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I like to think that I take time to consider variables before making decisions. In fact, I do not think that anyone who knows me well would say that I am impetuous or impulsive. As a result, there were many things that I considered in the year leading up to trying to start a family, as well as during the pregnancy itself, not the least of which were the monetary implications.
When thinking about the costs of having a child, I group them into a few generic categories: (1) things that family and friends tell you about, (2) things that marketers tell you about, and (3) things that no one tells you about.
(1) Family And Friends
The things that family and friends tell you about are the things that first come to your mind: diapers, wipes, formula, and clothing. At first, each of these items may seem like they do not really need to be thought about too extensively. However, once you come to the realization that the box of 140 diapers you bought is only going to last you about three weeks, the box of 624 wipes you purchased might last you a few days longer than the diapers, the “mountain” of free formula samples you received is only going to last you a few weeks, and that $13 outfit that your wife had to have for your baby’s trip home from the hospital is only going to fit for 7 days, you will quickly appreciate not only that you started saving in preparation for these necessities, but that you also took the time to remove the needless fluff from your monthly budget in order to be able to more easily afford them!
(Be on the lookout for a soon to come article in which I will highlight some of the easiest ways that anyone and everyone should be able to drastically improve their monthly budget in order to start saving for the day that you and your partner decide to start a family! )
Here is a brief summary of some of what I would characterize as easily foreseen monthly expenses:
Day time diapers: $55.80
Overnight diapers: $9.65
These figures are estimates based off of our own experience using six regular diapers per day, one overnight diaper during the night, and an average of three wipes each change. However, when the diaper is a real mess, I have often used eight or nine wipes to get the job done!
The formula cost is based on estimates from here.
Nearly $200 on the absolute necessities! Is it becoming easier to understand why at least some prudent planning is absolutely required before starting a family? According to CNBC, 78% of US workers live paycheck to paycheck. Now, imagine how many of those people do not even have a clue that starting a family is going to reasonably require absorbing at least another $200 into their monthly budget, or imagine how many other people have already hastily decided to start a family without understanding some of the basic associated expenses. Thankfully, that number just got a little smaller because you are reading this article (In a soon to come article I will highlight some of the easiest ways that anyone can drastically improve their monthly budget to make $200 feel like nothing!).
(2) In The Marketing Cross-Hairs
A stroller, car seat, Graco playpen, and do not forget the crib; whether from television commercials, billboards, or magazines, most people that are paying an iota of attention will know that they are told they will need these things before their child is born. In fact, marketers are so good at their jobs that in addition to everyone at your baby shower buying you newborn clothes, regardless of what you put on your registry, a few people might even be thoughtful enough to get you a few of these things.
However, seeing as how some of these items are fairly large ticket prices, you may want to consider a few alternative methods to obtaining them before you go running to the nearest buybuy Baby in the eighth month of your partner’s pregnancy. For starters, check out Craigslist and your community yard sales! There are plenty of people only a few years ahead of you who are now looking to get rid of the stuff that was necessary when their children were infants and toddlers. With a little bit of elbow grease and a new mattress (here is the one we bought), that $45 crib is perfectly suited for your baby. Plus by being so smart with this single purchase, you just saved yourself easily over $100, more likely over $150, which you can now use towards the multitude of other expenses that are heading towards you at full steam! For those of you debating whether or not you feel comfortable using a previously used Graco playpen, either (1) go buy a steam cleaner for less than $40, which can kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria, just like the best disinfecting cleaners, or (2) use camelcamelcamel.com to make sure that you are at least not purchasing your new one at nose bleed prices! In our case, a generous couple purchased us this one as a baby shower gift.
Another marketing ploy to avoid is feeling the need to buy bedding sets for your babies crib. Not only is it recommended that your baby sleep on a empty surface with only a sheet, but also, your baby is not going to care if he is sleeping on a $12 bed sheet, or the single bed sheet that comes in the $95 bedding set, which you now know is a complete waste of money since you should only use the sheet anyways! A far better use of your resources is to instead buy a multi-pack of sheets so that when either your baby spits up all over it, or you, while changing his fully loaded diaper in your 2:30 in the morning comatose state, drop his diaper wrong side up, thus rendering the sheet filthy, you can easily throw that one in the hamper and put on a new one in order to get yourself back in bed as fast as possible. By the way, you most likely just saved yourself at least $60 for being a little smarter and not giving in to the marketing lure that told you you must have the super cute, over priced safari bedding set.
