When you’re about to become a parent for the first time, it can be overwhelming to navigate all the new expenses you’re about to add to your budget.
You quickly learn to balk at the price of diapers, scavenge yard sales for hand-me-down onesies, and start an endless inner dialogue about the cost benefits of breastfeeding over formula. But there are lots of other expenses that nobody tells you about.
My husband and I are pretty frugal by nature. I work from home, so we don’t pay for a sitter, and we opened up a 529 plan to start saving for our daughter’s college education as soon as she was born.
As I sit here typing this with my two-year-old on my lap, though, I realize just how in the dark we actually were.
Below, I’ve broken down all the expenses we racked up in our first year as parents — many of which caught us by surprise.
I made it my mission to track every single disposable diaper my husband and I changed as first-time parents. So I can say with 100% certainty that we changed 2,057 diapers in my daughter’s first year. The brand we use costs about $.25 per diaper, or $514.25 total.
The cost of diaper changes doesn’t end there: You also need to buy things like baby wipes, a diaper pail, and rash protection creams. With those costs included, we spent about $825 on diapers alone in year one.
For the first six months to a year, your baby will survive off of breastmilk or formula. Both have costs associated, but the difference in price is astronomical. Luckily, I was able to breastfeed my child and did so for the first full year.
Although breast milk is free, we still spent $752 on supplies to support my baby and my body throughout the first year of feeding, including breast pump, nursing bras, a breastfeeding pillow and lanolin cream.
We also had to pay for a lactation consultant to come to my home and help me learn how to breastfeed — that alone cost about $200 for a two-hour session and follow up phone calls.
At six months old, we began introducing solids to my daughter. The price of feeding her increased our grocery budget only slightly, around $25 each month, as we bought some pureed pouches and more produce than usual. At ten months, we started to mix formula into our routine, which cost about $230 for the three months we used it. Including the cost of feeding supplies, like a high chair, bibs, cutlery and plates, brought our total up to $1,132 for this particular category.
There's an awful lot of stuff you CAN buy for your baby, but it mostly comes down to personal preference. For us, "musts" included a car seat, stroller, toys, and books.
The two most expensive pieces of baby gear we bought were a stroller and car seat combo and a four-in-one crib that will eventually convert to a bedroom set. The stroller set was $450, and the crib was $700. Still, in comparison to a lot of the more trendy strollers, cribs and car seats, this was the practical choice.
In total, we spent $3,239 on baby gear. That doesn’t include the gifts we got from friends and family at our baby shower. If you add all of those together, we amassed about $5,000 worth of baby gear in our first year.
One expense that lots of parents have a hard time controlling spending on is clothing. Before our daughter's arrival, we stocked up on about $1,000 worth of clothes ranging from size newborn to 12-months. Some of that was gifted, but we did have to purchase seasonal essentials ourselves, like sun hats and swimsuits. And none of that was cheap.
This is an expense that a lot of parents forget to include in their budget. And while this was our least expensive category, it includes some non-negotiable items that were essential in the six weeks following labor.
All told, we spent $300 on postpartum materials, including some costly adult diapers, and a lot of sprays and lotions to help me recover.
Insurance and savings
Another unique—but critical—expense that kicks in during the first year of your child’s life is insurance. We live in Canada, so we're fortunate enough not to need additional health insurance, but we did buy life insurance for about $400 a year. We also opened a college education fund, and put $50 each month into the account for the first year, while we had a lower income due to only one parent working full time.
In total, we spent $1,000 on insurance and savings that first year. The average for this cost in the United States is typically much higher, ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000.
Takeout and other “non-necessities”
When our daughter was born, my husband and I lived in a city with no family and only a few close friends. So anything that could provide us a morsel of convenience became a routine part of our lives. In the first six weeks, we ordered food delivery ten times, and to this day, I do not regret a single meal. All told, we spent about $700 on coffee and takeout in our first year as new parents.
We splurged on a few other items as well: like an $80 nightlight we could control with our phones, and a lot of pricy organic baby creams for eczema. I also had to spend money on new summer clothes that would work for breastfeeding.
How to financially prepare for your baby's first year
In total, we spent $9,426 in our first year as new parents — though, again, that doesn’t include childcare, which is often the most expensive part of raising a baby. According to average rates listed on Care.com, the weekly cost of child care for one infant in daycare is $211, and that price increases to $596 for a nanny.
If you have a baby on the way, make it a priority to map out all the estimated expenses you'll have in that first year. Include essential purchases first, and then consider any additional items you'd like to buy if they happen to fall within your means. Get a solid number in mind, and then start aggressively saving towards that goal.
Not every expense in your baby’s first year is one you can plan for, so it's a good idea to pad your emergency fund as much as possible before your due date. Often, that means putting other financial goals on hold. If you were saving for a vacation or a new patio set, it’s probably best to redirect that money towards your savings account. And if you’re not already in the habit of tracking your spending through a budgeting app or spreadsheet, now is the time to start.
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