How is babby paid for?
October 1, 2008 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Advice/resources for adjusting our household budget to accommodate a child?

We are expecting a baby early next year and I'd like to start figuring out what changes will need to be made to our monthly household budget. I'm hoping that mefites might be able to share their budgets or about how much (%wise if you are uncomfortable stating specific amounts) you spend on things like health care/clothing/food/etc. and all the things that need to be added in with a child. And I'm sure there are those things that people who aren't parents would never think of.

If there are any sample budgets online that include this sort of information, I would appreciate any pointers to those as well. I'd like to leave our circumstances vague so that every instance and need that I haven't thought of can be covered in your answers.

(and I'm asking anonymously to keep references to our finances and "delicate condition" as minimal as possible on the interwebs)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
First off, congrats!

I don't keep a tight budget on my household expenses, but adding a child into the mix definitely put a dent into everything -- I remember thinking it was like having another mortgage. For the first couple years I'd say it's around $1,000 a month average spending above what we used to spend pre-child. That includes everything, including staples like food and health care but also incidentals like clothing and trips to museums and stuff that could have been optional if you were on a limited budget.
posted by mathowie at 8:47 AM on October 1, 2008

Seconding the congrats!

Our number was much lower than Matt's - much, much lower, more like a couple of hundred a month. My wife has nursed all of our children, though, and it's unclear from your question whether or not you (or momma) will be.

Nursing is an incredible thing - it's a sacrifice on momma's part, but it's soooo good for the child. And it saves you a ton on your grocery bill, needless to say, for the better part of a year.

I'd start stashing aside a "baby fund," separate from any emergency fund you may have. In my case, I started eBaying my CD collection, and just let that money accumulate in the Paypal account. Then whenever diapers or whatever were needed, I used the Paypal debit card. As a result, it really wasn't that much of a financial burden overall.

Enjoy! It's a singular experience.
posted by jbickers at 8:54 AM on October 1, 2008

Having children has been the greatest thing that happened to me. It is also the worst business deal I ever made. Diapers, food, clothes, gear, travel, school supplies, college fund, etc. You do get economies of scale from having more than 1 or 2.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:32 AM on October 1, 2008

It's been too many years (my kids are teens now) but I do remember that we saved a fortune of childrens clothing. Find the consignment shops in your area. Babies and toddlers grow so fast that you are often lucky to use an outfit twice before they outgrow it. My kids grew up wearing trendy expensive clothes that were all bought 2nd hand, frequently with the tags still on them, for $3 or $4 per outfit. (It wasn't that trendy was important to us, it's that there is no resale market for the stuff you can buy at WalMart, so the 2nd hand shops are mostly stocked with designer baby clothes.)

Resist the urge to decorate the nursery all pink or all blue. Do something in the primary color range that works for both boys and girls. That way you don't have to completely redecorate in a couple of years if you decide to add to the family again.

Congrats, and don't stress over money. If the budget isn't balancing you can always pick up a 2nd job or something. I delivered pizza at night for a year or so when we were adjusting to life with 2 kids in diapers.

Also, family and friends tend to be ridiculously generous when you are having the first baby. Beyond baby shower gifts and all of that, you'll probably frequently get bags of hand me down baby clothes, outgrown toys, etc. Don't turn any of it down if it's useful to you.
posted by COD at 9:40 AM on October 1, 2008

Not exactly what you're looking for, but remember that you can get EVERYTHING used except a car seat. When people give you gifts, you can return them for stuff you actually need.

As far as budgeting, nursing, as others mentioned is virtually free.

Cloth diapering, while more expensive up front, is generally cheaper than disposables.

I too am looking forward to seeing a revised budget!
posted by k8t at 9:51 AM on October 1, 2008


Our experience - based on extensive planning and two weeks of parenthood.

For the first six months, a lot will depend on the choices you make up front. We have gone for breastfeeding and cloth nappies, so the main budgetary costs are a bit more food for mum and the detergent for an extra wash a day. That said, with a few breastfeeding problems we ended up spending money on bottles, sterilizing stuff and some baby milk.

