It's hard to believe that someone so tiny can come with such a big price tag. The Agriculture Department estimates it will cost $222,360 to raise a child born in 2009 from birth through age 17 and that doesn't even include college.
This estimate varies based on annual income—meaning that a couple earning more than $100,000 a year most likely will spend more on raising a child than, say, a single parent earning less than $50,000 a year.
Medical care for mother and child can be a huge expense, depending on what your insurance plan covers. One of the biggest costs of having a baby could be the delivery itself.
Housing is the biggest single expense of raising a child.
The average bill for natural delivery is $8,300; for Caesarean delivery, it's $11,500. C-sections with complications average $15,500. And all babies—even perfectly healthy ones—require frequent doctor visits during the first few years for well-baby checkups and immunizations.
Before starting a family, check your insurance plan to see what out-of-pocket expenses you'll be responsible for during your pregnancy and after. Some plans might not cover prenatal care, in which case you might want to explore taking out a supplemental policy that does. But, you have to do it before you're pregnant, or the pregnancy most likely will be considered a pre-existing condition and will be excluded.
Make sure the doctors you want to see are in-network. Look into your health plan's out-of-pocket costs, like deductibles and co-pays. Also, if your employer offers a flexible spending account for medical expenses, be sure to participate.
When planning a baby budget, ask yourself these questions:
- Will one parent take time off from work? Maternity and paternity leave benefits vary from state to state. Check with your employer to see how much time off you're eligible for; is it paid or unpaid? Will you use regular sick leave, if you have it accumulated?
- Are you eligible for short-term disability and how much will it pay? Coverage will vary in both amount and duration so review your policy before getting pregnant.
- Does the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protect your job? If you work for an employer with more than 50 employees and have worked at the company for at least one year, your employer usually must allow you to take up to 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA.
- Will you have to purchase a bigger car immediately? Consider the size and safety of your vehicle. If it's safe, maybe you can wait awhile before having to purchase something larger.
- Will you need a larger house? The Agriculture Department's estimate shows that housing is the biggest single expense of raising a child. If you already have a home and don't have to make many changes because of the new baby, you can avoid a huge expense. If you do need to make changes to your home to accommodate a baby, consider a home equity loan from the credit union. Home equity interest up to $100,000 typically is tax-deductible, if you itemize deductions.
- For infant-related expenses, did you include medical costs, food, and diapers in your spending plan? Even if you plan to use cloth diapers and breast-feed, plan to save additional money in case those options don't work well for your baby. And, diaper laundry services aren't cheap.
Saving will give you a cushion, but you can't avoid expenses such as day care if both parents plan to continue working.
- If you decide to stay home with your baby, figure in loss of wages. But consider the net income you would lose if one parent stayed home, not gross income. Factor in any incidental costs of working including gas for commuting, lunches eaten out, clothing and dry-cleaning bills, higher taxes, and any other work-related expenses to calculate the true impact of a second salary. The loss of one salary might not be as detrimental as you thought.
Kirsten Lynch, a mother of two, Chadds Ford, Pa., stopped working after her second child was born. "When we took day care, gas, and other expenses into consideration, I wouldn't have made much more if I continued to work," she says.
- If both parents plan to return to work, see if a friend or family member might be available to watch your child while you're at work.
- Find out if there are in-home day-care providers in your neighborhood; sometimes they are more affordable than day-care centers.
- If you plan to use a day-care center, look into the weekly cost and what's included such as diapers, meals, and formula.
Kelly Russell, mother of two, West Grove, Pa., says she couldn't believe the cost of day care when she started to look around. "In my area, it's $250 to $350 per week. I was shocked and wished I had saved more before I had my first baby."
- Consider altering your work schedule. Some couples are able to change their work schedules to avoid day-care expenses.
- Look into getting a nanny; it could be cheaper than day care if you have more than one child.
- Consider working part time and having your child go to day care half time. Many day-care centers offer this option.
- Check to see if your employer offers a dependent-care spending account. This could help you cover some of your child-care costs.
You might want to buy only brand-name items for your baby, but it's not necessary. Here's a list of necessities from both ends of the price spectrum, from practical solutions to brand-name buys: