What Expenses Should I Expect When Having A Child?

As my wife and I prepare for our journey into parenthood, one thing we’ve slowly realized is just how expensive it can be to have children.  There are a host of big and small baby expenses that you may not have even considered, and as time goes on they slowly add up to a pretty large sum of money.  In fact, by some estimates over the life of the child you’ll spend in excess of $250,000 on each child!

Does the fact that it can be expensive give us pause about becoming parents? Absolutely not – we’re excited beyond all belief for the coming birth of our son Carter.  On the other hand, it’s a good idea to go in with eyes wide open so that you can plan ahead, and be ready for all the added baby expense that will come your way.    If you look hard, there are plenty of ways to save.

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Today I want to take a look at some of those expenses, along with exploring ways to counter the expenses to help minimize their impact.

Baby Expenses To Expect

Baby Expenses To Expect, And How To Cut Costs

There are a ton of costs to consider, and we probably won’t cover them all here, but here’s a start.

  • Baby furniture:   Baby cribs, dressers, lamps, accessories, rocking chairs and changing tables will all be pushed on you when you visit the Babies R Us.  Do you need them all?  Probably not.  At the very least you’ll probably need a crib and/or a pack ‘n play for your child to sleep in and a place to put your baby clothes.  If you end up buying everything on the baby furniture list, however,  you can easily spend over $1000! A way to get around this is to find good quality furniture used at a second hand children’s store, or from a family member or friend that no longer needs theirs.   Just be careful that the item isn’t recalled or unsafe.
  • Diapers and wipes: A newborn will go through between 8-12 diapers a day or more for the first few months.  That’s 3-400 diapers a month!  Add in the cost of baby wipes, butt cream, a diaper genie and a variety of other diaper care products, and it can quickly add up to $100-200 a month!  Ways to cut costs?  Use cloth diapers!  It may not be pretty, but it can add up to a huge savings – just ask my mom! (We’re sticking with disposables at our house)
  • Baby Clothes: Who knew how fast babies grow out of their clothes, and just how many changes of clothes you’ll need when they have those blowout diapers?  You need clothes for 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months and so on.  Don’t expect babies to stay in that cute onesie for more than a month or two!  Costs for clothes can quickly get into the hundreds of dollars.  To cut costs, shop second hand baby stores (where you can often find brand new baby clothes with the tags still on), get clothes from friends and family, and register for all the clothes you need for the baby shower.  By doing this we ended up only spending $40-50 on baby clothes.
  • Baby Formula:  The cost of baby formula to feed your baby is high, and rising!  You can easily spend in excess of $100 a month (or more) on baby formula.  One of the best ways to save is breastfeed your baby if you can.  You’ll save hundreds of dollars over the months!   Even after the cost of a good breast pump, it can still be much cheaper than the alternative.
  • Toys: The child probably isn’t going to need a ton of toys, especially those first few months.  You can save a lot here by just not buying a lot of toys, or by getting them second hand from friends family and second hand stores. We were just given enough stuff that we really didn’t have to buy any of this.
  • Increased medical costs: The average hospital bill for a vaginal delivery is in the range of $9,000-$17,000, up to $25,000 if you have a C-section (source).  (Great reason to have good insurance! Costs usually top out around $3,000 with insurance)  Also, adding a child to your health insurance will cause your rates to go up.  You can expect the rates to go up anywhere from $75-150 or more per month.  Also add in the costs of regular doctor’s visits, especially in the first year or two.  Ways to save on medical care?  The only thing I can say to try is try asking for a discount when paying for your hospital stay. Sometimes you can get a reduced rate by paying cash.
  • Child care costs:  If you are both going to be continuing to work, you’ll most likely need to find a daycare for your child.  Day care isn’t cheap – it can range anywhere from $100-800/week depending upon where you go, who is watching your child, etc.   That’s thousands of dollars a  year!  It will behoove you to do your research beforehand in order to find the best possible care at the most reasonable price.  Ways to save? Have a friend or family member watch your child for you at a reduced rate or for free.  In our situation we actually decided that it made more sense for my wife to stay home, and to become a single income family.
  • Babyproofing costs:   This is one I didn’t really think of before, but you do have to make your house safe for a child to live and play in, especially once they become a bit more mobile.  You’ll need things like baby gates on stairways, plug covers so they don’t get electrocuted and covers for your door handles – so they can’t open a door and fall down the stairs.  The costs can quickly get into the hundreds of dollars if you’re not careful.  Try finding some items secondhand, and shop around for good deals on others.
  • Increased utilities costs:  If you previously both worked, and you were able to use a programmable thermostat to use less energy during the day when you were gone, you may not be able to do that now if one spouse is staying home with the child.  By some accounts you may see a 30-40% increase in energy usage.
  • Miscellaneous baby gear:   You’ll probably need a ton of other baby gear including things like a baby carrier, diaper bag, pacifiers, baby bathtubs, crib bedding, jogging strollers, car seats etc.   Save by asking for much of this stuff on your registry, and quite often you’ll get all you need from your shower.
  • Less time for income creating activities:  One thing I do in my spare time is create income for my family via my blogging and other online activities.  When the baby comes I expect to have less free time available for those activities, and as such time will be at a premium.   I think I’ll still be working quite a bit, but I’ll need to be more organized and strategic about how I spend my time.

