Baby on a Budget, are Babies Really that Expensive?
Babies are these cute, adorable little things that make most people say “awe”. I’m betting that when you hear someone had a baby your first thoughts are NOT “I hope they budgeted for that”. It’s far more likely that you think about the things like how cute the kid is, and all the fun these people are going to have, and maybe about some of the experiences you’ve have raising your kids.
I know when we got pregnant, no one talked to us about budgeting for the cost of having a baby in the house. Now mind you, money isn’t a topic many people in my family will discuss unless they are bragging. But it would have been nice not to have to rely on Google and complete strangers who had no clue who we were let alone our values around raising a family to tell us what we should expect cost wise in the first few years of raising our kid.
Believe me, I got some rather out there advice in some of the Mommy groups on what was “essential” to our kid’s survival. It made me wonder if I was really that ignorant of what exactly it took to keep a baby happy and healthy. And of course, the one wonderful side effect of me being pregnant is the wonderful hormone swings that cause all these fun thoughts to run straight into panick mode…
I had a mini meltdown, cried my eyes out on hubby’s shirt, and when he finally realized what I was upset over we set out to figure out what we could expect financially.
Determine your income
At this point in life I think most of us know how much money we have coming into our homes, but go double check & write it down.
Mr. B. & I are a two income family, and prior to getting pregnant had discussed already that I would prefer to be an at home Mom. That meant that once we got pregnant we had the chance of moving from two to one income if we were ready for that financially. We discussed the possibility of Maternity leave, Paternity leave, returning to work early and what investments we had that would support us.
We also discussed options for me to work from home, so I could be with the kiddo and not have daycare costs.
Determine your expenses, now & after birth
I think you can see where this is going, we did a full budget both now and what we expected after birth. We added things like the cost of groceries, gas for hubby getting to and from work, all the bills we have, monthly payments on debt etc. And THEN we went looking for costs on things we thought the baby would need. and I mean actually need not the “wishlist” items people kept telling me we should have.
I broke it out into the following categories
- car seat
- baby gate
- baby monitor
- we chose to breastfeed (and could)
- Breast Pump
- Vitamin D drops (we live in an area where it is recommended by the medical professionals)
Diapering & Clothing
- 1 year’s worth of clothing (babies don’t need as much of this as you think they do either)
- Cloth Diapers vs disposables (we did cloth for the first year)
- receiving blankets
From here we set an expected cost for each item. It took some research but go to multiple stores and see what you can find where. You can even check online at sites like Amazon to see what they are listed at. Figure out now what you need to spend every month before the baby is born to be stocked up on the essentials and add that to your regular budget.
Don’t Forget the Medical Expenses
While you don’t want to forget any medical expenses you may incur during the delivery of the baby. (Or the cost of any of the “extra” services you may want/need)
Also be aware that babies do get sick and may need medical attention in the first year of life. Even if they are full term and perfectly healthy at birth. Baby G was born healthy and screaming happy, all his toes and fingers and everything else was just as perfect as you could ask for. By 3 months old we had been to the hospital no less the twice for croup… healthy kids still catch colds and need help, and you don’t want to break the bank making sure they stay healthy.
Start a baby fund
Whether you are pregnant now or hoping to be one day maybe. Starting a baby fund will help with any of the costs that pop up unexpectedly. Call it an Emergency Baby fund, or just add a set amount to your monthly budget that gets set aside for the baby’s needs now even if you are not using it.
Hubs and I started with $50 a month, and put that into an account separate from our regular checking. That way when one of us got something for the baby it came out of that account and not the regular budget.
Be realistic about what you actually need for the baby
That list above, yeah, not all of it is “necessary”, we talked about what was really important and what we could do without. And the decision was that for us we needed a safe place for kiddo to sleep, a car seat, clothes and diapers. As we had already decided I would breastfeed we were not going to worry about what kiddo needed to eat, but I snagged some samples of formula just in case that didn’t work out for us.
So a lot of items got slashed off the list of “needs” and stuck into the wants pile.
Second Hand is Awesome!
