Feb 23 2010

It doesn’t have to cost that much to have a baby!

Even before I was pregnant with Johnny, I was skeptical of the thousands of dollars per year that it would supposedly cost to raise a child.

I’m sure that upcoming years will be more expensive, but the first year of Johnny’s life was barely a blip in the budget. Here’s a few things of note:

  • Thanks to our fantastic HMO, my prenatal care and the birth cost us about $280. I realize that for many people, births can cost in the thousands.
  • We bought one carseat — a convertible First Year’s Trufit that’s supposed to be good from 5-65 lbs. and is good for extended rear-facing. Johnny was under six pounds when we brought him home from the hospital, and he did indeed fit properly. I do see how using an infant bucket seat for the first few months would be convenient, but we made it work. Having one car seat means one fewer item to store, and less money spent.
  • Because we went the one-carseat route, we didn’t get a “travel system” with a bulky stroller. We got the cheapie umbrella stroller from Babies R Us. We don’t use it much, but it’s handy to have and it takes up hardly any space in our trunk.
  • I took advantage of drugstore deals and got about 6 months’ worth of disposable diapers for around $100.
  • At 6 months, we switched to cloth diapers. I spent about $400 on the diapers and accessories. We do have some disposables on hand for long trips and such. We’re also switching to cloth wipes and a homemade wipe solution.
  • I was able to breastfeed exclusively. By this, I mean that Johnny didn’t use bottles. We had one bottle that came with some items at Motherhood Maternity. We tried using it a little but it wasn’t worth the trouble. By exclusively nursing, I didn’t buy bottles, pumps, ¬†formula and whatever else that you have to buy. Someone did loan me a pump for a time, but I found it to be too much of a hassle. If you’re pregnant and are thinking about breastfeeding, do your research now! Take a breastfeeding class from an IBCLC, go to a La Leche League meeting, read “A Nursing Mother’s Companion.” Get phone numbers of lactation consultants and a LLL leader. Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t come naturally for everyone (myself included!). The first few weeks were really tough, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to continue. By some work, help and¬†perseverance, we’ve been able to continue nursing beyond 14 months. The benefits are absolutely worth it for us.
  • We do a lot of homemade baby food. We’ve done some of the jarred stuff, but Johnny doesn’t seem to like it as much. I can’t really blame him. Plus, that stuff is pricey. I can cook a sweet potato and freeze it in individual meal portions in an ice-cube tray and it’s truly minimal work. Plus, it’s cheaper! Check out this site for more on making your own baby food.
  • Johnny was mostly clothed in second-hand clothes or clothes that were gifts. I did buy him a few new things at retail stores, but I’ve also been fortunate to receive some second-hand clothes to borrow or keep. Also, I picked up some deals from yard sales, consignment shops and thrift stores. My favorite is the $5/bag of clearance clothes at one area consignment store. Johnny has more clothes than he could possibly wear thanks to those deals and the generosity of friends and relatives.
  • We didn’t buy many toys for him. He had a few little things when he was itty bitty, but itty bitty babes don’t really seem to care about toys. When he got older, we got him a few toys he could enjoy. Some bigger items we were able to borrow from a friend (Hi, Renee!). And then we experienced the 1-2 punch that was his birthday (December 20) and Christmas just five days later.
  • His birthday present from us was a membership to an indoor playground. His Christmas present was a contribution to his college fund. If that sounds stingy, well, maybe it is. But lemme tell ya, my kid has TONS of toys now thanks to family. It was a miracle that we were able to fit it all in our car on the way home! The gifts from us were intangible because our space is so limited, he lacks for nothing, and for pete’s sake — he’s one. He doesn’t know the difference. :)
  • Since I’m a SAHM, we don’t pay for childcare. Yes, you could argue that there’s an opportunity cost with keeping me out of the workforce, but for our family, this is what works.
  • There are plenty of free, fun activities for little guys. In our area, there are several libraries that offer baby story time, sing/sign/and play time, and others. There are meetup groups for moms and tots to get together and play. We also use a shared museum membership for some outings. Plus, at this age, anywhere we go is an adventure. We have fun at the grocery store, parks (if the weather is ok) and anywhere else we might go.
  • Lots of baby gear that we have, we’ll be able to use it for future children, loan out, and finally resell.

