Hey, little spender
It starts before baby is even born. Your new addition has you in a buying frenzy as you stock up on everything from nursery furniture to diapers to tiny baby clothes—and the costs keep adding up.
By the time a child turns 18, the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that middle-income parents will have spent an average of $241,000 to raise her. (That number doesn’t include college tuition savings, by the way. For more on that topic, go to pnmag.com/savingforcollege.)
If you feel like you’re on track to spend a good chunk of that sum by the time your baby turns 6 months old, you’re not far off: The first year of life is particularly pricey because of costs like delivery, diapers and key items such as car seats and strollers.
Here’s a breakdown of expenses you’ll need to consider in baby’s first year (and a few tips on how to save on costs).
Even with insurance, giving birth is a major expense. On average, a woman with health insurance that includes maternal coverage can expect to pay around $3,400 out of pocket for a vaginal birth and more for a caesarean, according to a report from Truven Health Analytics.
Doctor visits for both you and baby can also add up. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies visit the doctor a total of six times in the first year (including a check-up at 12 months) to monitor growth and maintain their vaccination schedule. Co-pays at these appointments often range between $10 and $30 per visit.
Jessica Wunder, a certified financial planner at Mclean Asset Management Corporation and mother of two in Hay-market, Virginia, suggests families look for pediatricians in the network of their insurance policy, as out-of-network doctors can come with a hefty markup.
“Make sure you understand your health insurance and what is covered even before you get pregnant,” she recommends, which can save you a lot of financial headaches down the road.
Think of pricier one-time purchases as big-ticket items: cribs, strollers, car seats and the like. For a modest nursery setup, parents buying all new gear from a major retailer can expect to spend at least $700 on a crib, changing table, glider or rocker, bassinet, basic bedding, crib mattress and monitor. Depending on your budget, however, you could easily spend upwards of $700 on a crib alone! Much like designing the rest of your home, furniture and décor is available in various styles and at various price points. Determine what you can afford, and shop accordingly.
A sturdy stroller and safe car seat are well worth the investment and can range from $100 for the most basic models to $1,000 for high-end styles. Look for reputable brands that will last. (You’ll be using that stroller for several years!). Consider turning to friends with kids for recommendations. They might even let you borrow their gear to test out before you decide on a particular model.
If you are looking to save, make of list of essentials early on, so when it comes time to register for gifts, you know exactly what you need. If there’s a stroller you’re drooling over or a car seat you have your heart set on, put it on your list! You may be happily surprised by a generous family member or group of friends who pool their money to help make your baby gear dreams come true.
The cost of diapers is a real stinker, but there’s no way around it. An adequate supply of disposable diapers costs around $18 per week or an average of $936 annually, according to a recent report in the Journal Pediatrics.
Many parents turn to cloth diapers as an alternative. A pack of six to 10 cloth diapers (the minimum amount you’ll need) can range from $15 for the most basic pin-ups to $90 to $115 for a more durable set (with optional disposable pad inserts included). If you’ll be laundering the diapers at home, take into account the time and dollars you’ll need to invest in washing and maintenance.
If you like the idea of cloth, but the notion of soiled diapers in your washing machine turns you off, a cloth diapering service, which drops off fresh diapers at your home each week and takes away dirty ones to be laundered, is a good option. A popular cloth diapering service in New York City costs $35 per week after initial set-up costs, which cover the purchase of a diaper pail, pail liner and laundry bag.
On top of the diapers themselves, you’ll want to account for wipes, ointments and laundry detergent. A pack of 600 wipes, for example, costs about $16.
As adorable as baby clothes are, parents can save big in this category if they are smart about their needs. You’ll want a generous supply of bodysuits, rompers and sleep gowns because babies require outfit changes several times a day. But keep in mind, too, that your little munchkin will outgrow items quickly.
At your baby shower, consider asking your host to assign guests specific sizes ranging from newborn to 12 months, so you’ll be well stocked for the first year. And remember, what’s one baby’s trash is often another’s treasure, says Linda Rogers, a certified financial planner who consults with new families in San Diego.
“We had a thrift store near us while growing up, and all I remember was the horrible smell and outdated clothes. But times have changed,” she says. “We have a baby thrift store down the street in Mission Valley that is incredible. When our daughter was first born, she didn’t fit into any of the 0- to 3-month clothing we had, so my husband went and bought a handful of newborn outfits for a total of $10. She only wore the clothes for a couple weeks.”
Don’t forget about shoes for new walkers, notes Dave Grant, a certified financial planner and father in Chicago. “Shoes for new walkers can run at $50 a pop, and children need new ones every few months when their feet are growing,” he says.
The cost of childcare varies widely depending on where you live, and Wunder says parents need to consider the cost of care long before they decide to have a baby.
If two incomes will suddenly be turning into one, for example, a couple will need time to prepare. If both parents plan to return to work after maternity leave, day-care centers, in-home care and private nannies are all suitable options.
A private nanny is the most expensive, as you will be expected to pay a full-time or even overtime salary (depending on your work schedule) of $12 to $25 an hour.
Daycare centers in many cities aren’t cheap either. Parents pay an average of $972 a month for daycare, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. Take note of extra costs as well: If your work schedule has you rushing to retrieve junior each day, you’ll want to prepare for any fees you might incur for late pick-ups.
In-home care, in which your child is cared for in another person’s home, is likely the most budget-friendly; on average parents pay about $650 dollars per month. Before you make any decisions, be sure to do your research, and ask for background checks when appropriate to ensure your baby is safe. Consider, too, holiday schedules and sick days and the potential costs of alternate care during these times.
Thought your postpartum weight loss plan meant you could forget about feeding costs? Think again! New moms who breastfeed baby for the first six months will still need supplies, including an electric breast pump (which cost upwards of $100), feeding pillow, nursing bra, pads and balm.
For bottle-feeding parents, infant formula costs, bottles, warmers and dish- washing supplies are additional costs in this category.
When baby graduates to solid food after four to six months, costs will start small. But as baby consumes more and parents opt for ready-made organic varieties, the bill will begin to grow. At this point, it’s also time to invest in a highchair, baby-friendly utensils and other mealtime essentials like sippy cups.
While baby skin is soft and supple, it’s also sensitive and requires special care. It may cost more to buy nonirritating baby wash, shampoo and lotion, but it’s worth it to avoid bumps and rashes that can make both you and baby miserable (and might even require expensive medicine to remedy).
Other costs in this category include baby towels, washcloths and sponges, baby-friendly combs and brushes, and an infant bathtub.
Hooray! You’ve made it through baby’s first year. Now is a great time to take a look at your spending and make adjustments if necessary. It’s also time to party! Whether a big bash or intimate gathering suits your style and budget, mark the milestone with a memorable celebration.
By Jane Wolkowicz