The True Cost of Babies

By Ashley Wirgau on November, 4 2019
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Ashley Wirgau

If you are anxiously awaiting your first little bundle of joy, chances are you have a lot weighing on your mind – where to put the crib, will the baby get your big nose, is your favorite name too trendy (yes, you think “Emma” is adorable but so do two million other parents) and the biggest one – how much is this all going to cost.

While those first few questions might drive you crazy in the beginning, by the time baby comes, these have all been answered. That last one, though, is not going anywhere. Just getting baby into this world costs a small fortune (medical bills, am I right?) but after that kiddo is officially here, those expenses grow exponentially – and the sacrifices aren’t strictly financial. The true cost of babies hits more than just the pocketbook, and that price tag can sting a lot more than the dollars flying out of your wallet.

The Basics

But let’s start with the simple stuff, the expected stuff – diapers, wipes, formula. On average, you will spend around $90 a month on diapering and upwards of $150 per month on formula (less if you’re only supplementing with formula or exclusively breastfeeding). Then, there are the other essentials to consider like clothing, bedding, car seats, strollers and, at the very least, a small mountain of toys. Some of these items are one-time buys (car seats can get you from infancy to elementary graduation now), but many of them are not, so it is important to have a good understanding of what products best serve your needs over time. New to the baby game and unsure what belongs on a list of baby essentials? We can help!

The Unavoidables

After you’ve covered the basics, it’s time to move on to the big picture items. Medical insurance costs will need to be considered as policy premiums jump when dependents are added. While the standard doctor visits through childhood, well care exams, are typically provided at no cost with insurance, additional trips to the doctor will chip away at your paycheck through co-pays and deductibles. Then, you’ll want to think about life insurance – either getting some or increasing your current coverage. Your life becomes more valuable when a little someone is relying on you.

Next up, contemplate college. Even though the nugget is yet to arrive, saving early is the biggest key to making a dent in the eventual bill. It feels strange to plan for adulthood before infancy has begun, but it can save stress down the road. Say little Suzy wants to be an electrician – most savings plans can be used for trade schools, as well, since the funds aren’t limited to traditional universities.  If Suzy decides a secondary education isn’t in the cards, some plans will penalize a withdrawal in cash so it’s a good idea to consider other savings plans like a Roth IRA or a generic savings account.

For additional help budgeting for both baby basics and the larger items like insurance and college savings plans, Investopedia has some great information and resources to get you started.

The Biggies

Now, for the real talk – you might want to sit down for this part. The true cost of babies has little to do with disposable diapers and expensive insurance premiums. The true cost of babies is seen in the less tangible ways they change our lives, in the way they alter our behaviors and our priorities. Things that once seemed so very important immediately take a backseat to the new cooing, screaming VIP. The hours we used to spend focusing on ourselves are replaced with days and nights contemplating what is best for this cuter, stinkier mini-me.

Our freedom and spontaneity are the next things to leave as neither are conducive to child-rearing. Watching Sesame Street instead of Curious George in the same day that we take an impromptu trip to the backyard for a PB&J picnic may be as wild and crazy as it gets for a while. Much more would require ample planning and preparation which new parents seldom have the time or energy for.  

Finally, and maybe most noticeably, the largest cost of babies is the toll they take on our standards – our standards of tidiness, hygiene, and appropriate topics of conversation. Have you always been the pulled-together, Martha Stewart of the group? Kiss your days of perfectly hosted parties and well-manicured flower beds good-bye. You have a baby. Babies don’t care about homemade center pieces or Asiatic lilies. Babies want to be fed. They want to be held, and nobody has enough hands to weed a garden, take a shower and decorate the dining room while burping a crying infant. Nor can they brush their hair or vacuum the sofa before company comes. Again, these things will need to take a backseat to the new little person of the hour (who is just going to spit up on the sofa anyway).

With babies come a lot of adjustments, adjustments to our monthly budgets as well as to our expectations on how life is supposed to look. The financial alterations can be tackled with knowledge and a little discipline while baby is still in utero. The self-development piece is not so easily prepared for, but once you see that little face looking up at you, the transition to full-fledged, self-sacrificing parent becomes pretty natural. What did spontaneity and a tidy house ever get us anyways?