When I was pregnant, we put $1,000 aside to buy things like his car seat, crib and mattress, diapers, and other items we wanted to have. That was more than enough to get us started.

So for now, no, I do not think it has to be costly to have a baby. I’m really irritated that someone told my friend Mrs Money that she can’t afford to have children. Yes, you might have to change your financial priorities around and make some sacrifices, but it’s worth it!

What other ways can you save money with a baby?

15 Responses to “It doesn’t have to cost that much to have a baby!”

  1. Don’t buy into all the baby and toddler activities. Since I’m a SAHM, I’m going to homeschool my son for preschool. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I would pay someone to swipe those awesome light bulb moments from me. My son does go with me to a Bible study twice a week where he enjoys plenty of social time with kids of all ages, and I pay a small voluntary fee for this. But we also go to a FREE weekly neighborhood playgroup, and have lots of FREE playdates with other awesome people (Hi Kacie). If he were in preschool, many of these acivites would need to be curbed.
    I didn’t sign him up for a baby/toddler gym. Park and mall playgrounds are free. I didn’t sign him up for music classes. The radio is free, and we have a couple fun CDs. I do sing to him often – unfortunately, he’ll probably pay dearly for this later in life. :)
    I did sign him up for swimming lessons last year. Even in July it can be way too cold to go swimming outside in Pittsburgh. We’ll pay per pool visit this summer, at a temperature of our choosing. I think I can handle bubble blowing and back floating on my own this time around.
    Our son loves to watch sports, and we want to encourage this. He was free at the professional baseball games up to 24 inches. He’s free at the professional hockey game until his 3rd birthday. We’ve been lucky enough to get these tickets once a season through my husband’s work. On Friday, we’ll attend a church basketball game for 9-12 year olds, where admission is free for everyone. He won’t be at all disappointed that he’s not seeing NBA players. 11-year-old Jake is his hero!
    We’ll save all the money we’ve saved saying “no” for now, so we can say “yes” to lessons and activities when he can enjoy them more later.

  2. Don’t forget about the tax benefits! On top of not spending that much, you can actually make money in the end by having a child because of that. ;)

  3. We got SOOOOOO much stuff donated to us…including two car seats (one big one and one that is part of the whole travel “system” with the stroller). We have clothes donated to us that are up through 4T (he’s only 5 months old).

    I agree that it does NOT have to cost *that* much to have a baby. Hell, if my great-grandma could raise so many kids during the Depression – keeping them clean and clothed with no money – then we should certainly be able to do it today.

    I am hoping that hubby will agree that we won’t buy our boy any gifts for his birthday or Christmas this year. He’s not going to know the difference!
    .-= megscole64´s last blog ..Gorgeous Jewelry Giveaway =-.

  4. Great post, Kacie! I would like to hear about the typical schedule that you, as a SAHM, set for yourself with your baby (and how it changes as he grew). Thanks!

  5. Love this post! Thanks for helping me out. I know that I’m frugal enough that we can make it work. I just hope I am able to breastfeed. I’m trying to read as much as I can on baby stuff now! :)
    .-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..A Teller Deposited Too Much Money- Can I Keep it? =-.

  6. Yeah really! You do get some handy tax breaks. Nice perk!

  7. You are lucky! Our medical bills were extreme- due to some bad insurance and just the sticker shock of not realizing that it would be so expensive to have a healthy baby. Wiped out our savings + loss of income for my wife due to health issues, etc. It really was stressful for us. If it wasnt for donated clothes from friends, we would have had a rough rough time. But I can’t tell you how great it is to have the two little bambinos running around and being a part of their lives. Since, I work from home (and travel some for sales calls) I am able to be there just enough to not miss the awesome moments.

    We also went the route of not getting too many toys- I have noticed my daughters creativity is real high now. I do not know if that is connected- but I love it.
    .-= Ted´s last blog ..Letter to My Mother =-.

  8. To some extent its about shifting priorities and such. We don’t go out to the movies as much or out to eat as much and that money can be used for the kids.

    We had, and still have, so much stuff handed down to us. We’ve also shared the wealth and passed on plenty of stuff. You don’t have to buy new for the kids. What you need to do is network.

