Welcoming your first bundle of joy into the world is an exciting and memorable time in a new parent's life. Of course, it's also an expensive time. The most recent USDA figures estimate that the average middle-income family will spend more than $12,000 during the first year of their child's life. Most of these costs are likely to be incurred in the first half of that year, as parents set up their homes for the new baby and make larger, one-time purchases. If you are like us at Modernize, and you find these baby costs more than a little daunting, why not take a look at these tips for budgeting for a baby during the first six months.
Kitting out the nursery is one of the biggest initial costs when you're anticipating the arrival of your baby. However, if you shop smart, it is possible to save money and buy quality products that will last long past the first six months. As far as cribs are concerned, buy a convertible crib that can be lowered gradually and then turned into a toddler bed. A changing station, place for clothes storage, and a rocker or armchair for nighttime feeds are a must, but save money on repurposed furniture or buy matching furniture at reduced prices. If your baby will sleep in your room at first, shop around for the best deals on bassinets and co-sleepers. When budgeting for a baby, check local Facebook buying and selling pages to get any secondhand furniture, but remember to always buy new mattresses.
Nursery decor and accessories can cost you as much or as little as you want, but remember that your baby is likely to spend relatively little time in the nursery for the first few months, so if needs must, save the cash until later on and focus on the first six months' priorities. When you do stock up for your nursery, add crib sheets, bumpers (make sure they are breathable), diaper holders, a mobile and a baby monitor to your list. Remember that smart shopping now means spending less money in the future.
Feeding prices over the first six months vary, depending on whether you've chosen to breastfeed or formula feed your baby, or a combination of both. For breastfeeding families, the cost here can be as little as a pack or two of breast pads, nipple shields and nursing bras. If you choose to pump as well, add in the cost of a breast pump (electric options are more expensive than manual, but check and see if your healthcare provider offers rentals or if your insurance covers the cost of one), bottles and milk storage bags. Formula feeders also incur bottle and sterilization accessory costs, but the primary cost here is formula itself. Prices vary wildly, but if you're looking to save money when budgeting for a baby, store-brand formulas such as Sam's Club's Member's MarkÂ® Infant Formula meets all the same FDA nutrition requirements and is clinically proven to be as well tolerated by babies as other leading brands. By switching to store-brand formula, you can save up to $600 per year without compromising quality.
Clothing and accessories
If you know the gender of your baby before birth, you can get most of your clothes shopping out of the way well ahead of time. Just remember that even the smallest parents can make very big babies, so don't spend too much of your money on tiny baby or even newborn sizes. This is a key trick when budgeting for a baby. Buy the basics and leave it to friends and family to gift you statement pieces. If you do feel as if you can't stretch to buying an entire baby wardrobe, hand-me-downs are nothing to stick your nose up at. Preloved clothing, blankets, burp cloths and bibs handed down by friends, siblings or bought at consignment shops are just as good as brand-new, if they've been washed and cared for.
Changing and bathing
During the first few months, babies go through an extraordinary amount of dirty diapers. Save money with off-brand disposables and wipes, as long as baby's body tolerates them well. You can also help the environment by switching to cloth diapers after the first month or so. The initial outlay here can be large, but there are plenty of places that offer free or reduced-price cloth diapers and inserts, so if you check around you are sure to find an affordable deal.
Stock up your bathroom with an infant bath (used is just as good as new), towels, washcloths and sponges and baby toiletries.
Most parents have heard that new car seats are a must, but if you're new to the game, know that it is imperative you buy a new car seat for your new arrival. Used models may look great, but you never know where they've been and whether they are safe to use. You can, however, cut costs with cheaper umbrella strollers or make a forward-looking investment with a stroller that converts to a double. Baby carriers and diaper bags are essentials, but if you buy quality items at the beginning, they will last much longer.
Newborn babies have very little need for expensive, trendy toys, and are happiest cuddling and playing with loved ones. If you feel the need for accessories, though, a play mat, Boppy and Bumbo will be practical and fun a few months down the line. In the meantime, anything soft with bold black and white prints will fill your baby's need for stimulation.
Calculating childcare costs is another topic in itself when budgeting for a baby, but if you are planning to return to work soon after your baby's birth, it is a necessary part of your budget. Discuss your options with family and friends before contacting daycare providers and nannies, but know that prices for such providers vary wildly depending on services offered and a variety of other factors.
About the Author: Kaitlin Krull is a writer and mom of two girls living the expat life in the UK. Her writing is featured on Modernize.com and a number of home decor sites around the web. She can also be found blogging from time to time on her personal blog, A Vicar's Wife.