A major purchase that I have not yet talked about is the stroller and car seat. For my wife and I, we determined that we wanted to purchase a new combo set instead of getting these items second hand. In reality, there is likely nothing wrong with the used one we saw at the yard sale. However, we both wanted the piece of mind knowing that the seat our son would be sitting in for his first several months came straight from the manufacturer, and that none of the parts had not been damaged by the previous owner. Plus this one comes with a toddler attachment which will allow us to get more use out of it!
(3) The Costs That No One Tells You About
In this last section I will cover a couple of broad items. First, a large expense that did not even cross my mind until it arrived in the mail, and second, a few small recurring expenses that increase the monthly budget figure that we went over earlier.
The single largest expense that blindsided my wife and I were the charges that came from the hospital after her delivery. I think that it is fair to assume that nearly everyone knows that they have a health insurance deductible, but up until this point in our marriage, my wife and I have both been reasonably healthy, and it is accurate to say that paying for our co-pays several times a year was the extent of our out of pocket expenses. However, in the midst of preparing for our son’s arrival, neither of us considered the fact that our of pocket maximum would be reached. Additionally, once I reported the birth of our son to my employer in order to adjust our health insurance coverage to a family plan, our out of pocket maximum increased by $1,500! In total, our out of pocket maximum came to $6,500 for the year. Considering that my wife had complications during delivery, and our son was in the NICU for a week, the amount was a small percentage of the total charges. Fortunately, we are both relatively frugal individuals, and although paying for the medical bills was painful, we were able to avoid having to finance them. Nevertheless, $6,500 is a large amount of money, and I hope that our experience will help you be better prepared for receiving the inevitable medical bills once your child arrives.
Less dramatic than writing a check for $6,500, but still worth noting, here is a brief summary of some expenses that neither my wife, nor I ever thought about until our son was already home with us. For starters, let’s discuss bottles. At our baby shower we were given a set of three bottles. Although, we are very grateful for these three bottles, when your child is eating every 2 to 3 hours for the entirety of his first three months of life, three bottles does not even get you half way through the day. As a result, after our first 24 hours home, and having boiled those three bottles three times, I bought eight more ($59.08). Thankfully, our son did not have any trouble getting used to using these bottles. Something else to be aware of is that the bottle nipples have to be replaced periodically. For our bottles it is recommended every three months. I just ordered 8 replacement nipples for the first time ($25.21). Averaged over our son’s first three months of life, these two purchases add up to $28.10 per month.
We were also given a pack of two pacifiers at our baby shower, and the packaging stated to replace them after one month’s use. Since our son has had no problem using the Philips Avent bottles, we decided to purchase their pacifiers too. Granted these are not expensive, but they are another $6.35 expense per month for the foreseeable future, and I actually plan to order two sets next month since they get misplaced or dropped so easily. A super useful item for keeping track of the pacifiers are these clips!
Lastly, before I conclude, there are some cleaning products to mention. You will need a baby friendly soap (this is the one we use) to clean the bottles, nipples, and pacifiers, and you will need an appropriate brush with which to scrub. These are also small monthly expenditures, $8.26 and $7.41 respectively, but by adding these to our monthly expenditure total from earlier, we are approaching $250, and despite my efforts, this is not an exhaustive list.
To conclude, with some reasonable due diligence and preparation, no parent needs to be caught off guard by any of these purchases or expenses. Hopefully, in part from reading this article, you can can start saving some money and making life style changes now so that neither you, your partner, nor your bank account is not caught off guard either.
As stated above, be on the lookout for a soon to come article in which I will highlight some of the easiest ways that anyone should be able to drastically improve their monthly budget in order to start saving for the day that you and your partner decide to start a family!