    Now later on when the kids are older and when college is looming – then they will get expensive! But having them is priceless (and our are all gonna grow up and be doctors and lawyers and take care of us later on, right kids?).
    .-= Craig´s last blog ..Monster TurboTax Online Tax Software 2009 Review =-.

  9. I’ve found it’s best to start with minimal stuff — basic sleepers, diapers, etc and then either ask or observe other parents to see how much they actually use the extra gadgets. There’s a ton of “neato” stuff out there, but it takes up space.

    The county health department has programs with free lactation consultants — I used them for my sons. Preschool is free in Pittsburgh, and there are so many community resources that families can make choices about what works for them without paying much at all.

    My boys wear uniforms to school, so the fact that I get their stuff at consignment/thrift stores matters very little. When they graduate they will get $40000 towards college for attending our public schools.

    Realizations like this let me take things as they come and have faith that we will be provided for, either through work that God provides for us, or help that He gives us through others.

  10. I think Craig hit the nail on the head: priorities. We watched a lot of our friends have kids and they weren’t willing to give up things such as eating out, new wardrobes, new furniture, etc. We’re expecting our first in July and I’ve already started stockpiling diapers for cheap. We’ve stopped eating out as much (horrible habit, it needed to be broken!) and are putting all extra money into savings.

    We’ve been fortunate that our family has been so giving thus far. We’ve received so many brand new items for free. (This is for first grandbaby for both sides.) I’m not sure I need anything more and I haven’t even had my baby shower.

    I can understand the kids getting more expensive as they get older, but for now – as infants and toddlers – it is absolutely manageable. I remember reading articles about diapers costing couples $800/month. WHAT?! I’ve bought brand new Huggies jumbo packs for $0.19 with sales/coupons! For now, I’m not going to stress out about money. I was also irritated that someone told Mrs. Money she couldn’t afford to have kids. If this were true for everyone, I’m pretty sure many of us wouldn’t be here!
    .-= AJ´s last blog .. =-.

  11. The thing that annoys the crap out of me about the assumption that a couple must wait until they can afford kids is that it frequently translates into children being viewed as a luxury only to be enjoyed by the wealthy. Some people admit to this sentiment by whining that they’re tired of supporting people who can’t afford to care for their kids through taxes. The legacy of children is a basic human right!

    Anyway, I’d have to second the impact on tax refunds. We were pleasantly surprised this year and are that much closer to having our van paid off. Also, having kids has made us so much more frugal. We weren’t richer before, but we were definitely more wasteful. Having kids gives us reasons to save we didn’t have before, AND it keeps us out of pricey restaurants :-)
    .-= Jenny´s last blog ..A girl who speaks her mind =-.

  12. I couldn’t agree more with you!

    I think what children need in order to be properly provided for starts with food, shelter, and love, and the rest is unnecessary (some would view it was a bonus).
    I think about so many people I’ve known who have grown up below the poverty line, yet somehow, never went without, and grew up to be happy, well-adjusted adults. You don’t have to be obnoxiously rich to provide for your children in the way they need to be provided for.

    GREAT post!

  13. I’m a very frugal shopper. We didn’t buy all the junk for our kids, bought nearly everything second-hand, cloth diapered, used hand-me-downs, had low hospital fees for the births, but feeding them ended up costing a fortune. It cost over $1000 to try nursing, including visits to a lactation consultant (not covered by insurance), renting a hospital grade pump, buying a supplemental nursing system (tube you tape to the breast to supplement nursing without bottles), then bottles when the SNS doesn’t work, supplements, teas… and formula when all that failed to bring up my supply enough to feed them.

    And then my son needed a medical helmet, regular visits with a specialist, and physical therapy, an expensive venture.

    Sometimes you plan everything as cheap as possible and things outside of your control bring the prices up.
    .-= The Saved Quarter´s last blog ..Desktop gets tidy =-.

  14. We buy most of our clothes for our two boys at a twice-a-year consignment sale. I sell things, too, so some of the spending is covered by what we make in sales (and I make more at the sale than I would at a garage sale). I find great deals on toys there too – some are even new – and save them for birthdays/Christmas.

    We also make use of the library often, to check out books and DVD’s, but also for free events. Our library has a weekly story time both at its location and at Chick Fil A.
    .-= Christi´s last blog ..Fun in Watercolor =-.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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