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Baby On A Budget Tips: The Five Biggest Costs Of Having A Baby

By Erik Folgate

baby expensesIf you’ve been following my posts on Money Crashers, I revealed a couple of months ago that my wife and I are expecting our first baby! We’re really excited, but just like all new parents, the fear of the “unknown” is always there. Will I be a good parent? Will our baby be really fussy? Will the day-to-day parenting stuff come naturally once he arrives? Was it the right financial time to have a baby? The last question wasn’t too big of an issue for us. We’ve been trying for our first for a long time now, so we’ve been putting away a “baby fund” for a while now to cover both the expected and unexpected baby expenses.

There’s always a lot of talk about how much extra money it costs to bring a new life into the world and the hundreds of things you’ll be buying and receiving as gifts, but I want to focus on the five major expenses that you might want to start saving for now if you and your spouse have begun the journey of trying to conceive a child:

1. Health Insurance Costs – $1,000 to $2,500

The amount is arbitrary, because it can vary a lot depending on your particular health insurance plan. But, you can be sure that there will at least be the individual co-pays for each of the many doctor’s visits and the lump sum co-pay for the two days that you’ll be in the hospital during the birth. Some of you will pay more than this because you have a deductible to meet or you might have co-insurance which typically charges 20% of the cost of the hospital stay and doctor’s fees.

2. Baby Furniture – $500 to $1,500

This number can obviously fluctuate quite a bit as well depending on where you buy your baby furniture. Some people don’t want to buy used baby furniture for fear of safety issues; however, I was recently at a nice baby consignment shop that had great looking cribs, dressers, and rocking chairs that looked barely used.

We purchased a new Baby’s Dream crib since the crib is convertible to a toddler bed and a full-size bed, so we hope that we can at least get 5 to 8 years of good life out of it. This is a very big expense you need to consider, because it’s also typically not something that people will give you as a baby shower gift. But if you want new furniture and you don’t have enough money to pay for it, consider using a financing plan to pay for the furniture, and then make it an option for baby shower guests to put money towards the purchase of your baby furniture. This way, they’re contributing towards a baby shower present that parents will actually use.

3. The Stroller – $150 to $900

The prices of strollers have gotten a little ridiculous lately with the invention of high-end strollers like the Bugaboo, which retails anywhere from $600 to $900. However, after testing quite a few different types of strollers in the past few weeks and getting thoroughly frustrated by how hard they are to open, close, and customize, I can understand why many people are dropping some serious coin on higher end strollers. Still, I think $800 for a stroller isn’t necessary unless you plan on having multiple kids and using it for more than 2 or 3 years, but even so, a decent, durable stroller will only cost $200 to $350 new. Like with cribs, strollers are something that you can find at HUGE discounts at garage sales and consignment shops. But, at the same time, strollers are probably used and abused more than any other baby products, so it’s hard to find a good, used one for a newborn.

4. Breast Pump – $200 to $400

It’s become very popular again for women to breast feed, and why not, it’s FREE food for the baby! But, the initial investment is nowhere near free, and the cost is usually more than most people are willing to spend at a baby shower, unless some people buy a breast pump as a joint gift. The Medella hands-free pump we registered for is $379, and that still doesn’t include all of the other accessories we’ll need, which we hope to get from our two baby showers.

5. Room Decoration – $200 to $500

You can get creative with this, and the craftier you are, the more pennies you can pinch in this area. But when it’s your first child, frugality tends to take a backseat when it comes to making your new baby’s room look perfect. When you add up new paint, bedding, drapery, wall hangings, rugs, accessories, and lamps, the cost will quickly add up. If you have a close family member that’s good with a sewing machine, take advantage of them, because when you say “baby,” they’re usually more than willing to crank out some great stuff. My mother and her pastor’s wife are going to make all of our bedding and drapery. Blankets, pillows, and stuffed animal accessories are also good things to ask around to see if friends or family can make them.

Parents and soon-to-be-parents, what am I missing here? Remember, the purpose of this list is not to detail the ONGOING baby expenses like diapers, baby care products, and clothing. Rather, the goal of the list is to help parents-to-be know exactly what major expenses they can expect upfront. I also recommend having two baby showers, because that will cut out the need to buy much of your initial “smaller” items like clothing, baby care products, and other accessories.

Don’t worry, even though it sounds like a lot of money, you’ve got 9 months. Remember, as soon as you start trying to have a baby, you need to start putting money aside for all of the initial expenses. Being a little more prepared financially will free up your thoughts for sharpening your new parenting skills!