Baby Cost Calculator

Want another way to estimate some of the costs you’ll incur? Check out this baby cost calculator at babycenter.com to see just how much you can expect to spend during the first year.  For us, it says we can expect to spend about $11,000 or so.

Other Resources

One thing that we really used a lot when deciding what things we needed to buy, and what not to buy was a book called Baby Bargains.    The book will tell you what things to buy, and which things to avoid. It tells you where to buy things at a discount.  It will tell you which stroller is the best buy for the money, and which crib has a sketchy safety rating.  The book was invaluable, and I’d highly recommend it.

There are also a ton of great resources online to help you plan for when the baby comes.

Benefits Of Having A Baby

While there a ton of monetary costs associated with having children, there are some positive financial aspects to having children as well.

  • Tax credit:  For each child you have you get to claim a $1000 child tax deduction.  I’ve got one friend with 5 children – he gets a nice tax deduction (although I admit, he has added cost as well).
  • Wake-up call financially:  For many having children gives them a financial wake-up call that gives them the added kick in the pants they need to get their financial lives together.  Trent Hamm of the simpledollar.com said it this way: “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.

Get Your Financial House In Order Now And Plan Ahead

If you aren’t having children yet, but plan to, take advantage of the time you have before having children in order to become debt free, and to make sure you’re financially able to have children – before you need to.  There’s nothing better than being debt free with an emergency fund saved when you’re having a child because it helps to eliminate many of the money worries that go along with having children.  After all, for many people the likelihood of financial worries and loss of a carefree life are reasons why they would decide not to have children.

For us, we’re excited to be growing our small family, and we can’t wait to bring another little Anderson into the world.  We’ve planned ahead for the expenses, boosted the size of our emergency fund, and prepared ourselves for what is to come.  How about you?

Are you planning on having children, and has the cost given you any second thoughts? Already had children?  What kind of expenses did you see – were they higher or lower than you thought?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Last Edited: 10th February 2014

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  1. says

    True, but think of how much money you will save when the baby is potty trained and eating solid food :-)

    Also consider the water bill which can be a big expense if you own a house. Your laundry and dish washing is going to go up significantly. Baby clothes, burp pads, wash clothes, assortment of rags, sheets, your own clothes which are bound to get soiled a few times a day, etc, etc.

    When my son was born, for the first few months he would only sleep quietly on my tummy, with his head on my chest. Heart beats calm them down. Needless to say, for the first few months I hardly got any sleep.

    But in the end, all that is totally worth it!