For all our preparations we spent about £1,500. The main items were a cot, pram/buggy, other nursery furniture, car seat. You could borrow or get a lot of this secondhand a great deal cheaper. Clothes and so on are very cheap and you will probably find someone you can borrow clothes from in any case. And for example you could use a homemade sling instead of a pram if money is tight.

We spent about £150 on cloth nappies (diapers) if I recall correctly, but the long term saving over disposables is well worth it in our opinion.

We are in the UK and have had extensive free health support.

Dogsbody says you can memail her for our master spreadsheet of everything we bought.
posted by Bigbrowncow at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2008

Nthing the congratulations!

Routine health care (check ups, immunizations, etc.) is quite frequent on the front end (bi-weekly, maybe?) but tapers off as they get older - by the time they're three, they only need to go once a year. Depending on your health insurance, that could get pretty pricey.

With respect to food, formula is crazy expensive, but if you need to go that route we found the best deals at the warehouse clubs (e.g., Costco). Also, ask your pediatrician for samples - they get freebies and are usually willing to give them out to folks who ask.

On diapers...expensive as well, but you can usually get coupons/freebies from all the major brands (Pampers, Huggies, Luvs) when you're a new parent. Also, grab whatever the hospital will give you on the way out in terms of blankets, diapers and wipes.

Overall, we're probably somewhere in between mathowie & jbickers. But wherever you end up, don't expect the tab to go down much (if at all) as they get older - the cost of formula & diapers shifts over to sports, pre-school tuition, more clothes, etc. It never ends!
posted by brandman at 9:59 AM on October 1, 2008

Health Care
The amount and nature of your health care costs will depend on your circumstances. Here are two examples:
I had individual Blue Cross insurance through my employer, which meant that my pregnancy, from pee test through c-section, cost me a single $20 co-pay to my ob/gyn. However, I then had to switch to a family plan so the baby would have coverage, and I had to pay the difference out of pocket. The difference was circa $800/mo.
My sister, with her first baby, had very different insurance that cost less and covered less, and when she met with the nurse for her first pre-natal, they worked out a payment plan for how to finance all the extra costs.

If you have friends and family who want to send gifts, you can get about 6 months to a year's worth of clothing in gifts and never really have to spend much at all. (Returning for store credit can be AWESOME when possible)
If you have family/friends with kids and you can get hand-me-downs, then that's free clothing!
Even if you are all alone, kid's clothing can come cheap. Circa brand at Target has cute $4 separates, and I've found a few $0.97 t-shirts on the babyGap sale rack.

Breastmilk is free. If your baby takes to breastmilk, a pump is a good idea. I bought a still-factory-sealed Medela pump-in-style off craigslist while I was pregnant, and just put it in the closet until I was sure I wanted to use it; that way I could re-sell it on craiglist if breastfeeding didn't work out for us.
Formula is expensive, so coupon-clipping is actually helpful. I read somewhere that formula costs around $5,000 per year per baby.

GEAR! BABY GEAR! There's so much baby gear. Just get the book "Baby Bargains", which has great reviews of most baby gear.
DIAPERS - I use disposables, and I'd say the first year I probably averaged about $30-40/month on diapers. I've heard that the initial outlay for cloth diapers is around $200+, but then costs depend on how you launder them.

Ultimately, this is a really hard question to answer. Your budget is up to you - it's impossible to say what an 'average' is. Some people get $40 strollers. Some get $900 strollers. Some people have access to free family health insurance. Some babies need special prescription formula for digestive issues.
You'll have to take it all as it comes.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 10:03 AM on October 1, 2008

