New babies are precious, tiny, sweet-smelling, and just the best thing in the world. They’re also expensive. Whether it’s paying hospital bills for a birth or adoption fees, or planning for childcare or baby’s needs at home, there is no cheap way to have a kid.
But there are several things you can do to prepare financially before the baby arrives. Ideally, you would plan ahead enough to do these things before you even get pregnant or start the adoption process. But whenever you start, the more you can do, the easier it will be to add to your family without breaking the bank.
Save more than you think you need for maternity leave
You plan to be out for eight weeks, so saving eight weeks’ worth of pay makes sense, right? At first glance, yes. But in reality, you should save more.
Why? There are several reasons.
The first reason is that eight weeks’ worth of pre-baby expenses isn’t the same as eight weeks’ worth of post-baby expenses. Whether it’s buying wipes, diapers, and formula, or ordering takeout for most meals because cooking is beyond your abilities in those first weeks, you’re probably going to spend more money once baby arrives.
The second reason is you may plan to be out for a set time, 6–8 weeks, but if either you or baby have any complications, you could be out longer. You might have trouble finding childcare or you might even just not quite be ready to go back when you thought you would be.
And a third reason is to be prepared for unexpected changes. You might go back to work only to decide to quit and start your own business. Or like some moms have experienced, you could return to work and end up being laid off soon after.
The more money you have saved, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with whatever comes your way.
Set aside extra money for childcare
Quality, reliable childcare isn’t cheap. And while you might call around to find the cheapest manicure or cell phone provider, there’s more that goes into finding good childcare than price. It’s also not a bad idea to have a backup childcare provider for emergencies.
That’s why it’s a good idea to set aside extra money to pay for childcare. Whether it’s because you pay more every week or to cover more expensive childcare in an emergency, you’ll want to have the peace of mind of knowing that you have the cash to ensure your child is in the hands of someone you can trust.
The extra money can also come in handy if you need to change providers quickly, pay for extended hours, or decide to go with private care such as an in-home babysitter or nanny instead of a daycare.
Become thoroughly familiar with your health insurance
Many people assume that when they have a baby, everything is covered by their health insurance. So it comes as a huge shock when they suddenly start getting bills from the baby’s doctor, for the baby’s shots, or for the baby’s hospital stay. It’s only after they call the insurance company to ask what the deal is that they find out their policy doesn’t actually cover the baby — or that they needed to call and add the baby for coverage.
Take the time to thoroughly read all the documents associated with your health insurance. Become familiar with what’s covered and what’s not, steps you’re required to take in order to ensure covered claims aren’t denied, and anything else that might not be exactly what you assumed.
If you discover there are things that aren’t covered by your insurance, start making calls early to find out what your options are. You may be able to get a discount by paying out of pocket, work out a payment plan, or start paying before baby arrives so you have a head start.
This can be especially important if you’re adopting. While the baby’s birth might have triggered their automatic addition to some health insurance policies, it may not work the same with adoption.
Try to save up your deductible
If your health insurance has a deductible that hasn’t been met yet (or will reset before the baby is born), start saving up ahead of time. Set this money aside in its own account specifically to meet those medical expenses.
If you have the ability, you might even consider setting up and using a health savings account (HSA) to save this money before taxes and save yourself some extra money.
If you’re not married to your child’s other parent, and they want to use an HSA to help pay your deductible, you may need to consult with a lawyer to find out if and how that can happen or what other options you both might have.
Invest in a life insurance policy (or two)
If you don’t already have a life insurance policy for yourself, you should get one before baby arrives — or as soon as possible after. While no one likes to think of their eventual death, when you become a parent, you need to plan ahead to ensure your child(ren) are taken care of if you do pass away.
A life insurance policy will help cover your funeral expenses and also ensure your children are cared for financially without creating a burden on whomever you choose to be their guardians. It can also provide funds for them to go to college without needing to take out loans.
But you should also consider a life insurance policy on the baby as soon as they’re born. Many infant life insurance policies can follow the child throughout their life, at the original cost, providing them with a little extra peace of mind. This can be especially beneficial if your child ends up developing or being diagnosed with a health condition that might affect their ability to get life insurance later on.
Keep close track of bills received and paid
Even with health insurance, you’re going to get a deluge of hospital, doctor, and other medical bills when you have a baby. Some of these bills will be meant to be informational, as insurance has already (or will) paid them. Others will be ones that you need to pay.
