Expecting a baby is exciting. Less thrilling is thinking about how you’ll afford your bundle of joy. To keep from getting overwhelmed, plot your expenses before the birth to figure out ways to save. “New parents often spare no expense, but they should know it’s OK to be frugal and cut a few corners sometimes,” says dadtography.com parenting blogger Daniel Ruyter. In the United States, the estimated annual cost of a child’s first year is $12,940 for a middle-class family, but rises to upwards of $21,430 for higher earners for a child born in 2013, according to the USDA’s Expenditures on Children by Families report. (You can calculate an estimate of your own expenses here.)
Here’s how to keep your spending in check, before and after your bundle of joy arrives on the scene.
Prioritize The Gear
There’s stuff that’s essential (a stroller), and plenty that is just cool (like a diaper-compressing trash can). Categorize your registry items into “necessary” and “luxury”—and let family members know which pieces you truly need. Make sure big-ticket items can grow with your little one—such as a crib that converts to a toddler bed or a car seat that becomes a booster for a school-age child, says Ruyter.
By the time they hit five months, infants typically double their weight in a rapid progression of sizes, which means your baby will outgrow all those cute newborn clothes in just weeks. “I preferred hand-me-down newborn clothes because they grow out of them so fast,” says Karina Bosis, a Chicago-based mother of two. Sites like thredUP and local parenting listserves are great sources for getting gently used baby apparel and accessories at a fraction of the cost of new.
Curb Childcare Costs
Childcare is arguably the steepest expense for most new families. (This state-by-state guide shows just how much parents are spending.) Options for reducing this cost include nanny shares, any employer-sponsored discounts at daycare providers and childcare websites, such as SitterCity, that offer coupon codes.
Scoop Up Freebies
Because the first days with a newborn can feel like a whirlwind, ask a family member to accept any hospital swag you’re offered. Hospitals often hand out samples of infant vitamin D, bath products, formula, diaper creams, pacifiers and coupons. Trust us: You’ll go through it all fast. Another maternity-ward freebie to take advantage of: your hospital’s lactation consultants, who can guide you through the breastfeeding process, provide tips for issues you might experience once you get home and recommend groups that offer additional support.
Avoid Major Purchases
It’s natural to crave more space as you prepare for a child, but hold off on buying a new home or bigger car until your baby is born. “You’ll know so much more about how your baby impacts your lifestyle and your finances after you’ve been a parent for a few months,” says parenting blogger Sandra Gordon, founder of Babyproductsmom.com based in Weston, Conn.
Manage Your Meals
Stock your freezer with make-ahead meals in the months leading up to your due date. You’ll have very little time—and energy—to cook after your little one arrives, and you won’t want to blow your budget ordering takeout every night. For extra meal-planning help, use an online tool that lets you “register” for home-cooked dishes from family and friends.
Don’t Pay For “Mommy And Me”
At this stage, free mommy-and-me classes and meet-ups are just as good as the pricey courses, because the main benefit for babies under the age of one is “one-on-one time with a parent or caregiver,” says Gordon. You’ll find free and low-cost resources for nurturing your child’s development at your local library, YMCA and community center. Meanwhile, children’s clothing and toy stores, as well as bookstores, often host free story times, music classes, yoga and playgroups, says Bosis.
Do you have the right insurance coverage for your growing family? Talk to a GEICO agent to figure out how your needs may change once your bundle of joy arrives.
Keep reading: 10 Essential Safety Tips for Parents
By Alina Dizik