If you’re fortunate enough to get some paid time off of work, that doesn’t mean you have nothing to think about when it comes to your life after baby. As your family grows, so do your expenses. Therefore, you may want to make some plans and changes now for your family and child’s longer-term financial health.
The Costs of Having A Baby
According to Stacey Bradford, author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents, the average family will spend between $11,000 and $16,000 on their baby during their first year of life and more than $200,000 before their child’s 18th birthday.
Where does the money go? Between diapers, baby clothing, bedding, a car seat and formula or food-related expenses alone, you start to get the idea. And that’s not even including bigger ticket items, such as moving into a larger apartment or home, or the costs of outfitting a new nursery or buying a stroller. Of course, the biggest cost of all for most working parents is the cost of childcare.
Financial advisor Nicole Stokes says that whatever you choose to do — nanny, daycare or having one partner stay at home — “puts a dent in your wallet.” While childcare costs will vary dramatically across the country depending on where you live, the average weekly expenditure for childcare for one child ranges from approximately $200 per week at a family child care center to $550 per week for a nanny. Of course, if one partner stays at home, you don’t incur childcare expenses, per se, but you experience a reduction in family income.
Maybe you’re financially very organized, and maybe this is the kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for. Either way, many people find themselves budgeting differently after having a baby. Since your expenses have suddenly gone up, but your income has likely not, you’ve got extra reason to examine your monthly inflows and outflows.
Take a close look at how much a month you spend on discretionary items if you realize you’re going to now have to cut back. In some areas, you may actually discover that your costs go down. For example, if you’re used to going on long weekends away with your partner or having a lot of dinners out on the town, you may find that it becomes a lot harder to get away after the baby arrives.
If you’re like most new parents, your expenses for dining out and entertainment will go down naturally and you’ll be able to save money on home-cooked meals (cooked in bulk and frozen, no less) and staying in for Netflix (if you can stay awake through a movie, that is). In short, your new lifestyle will create some changes and natural savings.
For example, many new parents simply go out less, so you may find yourself spending less on transportation and related expenses (read: how many recent post-partum moms really want to be trying to fit into a lot of new Friday night outfits)? Breastfeeding moms also don’t typically end up spending a lot of money on their bar tabs.
Hand-me-downs for baby-related furniture and baby clothes from friends can also help a lot. While it’s perfectly fine to buy brand new, adorable baby outfits, you’ll soon realize that babies literally need new clothes every four to five months because they’re growing so fast. The same is true of certain toys, so anything you can get from friends who have graduated from the baby years can help reduce your expenses. Typically, most of them will want to get rid of all the plastic at home that’s been accumulating. Don’t be shy about asking because they’ll think you’re doing them a favor!
Trying To Make More Money (Or At Least Your Fair Share)
So far we’ve focused mostly on the expense side of things in your budget because most people’s incomes don’t go up after having a baby. That said, you or your partner can of course take on a side-hustle or additional hours to supplement your income.
We don’t recommend doing this immediately after having a baby unless you absolutely have no choice. It’s a big deal, and a lot of work to have (and take care of) a newborn. Even if you can give yourselves a few weeks as a family to acclimate, and get by with a little less money for just that time, you’ll be better educated about the trade-offs and in a position to make a more informed, longer-term decision later.
The fact that money becomes more important to your family’s growing needs is one reason why mommy-tracking and the gender pay gap for mothers is especially distressing. Be sure you’re paid fairly at work when it comes to your bonus and salary raises — it was always important, but now you’re fighting on behalf of your family!