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.
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.
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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.
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.
- Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Equipment, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More!
There are also a ton of great resources online to help you plan for when the baby comes.
- Essential Money Tips for New Parents
- Preparing Your House For A Baby
- How Much Does A Baby Cost? Can You Afford One?
- Preparing Financially For Your First Child
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!