    • says

      Only sleeping on your chest, huh? Wow. My friend would tell me about how the only way his baby would sleep is if he took him out driving around in the car at all hours of the night. Not looking forward to those sleepless nights. :)

  2. says

    Biggest surprise baby expense: LOST SLEEP! That can really take a toll on self-employment income too (no work, no income). Usually only lasts 2-3 months until they get on a regular schedule, but could be more depending on the baby.

    One investment I’d recommend making is an electric baby swing. It can be used to calm them down when they’re fussy, to rock them to sleep near bed- or nap-time, or as a 3rd parent when Dad is at work and Mom needs to run some laundry. I’d buy this brand new, rather than second hand. You don’t want it breaking down at some crucial moment. It’s a real sanity saver.

    • says

      We did end up buying one of those swings, hope it works as well for us! The baby experts in the classes we’re taking are all suggesting to get the baby in a routine – and that you should always put them to bed while they’re tired but still awake – so that they learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. So much to know!

  3. says

    With our third child on the way we look for every chance we can to save money. We will soon have three kids 3 and under so we need to save all the money we can. I would have to say that formula and diapers/wipes are the biggest expenses once the baby comes. Baby clothes can also add up but I suggest you ask friends & family for hand-me downs if possible or shop secondhand. There are a few stores by us that are strictly for secondhand baby items and clothes. We have also found some great books and large toys there as well. Just make sure that the stuff is sanitized and cleaned when you get home.

    Being that I work from home, the income is biggest part that suffers. I don’t work, then I don’t make that much money. With our family, getting up at night and feeding is soley my responsibility. I can honestly say that my husband has never gotten up with one of the kids at night since he works a strenuous job and needs to be alert all day long. You sleep when you can. My first only wanted to sleep in his car seat and my second only wanted the swing or to sleep on me. Every baby is different.

    I would definitely avoid the things that you really don’t need. Some of those things include a changing table ( I use my bed with a blanket or floor with a blanket), a wipes warmer, a diaper genie (we use our regular garbage and just take it out every day), bottle sterilizer (we use the dishwasher or hand wash), expensive diapers (generic/store brand work just as well), hooded baby towels (regular towels work just fine), walkers, tons of baby toys (baby only needs a few toys when they are so young), crib bedding sets (bumpers and quilts are not safe for cribs and we just have sheets on the crib mattress so $500 bedding sets are useless once baby comes), and rocking chair or glider.

    Hope this helps a little and good luck!

  4. says

    That’s great that you took classes. We did that as well and it really paid off. One thing we do to save a little money is to use the “cheap” diapers during the day when we can change them right away. Use the more expensive kind only at night when they need to hold more. :) Of course, no need to worry about this till they sleep through the night.

    I’m excited for you guys.

  5. says

    Another great way to save costs right from the start is to go through a midwife who works at a birth center or does home births. I had my first 2 children at a stand-alone (not attached to a hospital) birth center, which is kind of like a “home away from home”. It was perfect. Many people are concerned about safety for the baby (and mom) but if you have a low risk (normal) pregnancy, it is actually safer than hospitals w/all their unnecessary interventions. The birth center I went to has a fee of $3500 total. This includes prenatal, birth, and postnatal appointments. Insurance DOES pay for it, too, if you have insurance. But either way, it is a lot cheaper than a hospital birth. My last baby was born at home, using the same midwife, and it was the best experience of the 3. It just felt so great to be able to just lay down in my bed, snuggle up w/my baby, and have everything cleaned up without worrying about it, etc. as well as have people (midwife, assistant, doula) serving me – bringing me food, drink, etc. Although I wouldn’t recommend it JUST to save money, using a birth center or having a home birth is definitely a cheaper alternative.

  6. says

    And for those who want to save for the child’s college education, that number alone can blow away the budget. Private school looking to be $40K/yr in today’s dollars and college inflation exceeding “regular” inflation most years.
    For those of us who hoped to retire before the child is in college, the plan of paying the mortgage before school starts isn’t enough, it all needs to be in the bank by then. (Of course, there’s aid, scholarships, etc, but can we really count on that?)

