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Unexpected Ways Having a Baby Changed Our Budget

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Our baby girl turned one month old last week, and I finally had a chance to sit down and look at how our budget has changed since then. There were several changes I expected, but I also noticed a few changes that I didn’t necessarily expect. For example, you expect there to be a high cost of delivering a baby. But you might not consider how your utility bill might be affected by having a baby.

Unexpected Ways Having a Baby Changed Our Budget

Utilities. My wife is now a stay at home mom, so there is someone at home almost 24 hours a day. Before we had our child, we were both out of the house during the traditional 8-5 work day – which meant we could use our programmable thermostat to control the temperature and save money. Now that someone is home all day, we need to leave the thermostat at a more comfortable setting during the day time. The weather has been nice so far this summer, but I know we will notice a big change over the course of the year (and years to come). The extra 9 – 10 hours per day that we will need to run the AC or heater will likely add about 30-40% on our annual bill.

Groceries. My wife and I still prepare the vast majority of our meals at home, but we have had a few grocery expenses pop up that we didn’t have before. My wife has always been a big fan of organics, but it seems like the habit has shifted into overdrive since our baby arrived (our baby is primarily breast fed, though we supplement with formula on occasion). Vitamins, formula, and convenience foods such as pre-sliced vegetables and other items have added to the bill.

Medical. This is our first child, so we had to increase our insurance to the family plan. The additional $100 every two weeks was expected, but it is difficult to plan for each pediatrician visit, medication, and other miscellaneous medical expenses that pop up.

Convenience. Time has become one of the most valuable commodities in our household (slightly behind sleep). Because time has become so valuable to us, I’ve found myself more inclined to make purchases based on convenience. For example, buying items based on proximity in lieu of driving to the next store, buying convenience items, not putting as much research into smaller purchases, etc.

Miscellaneous baby expenses. My wife and I left a lot of things off our baby registry so we could determine which items we actually needed instead of rushing out and buying everything. That turned out to be a good decision as we live in a relatively small house and don’t have a lot of room for extras. But that also means we have had to go out and buy quite a few items. Some of these are planned, such as diapers and wipes, but others are unplanned.

I wouldn’t change any of it

The purpose of this article isn’t to complain, but to share this information with other parents who are expecting their first child. My best advice is to plan for a lot of unexpected expenses the first couple months. I’m sure quite a few expenses will pop up!

Do you know of other items I missed, or should expect in the near future?


Published or updated December 8, 2010.
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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristen

I’ll be in the same boat in about 10 weeks! My husband wants to look at a new car for me. I convinced him to wait until after the baby is born so we can see what it does to our budget. I think my husband is underestimating what this baby is actually going to cost.

You mentioned that some of the miscellaneous expenses you’ve had were unplanned? Any advice as to what unexpected things we might need?

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2 Ryan

We need a new car as well – we have a Mazda 3 (size of a Civic) and a 2 door Accord. We fit now, but it won’t be long before we need something bigger for long trips or when we need to haul more items.

Miscellaneous expenses… So far there has been a lot of trial and error with us. So we went out and bought a few things to see if they would work. A baby swing, different baby carriers (a sling and a Moby Wrap), different bottles, batteries (seems like all baby toys take batteries), etc.

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3 Keith Morris

Congrats on the baby!

My wife and I were just discussing making our own baby food when we have a child. Do you have any advice like this on ways to cut back expenses?

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4 Ryan

Thanks, Keith. We haven’t reached the solid food stage, but we have discussed purchasing a food processor and making our own baby food – that way we can save money and control the ingredients. I also highly recommend rechargeable batteries. It seems like few baby toys come with electrical adapters, and many take D batteries. You’ll spend more up front on the charger and batteries, but you will save a lot of money if you use toys that require batteries.

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5 Kacie

Don’t worry — you’re still getting adjusted to life with a new person in your house. The first months are hard.

