My wife and I welcomed our son into the world late last year. We knew that it would be a life-changing event — and we knew that it would change our finances, too. After all, adding another person to our family would naturally result in higher costs somewhere in our budget.
We researched what we’d need after we found out that my wife was pregnant and learned that the first-year costs of having a baby are different for every family, depending on their situations. Some families receive a lot of gifts and don’t have to buy much for the first few months. Others receive no gifts and need to buy everything themselves.
But regardless of who does the buying, we quickly realized that you don’t need much to take care of a baby in the first few months. Yes, you do need some things, but not nearly as much as you’d think. That said, we like to make our lives a bit easier, so we bought more than just the necessities. In the process, we learned a lot about essential baby expenses. Here are a few that we found to be particularly important to consider.
First-Year Baby Costs, Part 1: Child Care and Financial Planning
The cost of your baby’s first year ranges wildly depending on your budget. You can find used items for cheap, while particularly fancy new items exist for those who want to spend a fortune. Here are a few baby expenses to consider if you’re planning to have a child in the near future:
1. Insurance and Medical Costs
Adding a member to your health insurance plan is rarely free. Look in your benefits paperwork to determine the cost of having a baby so that you can budget for it ahead of time.
Depending on your plan, a baby's health needs may cost more than you think. It ranges from absolutely nothing to hundreds of dollars per month.
You’ll also want to consider life insurance for the parents. Should anything happen to one or both parents, your child’s guardian will need money to raise him (or her). The cost of life insurance depends on age, gender, health history, and the amount of insurance required.
On top of those expenses, you’ll have a new set of doctor’s bills to pay every time your child gets sick or has a serious accident. These doctor visits range from being free to costing thousands of dollars for serious accidents.
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2. Future College Costs
If you’re planning to pay for your child’s college education, you should start saving now. How you save will depend on your state, but 529s and prepaid college tuition plans are good options. The total cost will likely end up in the high five digits or low six digits.
Personally, we’re not putting any money aside now. Though we do plan to help at least a bit by cash-flowing our contributions when our son is ready to head to college.
3. Day Care
Day care can be one of the largest baby expenses. Thankfully, I work from home, so I can watch my son while my wife is working. It works out great for us and saves us a ton of money. While childcare may be free if you have generous family, it can also cost hundreds or thousands of dollars per month if you don’t.
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First-Year Baby Costs, Part 2: Items and Equipment
As a guy, I was a bit clueless as to how much baby stuff existed. Some of it is useful, but a lot of it is just crazy marketing to parents. Here are some of the essential supplies for your baby’s first year, and how you can cut costs:
4. Feeding Supplies
Of course, you need to feed your baby. Even if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll still need to buy some equipment.
Breastfeeding often requires you to buy a breast pump and the associated accessories. Sometimes health insurance will cover this expense, but not always. Pumps range from costing nothing with insurance to costing as much as $3,500. In most cases, supplies shouldn’t run more than a couple hundred over the first year.
You’ll also need baby bottles, cleaning supplies, and formula if you aren’t breastfeeding or if you need to supplement. My wife also has a small cooler for milk that she pumps at work. You can find bottles and cleaning supplies for the first year for under $100, if you’re frugal. But formula costs an average of between $1,138.5 and $1,188.00 for just one year, according to the Breastfeeding Center of Ann Arbor.
Later on, you’ll need solid baby food, which comes in at around $60 per month, according to Investopedia. You can either make it yourself or buy the prepackaged stuff from the store.
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5. Clothing and Cleanliness
Your baby will need plenty of clothes to survive the first year, but this doesn’t need to cost a lot. Baby clothes can be found cheap. Personally, our friends gave us a lot to get started, and we buy more clothes at thrift stores and at JCPenney when the store sends us a $10-off coupon.
Clothing expenses range from costing nothing to costing hundreds of dollars, depending on your tastes and shopping skills.
And underneath those clothes, you’ll need to keep your baby’s bottom dry. That means diapers. We don’t want to wash cloth diapers, so we buy disposables on a regular basis. We also buy baby wipes, as well as the occasional diaper rash cream. (It costs us $550 for diapers, $240 for wipes, and $20 for diaper rash cream. Cloth diapers would reduce diaper expenses greatly, but also increase laundry and electric costs.)
You’ll probably also want a baby bath and baby-specific soap and shampoo to clean your baby up after those extra-messy diapers or sloppy meals. (Less than $100 if you shop smart.)
6. Safety Equipment
Safety is a big deal with babies. The first thing we needed was a safe car seat to take our son home from the hospital. We bought a new one because we didn’t want to risk buying a used car seat that had been in an accident before. (Car seats range from $70 to $500.)
You’ll also need to child-proof your home once your little one becomes mobile ($100 to $300). Thankfully, our outlets are already tamper-resistant so we didn’t have to buy outlet plugs. However, we plan to buy cabinet and door safety supplies, as well as a couple of baby gates.
7. Places to Sleep or Nap
You probably only need a pack and play or a crib for your baby to sleep in. Thankfully, we received gifts that helped us in this area. These included a pack and play, a fancy baby swing, a rock-and-play, and a crib. If you don’t get one as a gift, a crib can cost $20 if you find something secondhand, or hundreds of dollars if you buy a fancy one at a furniture store.
Decorating isn't necessary, but it’s part of the fun of having a baby. Prepare to decorate the nursery with new paint, pictures, and furniture. (Free if you’re creative. But it can add up to over $1,000 if you want luxury decorations.)
In the beginning, babies don’t need much entertainment, so your first-year costs on this front might not add up to much.
As they get older, that’s a whole different story. But for now, while our son loves his toys, we’ve found that some of his favorite things to play with are simply household supplies.
He loves playing with Tupperware containers and empty cereal boxes, for example. So spend what you want here. You may find plenty of “toys” lying around the house that work just fine. So keeping Junior entertained may cost nothing if you’re creative or have generous grandparents. Or it could cost $35 a month if you just buy a couple of items each month.
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Bonus: Nice-But-Not-Necessary Costs for Your Baby’s First Year
There are also other baby items we find nice, but not necessary. We have a diaper bag ($20 and up) that doesn’t look like a giant purse. According to my wife, it’s super helpful because I don’t mind carrying it around.
We also have a stroller that we use to take our son on nightly walks around the neighborhood, as well as a baby carrier we use to carry our son around when we’re out shopping. We could get by without these items, but they’re nice to have. (Strollers can cost anywhere from $50 to over 700.)
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Of course, there are many more first-year baby costs than just those listed above. Always plan for unexpected expenses by keeping an emergency fund that you can dip into should you need to do so.