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Everyone agrees that having a baby is expensive. Aside from all the time and money spent on doctor’s visits leading up to your offspring’s arrival, there are a lot of hard costs in terms of home preparation. As someone who loves a budget, and recently welcomed a little critter of my own to the family, I decided it was time to look at how one can budget for a baby.
Step 1: Figure out where your money is going, before baby arrives
Like I’ve mentioned before, a budget can be a beautiful way to discover where your money is going. (If you missed it, check out my article on the best budgeting helpers). Once you’ve completed this budgeting exercise, you’ll be able to see where you have extra cash, because goodness knows you’ll need it.
Step 2: Track your baby-related expenses
There are two reasons to do this. The first is so that you know exactly how much things are costing, so that you’re not surprised at the end of the month when you might need to move your allowance from one column to the other. All of a sudden you can’t spend $500 on spontaneously going out to dinner with your spouse in any given month, because you’ll need some (or all) of that for baby’s upcoming budget. The second is that psychologically – at least for me – if I’m documenting every dollar I spend on something, I’m less likely to buy things that are unnecessary. This way I’ll focus on the essentials first and foremost, because there may not be any moolah left over for the non-essentials. Which leads me to step 3.
Step 3: Buy only what is necessary
When you have a baby, your friends are going to want to give you stuff. In fact, there’s a wonderful social tradition called a Baby Shower (see Step 4) that is highly encouraged in order to offset some of your start-up costs. If you want to get some basics out of the way on your own before your shower, that is your prerogative. Personally, I recommend waiting to see what you receive as gifts during the pregnancy, and what you can borrow from friends and family. Then, when you’re about 1-2 months out, figure out what essential needs have yet to be met, and get them dialed in.
Here’s a “bare minimum” list to get you started:
Car seat - you cannot leave the hospital without one, and you definitely want to buy it new so it meets current safety standards. It’s incredibly important (for obvious reasons) that you check and double check to make sure your car seat is installed correctly, and that you check to make sure the brand and model you’ve purchased hasn’t had any recent recalls.
Crib - if you get it secondhand, make sure you know and trust where it came from, otherwise there’s a concern about safety. Make sure you can verify that your baby’s crib is up-to-code and remove any fabric parts that came with it, as fabric can hold onto bed bugs and other bacteria easily.
Bedding - a basic fitted sheet for the bottom of the crib and a swaddling blanket should suffice, otherwise you can also look into a sleep sac for your little one.
Clothing - here’s a tip: babies don’t need to look fly. In fact, if you just get a few onesies, and a stack of sleepers, you’ll be a-ok while you figure out what works for you. Amazon has some handy “starter sets” or you can piece them together from hand-me-downs or a Goodwill run. (Just make sure you wash anything you get, new or otherwise, before baby wears it).
Diapers, desitin, wipes - you can use just about any surface in your house as a changing area if you don’t want (or don’t have space for) a standalone changing table. All you need is a towel – several, actually, since they’ll require frequent swapping & washing – and then your basic changing essentials. If you get dialed in with diapers, desitin, and wet wipes, you’ll be covered on the basics.
Step 4: Go cheap (and easy) on the baby shower
When you’re expecting, you might not be in the mood to throw a big party. So here’s an idea – get one of your friends to throw it for you! Preferably at their place, so you’re not even stuck with cleanup. In your condition, housework won’t be comfortable anyway. Make sure you have a carefully thought-out registry (see Step 5) and be even thriftier by turning the baby shower into a potluck. That way people are fed, you get presents, and everyone else gets the warm, fuzzy feeling of altruism as they support you in your preparation for a tiny human.
Step 5: Register, register, register
Everyone has their own preference on where they like to shop. You can create as many, or as few, registries as you like. Personally, I went with Amazon and Target. I chose Target because I’m a RedCard holder, and they have a 10% completion discount, meaning that anything you don’t receive from people you can save 10% on while buying it yourself. I chose Amazon because we have a lot of friends who love online shopping (who doesn’t) and Amazon makes it so easy, plus by being an Amazon Prime member, we automatically qualified for an Amazon Mom membership. The benefit? A 15% completion discount! A couple of other stores worth checking out are of course Buy Buy Baby (who offers a 10% completion discount) and Babies R Us (who also offers 10% off). Both stores send a discount certificate within two weeks of the delivery date.
Step 6: Budgeting after baby is born
The same general rules apply after your little one shows up. At the end of the day, you need to keep your baby safe and healthy. If you have a good place for them to sleep, and you nourish them with food and love, you’ll be well set. Focus on the priorities of keeping them healthy and happy, and ask yourself whether or not what you’re purchasing is something that will make life better or easier for you and baby. Money can disappear pretty quickly with an added family member, so make sure your spending priorities are sensible.
Once the baby arrives, planning your life beyond the next feeding or diaper change will be tricky until you ease into a routine. So the best thing you can do for yourself, your little one, and your finances is to get organized and plan before the due date comes. Figure out where you’re at money-wise, and then where you need to be. Don’t be afraid to accept gifts from friends and family, even in the form of help. You’re creating a new life after all, so yours should be stable before the new one begins.