Your wife won’t be home 24/7 for much longer (hopefully!) as she gets more comfortable with going out with your baby. Playdates, shopping, libraries, parks, etc. It’s good for both of them!

Also, do you have a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account? You can fund these with pre-tax dollars, and it helps take the bite out of those doctor’s visits and miscellaneous medical expenses.

Please encourage your wife to keep up with the breastfeeding as long as it works for her. The first month is DEFINITELY the hardest, in my opinion. Cut back on formula (or eliminate it) if at all possible, and you’ll really save a ton of money.

As your baby gets older, she won’t need to nurse nearly as often and it really does become more convenient than messing with bottles.

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6 Ryan

Kacie, we rarely use baby formula – so far we have only used it in the middle of the night so I could give my wife a break and let her sleep a few hours. I bought a small can about 10 days ago and we have used about a third of it. Our plan is to try and stick with breast feeding as long as possible, then try to make our own baby food with vegetables and a food processor when it’s time to switch to solids.

My wife is becoming more comfortable with the idea of getting out of the house, but so far it has been a struggle just keeping up with daily activities. Things are improving though, and I’m sure it won’t be long before we are in a regular schedule. :-)

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7 Wojciech @ Fiscal Fizzle

We are getting ready for a January delivery, and this list is priceless.

Of particular interest is the medical item, which for us has been a nightmare to try to figure out.

I know that in the end, I will end up paying for whatever I’m supposed to pay, but at least it would be nice to know in advance the total bill with deductibles and co-pays and such.

We’re considering a separate insurance policy for the baby as well, which may throw in some interesting curveballs too…

Sounds like you guys are having a blast! Awesome.

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8 Ryan

Congrats!!! As for medical, I’m not sure how to plan, other than to look at your insurance options to determine how much your copays will be, and how much it will add to your monthly insurance payments. I don’t think there is a way to determine how often you will visit the doctor – I’m sure it varies by child.

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9 Four Pillars

I hear you on the “time” factor – trust me it just gets worse and worse. Eventually you’ll be willing to pay any amount just to “get it done” or get the item purchased or whatever…time is worth big $$ when you don’t have enough.

I have to say that in my case, having kids probably saved me money since I don’t go out to expensive bars/restaurants, sporting events like I used to… :)

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10 RB @ RetireBy30RetireBy40

Ryan – First of, a big congrats on your baby turning one month old! Must have been an exciting doozy of a month!

Thanks for sharing your tips. Several people have told me that a child costs about $1 million if you pay for everything until they graduate college. Seems high to me, but maybe, with the way tuition, food, and everything is going.

What are your thoughts on how much extra you will be to spend the first year, and onwards on a child?

You’re right, time becomes the most important thing!

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11 Hannah

By six months or so babies can eat table food, mashed with a fork. While some people like the convenience of prepared baby food, if you already eat healthy home-cooked food your baby can eat the meat, vegetables, and grains that you normally do without running them through the food processor. You do need to feed the baby with a spoon for a couple of weeks, but after that you can put cut up soft foods on the high chair tray and baby will have fun. Expect a mess for a bit but that stage passes quickly too. And always keep an eye on baby while s/he is eating. Babies love frozen peas, sticky cooked oatmeal, chunks of chicken, pears, melons, cooked carrots, potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, squash, etc. They like to chew on a piece of whole-wheat toast too.
Once you have adjusted to life with the baby you may find that you can cut back on some of the extra conveniences.

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12 Ryan

RB, Some projections put college tuition at $250,000 by the time today’s newborns reach college age, so $1M may not be far off – depending inflation and other factors…. as for how much it will cost the first year, and onwards? I have no idea!

Hannah, Thanks for the tips. We’ve got a few months before we reach that stage, and we plan on doing more reading and research before we get there. But I can tell you that my wife wants a food processor anyway. ;)

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13 Hannah

Oh, I love my food processor and use it for salads, cooking and baking. Just not for baby food.

