Having a baby costs a lot of money. Even if your friends and family show up with loads of gifts at your baby shower, you'll still be left footing a lot of the expenses on your own. As a new parent, planning ahead and preparing for many of those expenses can make having a baby a lot easier on your wallet.
It's hard to believe you'll be shelling out hundreds of dollars for items designed to contain baby's poo. Before your little one arrives, you'll want to weigh the cost of items such as cloth diapers versus disposable diapers and store-bought versus homemade wipes. According to Consumer Reports, those parents opting to use disposable diapers can count on spending $1,500 to $2,000 over the first few years of baby's life. Even the cost of cloth diapers can add up if you choose to buy the most expensive brands of cloth diapers. Whatever you decide, include diapers in your monthly budget and watch for coupons and sales to help save some money.
Filling the Stomach
If you opt to breastfeed, you won't have to worry about the cost of formula, but you will want to consider purchasing a quality breast pump and some compatible bottles, which could run you a couple hundred dollars. Should baby need to use formula as a supplement or have trouble breastfeeding, the Breast Feeding Center of Ann Arbor notes that the cost could add up to nearly $100 per month. Once baby gets ready to try solid foods, you'll also have the added expense of buying prepared baby food, but you can keep that cost to a minimum by using a blender or food processor to prepare your own.
Keeping Baby Safe
Even if baby can't move around, you still need to think about baby-proofing your house. Plan on spending up to $100 -- or more, depending on the size and layout of your house -- for buying outlet covers, baby gates, cabinet locks and other safety gadgets. You'll also need a quality car seat to keep baby safe in the car, which could add another $100 or so to the first-year costs.
Finding Quality Care
According to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, the average cost of full-time daycare is around $972 per month, but in some areas you can find childcare for as little as $300 per month or as high as $1,500 per month. If you have the ability to be a stay-at-home parent and don't have family members or friends willing to babysit for free, you still need to plan for the occasional babysitter. While you may have babysat for a few bucks an hour when you were a teenager, today's teenagers expect a lot more, with the average cost for a sitter falling at around $12.75 per hour.
Keeping Baby Clothed
It's hard to resist all of the cute baby clothes you see in stores, so before your little one comes you need to start making a plan for how much you're allowed to spend on baby fashion. Remember that babies tend to grow quickly too, so if you break the bank on your newborn, you may not have as much to spend as she gets older. While whole outfits might be tempting, you can save money by looking for one-piece garments, sleepers and pieces you can mix and match. To keep the budget down, you might also want to consider buying used -- check out buy/sell/trade groups and special used baby sales online and in your community to find high-quality used duds.
Loading Up on Gear
From changing tables and bath tubs, to cribs and strollers, babies need a lot of stuff. Don't forget the play pen if you plan on traveling with baby or the special jogging stroller if you want to keep up with your daily exercise routine. You might also want to pick up a baby carrier, a high chair and some fun baby toys. While you probably want to buy a new car seat and a new crib, many of the other items can be purchased used to help save money. However, you should always check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure the product has not been recalled and that it meets all current safety requirements.
Of course you can't forget about yourself either. "It might feel selfish to funnel money into something for you, rather than for your child, but your kids need you to be financially secure first and foremost," say Emily Guy Birken, author of "The Five Years Before You Retire." She suggests making your retirement account, not a college-savings plan, your first priority. And if you plan on staying at home, you still need to prepare for the worst. "All of the unpaid work that you do -- from childcare to cleaning to cooking -- will still need to get done if something should happen to you. So don’t neglect your life insurance just because your contribution to the family is not financial."