How to Budget for a Baby

By Kim Franke-Folstad · May 01, 2023 · 6 minute read

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How to Budget for a Baby

Having a baby can fill your house with love. It also can take a toll on your finances.

And you can expect the costs to keep growing right along with your baby. In fact, according to a 2022 estimate, it costs more than $18,000 a year to raise a child through age 17.

That means you’ll have to reconfigure your household budget more than a few times through the years. If you break down the process and do a little at a time, it can make the task less daunting.

Read on for tips on getting started with the budgeting-for-baby process.

Assessing Your Income

As you create your budget, begin by looking at your household income after taxes and other deductions come out of your paycheck each month. That’s the money you have to work with, not the gross amount. Also, if one parent plans to stay home with the baby full- or part-time, plan your budgeting accordingly. Be sure to consider the loss of any non-cash forms of employee compensation, such as insurance and retirement contributions.

Looking at Your Current Expenses

Some things won’t change at all, but there may be costs that will go down or go away after you have the baby. For example, the amount you spend on movies, dinners out, and travel might be reduced for a while.

If one parent decides to stop working, their wardrobe budget might drop. But you’ll also be adding plenty of expenses. And then there are some forgotten expenses, like maintenance for your home, yard and car, you’ll need to factor in.

This is a good time to identify your priorities and be prepared to make some trade-offs to curb spending. For instance, can you live without some of those streaming subscription services? Can you make coffee at home instead of going out?

Planning Ahead For Recurring New Expenses

Child Care

Typically, child care is the biggest ongoing expense for a family with a new baby. The cost will vary depending on where you live, the type of care you choose, and whether you need part-time or full-time care, but according to the Care.com 2022 Cost of Care Survey, 51% of families now spend 20% or more of their annual household income on child care.

The survey found national averages ranged from $226 per week for a child-care center to $694 for a full-time nanny.

Feeding

Even if you plan to nurse the baby, you’ll need to prepare for the possibility that breastfeeding might not work out and formula could become a regular expense. The average cost of powdered formula is about $400 to $800 a month.

When your baby starts on solid foods, typically at about 4 to 6 months old, you’re likely looking at a cost of $98 to $230 a month.

Diapers

The average baby uses 2,500 to 3,000 diapers in the first year. That could add up to about $960 a year in disposable diapers.

House and Car

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have an extra room in your home that’s ready to be transformed into a nursery. And maybe a baby car seat will fit into your current ride without a struggle.

But if that’s not the case, and you have to make some adjustments for your growing family, you may have to add more expensive house or car payments to your get-ready-for-baby budget.

Recommended: How to Manage Your Money Better

Miscellaneous Expenses

You’ll need to furnish a nursery for your baby, which can range from several hundred to several thousands of dollars. You’ll also need a car seat; stroller; high chair; toys and books; pacifiers, tiny outfits and socks; lotions, shampoos, and creams — the list goes on and on. This is where you can prioritize.

You may get some of these items at your baby shower, and friends and family might supply you with some hand-me-downs, which will help save money on clothes and cut costs. But there will still be plenty of items you’ll need to buy.

Preparing for Some Upfront Costs

Depending on your insurance coverage, you could be going home from the hospital with a bundle of joy and a bundle of bills. Check your health insurance plan to gauge what your costs could be. To give you a sense, many new parents end up paying about $3,000 in out -of-pocket costs for pregnancy and delivery.

The amount of your hospital bill will depend on a lot of factors, including the part of the country in which you live, the size and location of the hospital, the length of your stay, and how much extra care you or your baby might require.

You’ll also need some starter equipment — a crib, changing table, dresser, and a baby monitor, for instance.

Smaller ticket items include a diaper bag and Diaper Genie, a baby bathtub, bedding, and towels. Here’s another place where hand-me-downs and resale shops can help you save.

Recommended: 10 Most Common Budgeting Mistakes

Ready, Set, Transition

Remember those current expenses you thought about letting go of, like fancy coffees and some streaming services? You don’t have to wait until the baby arrives to make changes. You might want to practice by giving your new budget a test run before your delivery date.

To take it a step further, if one parent plans to quit working, even for a short while, you could start living on just one salary a few months early and put the extra income into an emergency fund. That money could come in handy later when unexpected expenses crop up.

Recommended: 5 Ways to Achieve Financial Security

Overwhelmed? Take Baby Steps

Preparing for a new baby, especially your first, can be exciting. It also can be a little overwhelming.

Doing a few breathing exercises may help reduce any financial stress you’re feeling as you’re working on your budget. Starting now with baby steps could help get you on track well before your little one arrives.

3 Money Tips

  1. If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.
  2. If you’re creating a budget, try the 50/30/20 budget rule. Allocate 50% of your after-tax income to the “needs” of life, like living expenses and debt. Spend 30% on wants, and then save the remaining 20% towards saving for your long-term goals.
  3. If you’re faced with debt and wondering which kind to pay off first, it can be smart to prioritize high-interest debt first. For many people, this means their credit card debt; rates have recently been climbing into the double-digit range, so try to eliminate that ASAP.
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