Learn to love thrift shops, garage sales, friends and family who are done with having kids, and the whole host of apps out there that do a variety of buy-sell-trade type connections. There is no shame in second hand. Secondhand usually costs less and is just as good. I don’t think I ever put kiddo in anything that wasn’t adorable and looked brand new for the first 23 months of his life (He is 2 years old).
Everything he wore was hand-me-downs from family and friends unless we got it as a gift.
Now there are some items I would suggest you stick to new on like the car seat and breast pumps for safety and sanitary reasons. But most other things ask other people if they have something you could borrow. My sister in law was awesome for this and lucky us, had an adorable little one 6 months before we had our little guy. I’m also highly grateful for my cousin who had her last boy almost a year before we did (in-season hand-me-downs totally rock!)
Take advantage of the freebie offers and samples
There are a bunch of companies out there that want new mommas to spend money with them. To get your attention many of them will send you free samples some of which are pretty handy. Like this program with Nestle which comes with formula samples, a bunch of coupons, and a diaper bag which is all we used for the first few months of kiddo’s life.
When People ask what you need be honest
It is a tone of fun to buy baby gifts you know people will love. So when they ask, be upfront and tell them what you are looking for! You can even create a Pinterest board or registry on Amazon. You may even be lucky enough to have a couple people go together on a bigger item for you, or have someone just go all out and get you that car seat you are drooling over. (Yes it happens, I told my parents which one I wanted and presto we were blessed with the exact model that worked with the stroller we had from some friends).
I also really, really wanted something made by my Grandpa for kiddo. I came up with a design for a bed and passed that on to him, a few months later we brought home what is now a central piece in our living room. Built by Grandpa’s own hands and brought home after a visit to see him and my Grandma, who also made us the cutest blanket ever!
Prepare Freezer Meals & Figure Out Meal Planning Prior to Babe’s Arrival
OMG! I can’t tell you how often I would have reached for take out if we didn’t have a few freezer meals waiting. In all likely hood, these saved us thousands of dollars in just the first few months alone. Think about it, Take Out Food adds up FAST! $35 per meal, say 3 times a week, is easily $400 a month. And most families eat more often than 3 times a week.
As kiddo gets older and even after the freezer meals are gone it can still save a fortune to meal plan.
Making Your Own Baby Food
While we are on the topic of edibles lets look at baby’s first solids… Steaming and mashing veggies isn’t as hard as you might think. And this comes with the added bonus of not giving your baby any weird chemical additives (a pretty big bonus in my book). And if you get yourself one of these snazzy little things, you’ll have saved 10 times more then you spent within a couple months.
Rethink Cloth Diapers
Ok, this one won’t be for everyone, but honestly, I did it for the first year of kiddo’s life and never regretted it. But it’s not the greatest thing for everyone. We never had to run out for emergency diapers in the middle of the night cause I forgot to pick some up… If you are exclusively breastfeeding you can just toss those suckers in the wash and be done with it. Heck, I only really ever worried about doing a load of them when the pail I had out for them looked fullish… Sometimes that was 3 days apart, others closer to 4. And I wasn’t spending $50 for a box that would last me all of 2 weeks.
And Cloth Diapers are another one of those things I would buy only second hand. And if you are handy with a needle you can even pick up some super cheap that just need a few stitches to work like new.
If you do go the disposable route make sure you factor in that cost (check the price around you and if you get the Amazon Family Subscription for diapers it may be what you need to bring that price down some. While I haven’t used it myself I have heard great things from people who did. It also has a 30-day free trial to take advantage of.
Realistically Babies Can be Expensive
If you buy everything NEW and everything you WANT.
Even with the new baby expenses (which is really just diapers/wipes/bum cream), we actually saved more money after our baby was born. I didn’t drive a lot, so even with a 2 vehicle household, we cut our gas expense in half. I didn’t eat out a lot, or go for coffee until later in my mat leave, and even then it wasn’t often. And I sent Mr. B. to the store for groceries with a list more then I went myself which means very little that wasn’t on the list ever came home (I’m the more impulsive shopper in our house). So overall we spent less money on a monthly basis then we did before.
If you consider all the ways you can save money on baby’s first year, you might find it’s not as financially scary as you think!