The Baby Budget
You’re pregnant, congratulations! Soon after the excitement comes the thought hits you: Can I afford this baby? You might want to consider the baby budget.
What is your dream luxury item? Designer shoes, a sportscar… how about a baby? She will be your pride and joy, but she certainly comes with a hefty price tag. According to the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income, two-parent family averages around $226,920. Just one year of child-rearing expense can cost as much as $13,830 for a child in a two-child, married-couple family in the middle-income group. Time for a baby budget.
So money management should be one of the first lessons for parents, well before baby makes his or her appearance in the world. The good news is that the financial impact of children can be reduced by planning a baby budget.
Make A Plan
Repeat after me: “Budget is not a dirty word.” Figure out how much you are and should be spending on basics like housing, food, transportation, clothing, healthcare and childcare. The simple aim of the game is that your household income is greater than your expenses. Do this however works for you; paper and pen, spreadsheets or a free online money manager tool or app such as money.strands.com or mint.com.
Think Before You Shop
When pregnant don’t show your excitement by shopping—you will probably get gifts and hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. Don’t overdo it before they get the chance to treat you! Don’t be afraid to ask to borrow friends’ baby equipment until you find something in your price range or on sale. If you do buy new, keep the products’ boxes so you can try and sell them on when baby is done with them.
Help both you and your friends save by turning your baby shower into a swap shop: get your friends to bring adult’s and children’s books, DVDs, clothes and accessories and hopefully everyone will leave with something they want! Take anything left over to a local charity shop or post on Freecycle.org.
If you’re in a favorite shop, facing the most beautiful shoes known to womankind, stop and ask yourself a few questions. Do I need these? Can I afford them? Have I shopped around for the best deal?
Family Finance Basics
Save, save, save!
It’s never too early to start saving for childcare. Compare rates on savings accounts and financial products just as you would for any other purchase then get into the habit of putting something aside every month, however small.
Be a savvy shopper
If you decide to use disposable diapers, buy them in bulk and sign up for newsletters from the larger diaper companies for discounts and loyalty rewards.
It’s as bad for your bank balance as it is for your health. Don’t believe it? Calculate the cost of your habit here.
Beware of credit cards
Credit cards may lead to hefty interest charges and ultimately debt. If you do need one, plan your payments and try to pay off as much as possible as soon as possible to avoid interest and late fees.
Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs, which use about 75 percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer. To further cut your electricity bill, lower your lights if you have dimmer switches and remember to turn off lights when they’re not needed.
Cooking at home is cheaper than fast food and most likely much healthier as well. Yes, cooking takes more effort but once you have a few recipes up your sleeve, it doesn’t have to take longer. With a bit of practice a homemade meal of stir-fry, vegetable pasta or soup can be ready in 30 minutes or less. Plan your meals and use leftovers the next day to save on your grocery bill.
Learn to Say No
Don’t give in to whining; your kids don’t need every chocolate/toy/gadget they ask for. Save big treats for Christmas and birthdays and encourage them to save up their own money for things they really want. It can be their own first valuable money management lesson.
If your finances are beyond the help of these simple ideas, the following professionals can help.
- The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, nfcc.org, 800-388-2227
- Free Money Smart program fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart
- Online resources such as budgeting worksheets and advice mymoney.gov
- Credit Counseling Help, credithelp4u.org, 866-703-8787