If you're a new or soon-to-be mom or planning to grow your family, you've probably thought about the expenses involved with having a baby.
If you haven't looked into it yet, hospitals can charge a vaginal birth anywhere between $3,200 and $34,000, while a cesarean birth can range anywhere from $4,000 and $70,000 depending on insurance and facility costs. Plus, the average yearly cost of $12,500 for your child between medical care and the material goods needed, such as diapers and clothing. Little ones are bundles of joy, but growing a family can be expensive.
Many new parents wonder: How can I care for my newborn on a realistic budget?
It's crucial to find ways to eliminate or reduce expenses so you can afford your new bundle of joy. Here are five ways to get your finances in order and help you save more money.
1. Create a personal budget
First, you must have a general personal or household budget, to begin with. Whether you use a pen and paper, an Excel spreadsheet, or an app, monthly expenses and income will help you know exactly where your money is going. By doing so, you can identify the spending areas in which you can save.
If you tend to buy too much food and throw a lot of it away, you'll be more aware of it as you track your spending. If your partner has a tendency to buy the latest tech as soon as it comes out, consider waiting to do so.
Your budget will allow you to become more aware of whether you shop frivolously and how you can either keep the habit without spending as much or adjust your spending habits.
2. Reduce monthly expenses
Once your budget has been completed, try to reduce your monthly expenses. You can save on utilities and entertainment fairly easily—— every dollar you save is another buck you can put towards baby expenses.
For example, take shorter showers or reduce the temperature in your house by a degree or two in the winter, and cut back your reliance on air conditioning in the summer. Unplug rarely used lights and appliances to reduce their impact on your electric bill (plugged-in appliances do drain electricity, even when switched off), and contact your gas and electricity suppliers to inquire about more ways to save on those expenses.
3. Pay down any debt
Eliminating debt is a great way to clear up your personal finances. The "debt snowball" strategy is one option, where you work to pay off your debts with the smallest balances first, regardless of the interest rates.
The "debt avalanche" is another strategy, where you pay off debts starting with the ones with the highest interest rate. This latter strategy costs less in the end, but the debt snowball may be preferable for folks who need the motivational boost of seeing the total number of balances minimized in a shorter period of time.
Once you've reduced or eliminated various debts, it opens more room in the budget for baby—just be sure to organize your approach so you stay on track.
4. Cut back on discretionary spending
The next time you want to go out to a costly dinner or see a movie, consider staying at home to watch Netflix or invite a few friends over for a potluck. Entertainment can quickly eat away at your budget, but only if you let it.
Also, consider holding off on upgrading to the latest new phone or flat-screen TV—you'll be in a much better position to make such purchases a few months down the road once your finances have settled down a bit.
5. Don’t overspend on baby
Budgeting for a new baby is only one part of saving money. It's also important to reduce unnecessary baby-related expenses, such as buying shoes for your newborn that they won't need for a few months. Avoid expensive department stores, and consider asking for hand-me-downs or visiting consignment or used clothing stores.
Always return any unwanted gifts received at baby showers or other celebrations so you can get store credit to purchase what you know you'll be using. Some moms make their own baby food rather than buying jars of it at the grocery store, while others explore different childcare options, such as having a family member step in or nanny-sharing.
When you plan and prepare for your new baby from a financial standpoint and save what money you can, you'll ensure that your little will enter the world in a sound and stable financial environment—something that will benefit him or her for years to come.
Victoria Lemm is a British expat and mother of two and a half children—her third is due February 2019!