Whether you’re expecting or simply thinking about the future, learning how to prepare for a baby financially is one of the smartest things you can do.
Admittedly, this was not my forte at first. While providing a stable home and income seemed to be my husband’s priority, all I could think about was holding a cooing infant in my arms.
After I became pregnant, all of the questions that I should have been asking before hit me full force: Now that we’re having a baby, can we actually afford one? How much does a child even cost? What can we do to responsibly prepare for these added costs?
If you’re in the same boat, let me reassure you: saving for a baby does not have to be nerve-wracking or exhausting. In fact, it’s probably easier than you think. But don’t take my word for it.
In this post, you’re going to find the best tips from the savviest parenting and financial bloggers on what financial things to do before having a baby. Best of all, many of these tips you can start implementing today.
Let’s get started!
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This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical or financial situations.
Start a Monthly Budget
If you’re not on some kind of budget, start one today.
While I’m a naturally frugal person, the idea of going on a monthly budget seemed like chaining myself to a spreadsheet. If that’s you, I promise that’s not what a budget is about.
A budget is simply a tool to monitor and manage your cash flow. We use a zero-based budget, but yours can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. After you write out your budget, you should know exactly where your money is going every month, what you’re spending money on, and how much you’re saving.
The quickest and easiest way to get on a budget is to write down all of your income streams and expenses on a budgeting sheet. Then, you can add your upcoming baby expenses.
If you’re new to budgeting and looking for an easy way to do this, check out my free baby budgeting worksheets.
Leave Room for a Baby in Your Current Monthly Budget
If you’re not currently expecting, you may be in a unique position to save even more.
Debt can be one of the most difficult challenges to overcome when you’re learning how to financially prepare for a baby. When you live under your spending tolerances, you’re setting yourself up for an easier transition when your budget gets tighter.
The best thing we did (mostly thanks to my husband’s wisdom) was a few years before we had a baby: we bought a house and not only didn’t even list my income when applying to banks, but STILL bought a home that was significantly less than what the banks told us we could buy. It gave us plenty of “wiggle room” when it was time to have a baby.
Jen Blaske, Three Kids, Three Cats, and a Husband
Cut Unnecessary Expenses, Especially When You’re Moving to One Income
My husband and I strategically eliminated most of our debts before having a baby. However, surviving on one income in the Seattle suburbs required a little more sacrifice. In order to afford a child, we needed to take a hard look at our monthly expenses. When we did, we discovered that we were paying for a lot of services and goods that we didn’t necessarily need.
More shockingly, once we cut these expenses from our lives, we discovered that we didn’t miss them.
When I was pregnant with my first son, we had to make a lot of financial changes so that I could leave my job and become a stay at home mom. We started by making a budget and seeing exactly where we were spending our money. Then, we cut unnecessary expenses like gym memberships, cable, and even sold one of our cars so that we could buy a used one with cash. We accepted tons of hand me downs and made a “straight to the point” baby registry.
Alexandra Mullins, Coffee and Coos
While pregnant, we prepared financially for a baby by first, having a long, detailed look at our budget to see where we stand and how far we can stretch ourselves with the upcoming expenses of having an extended family. Secondly, we looked for frugal ways to shave costs on our regular expenses like housing, utilities, and food. For example, we learned best practices for meal planning like always shopping in our pantry first.
Jacqueline Gilchrist, Mom Money Map
Track Your Baby-Related Expenses
Once you have a pretty good idea on what baby-expenses to expect, make sure that you periodically monitor your spending.
My best budgeting tip is to track the spending to ensure that you don’t overspend. As new parents, it’s so easy to buy more than needed because we want the best for our baby. By tracking expenses, you will quickly see how fast the cost adds up and it’ll give you a better perspective about your spending pattern.
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Buy Baby Gear Sparingly
The biggest mistake a newbie parent can make is buying all the things.
Diaper changing tables, wipe warmers, and cute little towels with tiger ears are certainly convenient and heart-warming purchases, but technically unnecessary. Especially if you’re trying to have a baby on a budget.
Before even setting up your gift registry, research what you absolutely positively need for your baby and pregnancy.
Before having my son, I did a lot of research into the bare minimum items needed for a baby. Our house is small so I didn’t want clutter everywhere. We ended up not buying baby swings, a bassinet, or even a crib starting out, we used a pack n play with an infant sleeper level for the first few months while we figured out what we wanted to use full time. We did end up getting a baby swing but we got it for 70% off at a high end consignment store. Babies use these items for such a short time frame that you can get amazing deals by shopping slightly used.
