Preparing for Baby Costs
I found out in February.
I came home to a scavenger hunt – clues scattered by my wife throughout the house. At the end, I discovered a drawer filled with tiny booties, a Captain America onesie, and a board book about dads and babies.
And there I was. I was going to be a dad in October. Elation and excitement turned to planning and anxiety. Amidst the thoughts of, What color should the room be? and, Is it a boy or a girl? (she's a girl), there was the other question. The big question.
What on Earth is this baby going to cost?
Here are some financial considerations from a soon-to-be-dad, which will surely be updated once our little one makes her glorious, screaming entrance into the world.
Plan ahead (if you can)
My wife and I knew we wanted to be parents, which is something I want to be clear about up front: not everyone has that luxury. To quote the great Dr. Ian Malcolm, "Life uh...finds a way." So while the considerations I'm putting forth here are great for parents who plan ahead, know that – depending on your circumstances – the advice may shift.
That means establishing a budget (which can actually be kind of fun, depending on what you're budgeting for).
About that budget...
Perform a Google search about the average cost of having a baby and you're going to get different numbers. Like, super different. But, as an expecting parent, I figured we'd probably be looking somewhere around $5,000 (with a frequent prayer that it will be less). That's based on where I live, the insurance we have, and anecdotes from friends and families who had their own little ones with similar insurance plans.
It's not a bad idea to contact your insurance company, look up the cost differences between traditional and cesarean deliveries, how many nights you may need to spend in the hospital, and how much your insurance cost may change by adding a "plus one."
That's where we started, actually: with the costs of delivery and insurance. We knew we had about eight months, I looked up what it would cost to shift to a family insurance plan, and we started budgeting that cost right from the beginning. We'd squirrel away extra money into a separate savings, "pre-budget" and save for the rising insurance cost, and pretend like we were already paying it. The idea: once that bill goes up, we're used to it.
P.S. Momma needs to go to monthly appointments, then biweekly appointments, then weekly appointments. And she'll need prenatal vitamins and – if she's anything like my wife – a not-so-insignificant amount of antacids. Budget for those appointments and extra costs. Your wallet will thank you.
You're going to buy a lot of stuff. Look for discounts
First time parents need a bunch of stuff. Bottles, crib, mattresses, books, car seats, monitors, swaddles, and cute outfits for holidays so that you can laugh when she looks like a super tiny but super pudgy Santa at Christmas. Y'know – the important stuff.
The first thing we did was sign up for discounts and look for sales. There are dozens of discount baby clothes options online, secondhand items, and clubs that you can join that will mail you free samples.
Stock. Up. On. Those. Free. Samples.
Hoard them like you're going to be featured on a 2000s-era hoarding show. Because it's tough to beat the cost of "free."
Ask your network
We had the advantage of siblings and friends who have had babies before. You may, too. Ask around or post on social media for baby items. I can almost guarantee that you'll have parents reach out almost begging you to take stuff so that they can clear space in their ever-expanding closets for new clothes.
Don't have baby friends? Join a group online. Nearly every community has a local group for parents, featuring cost-saving tips, secondhand items, and support – because your mental health matters, too.
Don't discount the value of a baby shower
Our baby shower was one of the single biggest hauls of items we received. The big-ticket items, the wishlist items, and everything in between. Remember: anything that you're not spending money on is money you can save. And you're going to need to.
Plan ahead for those long-term costs
Unless you're fortunate enough to have a family support system or can afford to have a parent stay at home (that's assuming you're part of a two-parent household, which not everyone is), you're going to have to pay for childcare.
And the cost? Wooboy. Just look up the average cost of daycare. Like searches for the cost of having a baby, the numbers vary. And they vary drastically based on creature comforts and your location. Does the daycare have an app? Is there a waitlist? How long is that waitlist? For us, many places in our hometown had waitlists from 6-12 months, so call early.
Keep in mind, too, that touring a daycare facility takes time, time you'll likely need to take off of work because the hours are set up to mirror "traditional" workday hours. So speak with your manager and use your PTO accordingly (remembering that you may need to "budget" your PTO for when your bundle of joy arrives).
And then there's college. That's a topic for another day.
The other stuff and the unexpected
There's paint, nightlights, changing tables, diapers, and a million other things. Make that wishlist early and add to it often. It'll help you reevaluate your budget as you go.
Oh, and remember our dear friend, Dr. Ian Malcolm? Life will uh...find a way, so remember that your baby is going to be calling the shots at the end of the day. They may come early and there may be unexpected costs, so make sure you have a buffer.
Having a baby is exciting, it's life-changing, and it's expensive. Take a deep breath, start budgeting, and everything will fall into place.
You've got this, mom and dad.