Babies: They’re sweet, they’re adorable, and they have the power to send you into major sticker shock.
The average cost to deliver a child in the United States hovers right around $4,000. By comparison, a one-way plane ticket from LaGuardia to Bermuda will only set you back a few hundred bucks. If you’re not already pregnant, you may be tempted to make a quick (and less expensive) getaway.
Still here? I get it. You’re in this for the long haul. I was, too. The bowls (OK, tubs) of ice cream. The ultrasounds. The prenatal vitamins. The foot massages. They’re all part of getting ready to add a new member to your family. However, you can’t ride the baby train without putting a little thought into the cost of the journey. That means creating a baby budget.
Anticipating Those Surprise Expenses During Pregnancy
If you’re newly pregnant, gird your loins for more than birth. After all, you have to prepare your wallet for the startling truth: Without a pregnancy budget, you could wind up living off Ramen like back in college.
What do you have to budget for before your bundle of joy is even here?
First up are medical bills. Depending on your health insurance, you may have to pay out of pocket for prenatal care. Hopefully, you have an uncomplicated pregnancy. If you experience complications like gestational diabetes, however, you should expect to spend quite a bit more.
The spending doesn’t stop at the doctor’s office, though. When you’re growing a baby, you’re growing everywhere — which calls for a new wardrobe. Maternity clothes are pricey because brands know you’re desperate for cute items made of oh-so-comfortable stretchy materials. Unsurprisingly, the average person pays $500 per pregnancy on maternity clothes they’ll only wear for a few months.
Do yourself a favor: Make room in your pregnancy budget for a couple of pricier pieces that you know you’ll wear all the time, such as work-appropriate tops. Then, see if you can borrow the rest from friends and family — or purchase them used.
A note about maternity clothes: During my first pregnancy, I avoided maternity pants for far too long — like it wasn’t OK to wear them until I was obviously pregnant. But the first few months of pregnancy often involve some extreme bloating (and just generally looking like you ate too many hamburgers), and I felt miserable in my regular pants. The second time around, I was wearing maternity pants by week eight. Honestly, I often wonder why we don’t all wear them all the time!
Yet another sneaky expense during pregnancy involves sleep. The last trimester isn’t kind, especially to those of us who sleep on our backs. This is when something like a ridiculously expensive pregnancy pillow comes in handy. Mine took up three-quarters of the bed and became lovingly known as the “pillow snake” to my 2-year-old. In the end, the expensive body pillow was worth the cost. Growing a human is no joke, and it’s never a bad idea to pay for something that can give you relief.
The Costs of a Newborn Are High — But Worth It
Once you get out of the delivery room, you’ll realize the true cost of a newborn. Those expenses during pregnancy? They pale in comparison to what comes next.
Let’s start with diapers. The average poop machine — I mean baby — goes through about eight to 12 diapers every day, which amounts to about $70 to $80 a month. If you choose to buy cloth diapers, on the other hand, you’ll make a hefty upfront investment and ensure an up-close-and-personal relationship with your baby’s poop. However, they can pay off handsomely for families that plan to have multiple kids.
Next, you have to account for the cost of a newborn wardrobe. I highly recommend shopping at used clothing stores. Why spend a fortune on something you’re just going to have to get rid of when the inevitable growth spurt or bodily fluid blowout strikes?
You’ll also want to consider childcare. I was dumbfounded when we started investigating daycare costs, and I quickly understood why so many families choose to have one parent stay at home and care for their kids. The expense makes sense, of course. After all, you’re paying for someone to care for your most valuable possession.
The care and feeding of your newborn can be costly, though you can save on expenses by breastfeeding. However, not everyone can or wants to breastfeed — and there’s no shame in that. When saving for a baby, just remember to account for the cost of formula, which could be about $150 a month.
How to Start Saving for a Baby Without Losing Your Mind
Feeling like having a child could put you in need of a bankruptcy attorney or a second mortgage on your home? Don’t worry. It’s possible to begin saving for a baby regardless of your current financial situation. As a mom of two and a senior wealth manager, the secret is following a few key steps:
1. Review your income and expenses. Before the baby arrives, do a thorough audit of your finances. Use a platform like Mint to link your various accounts and track your spending. You’ll quickly start to see where you have some leeway to create a baby budget. You might also notice areas where you could reduce expenses now to save for later.
2. Set up a separate baby-related savings account. When financial planning for a newborn, a savings account devoted to related expenses will help you stay on track. Deposit a set amount into the separate account every time you get paid, and you’ll quickly get used to living without those funds. To cover future expenses, you may even want to arrange a brokerage account or invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds with the money you’re setting aside.
3. Check your company benefits for unused perks. No one likes to read the company benefits handbook, but a quick scan might reveal some perks that can help you start saving for a baby. For example, your employer may offer flexible spending accounts (FSAs) for healthcare and dependent care. If so, jump on them!
A healthcare FSA allows you to withhold up to $2,750 a year of tax-free money. You just have to use those funds for appropriate medical expenses, like prenatal vitamins and formula. The limit is even greater — $5,000 — for a dependent care FSA, which you can use for eligible childcare expenses. Basically, FSAs allow you to cover many of the costs associated with a newborn without the taxes.
4. Open a 529 savings plan. A 529 saving plan allows you to squirrel away money to be used for your kid’s education. It covers everything from private K-12 schooling (up to $10,000 per student, per year) to college and more. A tax-advantaged 529 gives you a head start on saving up for inevitable expenses, offering some much-needed peace of mind.
Financial planning for a newborn is expensive and stressful, it’s true. But with an awareness of your expenses during pregnancy and beyond, you can start saving for the costs — and focus on showering your baby with love.