Having a baby (whether it’s your first, second, third, etc.) is a new season of life. And it can be an expensive season. Before you get overwhelmed when you look at the price tags on cribs, or you read about how many diapers they’ll go through (it’s a lot) – remember that a budget can help you stay on track.
I spend a significant portion of time on the NewLeaf Financial Guidance blog talking about budgeting. That’s because I’m a big believer in the fact that having a budget that reflects your values, helps you save, and frees you up to pay down debt is the first step on the path toward financial freedom. A budget is also important because it teaches you the habits needed to transition from one season of your life to the next.
Having a baby (whether it’s your first, second, third, etc.) is a new season of life. And it can be an expensive season. Before you get overwhelmed when you look at the price tags on cribs, or you read about how many diapers they’ll go through (it’s a lot) – remember that a budget can help you stay on track. You’ll need to adjust, but there are some steps to follow that will make this transition less financially bumpy.
STEP ONE: REVIEW YOUR CURRENT BUDGET
If you have a budget in place already – that’s awesome! Pat yourself on the back. If you don’t – don’t beat yourself up. You’ve still got time. I suggest that people follow the 10/20/30/40 budget as closely as possible when they get started working on becoming debt free. Here’s a summary of how that budget looks in practice (and you can grab my free budgeting worksheet here):
- 10%: Charitable giving.
- 20%: Saving.
- 30%: Debt Repayment.
- 40%: Everything Else.
I like this system because it’s easy to follow. It’s tough to muck up a budget when you’ve got clearly defined income percentages going toward different financial goals – and when we’re not nickel and diming every expense.
If you haven’t reviewed your budget in a while, now’s the time to do so. What’s working? What areas do you consistently fall down? Be honest with yourself – it’s not a bad thing to admit budgeting mistakes. It just means you need to adjust.
STEP TWO: ESTIMATE NEW EXPENSES
This is a daunting task, and I don’t recommend diving in all at once. There will be more expenses than you realize. Some things to think about are:
- Nursery supplies.
- Hospital bills.
- Life insurance.
- Health insurance.
- Medical costs (for wellness visits, etc.).
- College savings (like a 529 plan).
As you work out the estimated expenses for these things, see how they compare to what you’re spending now. For example, if you’re already contributing to an HSA or FSA, that can help to cover medical costs or hospital bills. If you can cut back on your current grocery bill, you’ll be able to make room for any new costs that crop up when feeding your kid (or kids). About how much more each month will you need to spend?
STEP THREE: ADJUST YOUR BUDGET ACCORDINGLY
Once you work out how much your baby is going to cost you, it’s time to adjust your budget. This doesn’t mean that you should eliminate all “fun money” that you currently spend. But it does mean that it’s time to get smart about things if you haven’t been spending intentionally. Some areas you can consider saving money are:
- Switching providers. This could be your phone provider, cable provider – you name it. If there’s a better deal elsewhere, make the switch.
- Scaling back. Do you need to be renting the biggest apartment in the building? Probably not. Cutting cost of living expenses is a good way to save.
- Eliminate unintentional spending. I’m not saying that splurging on a $5 cup of coffee now and again is the end of the world. But if you’re going every day – it might be time to cut back. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” He was right. Look at your expenses. Do all of them bring you closer to a goal, or bring joy into your life? If not, ditch them. The $5 cup of coffee could easily be swapped for a $5 contribution to a 529 plan.
- Decide now what you want to spend money on post-baby. There are a billion different things from toys to wipe warmers that are advertised to expecting parents. You don’t need all of them. I promise that your kid doesn’t need 50 toys at $20 each. Instead, let your habit of intentional spending take over. What do you want your kid to have? What experiences matter more than “stuff”?
- Embrace buying used. Baby clothes (and kid clothes in general) are expensive. Pretty much all things sold to them are expensive – and they grow out of it! Toys, clothes, shoes – you name it. If you can find hand-me-down’s or a good consignment store near you it can be a good way to cut costs.
- Evaluate your insurance. Are you truly getting the best coverage for your money? Make sure that everything is squared away, or take advantage of open enrollment to make changes.
STEP FOUR: DON’T CHANGE EVERYTHING
You can’t completely change your way of life after you have a baby – you deserve to keep some things the same. You still can have a date night, and you’ll want to see your friends. So, taking those expenses out of your budget completely is a big “no.” Instead, figure out ways to adjust the spending so it’s less than it is now. Rather than going to the bar for a drink after work with buddies, ask them over to watch the game on Saturday. Instead of an up-scale date night, take your significant other out to a matinee and split popcorn.
The cost of having a baby is expensive, and the ongoing cost of raising kids can be mind-boggling. The key is to have a plan going into parenthood, and being ready to adjust your budget as life changes. Which, believe me, it will.
Need help organizing your finances before your family’s new addition arrives? Click the image below to schedule your free consultation!