(photo credit: almoko)

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • Casey Slide

    The one big thing that I see missing from the list is car seats!! You must have a car seat when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Most parents choose to buy two types of car seats: an infant car seat and a convertible car seat. You can probably get away with just getting a convertible car seat if your baby is greater than 5 lbs, but that will still cost you about $200. An infant car seat is around $150, but if you get an extra base, that is an extra $40 or so. This totals out to be about $400. I personally believe that car seats are one of the things you should buy new instead of used just in case something were to happen. You would be devastated if there was a faulty part on the used seat in the event of an accident.

    There are a bunch of other items that cost $100 or so that you need, but usually people buy them for you as shower gifts.

    • Erik Folgate

      yes, great point Casey! Sometimes, a lot of people get the stroller/car seat combo, but that doesn’t include the extra base. Definitely a huge cost if you get a separate stroller and separate car seat.

  • http://www.strayeru.com/academic-programs/ Christina D

    You can use a Snap and Go car seat carrier for your infant stroller. It is easy to fold and open, works great and is reasonably priced. It also has a big basket for carrying all the baby stuff underneath: http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Trend-Single-Snap-Stroller/dp/B000BMKEVC

    When the baby has grown out of the infant seat then you can move on to a regular stroller. A used one is fine. Just make sure to test it first to see how the wheels work and how it folds. Even expensive strollers can be a pain to open and close and not work well on actual streets.

    Once the baby is old enough, get an umbrella stroller. They work great and are cheap and easy to transport. They also don’t take up a lot of space when walking in a crowded place.

  • Anissa

    Yep car seats can be really pricey as yout don’t want to get a bargain, though you don’t need to spend $$$ either. There are some well rated mid price options that just don’t have all the bells and whistles. Never never get a used carseat though!!!!

    As far as your list; the furniture needs usually aren’t that high. You may pay a couple hundred for a crib (ours also converts to toddler bed and then twin) as you really shouldn’t buy used (due to all the recalls) but otherwise you don’t need baby furniture. We used a long dresser w/ a changing pad on top as a changing table, so no need for a special changing table. A glider is nice but buy it somewhere other than a baby store as you will pay more there, and there’s really no difference.

    Breast pumps are a major expense, and ver necessary for some (like me)! One thing that helps some people is some insurance plans will give you a breast pump (or let you use HSA funds) if your doctor “prescribes” one. Never hurts to ask…

    Oh and as far as decorations go, there is no need to buy fancy bedding sets as all your infant will use is crib sheets (the dust ruffle may be nice if you store things under the crib). Experts recommend you don’t cover infants w/ heavy quilts, or use bumpers (that’s up to you to decide), so we got by w/ a couple different crib sheets (you’ll need to change them frequently due to spit up and blow outs) and used a receiving blanket when it got cold (MN winters made that nec). Just remember your baby will grow up quickly so try not to do too many big items in cutesy styles so the room can grow w/ them.

  • Olivia

    Good mention about the car seat.

    This is what we did. Follow your own sensibilities. Since our boys were premies we found a liner (the pillow like crescent to cradle thier head) to be important in the car seat, but it might be nice for bigger ones too when their necks are still wobbly. We were given a really handsome large stroller as a shower gift. The kind that converts to a basinet type thing with all kinds of shade positions. It was very heavy. Living in a walk up, we found a second hand baby backpack (Snugli), and an inexpensive umbrella stroller to be much more useful. The Snugli was passed on to yet another family after ours and the stroller lasted beyond the duration aa well. Cute baby clothes may be fun for people to buy (I’m a sucker for them myself), but sleepers are much easier. Get the kind that snap all the way down the leg. Babies sleep a lot at first anyway, grow out of stuff like crazy, are difficult to get into “cute outfits” with wobbly arms and all those buttons and snaps, and are beautiful no matter what they wear. Who wants to wrestle all that after a diaper blowout when you’re sleep deprived?. And non-tie bibs. A mom we knew made the slip over the head kind out of fingertip towels and the material used for tee shirt cuffs. I made a couple and we used them constantly.

    When they’re a bit oilder. A high chair or clip on seat is nice once the child can sit up and is eating solids, but a lap works in a pinch. Safety plugs and latches or duct tape. Babies are Houdinis even when they start creeping.

    • Erik Folgate

      High chair is definitely another big expense, especially if you want a more sturdy, wooden one. Good call!

  • http://www.myjourneytomillions.com Evan


    The Wife and I are having our first in about 2 months! I was amazed at the expenses so far. I spent (way) above your upper range on baby furniture and this thing called the glider which is a modern rocking chair of sorts. We are lucky that the stroller, car seat, etc. was taken care of by the baby shower.