Here is roughly what we have spent on our 8 month old
Birth co-pay $500.00
Crib - $130 at Ikea (Grandpa bought the ridiculously expensive organic mattress - of course he never sleeps in his crib)
Slings and wraps $100 (plus a friend bought us an Ergo which is my favorite piece of baby gear)
Stroller and car seat ~$300
Cloth Diapers ~ $200 (in addition to what our friends bought us)
Bottles $45.00 (we breast feed)
Used Swing $20.00
Used Exersaucer $30.00
Bouncy Seat $60.00
Gym $25.00
Toys and books less than $50.00
Baby food ~$20 (we generally make our own, but do jarred on occasion)
Clothes $70.00 (box off of craigslist, two pairs of pjs, 4 onesies, some pants and socks)
Baby jail (6 sided metal play yard) $125 (he comes from a long line of rock climbers)
Lotions Potions and medication $75.00 (I'm addicted to california baby products)

We got a ton of clothing from friends and family. The only reason why we've had to buy any is because I want to, not because I need to. Stores that sell used baby stuff (Once upon a child is a popular chain) are great. Things like swings, saucers and bouncy seats only get used for a few months each so why buy new. Craigslist is also a great place to buy baby stuff, just make sure to google the make and model to check for recalls. As mentioned above don't buy used car seats and if you breastfeed, stay away from used pumps. My son loves books, but generally likes pots and wooden spoons better than any of the toys he has. The cost of a child really depends on what you are willing to spend on them above and beyond necessities
posted by a22lamia at 10:33 AM on October 1, 2008

If you have your own washer and dryer, save yourself the money on disposable diapers and go in for cloth. Better for the environment, less expensive long run though quite a lot upfront, and then you have a bunch of diapers for baby number two later. (I'm amazed that more people don't do this, actually, given how much cheaper it is....)

We figured out that cloth diapers + diaper service < disposable diapers for two years for us, so even if you don't have your own washer or dryer, cloth diapering is still something to strongly consider.
posted by zizzle at 11:43 AM on October 1, 2008

No budget numbers to offer, but some ideas that may help you save money.

If you use formula, go with a store brand over one of the big name brands. Our pediatrician advised sticking with one brand & formulation once we had established its use and not switching if possible. Had we known that, we'd have chosen to start with a store brand, which are significantly more affordable. As someone pointed out in an answer to a question posed here earlier this week, safety regulations on formula are so strict that they all end up being the same thing.

In our area, there are tons of mother-to-mother 'swap meets' where you can get clothes and gear second-hand for practically nothing. We've bought lots of very nice clothes for 25 or 50 cents apiece. These are often held in church basements, community centers and the like. Yard sales are great for this, too.

Similarly, ask around at work - lots of people have baby clothes they aren't using anymore and that they'd just love to give you.

If you go the disposable diaper route, start saving your plastic grocery sacks now. They'll accomplish everything a 'diaper genie' will, but easier and cheaper. Same story on bottle warmers and baby wipe warmers - you just don't need them.

The best new stuff we bought for our daughter when she was under 6 mos. was one of those super cheap springy bouncers (reclining style) and an umbrella-type stroller. Both of those were about $20, but worth their weight in gold.

If you both work and your child is going to be in day-care, you obviously have to find a place you're comfortable with. But, if possible, consider one that's larger and has several employees vs. a single individual operating out of their home. The larger day care will be open and available every day, whereas you are at the mercy of an individual and their schedule. They will quite likely (and deservedly) take multiple vacations each year, as well as unexpected sick days which inevitably results in you or your spouse missing work when you don't want to, and that can have a budget impact all its own.

You will also, almost certainly, save money you can put toward your child's well-being when you quit doing some of things you may like doing now, such as eating out, going to the movies, playing golf, fishing and whatever else. And, as your child gets a little older (say, 2 or 3) get used to going to your neighborhood park. It's free and your kid will love it.

Hope some of that's helpful to you. And, of course, congratulations -- being a parent is a blast.
posted by OilPull at 12:15 PM on October 1, 2008

Sign up anyone who's willing for the various formula company mailing lists. They will send you boxes of formula and coupons. Stockpile formula, and then you won't have to spend $$$ if your Bundle O' Joy (like all of ours) is picky. Then, offer your pediatrician any unused containers for her other patients: the karmic credit will be mighty, and (s)he may well hook you up with other good stuff.

