Estimating Expenses for Your New Baby

Your first step in calmly revising your budget to include your new little roommate is to estimate your new baby expenses. You do this by interviewing people, reading, visiting stores, calling about services, and so on. The following sections detail the information you're looking for.

Interview Other New Parents

Talk to everyone you know who has had a baby recently, and begin to find out what expenses they incurred. Don't be surprised if the talk is mostly negative — people may tell you that they've practically gone broke because of a new baby — and try not to let it affect you. Their finances are not your finances, and you may be able to make very different decisions than they made.

Brace yourself, though, for lots of advice on what to buy and what not to buy, what to do and what not to do. Even if it's annoying, you can gather great information about what expenses were unexpected, what were the good investments, and so on.

Keep good notes, thank them for their time, use their information to estimate your expenses, and then proceed to do whatever is best for your finances.

Read One Good Baby Book

Baby books can answer all the questions you have, even ones you didn't know to ask!

For example, how long do babies breastfeed? After they start eating baby food, how much will they eat? How many diapers do babies go through in a day? What are the essential supplies that babies need, and which are extras that you may be able to do without?

How often do they have to visit the doctor? What symptoms warn you that an extra doctor visit is required? Which vaccines do babies need to get? How fast do babies grow? Do they wear shoes? When do they need hearing and eye exams? What about dental visits? Do babies need their own books? How many and which books do they need?

Mine your local library for baby books before visiting a bookstore. While you may eventually decide to buy a baby book as a reference to have around the house, reading those at the library first can keep you from spending money on duds.

If you haven't been around children very much, a good book on babies can answer even your most basic questions. And if you're a bit of a baby expert, most baby books serve as good reminders of the information you already know; plus they usually have little nuggets of great information that you've never heard before.

Visit Stores, Including Online Shops

One of the easiest ways to begin thinking of what expenses a baby may create is to visit a store — brick and mortars or online — and see what products are offered for babies. Keep in mind that you don't have to buy the vast majority of this stuff, just like adults don't need half of the products that are marketed for them, but stores are a good place to start. Write down everything you see, from baby diapers and bottles to bassinets and cribs.

Don't forget that you may have a baby shower thrown in your honor, which will allow you to receive some of the items you need as presents. It's likely you won't have to buy every item on your list!

If the store you're visiting offers a baby-shower registry service, see if you can get the list they ask prospective parents to fill out. You don't necessarily have to register (some people think it's a great tool; others feel it's gratuitous), but the list itself will help you identify what items other people buy for their babies.

Don't forget to visit grocery stores, too, to determine the cost of baby food. Breastfeeding is both the healthiest and most economical way to feed your child for the first year or so, but after that, you'll need to start buying a variety of baby foods.

Determine whether you want to buy organic or non-organic baby food, and then take notes about how much they cost. You can also make your own baby food with only a few common kitchen tools and fresh fruits and vegetables. If you're interested, check out books on the subject from your local bookstore or library.

Take Stock of What You Already Own

You may already own quite a bit of furniture that can be used in a baby's room. If you have an armoire; a dresser or chest of drawers; or an upholstered chair, small sofa, or rocker in any other room of your house, consider moving it into the nursery for a year or so.

Even furniture that doesn't look great can be painted in bright or pastel colors to look attractive. Just be sure that the furniture is sturdy and sliver-free so that it won't end up hurting your child.

A great place to get inexpensive baby supplies is at tag sales (also called yard sales and garage sales). Look for those that advertise baby clothes, toys, furniture, and so on. You may be able to pick up onesies (these are one-piece outfits that babies wear) for a quarter — several dollars less than you would pay at even the cheapest store.

Call Around to Price Services

If you're thinking of using a diaper service, day-care service, or babysitter, call several in your area and compare their prices and levels of service. It's especially important to interview day-care providers and babysitters to make sure their philosophy on child-rearing is the same as yours.

Note that although diaper service is going out of fashion in favor of disposable diapers, diaper services can save you money. Instead of continuously buying and throwing-away diapers, you essentially rent them from a diaper service.

They drop off clean diapers and pick up dirty ones, and when you no longer need them, you stop the service. The upside is that you don't have to pay the high cost of disposables; the downside is that some babies have reactions to the strong chemicals used to clean the dirty diapers. But some babies react to disposable diapers, too.

Call Your Medical Insurance Company

If you don't have a schedule of services for your medical insurance policy, call your representative to find out how much the pregnancy, natural-childbirth classes, delivery, and baby visits are going to cost (your deductible plus the copay). Also, find out whether your premiums will rise because of the extra person who will now be on your policy.

If you aren't yet ready for your employer to know you're pregnant, wait to call your medical insurance company until you've told them. You don't want your employer to discover your news from a third party.

If you don't currently have medical insurance, call your doctor and local hospital to get an estimate on how much having a baby and keeping him or her healthy is going to cost. If you don't have the cash, also find out whether they have a payment plan.

And don't rule out the possibility of using a midwife for the delivery. Unless your pregnancy is high risk, using a midwife can be an effective way to reduce your costs. You can often deliver the child in your own home, saving thousands of dollars in hospital fees. Keep in mind, however, that you won't have the medical resources of the hospital on call. If something goes wrong during a home delivery, both the baby's and the mother's health can be at risk.

If You're Thinking of Moving, Look at Housing Prices

Many people believe that a new baby has to result in a new house, and that may be so if you're living in a one-bedroom house with no bathtub. But babies are very small, at least for a while, and you may be able to fit your baby into even a small house for a year or two before moving. If your house has two or more bedrooms, you may not need to move for several years, if at all.

If you do decide to move, take a look at housing prices in the area first, so that you can use this information to create your baby-friendly budget. Using an online mortgage calculator, determine how much your monthly mortgage payments will rise.

If you can afford it, getting a 15-year mortgage when your baby is born is a great way to pay for college: You'll have three years of “mortgage payments” (that actually go into your savings account) before you have to write the first tuition check.

Putting Your Figures Together in One Worksheet

After gathering all the information you can find on how much your new baby may cost you, put it together in WORKSHEET 16-1 below. List every baby expense you can think of, along with the monthly cost. Then take a careful look at the list and determine which items you really need and which you can reduce or do without.


Baby Expenses


Monthly Costs















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