In either case, you should keep close track of all bills you receive and all bills you pay. Take notes on the bills themselves as to whether they’re your responsibility or the insurance’s. When insurance has paid, write claim numbers, dates, and amounts on the bills. When you pay, write dates, check numbers, amounts, and any confirmation numbers on the bills.
When you receive a new bill, compare to it previously received ones to make sure it’s not a duplicate of one you’ve already paid or contains expenses that have already been paid on a prior bill.
Skip the fancy expensive nursery
A fancy, pretty nursery is fun to decorate, but your baby will never even remember it. If you’re looking to save money when having a new baby, a nursery is a great place to start. You don’t need to repaint, put up murals, and color-coordinate everything.
Fill a bedroom with the basic necessities. But don’t spend extra money on creating a themed nursery that your baby will only ever know about through pictures. Save that cash for things that really matter.
This can be an especially helpful tip if you plan on co-sleeping or if baby will be sharing a room with an older sibling — it can be a huge relief to realize you can skip all this and not feel bad!
Buy less than you think you need
You’ll get a lot of advice about stocking up. Stock up on diapers, wipes, formula, etc. And when it comes to consumables like that, you should stock up. But what about other things, like clothes, toys, and books?
People will tell you to stock up on those too. But truthfully? You don’t really need to. The theory is that you should buy extra clothing so you can change the baby’s clothes whenever they spit up or a diaper blows out. But you’ll be able to do laundry — and you’ll do plenty of it anyway — so there’s no need to have six months’ worth of onesies in a dresser when a dozen or so will be plenty.
The same applies to toys and books. Your baby will likely have a few favorite toys that they love playing with and the rest will be unused — or used so rarely that you’ll spend more time organizing and rearranging than they’re worth. Books are the only thing that you might never be able to have too many of — but even there, I suggest borrowing from the library or loved ones and then stocking your personal library with favorites.
Don’t spend money on something cute that you don’t need
Babies are adorable, and aside from what comes out in their diaper, pretty much everything associated with them is also adorable. So it’s not that hard to take a stroll down a baby aisle in any store and come out with a cart full of unnecessary yet totally adorable items.
Not only is that wasted money but it’s also cluttering up your home. Resist the urge to give in and buy all the precious things you see. Take a step back and consider their usefulness. What can it be used for? Can it serve more than one purpose? How often will you actually use it?
Take some time to go online (if it’s something you saw in a store) and look at reviews. Ask other moms if they used it and what they thought of it.
Many times you’ll end up discovering that despite its cuteness, the item itself isn’t that useful or doesn’t work at all (or for long).
Ask other moms what they really used vs. what everyone says to get
Changing tables, wipes warmers, automatic formula dispensers… there are tons of baby products out there. All of them claim to be necessary and plenty of people will tell you to get them. But most of the people who tell you to get them aren’t currently raising a baby or living in your space.
Instead of going with all the expert recommendations or people who are just repeating what the experts recommend, ask other moms what they really used. For example, I never had a changing table, wipes warmer, or automatic formula dispenser. I sat on the floor to change my kid. I live in Florida so cold days were very rare — and a cold wipe often felt pretty good on a hot hiney during the summer. And while an automatic formula dispenser might have been handy, I was perfectly capable of measuring and mixing formula myself.
Ask the moms around you what they used and what was never or rarely used. Find out what seasons their babies were born in too, because that might make a difference depending on where you live. For example, a winter baby might need a wipes warmer in a state like Michigan or a Canadian province.
Buy or borrow used when you can
There are some things you’ll want to get new; pacifiers and car seats are just a couple of examples. But there are plenty of things that you can get secondhand and they’ll be just as good as brand new.
Clothes, toys, books, baby furniture, and even some baby bottles can all be bought used. You’ll want to look them all over carefully first, of course, to make sure they’re good quality and still in useable condition. But if they are, you can buy them used at a fraction of the cost of new.
Consider borrowing some items as well. While you’ll need a crib and a car seat, for example, some babies are not fans of swings or bouncy seats. If you borrow these items first, and it turns out your baby doesn’t like it, you can give it back and you’ve saved yourself the money you would have spent on the swing or seat — and the hassle of selling the unused item.
There is no way to get around spending money to expand your family. But when you plan ahead, you can make that expense a little easier to bear. By spreading it out, saving money in advance, and skipping unnecessary purchases, you can spend a little less and make the weight of the financial load a little easier to bear.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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