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Life Savings

You don’t live here because it’s cheap. You know you could have a six-bedroom house in some cute little town in middle America for the price of your one-bedroom apartment, but let’s face it, you’re head over heels in love with NYC. So in love, in fact, that you’ll sometimes eat ramen noodles for dinner just to pay the rent. Sound familiar?

Now that baby’s on the way though, it’s time to rethink your budget and start thinking about the future...like the future past that fab restaurant you want to try next weekend. So we’ve called in the big guns to help us make some sense (and hopefully dollars!) of all our baby-related money matters.

Below, our new resident personal finance contributor Jennifer Saranow Schultz, founder of money-saving blog Hint Mama, prepares us and our wallets for the little moneysucker that’s about to move in.

I saw a recent estimate of around 200K needed to raise a child – I imagine that number is significantly higher for raising a kid in NYC. What are some of the costs that go into that?

As I wrote in a recent Hint Mama post, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest estimate, raising a kid over the next 17 years now costs roughly $241,080, up 2.6% from the previous year’s report. And this whopping expense only includes basic necessities like food, shelter and child care, and is just for middle-income parents.

If your household makes more than $105,000 and is in urban areas like New York and San Francisco (where I live), you can expect to spend a lot more on such child-related expenses. In fact, according to the same report, a family earning more than $105,000 can expect to spend around $399,780 on these sorts of costs (to tailor the estimate to your situation, including where you live, this calculator can help).

So when you get the pregnancy news, what are some immediate steps you can take to help you start saving?

The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. So assuming you’ve already paid off any debt and are saving for retirement, you may want to consider starting to save for child-related expenses, and for college, even before your child is born.

In fact, you can open up a tax-advantaged 529 college savings account for your child before he or she is born. That’s because you could open it up for yourself and then change the beneficiary to your child after he or she is born (and has a social security number). A good resource for more information on the various saving-for-college options is SavingforCollege.com.

What are some strategies for affording some of the short-term child-related costs if you haven’t already amassed a lot of savings?

I’m a big proponent of registering for the basics. When I was putting our baby registry together, I included diapers, baby shampoo, diaper rash cream, and other basic newborn necessities on it, and I have friends who did the same. You also may want to consider consulting the book Baby Bargains, basically the Consumer Reports of baby gear, which I found to be a great resource for finding deals as well as advice about which baby products are, and aren’t, worth the money.

And back on the registry topic, as I wrote in a recent hint, you also could consider registering for 529 donations, a great idea from Ron Lieber of The New York Times.

Now that I’m pregnant, I’m thinking more about what would happen to my kids if I go down in a plane crash. Is it time to consider life insurance?

You may want to consider doing two things my husband and I made sure to do when I was pregnant:

1.) Apply for life insurance. Life insurance is cheaper when you’re younger and healthy, so the sooner you opt for it, the less you’ll likely have to pay. And having the insurance can help cover child-rearing costs and college expenses if something happens to you.

2.) Get a will (and or living trust). In such documents, which an estate planning attorney can help you with, you don’t just specify who will receive your assets. You also specify who you want to take care of your young children in the event that something happens to you and or your significant other. Without these documents, you’re generally letting state law make these important decisions for you.

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