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14 RB @ RichBy30RetireBy40

Sounds good Ryan. Do let us a know in a year’s time how much was spent on a baby from the medical costs, to food, clothing, and shelter.

I think that would be a fascinating post!

RB

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15 Katie

Congrats on the first month!

I think it is great that you didn’t buy everything associated with babies before the baby was born. It allows you to see what items really will work for your child and leaves a lot of flexibility in your budget.

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16 Kreestee

The best thing I did before we had our baby was call our insurance company and find out what we would be expected to pay based on a few different scenarios (normal birth / c-section ). They told us what our deductible was, what they paid for wellness visits (my prenatal appts and our baby’s monthly visits), and that we would be responsible for paying 80% of the ‘allowable cost.’ I was able to take those rough estimates, add 10% to it for safety and get my Flexible Spending Account revved up with pre-tax dollars :) Also, having a baby qualifies as a life-changing event so if you missed out on getting your FSA started now you can always do it within 30 days of your baby’s birth. We ended up adding $700 to ours to cover the remainder of bills and allow my husband and I to get new glasses/contacts this year.

Our baby just celebrated her 3 month birthday and we’re *still* getting the various medical bills in (hospital / on staff pediatrician / my doctor / anasthesiologist from the C-section, etc – over $50,000 in all before the insurance paid their part). I’m glad I can just submit those bills and have them direct deposited into our account from our FSA provider and then just pay them.

The utility bill caught me at first when I stayed home for 8 weeks with the baby, too. Luckily we’re having the second coolest July on record for Central Ohio so it could have been much MUCH worse. One thing I have to steel myself against is my husband always wanting to buy “this outfit” and “that toy” for our daughter. I have a set weekly budget for her needs and make him stick to it. It’s not always easy, especially when you see a sleeper that has bunny slippers attached to the feet *sigh*.

I’ve had great success with finding gently used clothes at local Goodwill stores. They’re cheaper than a secondhand childrens store – usually $.99/per piece or $2.99 (max) for a full outfit. I’ve been surfing Craigslist and found bins of baby clothes for certain sizes for as low as $20. Onesies are invaluable!

Another thing that hit our budget was that we bought a 2 year membership to the zoo (rated #1 in the country, btw). Granted, she’s not going to enjoy the zoo at 3 months old, but my husband and I are trying to go once every two weeks and it’s free past the initial investment. Walking for four hours around the zoo is *awesome* exercise that we might not get otherwise so I view it as an investment in our health. We also got the option where we can take 2 people with us so it’s a fun outing for the grandparents as well and much cheaper than a gym membership.

Congrats on the baby – believe me, it gets easier. Luckily, Mal is sleeping through the night and is at the point where she’s starting to think about rolling over. I remember thinking “What did we get ourselves into!?” those first few weeks, but amd a happy and confident parent now.

Hope this helps!

~k

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17 Ryan

It does help, Kreestee. Thanks! We’ve been good avoiding most expenses, but there will always be things you can’t quite plan for. This summer has been amazing as far as temperatures go. We were able to keep our windows open at night until early July when it warmed up a bit and became too humid to open them.

Right now we have plenty of clothes for Emma, but we will be sure to check out Goodwill, Craig’s List, and yard sales when we need larger clothes.

Thanks for the encouragement. :-)

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18 ChristianPF

Ryan – good points. As we are getting nearer to having our first I have been trying to mentally prepare for what these expenses will be. I hadn’t thought about some of these, so thanks for sharing!

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19 Ryan

Don’t underestimate batteries… swings, bouncy chairs, baby monitors, and other toys all require batteries. I recommend rechargeables… higher up front cost, but better long term savings. Plus, they are better for the environment. :-)

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20 Abby

Ditto what Hannah said – while I do love our food processor, it isn’t worth buying one just for baby. (And we actually bought a very inexpensive mini-size – partially for storage reasons, partially because if you’re blending up, say, one sweet potato or one meal’s worth of pesto, there’s not much point in having the bigger size.)