  7. says

    YES! More baby talk going around the blogosphere! Haha…. it brings up all the emotions and debates – I love it! You’re gonna be a great blogging dad there, sir!!!

  8. says

    $11K sounds a little high, unless it includes out-of-pocket costs for the hospital stay.

    Then I think it would be just about right.

    For us, excluding the hospital stay, it was about $5K in the first year.

  9. Bekki says

    Just a note about cloth diapers… they have changed a LOT in the last several years. Prefolds and covers are the cheapest option, but there are so many different styles of diapers now to appeal to every parent (You can check out http://www.cottonbabies.com to see some of the various types of diapers).

    For the first 2 months of my daughter’s life, I was vehemently opposed to using cloth. Too many memories of accidentally poking my baby sister with a pin had me a bit traumatized. Well, these days, pins are obsolete (thanks to a little gizmo called a Snappi) and cloth diapering has never been easier. Even my husband enjoys doing it!

    Many cloth diapers now are shaped like a regular disposable diaper, with velcro or snaps. Some diapers require covers (also with velcro or snaps), some have the cover built right in to make the entire process quick and easy.

    Also, if your baby is breastfed, the poo is very easy to deal with. Breastfed baby poo is water soluble, so you can toss the entire diaper (contents and all) into the pail and wash as is. There is no easier time to use cloth diapers than before your baby starts solids – and even then, they make nifty little sprayers to take care of poo so you don’t have to dunk.

    Cloth diapering is not for everyone, but I strongly encourage everyone to at least look at what’s available these days. Once I started with my daughter, I was hooked. It feels SO nice not to have to spend money on disposable diapers anymore.

    Ultimately, you two have to do whatever will work best for you, but I think that modern cloth diapers deserve at least a look-see.

    http://www.jilliansdrawers.com has a program called Try Cloth for $10. You pay a little over $100 and they send you a bunch of brand new cloth diapers in different styles. You can use them for 21 days, and if you don’t like them, send them all back and all your money will be refunded, less $10. You can also pick and choose to keep the ones you like, and send back the ones you don’t like for a refund. It’s a good way to find out which style of diaper works best for your family without having to shell out too much cash.

    Oh, and P.S. – Cloth diapers have an INCREDIBLE resale value.

  10. says

    You know, when the subject of babies comes up, the advice givers come out of the woodwork. The sleep thing – Sears vs Furber – One advises to hold a child and cuddle them till they fall asleep, the other, to let them cry and learn to self-sooth.

    So, Pete, my friend, now that my daughter is 11, I’ll offer you the one bit of advice I wish I had taken. Have a date night with your wife, twice per month minimum, weekly if possible. The best way to do this this is to hook up with a friend who has a newborn and agree to take turns watching each other’s baby.

    As time goes on, cultivate sitters whom you can call on to give you some adult time. Your child needs to get comfortable that mom and dad can go away and they will be safe.

    You are a good man, a great husband, and will be a an equally great dad. I pledge to pick up the sitter following your baby’s first birthday. I won’t forget, and you can tell the missus “tonight’s nite out (the sitter’s bill) is on Joe. What you do that night is up to you, of course, but I will tell you, one day 18 years hence, s/he will go off to school, and the most important thing is that you and your wife have kept up the same passion that brought you together.

    And yet, when my daughter asks “who do you love more, me or mom?” I told her “well, a bit of paperwork, I can get another wife, but you will be my girl until the day I die.” A bad joke to tell an 11 yr old, but shre got the message. Mom and I have been together 25 years (married 15).

    Good luck Pete. Cloth or disposable is the least of it.

  11. Bekki says

    Hmm… I hope my earlier comment didn’t come off as preachy or anything. I was just explaining for someone who is keen on saving money, it’s at least worth looking into the cloth diaper options that are available today. When I had my daughter, all I knew of were prefolds and pins, which I wanted nothing to do with.

    I was just trying to be helpful. Like I stated before, you have to do what works best for your family.

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