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How to Afford a Baby in the U.S. Today

Katlyn Joy |27, August 2014


Starting a family takes careful consideration on the timing. Are we ready? Is this the right moment in our lives, in our careers for this big jump? One of the biggest concerns about having a baby is simply whether or not you can afford it.

In today's economy, with jobs scarce, and not as secure as they use to be, this alone can scare many couples into choosing not to conceive. However, if you ask anyone with a family, and they'll tell you that no one can ever truly be prepared for parenthood or able to afford it. But somehow, everyone manages.

According to 2010 statistics from the US Department of Agriculture, a middle income family can anticipate a 6, 920 outlay of cash to raise a child, and this doesn't include college costs. However, there is a huge range of spending depending on family income, spending, state of residence, and priorities. A family with a modest one-income producer who has little debt and is notably frugal will spend far less than an upper-middle class family with a more spendthrift lifestyle in a higher cost city.

How are you to plan, realistically, for a new baby?

Investigate costs you know you will have.

Find out about your medical costs associated with giving birth at the hospital you'd choose. Know what you plan to do for childcare and when? Get the numbers. What are your options at work? Do you get paid maternity and paternity leave? If not, how long would you like to take off from work after baby? Will you need to live on one income for awhile? Do some checking on diapering costs, depending on your preferences. Talk to other parents about anticipated costs, things you know are non-negotiables for your family.

Learn what baby items you need, and what you can skip.

Read up on baby gear, and talk to friends. While you're at it, put the word out about things you'd appreciate being passed along to you. Do you have friends who have a toddler? Would they have a baby swing in storage or a pack and play you could borrow? Does your sister-in-law who is roughly the same size as you have a good set of maternity clothes you could borrow? Is a bottle warmer a waste of money? How about a baby monitor with camera?

Make a calendar of what you'll need to buy, and when.

You don't have to have every item on hand at birth. For instance, you won't use a stroller for a few months if you have a carrier. You won't need a high chair for at least six months, either. Get an idea of what you'll need when, so you can set a budget timeline.

Use your baby registry wisely.

Don't go crazy registering for that adorable nursery set, complete with curtains and throw rug. Find out what you'll be borrowing and focus on big ticket items. Lots of times groups of people will go in together to purchase more costly items such as cribs and such. While it may not be the most glamorous or fun baby gift, you should focus on the most necessary. Diapers and wipes will be your biggest and longest lasting expense for bambinos. Maybe ask for a gift card to use at your favorite low-cost retailer. Get a variety of diaper sizes and remember babies don't stay in newborns for long at all.

Plan for less anticipated, but likely expenses associated with having a new baby.

Unless you have a big budget for a personal trainer and chef, you will likely be in between maternity sizes and pre-baby sizes for awhile. You'll need some new clothes to wear in the meantime. When friends ask how they can help, request help with meals. You will appreciate gifts of meals more than you can imagine. However, eventually the meal chain dries up and it's time for your family to resume meal planning. Expect pizza and Chinese food to sound pretty darn good lots of nights, so budget for delivery and take-out.

How to cut costs?

Remember the upside: your baby's needs will be fairly simple, and the next one won't cost you nearly as much with plenty of hand-me-downs available. Babies need a place to sleep, a car seat, diapers, and to be fed. If you breastfeed, you just cut your costs drastically for the first year. If you make your own baby food, buy discount diapers, and skimp and save, you just saved a ton again!

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