10 Ways Having a Child Will Affect Your Budget (and How You Can Save) - Part 1

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"Babies are expensive."

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me this while I was pregnant, I'd still be living off of the proceeds.

The United States Department of Agriculture states that it will cost $245,340 to raise a child, not including college costs. Keep in mind that this figure will depend on multiple factors that will be specific to your family. For example: Public or private school? Daycare or stay at home? New clothes or thrift store finds?

My husband and I budgeted having to spend a certain amount of money during the first year of our son's life, but it actually cost usless than we originally planned. The same situation can be true for you with a little bit of awareness and planning!

Here are 10 areas of your budget having a child will affect, as well as some options for saving money.

Note: This post has been split into two parts because, let's be honest, there is a lot of adjusting when it comes to budgeting for a baby! 

1. Food

For newborns, the obvious budget-friendly option is to breastfeed. But there are cases where you may not be able or may simply choose not to. Either way, your kid needs to eat so count on spending a good portion of money in this area, especially as they grow older.

Thrifty Tricks: 

  1. Sign up for manufacturers' formula programs like Similac StrongMoms. They will periodically send out brand "checks" or coupons.
  2. Buy formula in bulk.
  3. Breastfeeding Mamas: Some insurance plans will cover a free breastfeeding pump. I made a 5 minute phone call to my provider and a $200 pump as soon as my doctor was able to fax over proof of my pregnancy. It doesn't hurt to ask.
  4. Meal planning and freezer meals can help you avoid expensive take-out on busy nights. Always be prepared when it comes to hungry kiddos!

Spending Traps:

  1. Stay far away from novelty nursing items until they become absolutely necessary. You typically won't need things like pumping bras or nipple shields in the early weeks following a baby's birth.
  2. For older children, junk food is one of the easiest ways to rack up an expensive grocery bill. Stick to healthy fruits, vegetables, and meats and simply stock up and freeze them when something goes on sale.

2. Diapering

You can save a lot of money by going the cloth diaper route but if that's not your thing (no judgement here, it wasn't for me either) there are still a lot of options to save money.

Be cautious about buying large packages of newborn sizes in only one brand. Your child may be sensitive to some brands and not all retailers are willing to let you return a diaper package that's been opened and used.

Thrifty Tricks:

  1. Once you find a brand that works for your child, you can purchase to your heart's content and save money by buying in bulk, using coupons, or stocking up when there's a good sale.
  2. Subscription services like Amazon Mom can help you save up to 20% off the retail price.
  3. Don't feel like you have to buy the same brand in wipes as you do your diapers, even for the rewards points. We buy Pampers diapers but find that the affordable Aldi brand wipes work great too.
  4. Some parents take the 50/50 approach to saving money. Use cloth diapers at home during the day and disposable diapers during the night and outside of the home. It's like the happy medium of diapering.

Spending Traps: 

  1. Items like wipe warmers and changing tables aren't considered necessities when you're on a tight budget. Warming the wipes in your hands and placing a changing pad on a dresser can work just as well.

3. Insurance (Auto/Health)

If you're not already participating in a family insurance plan, your costs will likely increase once you add a dependent. Additionally, your car insurance rates will also increase once your child is old enough to drive.

Thrifty Tricks: 

  1. Most car insurance companies will offer a discount if your child has participated in a driver training course or is a good student.
  2. Ask your employer if they offer a Flexible Spending Account, which lets you set aside pre-tax dollars for out-of-pocket healthcare costs.
  3. Ask your healthcare provider for a list of all the free services they offer. My hospital offered a free, 24/7 call center with labor/delivery nurses. When I was having complications during my pregnancy, I would just call them and describe my symptoms so we could determine whether or not a paid visit was necessary.

Spending Traps: 

  1. Settling for the first program you come across or not shopping around could leave better deals out on the table. Be patient and compare companies for the best deal.
  2. Pride can cost you in the long run if you're not willing to ask for discounts. There's never any shame in trying to save money so don't feel bad asking your providers if there's a discount you qualify for.

4. Delivery Costs

Thrifty Tricks: 

  1. Don't be shy about asking the hospital staff if you can take the baby items in your room home with you. My nurses were practically shoving diapers in my bags as I was leaving and I used every last one in the first 7 days we were home.
  2. Ask your insurance provider for very clear details about what you are financially responsible for during your stay at the hospital. Induction of labor and special room requests are just a few examples of what may not be covered under your plan.

Spending Traps: 

  1. There is a dangerous spending trap my husband and I like to call the hospital cafeteria. Avoid the late night munchies trap by making sure you have snacks and water bottles packed before you go into labor. Preparation is key to saving money when you're having a baby.

5. Clothing

Continuous clothing costs are inevitable because kids grow so darn fast! Don't you wish there was a membership program that would let you exchange clothing your kids have grown out of for larger sizes?

Thrifty Tricks: 

  1. Hit the thrift stores, ask for hand me downs, or shop at affordable options like Walmart and Target. I have absolutely no shame shopping the budget-friendly Garanimals brand when my son is constantly growing out of his clothes. Who cares where the shirt came from when he's going to run around and get it dirty anyway?

Spending Traps: 

  1. Personally, I've found that my biggest spending trap is the pressure I get from my fellow moms to have brand loyalty. Just because everyone else is spending $20/shirt doesn't mean you have to as well. Shop alone if the peer pressure is too much.
  2. Buying ahead of season and shopping the clearance racks can be a waste of money if you're not careful. I don't recommend buying ahead of season if your child is still going through major growth spurts since it's hard to guess what size they'll actually be next year.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post!

What do you think is the most surprising cost of having a child?