Can You Afford a Baby? [With 9 Expert Tips to Get Prepared]

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.

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 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.

Save Up

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.

Related: 24 Fantastic Financial Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids

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 or use 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.

Related: 9 Practical Tips for Going to One Income (You Can Do This!)

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.

Breast Feeding

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

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.

Related: How to Buy the Best Life Insurance in 7 Easy Steps [The Ultimate Guide]

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.

Next Step: Teaching Kids About Money [The Complete Guide]

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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  1. Avatar WhatMommyDoes says:

    As my husband always says, children cost exactly how much money you have.  LOL

  2. Avatar HeatherWilliams1 says:

    mom to mom sales are also a good resource. i don’t have kids but i used to own a daycare and i got so much for an unbelievably low price

  3. Avatar MoneySmartGuides says:

    I deal with many high net worth individuals. The majority of the people I see don’t have kids. The ones that do have kids, typically don’t have as much money. I’m not saying don’t have kids if you want to be rich, but people do underestimate how much kids cost. And the price goes up as they get older.

  4. Avatar Jennifer Scott Spencer says:

    Daycare costs as much per month as our rent. I knew it was coming, and we budgeted for it, but my it’s startling when it really happens. Actually, that’s true of the entire parenting experience so far.

  5. People can have a baby on practically any budget.  If you have a lot of money and can afford to “spoil” your children then fine, but if you have less income there is nothing wrong with getting financial help from agencies in your community.  Kids don’t need a ton of toys to entertain themselves.  If they have parents who are willing to spend time with them that’s all they really want.  Besides diapers and wipes I didn’t really pay for much my kid’s first year.  we bought new clothes every few months(from the goodwill.)  As babies get older there are more toys(if you want to buy them.)and  lessons of all kinds to put your kids in but, it’s not necessarily.  As far as doctor and labor coast I paid nothing.  I was on state insurance and they paid for everything.  We also have a program called W.I.C (women, infants, and children.)  They give out vouchers to pregnant moms for different foods and once the bay is born they give out vouchers for formula and baby food(once the baby is 6 moths old)  after a year of age they give out more foods and cows milk.  a great program.  You can make a decent amount of money and still get to be part of this program.  It’s not just for the “dirt poor people.”  Children are a blessing from God and no matter what time of our lives we are blessed with kids we can do it.  God never gives us more than we can handle. 

    1. Avatar HeatherWilliams1 says:

      I think it’s morally wrong to not use birth control if you can’t afford to care for a child without government assistance. That money is for people who have unforeseen circumstances after the children are already there. No one should plan to bring a life into the world knowing that tax payers are going to have to provide for them. You have an obligation to provide for your own children. 

    2. Avatar rachel_forshee says:

      @HeatherWilliams1 It is morally wrong to take help when it is given? It is morally wrong to need help? Only the wealthy should have children? Is this really what you’re saying?

  6. Avatar David Ruetten says:

    Yeah, don’t get married and have kids unless you have lots of money and a really good job for at least thirty years.

  7. Avatar AverageJoeMoney says:

    Great tips, PT. I’d also recommend trying to calculate the extra monthly costs you’ll incur and saving those for a few months into a savings account just to simulate the cost difference. You’ll have more money in savings at the end and know if you can’t afford all the extra expenses that baby will bring.

  8. Avatar Go_Courtnay says:

    I can’t believe how much it is just to deliver a baby! I had no idea – we will most likely be baby free for a few more years to save up! 🙂 

  9. Avatar Mrs Money Mustache says:

    Besides the healthcare/birth costs, as you keenly pointed out, we found that our 1st year of costs for the new baby to be nearly zero.  
    We got all of our clothing from acquaintances (none of our friends had babies yet) – they were happy to give stuff away!  Craigslist is FULL of baby stuff for nearly free.  We used cloth diapers and later sold them at almost the same cost we purchased them for.  We didn’t buy a bunch of furniture (dresser, changing table, specialized baby stuff), although we did get a used crib from Craigslist when our son was about 6 months for $100, that we later sold for $100.  We received gifts from family/friends that we later donated, sold, or re-gifted to expectant parents.  Honestly, if you really stick with what you really, truly NEED, then the cost can be quite minimal.  Babies in their first year hardly need anything.
    Of course, in the US, you don’t get a year off work like you do in some other countries, so the cost of daycare can be quite high.  But, if you can avoid that by having one parent at home (or a family member if that’s possible), then the cost of a child doesn’t have to be high.
    Our child is 6 now and we still hardly spend any money on him.  The emotional aspects to providing for a child are obviously really high and advertisers will certainly prey on that with all the supposed things your child needs.  But, if you give your child the gift of your own time, then that is the greatest gift of all.