Stephanie Mantilla, Mommysaurus
Don’t start buying a lot of things. Your baby doesn’t really NEED a lot, and you’re going to be given almost everything you need from family and friends. We tend to overbuy in our excitement before baby comes (which is understandable), but you need to restrain yourself otherwise there’s going to be a lot of money spent unnecessarily.
Carly, Mommy on Purpose
Look for Second Hand, Discounted, or Even Free Baby Goods
Purchase the baby goods you do need at a fantastic price. If you can’t find the necessities at second hand stores, try to purchase them at major sales events, such as Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, or other holiday sales.
Don’t forget to grab your pregnancy freebies. Many baby registries offer free welcome boxes that include “samples” (or honestly, full-sized baby bottles, swaddles, and more) and coupons that can save you a ton of money.
When we decided to have a baby, we knew it was going to be a huge burden on our finances. One of the things I embraced was getting things secondhand from friends and Facebook marketplace. I got a lot of amazing deals at Walmart by looking at their clearance section every time I had to go there and got coupons, sample formula, and new baby boxes from places like Amazon.
Cherry Lacsina, It’s All Cherry
There are two things you can do to save quite a bit of money on baby gear. The first thing you can do is analyze what you actually need. There are so many baby items on the market and it’s easy to get carried away thinking you really NEED it all. Secondly, it’s okay to buy some of your baby items used. If you are able to buy the high ticket items used, like nursery furniture or a baby swing, the savings will really add up. Facebook groups and used children’s consignment stores, like Once Upon A Child, are great places to find used baby gear.
Jeanne Visser, Have Twins First
Keep an eye out for second hand baby products in your area. Local Facebook groups in particular can be a goldmine for you to pick up pre-loved pieces for a fraction of the price of buying them new. This is especially the case for items that babies grow out of quickly, as it means that they’ve likely barely been used.
Anna Barker, LogicalDollar
RELATED POST: 17 Legit Pregnancy Freebies You’ll Actually Use
Create a Saving or Expense Account Specifically for Baby’s Needs
If you want to learn how to save for a baby effectively, try using an account entirely devoted to baby-related expenses. Not only will a separate baby account assist with saving before you get pregnant, but it’ll help you monitor your baby-related expenses during pregnancy and the first year after birth.
Plus, if you opt for a savings account, it can also become a tool for saving for future expenses, such as weddings or college.
When we found out we were pregnant we did a couple of things to start preparing for our baby. The first was to set aside an amount that we would work in our budget every month for diapers, wipes, food, and other necessities. We started with $100 then worked down to $75 and now $50 as they used fewer diapers and don’t need as much as when they are newborns and babies. The second step was to establish a savings account for the baby. When we would get monetary gifts for our baby through various celebrations, we had the account ready to go and didn’t put it in our own account or hold on to waiting to open an account.
Brittany & Kelan, The Savvy Couple
Maximize Baby Showers
You will quickly find that baby showers, baby registries, and generous gifts will become your best friend while you’re financially planning for a baby. Maximize baby showers to their fullest extent. Focus on adding baby gear you actually need to your baby registry, rather than cute unessential items.
You can also get creative with baby shower activities and games to encourage more donations of the items you really need, such as diapers or formula.
We also threw a diaper party where my husband and his friends got together to watch football. We provided the food and drinks, and each guest showed up with a box of diapers (which lasted us an entire year).
Alexandra Mullins, Coffee and Coos
Learn How to Save Big on Diapers
Diapers can easily become your biggest expense during your baby’s first year of life. In fact, many Americans spend close to $900 a year on them.
In my online course, Baby on a Budget, I encourage my students to find alternative solutions to dramatically reduce this number. My favorite methods include buying high-quality off-brand diapers, potty training early, and using cloth diapers.
Two words: Elimination Communication. I WISH we knew about this before our baby was born, but we discovered EC when our little one was about 3 months old. By 8 months, we have already saved SO much money on diapers, and will likely save $2000+ compared to the average parent, by ditching diapers completely at 12-18 months old, instead of the new average of 36 months old.
Natalie Robbins, ASL Pottyventures
Get Health Insurance
Giving birth to a baby without insurance can put tremendous financial strain on new parents. Rates vary significantly from state-to-state, but an average vaginal birth without insurance can cost around $19,000. C-sections are much higher.
If you’re not expecting yet and haven’t gotten on an insurance plan, waiting until you’re eligible may be your best course of action.
