Your new bundle of joy is on its way and as the date inches closer, feelings of excitement, concerns about whether you’ll be a good parent and whether you’re fully prepared, start to set in. As well as relatives, friends and just about anyone trying to dump on you, all their worldly (and often sometimes contradictory) parenting advice. And here I am…
But the truth is, you can never be fully prepared. I still remember, it never fully hit me until my little daughter lay in my arms for the first time and boom – I was a dad! It’s a wonderfully crazy time and for many, it can be financially overwhelming too. But creating a plan beforehand can help to ease the financial burden.
Of course, with a new baby, you’ll undoubtedly have some that will shower the baby and you with gifts, but don’t always assume you will get everything you need. While I can’t lay out a complete budget, because the numbers can vary so much depending on what you buy, where you live and what you deem to be important, here’s a list of some of the things to consider and plan for.
Food for tot
If you plan to use formula, estimate spending at least $100 a month in the early stages. At about six months they’ll be graduating to solid foods, so although the amount of formula they get decreases, you’ll need to add in the cost of baby food. We made our own from scratch, but it still ran us about an extra $40 a month. We figured if we’re making it ourselves, may as well pick the best quality food available, so almost everything was organic.
Breastfeeding our baby saved us a bundle early on, on the costs of formula, bottles, bottle warmers, drop-ins, etc. But don’t forget to account for all the other little accessories such as breast pumps, nursing pads, storage bags and bottles so mommy can take a break every now and then and daddy can sneak in some good quality bonding time.
Diapers, wipes, creams and everything in between
Ah yes, the all expensive, but necessary evils. I would estimate, based on experience, that in the first year, it’s not unreasonable that one would expect to spend upwards of $100-$150 per month on the first three items alone. Of course, you could save a lot using cloth diapers. Although, they do seem like they would be a lot more work and although there are diaper services available, the whole idea of sharing diapers appeals to me even less. But hey, that’s just me.
But don’t forget about all the other necessary toiletries like bath towels, bath soaps, vaselines and so on, that comes with the ‘territory’.
Tools of the parenting trade
There’s always that debate of what is really necessary for a child, but a few items that are essential in my mind are a stroller, a diaper bag, and your rear-facing infant car seat (the latter, required by law, for anyone that drives). Strollers can run you anywhere from $150 to $1000+ each, brand new. But we got around just fine with a $200 stroller/car seat combo. If you’re shopping used or across the border, always be conscious that whatever you are buying is meeting your government’s latest child seat safety requirements. Be aware that although they may be marked with an expiry date, you can never be truly certain that that seat has not been involved in a collision. And whether you decide to buy new or used always ensure you check for recalls. For Canadians, Transport Canada has a searchable database of all car seats, vehicle and road safety equipment recalls listed here.
Prepping the nursery
So you’ve emptied out the room. Wondering where to start. Furniture’s a good start. Cribs can vary quite a bit in cost. We spent around $400 for ours, with a good quality mattress, but a new one can retail anywhere from $200-$2000, depending on quality or whether it’s a convertible one that can adapt while the child grows, converting to a day bed or double bed. But don’t get stuck on features you may never use. We got sold on one, only to find out later that a double bed doesn’t quite fit in her room. Doh! Again, if you’re buying used, ensure there weren’t any recalls.
Then there are all the other extras you’ll need for the room. Mainly a dresser, changing table, floor rug, lighting, window dressings, picture frames, paint and room decorations, shelving for books/toys, bedding and a host of other things I’m probably forgetting.
Clothing (but only for a limited time)
Clothes can be a big baby expense because they grow out of those tiny things so fast. I’m very grateful to my sister-in-law for lending us many of her daughter’s clothes, which has saved us oodles. But for our first year, even with all our clothing donations accounted for, we still ended up spending on average $60 a month on clothes. The #1 way to reduce your clothing costs is to ask around! Many will more than happy to shed their baby’s wardrobe. This is where I think many parents blow their budgets because every parent wants to dress up their kids in really cute clothes, we did too, but we welcomed hand-me-downs, especially for every day, lounge/sleepwear. This made it easy for us to justify splurging on the cute outfits for special occasions.
You’ll be amazed at how short a time your baby wears an item of clothing. So remember when borrowing clothes – the original child likely wore that item just a few times. On the other hand, there will be sleepers and onesies your child will live in and wear out, so remember you can’t have enough of them. Especially if you don’t love laundry!
Books and toys
Reading to your little one is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Take advantage of your local library. Books provide hours of entertainment – they don’t need an iPad! In fact, young children don’t need expensive toys at all. At least my daughter didn’t. Ice cube trays, measuring cups and boxes – these are a few of her favourite things.
In Canada, depending on the length of employment, new moms can take up to a year off with baby, where the government pays you a benefit equal to 55 percent of the parent’s average weekly insurable wage, of which there are 35-weeks of parental leave that can be shared with daddy. So you will need to take that into account if one takes maternity/paternity leave. But consider the savings of not driving to work, car insurance costs or having to buy a new work wardrobe.
This is one category most forget. If you both agree on setting aside money for your child’s education – start saving now. The earlier, the better. And if you put those savings into a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), the government will add 20% of whatever you contribute, up to $2500.
All the extras
I know in the US, medical bills can amount to really big bills and usually eats up the largest portion of your budget. Luckily we only had to pay for a few vaccines and over-the-counter meds out-of-pocket, that weren’t covered by our government or company health insurance plans. But with a new child on the way, it may be a good time to revisit your company/individual health plan and ensure you have the coverage you need.
Having a child is one of the best and most rewarding things and a little planning can go a long way into at least relieving any financial stress that comes along with it. Although this advice pertains to first-time dads, I have no advice for your second child just yet, but I will soon :). Yep, sometimes at the end of August, Thrifty Dad is going 2.0.
Bill Cosby once said, “you aren’t really a parent until you’ve had your second child.” Well this summer, I’m just about to find out if that rings true.