don’t be intimidated about asking your doctor to give you an estimated cost of pre-labor office visits, hospital charges, and the delivery procedure. Bring a copy of your insurance, and the office assistant should give you a more detailed estimate specific to your coverage.
According to Health System Tracker, women who give birth incur an additional $19,000 in health costs and pay about $3,000 of that out-of-pocket.
The difference in cost between Cesarean and vaginal deliveries is not typically that big on the out-of-pocket side, but having an extra $500 budgetted just in case will take care of the difference in most cases.
How Much Does a Baby Cost in the First Year
After nailing down preparation for pre-labor and delivery/hospital costs, you should consider examining the amount of money needed to get through your baby’s first year. Believe it or not, there are plenty of tools to help you get through this.
Baby Center Calculator – One of the best tools that I’ve found for approximating year-one costs is the cost calculator at BabyCenter.com. This tool takes into account items such as basic baby necessities (like beds, clothes, bottles, etc.) and even short-term or long-term income loss.
The default values on the calculator come out to $11,820 of recurring costs and $3,995 in one-time costs. For a total of $15,775.
Now there are many ways to spend less than what the calculator projects, but you can make all those adjustments yourself.
To Be Ready for a Baby, Take Action
You’ve put in the research time and developed a good estimate of costs associated with your new baby. It’s time to strategize about your finances.
One of the best ways to prepare your finances for a new child is to save up enough money so that the pregnancy and delivery don’t drag you into debt. Take your total cost estimate from conception to year one and set a goal to achieve that amount.
Depending on your current income and financial situation, if that goal is too lofty, at least try to save up for the estimate pertaining to the delivery and doctor’s visits.
You can start by dividing your total estimated costs by 10 whole months and save that amount each month as you approach delivery. If you’re already pregnant, simply divide the estimate by the # of whole months there is until your due date. Online savings accounts are great for this type of planning.
Reduce Your Excess Debt
Expecting a new child gives you a chance to re-prioritize your life and your expenses. Eliminating debt on your credit cards and student loan debt will allow you to breathe a little easier during this time of joy. How great would it be to start your new life with a new little one by living debt free?
Start a Baby Budget
Try to estimate all the things you will have to pay for before you get pregnant or start the adoption process.
This can be everything from clothes, furniture, food, etc. Make sure to include the cost of the medical bills, which you should be able to get a good idea about from your health insurance provider.
After delivery you will have extra well visits for momma and baby and vaccinations. This parenting thing ain’t no joke, but it is completely worth it!
You should also check on what expenses you won’t be taking on. For example, when you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you aren’t going to be buying birth control.
9 Expert Tips for Preparing for a Baby
Kimberly Palmer, author of Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family and contributor at NerdWallet shares nine more tips for preparing for a baby.
Thinking about becoming a parent? Most of that decision has nothing to do with money, but getting financially prepared can make welcoming a newborn into your home a little less stressful.
You’ll still have to learn how to cope with sleep deprivation and diapers but can worry a little less about affording it all.
1. The Waiting Game
Wait until after the birth to purchase toys and gadgets (such as an Exersaucer or Jumperoo) that aren’t usually used until babies move past the newborn phase.
You might find that your baby likes only certain kinds of toys, or doesn’t like to be constricted in certain contraptions. By waiting, you’ll be sure to only buy things that you actually use.
2. Friends and Family Plan
Borrow as much as possible from other parents, including used maternity clothes and baby gear. Your friends might be glad to put their items to good use, and you can pass on the favor when you’ re all done.
Just make sure the product hasn’t been recalled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled a slew of products recently, from sleep positioners to cribs to infant slings.
In fact, the commission recommends against using drop-side cribs altogether, so spring for new purchases whenever safety is a concern.
3. Community Trust
Sign up for your local community email group through freecycle.org or use craigslist.org to pick up used items from other parents in your area.
4. Work Affects
Familiarize yourself with your workplace’s maternity and paternity leave policies. Some people are shocked to discover than instead of the two-month paid leave they had planned, they’ ll be forced to take unpaid leave. Federal law doesn’t require employers to provide any paid leave at all.
5. Health Matters
Find out what it would cost to add an additional dependent to your health insurance. You might need to plan ahead to afford those extra payments.
6. The 10K Mark
Before the baby arrives, save at least $10,000 for baby-related expenses during the first year. It sounds like a lot but can make it easier to absorb all those extra costs.
7. Practice Makes Perfect
Practice living on $1,000 less each month, which is the average cost of child care. Or, if either you or your spouse plans to stay home, practice living without that second income.
8. Think Big (or Not)
Anticipate any major purchases, such as a new home or new car, that you will need to make before welcoming home a new member of the family. But don’t feel pressured to live in a bigger home; plenty of families turn small apartments into a cozy and welcoming family space.
9. Where There’s a Will
Update (or create) your will and life insurance benefits. It’s no fun to talk about, but important to guarantee the financial security of your family.
Related Review: Gerber Grow Up Plan: Sound Investment or Scheme for Suckers?
Saving Money on Baby Expenses
There are hundreds of ways to save money on kids. Entire websites discuss it. These are the three main ways people should consider to cut the cost of having a baby.
If you can’t do it then that’s alright just add the cost to your budget, but if you can you can save a bundle on formula.
Used clothing is an amazing way to save money on kids all the way until they stop growing, but for babies it’s a huge money saver.
The reason is that most babies don’t really do that much so their clothing doesn’t wear out very fast. On top of that, they are growing so fast they only have a little time to do damage.
Through online groups, thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist, you could outift your child in style and spend a very small amount.
Where you get your diapers and what types of diapers you use can make a huge difference in your spending. This can be a decision between cloth diapers and disposable or which brand of disposable you choose.
With cloth diapers they can typically be used for multiple children. So if you’re planning on having a large tribe, this might be a good option. If you are thinking one and done, then the upfront cost makes this not the best option.
There is wide variance in price for disposable diapers and baby skin can react in weird ways to different manufacturers. Try out different brands and look for coupons to reduce the costs. Remember, diapers are not a status symbol, your kid is literally wasting these things multiple times a day.
Financial Considerations of a Second (or Third, Fourth, etc.) Child
They say going from one child to two is almost as big of a lifestyle change as going from none to one. How did I prepare for our second child financially speaking? Here are a few of my moves:
1. Bumped up the health savings account.
We’ll be paying a bit more out of pocket this time around, so I wanted to make sure we could use tax-free dollars to make those payments. We got rough estimates from our doctor and hospital so we knew what we would need.
2. Opened a second 529 plan.
I actually opened up this college savings plan back when our first child was born. It’s been in my wife’s name since that time. We will just switch it to our new child when we get a social security number.
3. Invested in a double stroller.
Definitely a want vs a need. We sold our old stroller on craigslist and used the proceeds to help buy a new double stroller. This has been and should be the only significant equipment/furniture upgrade we’ll be making.
4. Will be adding on a new dependent.
Finally, once our little one is here with us, we’ll add a new dependent to our health insurance and term life insurance. Also, once I take on the task of completing a will, both our children will be added in.
Since our second child is also a girl, we won’t need to buy that many clothes. Also, our friends and family threw a very generous “diapers and wipes” shower that helped out a great deal.
My Final Thoughts on Affording a Baby
Remember, you have nine months to prepare for your new bundle of joy. Don’t worry if you didn’t start early enough. Focus on becoming financially fit from this point forward.
Take the time, do the work, and reap the benefits of financial preparation.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash