It’s no secret that children are expensive, but just how expensive are they? As a self-proclaimed budget addict, when I learned we were expecting our first child, my first concern was how to budget for the inevitable expenses that would come along with this adventure. Its seemed impossible and overwhelming to figure out what we needed and how much it would cost. Now looking back on my daughter Zoe’s six month birthday, I’m sharing what I’ve learned from our family finance journey in the hopes that you can use this as a jumping off point for your family planning.
In order to calculate this I made a few decisions. I included some things we didn’t use and I excluded some things we bought, but I wouldn’t have bought in retrospect. I also assume you’ll be doing laundry every day, and calculate the costs for clothing accordingly. Lastly, I calculated the cost of breastfeeding supplies as well as formula feeding. Whether you do one, the other, or some combination of the two, it will impact this cost dramatically, so take that all into consideration when you’re trying to calculate your own cost. Also, know that sometimes we spent more than we needed to on an item and other times we spent less than average, so there are definitely some opportunities to save buried in here. Overall, the total for the first six month of expenses came out to almost $3,500! WHAT?!?! You can find the breakout below, but before I get into the down and dirty number crunching, I wanted to share a little of what I learned along the way from a spending perspective.
What We Regret Buying
While every baby has different needs and you will find things that work best for your family, here are a few things that personally did not work for our family. Let’s start with the nail clipper… trust me when I tell you that you can buy the cadillac of nail clippers and it won’t make it any easier to keep those little tiny baby nails in check. You are going to spend a lot of time trimming your baby’s nails, so this is a great place to invest. Pick up a battery operated nail file like this one to save yourself and your baby the anguish of the nail clipper.
Now here come some more controversial opinions, so keep in mind that they are just that… my opinions. There were a few other items that we barely used, the first one being the Boppy pillow. The problem for us with the Boppy pillow was that it just never fit right around my body in the chairs I was sitting in so it often left a gap for Zoe to fall in when she was breastfeeding. We were much happier using a traditional throw pillow than we were the Boppy pillow, but we did try to get our money’s worth out of it by using it for tummy time and to learn to sit. Ultimately, though, there was nothing the Boppy pillow offered us that we weren’t able to get out of items we already had lying around the house.
A swing and the Bumbo chair were also two items I wish I hadn’t purchased. We thought Zoe would enjoy the swing since she seemed to take to it in daycare, but I never felt comfortable leaving her in it for very long and she seemed to get restless in it after a few minutes, so we almost never used it. Additionally, I thought the Bumbo chair would make all the difference in helping Zoe learn to sit, but really those were skills that I enjoyed teaching her. If you’re together all day, you need something to do! Similarly to the swing, I never trusted the Bumbo as something I could leave her in, and she would often look so uncomfortable that I was happier working with her and waiting until she could sit up on her own without forcing the issue.
The last purchase that I would have skipped if I was looking to save money is a sterilizer for bottles. Full disclosure I did use this yesterday, but it is an easy thing to skip if you feel like you’re hemorrhaging money because you can easily boil water in a pot and sterilize your bottles the old fashioned way. It will take longer, which is fine if you are exclusively breastfeeding and don’t need to sterilize your bottles regularly (since breastmilk is antibacterial). On the other hand, if you are formula feeding, and need to sterilize your supplies more often, a sterilizer you can quickly pop in the microwave might be a good investment for your family.
The Best Money We Spent
The best money we spent for our little one is easy to pin down. I’ll exclude the obvious things like diapers and a stroller and skip to the optional stuff that you really need to know about. First is the sleepsack. Before we had Zoe I had come across these when populating our registry and had essentially labeled them as baby straight jackets. Little did I know how useful they could be until the hospital wrapped our baby in one only hours after being born. It does the exact same job as a swaddle without all of the fumbling that comes from trying to wrap up a swaddle five times in the middle of the night. If you’re lucky your hospital may send you home with one, but I’d also pick up one or two more to be prepared for blowouts and throw-up. Welcome to parenthood!
Next is the rock ‘n’ play which will set you back about $60, but is 100% worth it. For the first three months, if Zoe was sleeping, she was in the rock ‘n’ play… and FYI, newborns sleep a lot. I would take her rock ‘n’ play into my office to get work done, place it next to the couch when I needed to take a nap, to the kitchen when I was washing bottles, to the bathroom when… well, you get the idea. It’s even easy to pack up and bring with you on a trip to the grandparent’s house. Add one to your list and you won’t regret it.
Just about the time Zoe was outgrowing her rock ‘n’ play (about 4 months old), she was also able to hold her head up on her own and showing a penchant for bouncing, so I ordered her a Jumperoo on Amazon. It’s amazing! She is so content to bounce, and play with/chew on the toys mounted to it’s dashboard. It’s a parent’s best friend when your little one is becoming more active, but can’t get around on her own yet. No need to purchase this upfront, but definitely something to budget for around the third or fourth month.
A Few Other Notes
Before I get to the comprehensive list of our spending from the first six months of raising our daughter, I wanted to share a few other considerations that are harder to estimate when it comes to your budget. Remember that along with your added duties of parenthood comes the added laundry burden. There is a lot of laundry. I saw our water bill go up about $15 a month as well as increasing our demand for laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent. Our gas and electric bills also increased because we chose to keep the house at a more temperate climate then we would have chosen for ourselves. Lastly, there are things you’ll forget about like healthcare deductibles, batteries, baby classes (check your local library for free classes), parenting support groups, and mom care. On that note, if you’re giving birth in a hospital, try to get the most you can out of your stay as possible. Most hospitals are happy to send you home with whatever they can, so don’t be afraid to ask. Ask for extra diapers, take the bathing supplies, snot sucker, hats, sleepsacks, and mom hygiene products. You can also ask to try pumping at the hospital which means that all of the supplies they give you will get to go home with you. I’m still using bottles I got from that experience on a day to day basis.
Here's the breakdown of expenses by category to help you estimate your own costs. Be sure to click below for your free download.
The Bottom Line
While the costs can seem excessive, there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to what you’re buying. Have a friend or family member throw you a shower if possible. Remember, it takes a village to afford to raise a child, and you’re going to need that money if you plan to send your little one off to daycare and eventually college.
If you’re a parent already, what were you glad you bought or would have skipped buying for your infant?
Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook
Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.