However, if you’re already expecting, don’t lose hope. While most special enrollment periods require you to have your child first, you may still qualify for Medicaid, depending on your income level. At the very least, talk to your employer’s HR department or search the Marketplace.
Don’t Buy Your Baby Gear All At Once
After you’ve determined which baby items you really need, you can offset costs by purchasing only the things your baby will use in the first six months of their life.
For example, many parents purchase high chairs, baby utensils, or older baby clothes almost immediately. This is fine if you have the money or find these items on sale, but generally, you can hold off on these purchases for at least a few months.
Between medical bills, maternity leave, and simply adjusting to a brand new lifestyle, the first few month’s of your baby’s existence will probably be the hardest for you. By offsetting some of these costs, it gives you the chance to recover some of your savings as well as hold out for the best sales.
Becoming a new parent doesn’t mean you’re going to get everything right. It’s means that you will do your best and provide their needs. So pace yourself and build up your baby products as you go. This way you are not spending so much in the beginning before you truly know what you will use.
Heather, Very Anxious Mommy
Plan for Post-Baby Expenses
Most parents know how important it is to prepare financially for a baby’s birth and pregnancy. It’s easy to forget about what happens after baby is born. I’m talking about your typical postpartum expenses, childcare, and baby’s upcoming doctor’s visits.
We used Babycenter’s First Year Calculator to help determine some of the after birth expenses. It’s also helpful to talk to your insurance company about potential baby and postpartum medical expenses as well.
Don’t Stockpile on Diapers and Formula
I can’t tell you how many times well-meaning friends and family advised me to stockpile diapers.
Now on the other side, I do not recommend this at all. If you want to add a few boxes of newborn or size 1 diapers to your gift registry or host a diaper raffle, that’s completely fine. But, you really want to avoid buying too much of the same size or the same brand.
Babies are notoriously selective about their diapers and formula. Some babies suffer from skin and digestive sensitivities. Bigger babies will only fit in a newborn diaper for a week or two.
Basically, stockpiling can become a waste very quickly.
Plan on Breastfeeding
I’m a firm believer that fed is best. Having said that, the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, including monetarily. The average American family spends around $1200 on formula for the first year. Exclusively breastfeeding, on the other hand, can cost next to nothing.
Even if you decide to visit a lactation consultant or purchase a breast pump, these expenses might be covered under your insurance.
I also made it my goal to breastfeed my son for at least a year to save money on formula. I did my best to do my research and listen to the lactation consultants. Even though it was my goal, I didn’t force it as I didn’t want to hurt my son if breastfeeding was not for us.
Cherry Lacsina, It’s All Cherry
If you’re searching for a budget-friendly course on how to breastfeed, I can’t recommend Milkology’s Ultimate Breastfeeding Class enough! It’s a favorite among my readers and so, so helpful! It’ll teach you everything you need to get started with breastfeeding confidently.
Save Up for Maternity Leave
This step is often ignored by parents that are trying to prepare for a baby financially. For one, the idea of saving up to 90 days of income can seem impossible. Also, many new moms believe they can simply bounce back from birth and be ready to go within just a couple weeks (at least, that’s what I thought!).
The fact is, it’s HARD to prepare adequately for the drama childbirth will throw at you.
Even the most physically fit woman could need a C-section, requiring her to rest for a full six weeks. Or maybe your baby has complications that requires your complete attention for the first couple months.
Saving for a full maternity leave can save you from a lot of financial grief in the long run. Talk to your employer. Ask what their FMLA policies are (some employers will force you to use up your vacation pay before you can touch FMLA).
There’s a fairly good chance your maternity leave will be unpaid. So, you’ll want to begin saving for whatever maternity leave you plan on taking. I recommend at least 2 weeks and I think that is being very, very conservative.
Learning How to Prepare for a Baby Financially Is a Process
My husband and I were surprised by just how beneficial the birth of our daughter was for us financially. It forced us to become smarter with our money and helped us thrive in challenging situations.
My final tip: when you first go over your finances, don’t let yourself become discouraged. Learning how to be financially ready for a baby might seem like a major challenge at first, but you will appreciate the changes you make.
If you’re still feeling anxious about planning for your baby, check out my course, Baby on a Budget. It’ll teach you exactly what to expect from pregnancy, postpartum, and your baby’s first year of life, and how to save MASSIVELY on all of these expenses.
I truly hope that these expert tips have made your financial journey to parenthood easier. If you have any additional tips or questions, let us know below!
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