  10. Avatar Marilyn Rittmeyer says:

    You don’t take one penny with you when you die. Children are a blessing. I recommend being as generous as you are able with your children while you are raising them and as they begin their independent life as young adults. I sent my 5 children to parochial schools, which used up a lot of our budget, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. My husband and I also help out our young adult children with the downpayment on their first home, not completely giving them the downpayment but giving them a good portion of what they need. This allows them to purchase their first home faster. Just a few suggestions from a mother who has “been there, done that”.

  11. Avatar thefinancefiend says:

    After the birth of our first, we have decided that when we get pregnant with #2 (or start trying) we will save up the max out of pocket amount for our health insurance. Even though we didn’t max out the whole family with #1, we figure its a good idea to be prepared in case additional health care is needed.

    As for the loss of income, we went to one income after #1 and it was really hard. We were fine for the first few months, but after a while the additional money we had on hand was gone and we realized how poor we really were. So I totally agree that its a great idea to save up money for the first year. You never realize how expensive things like diapers and formula are until you shell out the cash.

  12. Avatar Golfing Girl says:

    At first I thought the numbers sounded inflated until I did a quick summary of what I pay each year (my child is 5 years old):
    daycare 7200
    ballet/swim lessons 600
    college savings 300
    clothing 500
    food 720
    bday parties 190
    healthcare 1716
    dental 360
    Xmas, easter, 150
    Annual Total 11736

    I consider myself very frugal, especially when it comes to food and clothing and it didn’t take long to add up to almost $12,000 and I’m sure I’m missing a lot!

  13. For me having children was a given, so I prepared for it financially just as I prepared for my own needs. Children do not have to cost a lot. I had great insurance so we spent under $1000 for our delivery. Tax credits and deductions help. Craigslist and children’s consignment sales are great ways to get baby gear, clothes, and toys for very little money. Parks and libraries can take the place of expensive classes. The possibilities are endless.

    One cost you didn’t mention, however, is the cost of “trying” to have a baby. For people with fertility problems, this cost can be in the thousands! Nice post.

  14. Avatar Greener Pastures says:

    I think it’s the Darwinian instinct to pass on one’s genes that drives people to have babies. I’m sure many just so – “oh, it will all work out,” or “God will provide.” There’s many religions that frown on using birth control, and families are huge!

    I think you should have to take classes and pass a test to have children. And part of passing the test should be that you can afford these kids!

  15. Avatar Pat with SPI says:

    Thanks for this timely article. I just recently got married, and I’m looking for ways to be smart about money in the future, especially when it comes to children.

    It kind of sucks how money can determine how a baby is raised, or if you should even have one or not, but that’s the reality, and it’s important to understand. Thanks again!

  16. Avatar Trent Hamm says:

    “People that have kids never look at it financially, they get emotionally attached and do stupid things and end up struggling for years.”

    Having kids was the single best financial move I ever made. Their presence made me rethink things and get my act together. With a one and a three year old at home, I’m now in the best financial shape of my life.

  17. People that have kids never look at it financially, they get emotionally attached and do stupid things and end up struggling for years.

  18. Avatar Jesse @ says:

    Great post and just in time..well not wife is due in May so we dont have time to do some of the suggested but we already did some of them! Insurance/no Insurance changes everything too

  19. Having a baby is like buying diamonds…if you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can’t afford it.

    I know a lot of people with children. Every one of them says that they had no idea that children would turn out to be so expensive. One chum has four kids under five-years-old and he’s aged about twenty years in the past two. He’s ALWAYS complaining about (a lack of) money.

  20. I’m extremely blessed to have excellent health insurance. While it cost $10,500 for all prenatal care + delivery, we paid less than $300 out of our own pockets.

    Since my baby is not yet four months old, I can’t say for sure how much it will cost once he’s older. But so far, he hasn’t cost much of anything.

    Thanks to tax credits, it seems we’re financially breaking even so far.

    I’m glad that we don’t have much debt and have money in savings. This will allow us to continue to provide for our son and future children.

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