Jul 22 2010

How to make sure baby #2 costs as much as baby #1


As a part of a promotion, I received a book in the mail yesterday. I will read it and give it a proper review later, but something immediately grabbed my attention on the back cover:

“The average family will spend between $11,000 and $16,000 during a new baby’s first year, and more than $200,000 before a kid’s eighteenth birthday. Unfortunately, a second baby only doubles your costs, with little economy of scale for each additional baby.”

Um, hold on a second while I a.) stare at the text in disbelief b.) snort and chuckle c.) question whether the author/publisher knows about how to save lots of money on babies d.) all of the above.

The book in question is The Wall Street Journal. Financial Guidebook for New Parents by Stacey L. Bradford.

Again, I haven’t read it yet — I’ve just seen the back cover. The crazy statement is also present in the introduction.

I’m hoping the author has something useful within these pages — possibly some good info on 529 plans, estate planning and other Wall Street Journal-type info.

So let’s talk about how a second child could cost as much as a first baby.

  • Use disposable diapers for both children.
  • Formula-feed only. For the second child, you’ll replace some bottles and rubber nipples since I am guessing they wear out (right?)
  • Put both children in daycare from a young age on.
  • Had a boy the first time and having a girl the second? Get entirely new wardrobes for each child.
  • Buy a second crib, and put your eldest child in a crib-converted “big-boy bed.”
  • Make sure all baby gear is purchased new for the second child.
  • Etc.

In contrast, here are some things that we are doing for our little girl. She will barely be a blip in our budget. And Johnny was only a sorta-blip, himself — so yeah we’re going to be money ahead once you consider the tax break.

  • Use cloth diapers for both children. Most of our cloth dipes from Johnny can be used for Baby Girl. I will buy a few extra, and I also needed to buy some tiny diapers since we didn’t start with Johnny until he was 6 months. Total cost? Around $100. And they have resale value! And I can also use them for #3! Alternatively, you could work the drugstore deals and get disposables for fairly cheap.
  • Breastfeed the baby until beyond 12 months. I had some struggles in the first month with Johnny and I thought it would be great if I could make it to 4 weeks, and then my goal was 2 months…and then it got a lot easier and the next thing I know, he weaned at 18 months. The kid managed to get by without formula and he only had one bottle…ever. I hand-expressed milk for him to have while I had surgery. He drank from a bottle that I got for free from Motherhood Maternity. He hated the bottle, and I’m not surprised since we introduced it so late. Anyway, for us breastfeeding was pretty darn cheap and convenient.
  • I’m a homemaker. I think that’s my job title of choice these days, since “stay-at-home-moms” do not stay home. We go all over the place! So yeah, I don’t pay anyone to watch my kiddo. That’s cheaper. And fun!
  • Our second child is a girl and I’ve already heard from THREE people who want to send me some clothes for her. Ok, sure, thanks! I also have some gender-neutral items from Johnny that she can wear. Baby clothes don’t have to be expensive anyway, thanks to yard sales, thrift/consignment and hand-me-downs.
  • Johnny is in a double-sized bed that we previously used as a guest bed. We will use his crib for Baby Girl. He could have used the crib as a “big boy bed,” but for one, he doesn’t like it. And two, he’d need to be evicted in time for Baby Girl anyway, so we might as well skip the toddler bed and just go to a size that will contain him until he’s oh, 6’2″ or so.
  • Our baby gear with Johnny was intentionally gender-neutral. My Baby K’tan is black and I will possibly get another color just for fun. I’m thinking green. Our pack n’ play is neutral (and honestly, who CARES if it wasn’t?!). Our umbrella stroller is grey. We don’t have an infant seat yet but will be getting one for Baby Girl. It’ll be a neutral pattern.

It really and truly doesn’t have to cost that much to have a baby. I can’t speak for what it costs to raise a teenager since I’m obviously not there yet, but I am still skeptical of the $11,000+/year price tag.

I don’t want numbers like this to discourage people from becoming parents. It’s just so misleading!

Posted under Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “How to make sure baby #2 costs as much as baby #1”

  1. You forgot about the elite, private pre-K WSJ is obsessed with. The Chinese nanny, however, will scale. Unless you need two Chinese nannies…
    dogatemyfinances´s last post ..Laser Hair Removal

  2. The ONLY thing I’ll disagree a tiny bit about is the formula. And it’s not so much a disagreement actually…just that I wasn’t ABLE to breast feed, which was incredibly depressing and difficult for me to finally admit. I tried very hard but it was not happening. So there’s not much saving for me if we have a second…at least there. I have no problem dressing a girl in boy clothes if need be. :)

    I agree though that the so called “costs” of raising a baby are stupid and insane. We’ve spent more than we should have…but we’re not as dedicated as you are. =)
    megscole64´s last post ..A Day at the Air Show

  3. Breastfeeding is such a touchy subject — sorry if I opened wounds, Meg. It can be a huge challenge for some moms, even if they’ve taken classes, read books, hired consultants…sometimes it just doesn’t work. But hey, you tried, and that counts for something!

