First came the exciting news, “We’re pregnant!” But now you might be wondering, “How are we going to afford this?” Don’t worry! You have plenty of time to prepare for baby – emotionally and financially. Raising a child cost an average of $233,610 in 2015. So, while growing your family is expensive, those costs don’t come around all at once – which is why budgeting, planning and saving are so crucial.
There are some great tools out there to help you get a ballpark on costs, including the USDA Cost of Raising a Child Calculator. Input the number of children you have (or will have) and their ages, your geographic region, and income range to see a projection of expenses through age 18. The calculator can also give you an idea of the costs you’ll incur during the first year, which gives you a great savings goal leading up to the birth of your little one.
Here are some tips to help make sure you financially prepare for a baby, plus some other financial things to consider:
Figure out your finances now
Before you start saving or spending for baby, it’s important to survey your financial landscape. Know what you own and what you owe across the board. Put pen to paper, or use a budgeting program or spreadsheet, and identify:
- Your household’s income(s)
- Any pre-tax contributions toward: insurance, retirement accounts, flexible spending accounts
- All fixed expenses: rent/mortgage, car payment or transportation costs, utilities, insurance (car, home/renters, life, etc.), subscription services etc.
- Other variable expenses: groceries, entertainment, pets, property taxes, gifts, vehicle maintenance
- Debt: Student loans, unpaid credit cards, personal loans, cash advances, etc.
To find room in your budget for baby expenses, take a look at a few months’ worth of expenditures. Pull your free credit report while you’re at it too.
Eliminate debt before the due date
If you (or your partner) are still paying off student debt, this is a good time to double down. Consider consolidation if you haven’t already. Consolidating student loan debt reduces the number of loan payments you have by rolling them into one, and can reduce your interest rate. Making fewer and lower monthly payments can help you save lots over the life of your student loans.
Make sure your credit is in check, too. If you have unpaid balances on credit cards and a high interest rate, create a payment plan to become debt-free. You’ll likely need to make big pre-baby purchases like nursery furniture, which means you might need good credit – especially if you plan to finance these big ticket items. A balance transfer, particularly when your financial institution is offering a special promotion, can reduce your interest rate so you can focus on paying off the principal, not extra interest.
Make room for medical expenses
This includes prenatal expenses, birth expenses and doctor visits. Chart out what you expect your pregnancy and birth to cost, and set your savings goal a little higher to cover post-birth doctor visits, too. If your employer offers pre-tax flexible spending programs, consider enrolling. Part of your paycheck before taxes will automatically go into an account, like a Health Savings Account (HSA), so you’re not forking over the dough every time you head to the doctor – it’s already set aside!
Be sure to check with your employer to see how adding to your family will impact your medical insurance costs. You can project these costs upfront and save now to get ahead so you won’t have to pay out of pocket later.
Identify one-time pre-baby expenses
Make a list of must-haves for baby. Furniture, a car seat, and a stroller are definitely needed, and these big purchases can rack up fast. A quick online search will give you an idea how much you’ll want to spend, so you set a solid savings goal. If you can save for one-time expenses before your baby arrives, you won’t have to deal with the financial stress that comes with paying them off later.
Stick to a list when you shop – this can be hard when cute outfits and nifty gadgets are everywhere in baby stores! If you only buy what you need, it’s much harder to overspend. You’ll get plenty of little extras and non-necessities from a baby shower.
Talk to other moms, too! They can be a great go-to as you shop for baby products because they’ve been there, tried that. They may know things to get that you haven’t thought of, things you don’t actually need that you thought you might, or even have hand-me-downs to pass on and help you save.
Plan for parental leave
Paid or unpaid parental leave to can have a big impact on your finances. Find out what options your employer has available to you so you can plan accordingly.
Consider saving for college early
It never hurts to be ahead of the curve. Setting aside money for education costs may not be a priority pre-baby, but it’s something to consider. Once you’ve established your baby budget and started saving, this is a natural next step.
When you’re ready and able, set up a small automatic savings plan that will help fund your child’s education when the time comes. An Education Savings Account (ESA) might be a good option. With an ESA, the interest accrued on the account is tax-free as long as the money is used for education expenses. A 529 plan lets you contribute after-tax dollars to a college fund. Withdrawals from these accounts are generally tax-free as long as the money is being used for education purposes. Your financial institution can help you decide which option is best for you. These savings can really add up over the next 18 years – plus the power of compounding works in your favor the sooner you start.
Make sure you’re ready for anything
You’ll need to wait until baby arrives, but if you don’t already have a will, it’s a good time to start planning. It may be difficult to consider these things when you’re young and healthy, but having a plan in place is important. You’ll also want to update your beneficiaries on your financial accounts.
Having a baby is an exciting life change! Planning ahead and saving early will help ease any financial impacts that having a baby may bring, so you’ll be able to make the most of your time with your growing family.
Nondeposit investment and insurance products are offered through Navy Federal Financial Group, LLC, (NFFG) and through its subsidiary, Navy Federal Brokerage Services, LLC (NFBS), a member of FINRA/SIPC and an SEC registered investment advisory firm. Brokerage and advisory products are offered through NFBS. These products are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guaranteed or obligations of the credit union, are not offered, recommended, sanctioned, or encouraged by the federal government, and may involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Products may be offered by an employee who serves both functions of accepting member deposits and selling nondeposit investment and insurance products. 1-877-221-8108.