We didn't actaully do -- well anything -- before the babies started coming, so there weren't many lifestyle cut-backs to be done. But depending on your childcare plans (day care? realatives? SAHM/D?) andhow well your baby sleeps, you may well be so damn busy that the stuff you no longer have time to do (clubbing? Pampered Chef parties? cigar bar nights?), you might free up some money that way.

Anyone not willing to hand down or accept handed-down clothes is a snob and a fool. Except shoes: kids' shoes begin to disintegrate asyou leave the store, and the very idea of wearing Someone Else's Shoes is pretty gross.

In Rhode Island, there's a statewide program that covers all well visit copays until 18 months old, regardless of your income. Which is only like half a dozen of them, but if they're $15 each then there's a month worth of diapers or something.) See if your state a comparable program. Also snoop into your insurance company's benefits: you may have ignored baby-related stuff when you last did the paperwork.

Also, the local public library is your New Best Friend: the books & movies are free, they probably have good events going on (.e.g., family story-time), and they are happy to see kids. At least they pretend to be. Anyway, this is another way to free up some expense money.

Our kids all generate tons ofl aundry. If you're going to a laundromat now, you may wish to consider buying a machine.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:42 PM on October 1, 2008

One thing I didn't do that in hindsight I would have, is get a double stroller (front to back) with the first child if I thought I would have another within 3 years. WIth one, a double can be used to carry your extra gear. We had our second child 16 months after the first and the third 13 months after the second so having a double would have helped right away.

The only other advice I wish I was given was a piece of wisdom from my brother who at the time did not have kids. He said, "never buy a toy with batteries. The toys make lots of noise and the batteries are expensive to keep replacing." As noted above, pots and pans and spoons make great toys.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:52 PM on October 1, 2008

I know you said you were looking for personal experiences, but I don't have any of those yet either as I'm just now going through this myself (4 months pregnant). But one of the week-by-week pregnancy guides I have, published in 2000, gives the following breakdown of medical, non-medical, and other first-year costs of having a baby:

Medical Costs (note that this may differ widely by state and that medical insurance will probably cover most of this in any case):

$900 -- amnio
$725 -- anesthesia fee, labor epidural
$350 -- anesthesia fee, spinal for cesarean section
$300 -- blood work
$2,200 -- CVS
$2,400 -- insurance premium (one year)
$4,000 -- hospital charges, vaginal delivery, 1-day stay
$7,000 -- hospital charges, cesarean section, 3-day stay
$2,300 -- obstetrician's fee, vaginal delivery
$2,500 -- obstetrician's fee, cesarean section
$110 -- Triple screen
$350 -- ultrasound

Non-Medical Costs
$100 -- bras, underwear and pantyhose
$50 -- manicure and pedicure before delivery (????)
$500 -- maternity clothes
$25 -- cocoa butter (for stretch marks)
$100 -- shoes (2 pairs - after feet swell)

Baby Stuff, The First Year
$500 -- baby food
$150 -- bassinet
$250 -- bedding and mattress
$150 -- bottles and nipples
$75 -- bowls, utensils, bibs
$250 -- breast pump (electric, double pump)
$80 -- car seat
$7,500 -- childcare (day care center, 5 days/week)
$75 -- childproofing
$350 -- crib (nb -- you can get one for half this price or less if 2nd hand)
$35 -- diaper bag
$150 -- diaper genie and refills
$1,000 -- diapers (disposable, bought in bulk)
$175 -- diaper wipes, diaper ointment
$30 -- doorway jumper
$50 -- first aid and medications
$1,500 -- formula (mix, not ready made)
$80 -- front carrier
$60 -- high chair
$150 -- layette
$600 -- photos (nb: developing, film, portraits -- this is probably high if you use digital and cheap internet printing services)
$180 -- stroller (stroller/infant car seat combo)
$40 -- swing
$50 -- toiletries
$200 -- well baby care and immunizations (co-pay only)

Good luck and congratulations!
posted by onlyconnect at 9:01 PM on October 1, 2008

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