Here’s an unexpected expense some might face – travel! It gets you in two ways. First, you might find that you really need to go see far-flung relatives more often. (I had two elderly grandmothers when our firstborn arrived nearly five years ago. Those visits – 5 hours and 7 plus hours – were mandatory.) Others will come visit you, but if you live some distance from your hometown, it often just makes sense for you to do the traveling. And grandparents might wax nostalgic to have little feet in the family homestead again.

But it can also increase the costs of travel you’d regularly plan. Instead of driving six hours straight, splitting the trip, my husband and I found that we really had to plan to stay overnight at the midpoint. I was too exhausted from middle-of-the-night feedings to be a reliable driver at night; we had to stop more often to attend our kids’ needs; we wanted to maximize our kids’ awake time with cousins/grandparents/friends. So instead of sucking up the fatigue associated with driving straight, we often find that we’re booking hotel rooms. (Babies might sleep straight through – or not – but toddlers? They can bring on a serious meltdown if confined too long.) And flying light is a thing of the past, so you might also find yourself hit with additional luggage charges on a flight. (We’ve managed to sidestep those thus far – but we’ll see.)

Again, let me add my congratulations – they’re worth every nickel! But the travel expenses? They surprised me.

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21 Ryan

Abby, Thanks for the comment! My wife has wanted a food processor for a long time, so we wouldn’t buy it only for baby food. She enjoys cooking, so I am sure it would get plenty of use.

I didn’t think about travel, but you have a great point. I know for certain it will take a lot more time!

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22 DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad

During the last month, my wife and I had the opposite happen. The step kids were up with their dad for a month and my kids were only here two weekends. The results:

Lower electric bill
Only four loads of laundry for the month as opposed to three per week
Less garbage
Lower food bills, etc.

We loved it– but the party ended today . . . they’re baaack!

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23 Zengirl

Congratulations!!! I agree, some costs will be higher, but other costs will decrease.

I too am, SAHM of 2 small kids under 4, we do use light, internet, ac/heater (based on season) and food like crazy but our other costs are down. I have 5 month old and when you breastfeed, woman tend to eat and drink (water) a lot, and still able to lose weight too.

Life will get easier in a few short weeks and your wife can go outside more often. Check out local library for free story time specially for baby in lap, park, mommy’s club all will keep her busy when she is ready to go out.

I am still more comfortable at home, I am not worrying about clean house and work as babies do grow up so fast, believe me. Congratulations again.

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24 spaces

In a blog about frugality, featured in a festival about frugality (which is how I got here), I’m surprised to see a post about baby expenses that doesn’t talk about using cloth diapers (and wipes). I cloth diaper my child, and it is soooo easy and cheap. We sampled the expensive, fancy cloth diapers that are available, but my spouse and I both prefer prefolds and covers, which are easy to use, capable of being abused, and far, far cheaper than disposables. My daughter is about 5 months now, and her small-sized diapers, covers and wipes cost us about $125, and will last her for at least 8 months of diapering. And I bought everything new; it costs even less if you buy second hand diapers.

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25 Ryan

Spaces, My wife and I plan on using cloth diapers, but our baby was a preemie, and most of the cloth diapers were too big for her. She has grown quite a bit, so we plan on shopping for different cloth diapers in the near future. Our plan is to use them as often as possible, while keeping in mind that we may need to use disposables when we travel or are out and about. Overall, though, we love the idea of saving money and leaving a smaller environmental footprint. I’ll be sure to write an article about it after we get used to using cloth diapers and I can write about which brands I prefer and why.

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26 Ed

Oh man bills, I’m sure by now your baby is 1 year old now, but in my experience the bills just keep getting higher the older they get. Hope you are enjoying father hood, it’s a blast.

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27 Ryan

It is a blast. I love it. :)

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