Whether you're a first-time parent or having another child, it can take months to prepare for the arrival of a new baby. Like many parents-to-be, you may spend the months leading up to the birth decorating the nursery and mentally preparing for sleepless nights.
But your home isn’t the only thing you need to prepare. A new baby comes with a new set of expenses. To keep your head above water, you need a financial game plan.
Here are 11 tips to prepare your family financially for a new baby.
1. Understand your healthcare benefits
Familiarize yourself with your health insurance benefits shortly after finding out you're pregnant, or before deciding to have a baby. You may have to pay some of your maternity costs out of pocket. Your health plan likely has an annual deductible, which is the amount you’re responsible for paying before your insurance kicks in. You may also have coinsurance, the percentage you're responsible for after meeting your annual deductible. Visit healthcare.gov for more information.
2. Get quotes for adding the baby to your health plan
Health insurance premiums are based on the number of people on the health plan. If your current plan only includes coverage for you and your partner, adding a new baby to your policy will increase the monthly premium. To prepare for this increase, contact your health insurance provider and request a new quote if you have an individual plan. Compare prices among other providers. If you have group coverage through an employer, your employer’s benefits manager can provide cost information.
3. Ask your employer about paid maternity or paternity leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work each year for family or medical reasons. You can’t lose your job by taking maternity leave. Unfortunately, this is unpaid leave, so your employer doesn’t have to pay you for time off. The good news is that some companies offer paid maternity and paternity leave as an employee benefit. Talk to your employer to see if this is an option. If so, find out how much you’re eligible to receive.
4. Get short-term disability insurance
If your employer doesn't offer paid maternity leave, short-term disability insurance can replace a percentage of your income while you’re on maternity leave. Contact your provider for information on how much you’re eligible to receive. It’s important that you get a policy before getting pregnant. Unfortunately, the policy does not cover pre-existing conditions.
5. Decide if you’ll work after the baby arrives
Another part of preparing your finances for a new baby is deciding whether you or your spouse will be a stay-at-home parent. You’ll need to decide whether you’ll return to work full-time or part-time. Take a close look at your income and household expenses to assess whether you can survive off of one income. If one person wants to stay home after the baby is born, start now by living off of a single income and depositing the other person's income into the bank, and build your cash reserve. This is also a way to know whether being a stay-at-home parent is realistic.
6. Compare the cost of day care
If becoming a stay-at-home parent isn’t an option, now’s the time to think about day care options. Even if the arrival of your baby is five or six months in the future, it’s never too early to compare rates and reserve a spot for your baby. According to a 2015 Care.com report, the weekly average cost of a day care center is $188 for one child, and $341 for two. Comparing prices early prepares you mentally for the cost of child care services. If you’re going back to work, check with your employer to see if there are any child care options available to you as a benefit. Some large employers may even offer on site childcare for a reduced cost.
7. Learn the cost of baby supplies
A new baby is expensive. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know the exact cost until your baby arrives. If your friends or family have a baby shower in your honor, you’ll receive some items like baby clothes, a stroller, a car seat, or baby accessories.
Browse the baby aisle at your local grocery store and compare prices for the following:
- baby wipes
- baby food
- breast pumps
You can also speak with other moms. Ask them, on average, how many baby wipes and diapers they use every month. How much formula do they buy each month? These are estimates, of course, but at least you’ll have some idea of upcoming expenses.
Shop around before making any major purchase decisions. Some online retailers offer a discount on baby supplies if you buy in bulk. This might be a good option if you have a lot of storage space in your home.
As an alternative, you may consider cloth, or washable, diapers. Over time this can save money, as well as decrease environmental waste.
8. Give your post-baby budget a trial run
Once you estimate how much you’ll need for day care, insurance, and baby supplies, give your post-baby budget a trial run. Although your due date is in the future, start setting aside money you’ll need for your new baby. If you estimate spending $700 a month on day care and $300 a month for insurance and other baby items, deposit $1,000 into a baby fund each month.
9. Take inventory of your current expenses
After taking your post-baby budget on a trial run, you might come to the realization that your income isn’t enough for future baby expenses. Don't worry. If it’s early in your pregnancy, there’s time to revamp your budget and cut back wherever you can. If you can make adjustments to your budget now, it'll be easier to manage these expenses once the baby arrives.
Comb through your bank and credit card statements. How much are you spending on impulse purchases, entertainment, personal shopping, and eating out? Could you eliminate cable, or downgrade to a cheaper package? Maybe you can trade in your vehicle for a cheaper model and cut your payment by half. Then again, it might be time to rethink your employment and look for a job that provides enough income to support your growing family.
10. Pay down debt
The less debt you have, the easier it’ll be to manage expenses. If you estimate needing about $1,000 a month for a new baby, paying off credit card debt and personal loans may free up enough cash to cover new expenses.
11. Review your life insurance policy
When it was just you and your partner, a small life insurance policy may have been more than enough. Now that your family is expanding, make sure to review your policy and upgrade your coverage, if necessary. A life insurance policy provides families with financial support in the event of an untimely death. A policy can provide both immediate and long-term support, perhaps funding a child’s education in the future. There are no hard or fast rules regarding how much coverage to buy. Some experts recommend a policy that’s eight to 10 times your annual salary.
A new baby brings new expenses. The cost of expanding your family can be surprising and even overwhelming. But with careful, advanced planning, and an honest examination of your budget, it’ll be easier to adjust your finances.