    But man my boy isn’t even born yet and cost me a small fortune!

  • Elizabeth I

    Erik, I have to be honest, but you really blew this post. After I read this post I thought to myself “this guy doesn’t have kids”. I was right, you are expecting. The 5 biggest baby expenses are the things that you are going to HAVE to spend money on whether you like it or not. Only #1 on your list is something that you have to spend money one. Here is the “real” list of things that you are going to have to spend money on:

    1) Delivery expenses (this different from additional healthcare expenses). 30% of all women have a c-section. The c-section bill from my delivery 5 years ago was $15,000. Also, with a c-section, the recovery is not 2 days in the hospital, but closer to 4 days.

    2) Additional health care expenses. No longer will your health care be “self and spouse” you are going to have to upgrade to the family plan.

    3) Diapers (either disposable or cloth) you’ve got to have them. I have gone down both routes. Currently we are doing disposables, but estimate around $40 a month for diapers….$500 a year.

    4) Food at 6 months. They start eating solids. Those little jars add up! Making your own can save you some…

    5) Car seat. Your child cannot leave the hospital without a car seat.

    I did not list a crib and clothes. You can purchase these items used. You cannot purchase the 5 items listed above used. Hence you are stick a bit with fixed costs.

    As for your other items listed…

    Baby Furniture. This is a personal choice. We had a 1 bedroom apartment and our son slept in our room. No furniture needed.

    Stroller. How often are you going to use a stroller that costs $800? If you use it 20 times a year, well that is $40 each time you use it! Do you really want to spend $40 each time you take a walk? The reality is, when they are infants, you frequently keep them in their infant carrier when you are at the grocery store or Target (have you ever seen a Bugaboo in a grocery store). Also with an infant you are too sleep deprived and fearful of having people breath near your child to really want to go out that frequently.

    I’m not “anti-stroller” but my $40 “Snap and Go” was one of the best purchases I ever made. The reason being for my choice is that with a stroller, you not only have the baby, and the diaper bag, but you are often attempting to purchase items if you are at the mall. Now, how are you going to carry everything if you do not have adequate store with your stroller? The $40 Snap and Go is designed for an infant carrier. The infant carrier snaps right in, it isn’t sexy but practical. My second favorite stroller option is a McClaren. They have super light and easy frames. I own both a single and double stroller. Their customer service is spot on, they sent me additional parts free of charge when I explained that I had a disabled child and needed additional accommodations

    Breast Pumps are essential if you are going back to work, but as a stay at home mom, your need for a $379 breast pump is rare. The only time I used my electric breast pump when I was not working, occurred when I needed to have surgery and was still nursing. Medela is a great brand. Mine has gone through 5 kids (three of my own and 2 other kids of friends).You can purchase sterilization bags for the pump parts if you are concerned about germs if you buy one used.

    Room decorations? This one does not get on a priority list.

    These are items that I love and after having 3 kids would recommend spending the money on: a bumbo seat, a swing (borrow one from a friend or buy used, your kid may hate it), jumparoo (not an exersaucer) my son loved his, California Baby shampoo and body wash (lasts a long time, safe product), carrier (bjorn or sling, try to borrow one from a friend you or your baby may not like it and it would be wasted money).

    I want to see your follow up on this post when your son is 3 months old….you will be getting more sleep then and should be able to have a coherent post ;)

    • Erik Folgate

      Elizabeth, I think you just took the post a little differently. Now that i look at it, we did a poor job of describing which baby expenses I was talking about. I was coming from the mindset of baby expenses leading up to the baby being born.

      When I wrote stroller, my thought process was that a lot of infant/toddler strollers nowadays have the car seat/stroller combo and then you buy the extra base to keep in the car.

      You’re right, I’m a rookie, I know that. But, I was simply coming from the mindset of expenses we’ve initially had to incur that would not be covered by baby shower gifts.

      • Elizabeth I

        I did view it as “upfront”, but in reality, many of these items you do not need before the baby is born or at all. For example, if your wife is cannot breastfeed, then the breast pump will be useless, won’t it? So it really isn’t an upfront cost. Maybe you should have titled your post “Things for the baby we wanted to buy after we got all the basics from our baby showers”.

        To be honest this post doesn’t really fit into the philosophy of Money Crashers at all. I would have expected a “basic” approach focusing on a car seat, diapers, etc. I would have expected some number crunching regarding formula vs breastfeeding and cloth vs. disposable diapers.

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