  4. Exactly–it makes me so mad to see things like this. They may not be trying to discourage people from having kids, but that’s what they are doing. I don’t know what we spent on our children in the first year (little one is not quite one yet), but it was nowhere near $11,000. There’s no way, because we didn’t even have it to spend if we wanted to! I wonder if figures such as this include the monetary value of gifts. These people don’t realize there are baby costs, like diapers and medical care, and then there are luxuries such as infant shoes, $1000 strollers, hairbows and boutique clothing. Those shouldn’t be considered a part of an essential baby budget.
    Jenny´s last post ..Dressing to impress myself

  5. Well, I agree that the material costs of raising a baby for 1 year will not reach 11,000. However, realistically I am sure that the cost is that or much higher, because, at least for most families, it requires that either one parent not work or that parents pay for daycare. Either way, there is no way around the fact that this is a ‘cost’ in having a child. It doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it 1,000 times over, but in my mind, it is certainly a financial cost (either via wages spent on daycare or wages foregone in order to care for one’s own children). Most homemakers would likely be earning more income if they didn’t have children.

  6. I agree completely Kacie. I have four children and we have lived by the hand me down motto. We bought gender neutral items and steered clear of the latest and greatest trends in “must have” baby products. We weren’t ashamed to take hand me down offers from friends either.

    I can remember my grandmother sharing stories of how she used a large dresser drawer as a crib for her children.

    I am a huge advocate of breast feeding even though I didn’t breastfeed as long as you did. I always stopped when they started biting.

    Seems like these numbers that are published scare people away from having children. It may cause some to look at children as a financial burden rather than a blessing.

    If you are prudent in your financial decisions having multiple children won’t much of a strain on a families finances.
    Saidah @ AProverbswife.com´s last post ..If You Could Begin Your Marriage Again- What You Do Differently Pt 1

  7. i remember after my firstborn had gone though all the clothes we got before he was born or i needed more clothes for him, anything i bought was gender neutral if possible because i then realized i was definitely gonna have more! Good thing because baby #2 was a girl.
    Amy´s last post ..One Handed Wonder

  8. I agree with Nicole. That $11,000 includes the cost of daycare or the lost income of the stay at home parent. I couldn’t find daycare that cheap in our area so I decided to stay home, but we’re not bringing in my former income of $29,000 a year because of that.

    It also includes the increase in health care premiums and deductibles (over $150 a month for us when my son was born and another $150 a month when my daughter was born, plus an increase in deductibles), the difference in rent between the 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom apartments or larger as they grow or you have more kids, more electricity if a parent is staying home who previously worked outside the home, possible upgrade to a more reliable or appropriate vehicle, etc.

    It’s not just the cost of things like diapers (I did hand-me-down cloth, too) and formula, which I too needed, despite sinking over a grand into trying to nurse – consultants, a special tube apparatus, hospital grade pump rental, expensive supplements… breastfeeding didn’t come cheap for us. If we have another, I’ll formula feed from the start because it was, in the long run, cheaper for us and nursing was such a difficult and emotionally taxing experience for me with both kids.

    That also doesn’t take into account any medical issues. My daughter lost weight between 2 and 4 months and needed medication for reflux and special, expensive, high calorie formula (which she mostly puked all over herself.) Once her weight was growing, she started having seizures and passing out, requiring a late night trip to the ER and a few visits to a neurologist. Turned out she was holding her breath and we could prevent a seizure by blowing on her face when she started to hold her breath, but we didn’t know that in the middle of the night, so off to the ER we went. We easily met our $3,500 deductible in her first year alone, plus the increased premium of $1,800 a year. That’s half of their $11,000 estimate without food, diapers, clothes, carseats, cribs, toys, daycare… You see where I’m going with this.

    I shopped Craigslist and garage sales, reused the crib, handed down cloth diapers, you name it, I got it cheap. Still, I don’t doubt the $11,000 price tag for my son’s first year, if only from my own loss of income. My daughter was a lot cheaper in stuff but we easily spent $11,000 over the year with all of the expenses added up.

    Babies. They’re pricy, but they’re worth it. :)

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. 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.

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