Congratulations, you have a baby arriving into your life. Now how in the world are you going to afford your tiny growing little human? There are 40 (or less) weeks ahead of you that seem both impossibly long and terrifyingly short. As I write this I have roughly 11 weeks left to figure out how to afford my little bundle. While I have been busy adding adorable outfits and shiny fun contraptions to my baby registry, my husband has been endlessly updating a spreadsheet to factor in things such as medical bills, reduced parental leave pay, day care, baby gear, and generally all the funds that will be needed to expand our family.
The wonderful news is with proper planning and preparation you can potentially reduce some of the associated stress that may be pending regarding your little one. Below are 10 helpful measures to take before the baby arrives-because let’s be honest pregnancy is actually 10 months!
Know your options- Look into your options regarding parental leave as soon as possible. Are you entitled to benefits from your company or the state? What will your salary look like during this time? This is currently a topic being highly debated by congress. I believe almost anyone welcoming a child into their life would agree that unless you are fortunate enough to work for a company with a generous policy, leave is often very limited and you will likely not be receiving your full salary. Do you qualify for Family Medical Leave Act benefits? Can you combine these with benefits from your company? Does your partner qualify for FMLA? If you can get answers to these questions early on this will help you plan and prepare. My suggestion is to come up with the exact dollar amount you will receive during each week of your leave to help with budgeting.
Set up your childcare plans- I highly recommend getting a sense of the cost of childcare during pregnancy. Call daycares, find out the going rates for in home childcare in your area, talk to Mom’s who have kids. Ask about dependent care flexible spending accounts. Also, do not forget about backup childcare. There will be times you need to budget for a babysitter. Hopefully fun things like date night are in your future, or there may be times when your child is sick and cannot attend daycare, or you just need to run some errands! Get an idea of how much babysitting costs in your area. If you know the cost of each scenario it can help you decide what the most logical financial plan for your family is.
Save- the more you can save in preparation for the baby the better shape you will be in before the baby arrives. For instance, if you figure out you will end up with 70% of your full salary see if you can set aside 30% of your monthly income leading up to the baby. This will also help to get you more comfortable with your new ‘normal’ income.
Figure out a budget for baby gear- wants versus needs. Do your really need a $1,200 stroller system or is it just a want? With so many options and advertisements constantly being thrown at you (i.e. my entire Instagram feed) it is hard not to get caught up in the frenzy. The baby does not know what brand of car seat they have. Weigh out safety concerns and features versus affordability. You are not doing your family any favors by going into debt over a crib.
Look for deals- if you feel you cannot live without a certain stroller brand but it is not in the budget, you may be able to get it second-hand. Babies outgrow things so quickly and often you can get amazing deals that may be within your price range on something that was only gently used. There are several sights like Stork Exchange, Goodbye baby gear that specialize in this. Facebook marketplace is also a great resource.
Do not feel you need to get everything at once- babies do not need everything when they are first born. Talk to other parents and find out what they really used in the first 3 months. This may make things seem less overwhelming and you can likely purchase just the essentials.
Get an idea of pricing- How much are diapers anyway? I was recently shocked by the price of formula and diapers. I recommend getting an idea of how much things like this cost during pregnancy so it will not be an unknown. These items can also be bought in bulk; think Costco, Sam’s Club etc. which can be a tremendous savings.
Make a registry- people are amazingly generous and excited for tiny little humans. They often want to celebrate and buy you gifts. Creating a registry is a very practical way to list out items you need, keep track and allow people to help.
Remember how fast they grow- people are constantly telling me how quickly babies grow out of clothes, gear etc. Think about what you want to put money into. Make a realistic plan for clothing and other items like shoes and toys and do not feel you must outfit your baby in designer gear if you cannot afford it.
Figure out health insurance- I suggest reviewing every plan you have available to you. In my case it was comparing my employers plan versus my husbands for benefits within pregnancy and pricing of family plans. How much of your pre-natal care is covered? What will the actual cost of delivery be? Knowing the cost of these upcoming expenses was very helpful. If you use the marketplace for insurance you can also compare costs there. Again, this takes out the unknown and gives you a value you can use to budget.
Breathe-at the end of the day your baby needs very little besides love. Go easy on yourself and try not to let the financial commitment overwhelm you. Getting a realistic idea of how much things cost and making a plan is truly the best way to prepare and minimize stress.