Family, Finances

How Much Will A Baby Cost?

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“So here’s the thing. I want to have a baby. Like so bad I want to have a baby. And my husband and I have agreed that it is time to start trying! However I am starting to panic that there is no way we can afford to have a baby. We don’t struggle to pay our bills and are able to put a good amount of money away every month but I am mostly worried about the massive hospital bill and month to month expenses. Am I totally overreacting? Am I panicking about nothing?”

We get this question a lot. Many people want to have babies, but it seems like we are constantly being told that babies are so expensive. While that could be true, I personally believe that babies don’t have to be expensive if you are smart about what you need vs. what you want, and focus on saving as much money as possible. You do have 9 months from the time you pee on that stick and get a positive after all! That’s a long time that you have to prepare!

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I’ve lived through both situations with my kids. One where we were so poor we literally had to choose between rent and food a few times and another where we had extra money that we didn’t know what to do with. Both times had their own set of challenges. One thing that was the same between both experiences, however, was that a baby has specific needs that need to be met and anything more than that is just icing on the cake. When you start to distinguish between “needs” and “wants,” you will be amazed at how affordable a child can be.

I will preface this with saying that  my experience and knowledge is with OB/GYN’s (mostly because the midwives I met with were extremely rude and I love my OB) and I will always give birth in a hospital. If you want more specific costs on at home or midwife options, I would get in touch with one in your local area.

Hospitals and Doctors:

-Use Insurance: Having health insurance can be amazing, as long as you know your benefits. Most people I know pay about $500-$1000 after insurance. That can be paid in installments or in a lump sum. Oftentimes they will give you a discount to pay it all upfront, with cash, in one payment-that’s what we did.

-If you don’t qualify for insurance/don’t have it-there is a good chance you will qualify for a government sponsored program like Medicaid. I’ve had plenty of friends who have paid thousands and thousands of dollars just because they didn’t know about Medicaid or assumed they wouldn’t qualify.

-If you don’t qualify for insurance or Medicaid: Offer to pay up front, in cash. You would be amazed at how steep the discounts are for paying in full before your baby is born. I know someone who always pays cash for his kids, even though he has insurance-because paying in cash is cheaper than his deductible.

Food: 

Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, or a combo of the two, babies need to eat. So decide which way is best for you and your family. For me, formula is the way to go. I had a really hard time with the demands of breastfeeding, and formula was a better option for us. Some women love the experience of nursing-it’s totally up to you.

If you choose to breastfeed, look into local support groups and contact your insurance company- many are currently required to provide a breast pump of some kind for free or steeply discounted. If you are low income-check into WIC, as they often offer rental options. Another great idea is to check local yard sale sites-many people get rid of next to new pumps for 1/6 of the price you would pay-and you can buy a kit for $10 that makes it completely sanitary.

If you choose to formula feed, ask your pediatrician’s office for samples of different kinds of formula so that you don’t have to buy them to see which one(s) your baby prefers. Both my kids have been fans of the generic Similac and we get that from Sam’s Club for $23 a tub. Those tubs typically last us between 2 and 3 weeks. So we spend less than $40 a month on formula. If you are really frugal, you can also get manufacturers to send you monthly coupons for $10-which would bring down your cost even more.

A Place To Sleep: 

Baby’s need a place to sleep, and there are a lot of options. Cribs, pack n’ plays, bassinets, Moses baskets. There are so many options. And all of these have different price ranges. If you are short on money, borrow one, or get one used. You would be amazed at how many people are willing to part with theirs for free or cheap. We were lucky enough to be gifted a crib by my sister-in-law’s friend. If that wasn’t available, we would have used a pack n play. As they grow, you’ll need a bigger bed, but that’s what’s great about babies-they grow slow enough that you can save up for big expenses.

Clothing: 

Kids need clothes-but they don’t need to be name brand, top of the line or fancy. Get what you can afford! They grow out of them so fast, and are so messy, that you shouldn’t stress over getting the most fashion forward or expensive options.

Go Second Hand: We have bought a lot of clothes at yard sales and on Facebook sites. We even had many clothes given to us by friends and family members who were done having kids. That was a lifesaver for us with our first baby. Don’t hesitate to ask around-you would be amazed at how many people have boxes in their garage that they want to go to someone who will appreciate them. Just remember to return the favor when you are in the same position.

Plan Ahead: Whenever I go shopping I look at the clearance section and find clothes in the next size up in the previous season. My daughter is 3 and I think I’ve only spent about $50 on full-price clothes for her. The rest have been clearance. And they’re seriously so cute! If it’s important for you to have the newest clothes for your  babies, then start saving up and slowly buying them as soon as you find out gender so you don’t have to buy them all at once. There are also a lot of awesome gender neutral things that you can buy before you find out the gender of your  baby, or if you choose not to find out until birth. That saves you from having to put down a huge chunk of money all at once on clothes. Keep in mind-clothes are one of the most gifted baby items, so you will have options.

Diapers:  

First decide if you want to do cloth or disposable. Many people cloth diaper to save money, but it does require a more expensive up front cost to buy all the diapers and inserts and pads. It can also be time consuming. If it’s something you are interested in-there are TONS of resources online. This guide was pretty straightforward.

We use disposables so we buy them in bulk. Name brand diapers are more expensive-but you can often find coupons for them. Also keep in mind that many store-brands like Costco and Sam’s Club diapers- are made by Huggies and Pampers so you’re getting the same quality for way less money. That’s what we choose to do.

Love:

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Anything other than Diapers, Food and a place to sleep are just “icing on the cake.” Many people will say, “Well, you absolutely have to have…..” but really, those things are just nice for parents.

Things like swings, bouncers, walkers, wipe warmers, bottle warmers-those are all nice to have but not a necessity. We tend to be pretty minimalist in baby gear and it’s been really awesome for us. Look at the different extras and see what you could afford and get one or two of those things. Borrow them from a friend to see what you like and don’t like then, or more importantly, if your baby likes them or not. If you find something you have to have, see if you can find it on sale, or buy it used.

Overall, between buying things on sale or discounted, and looking very closely at what kinds of things are necessary- you can get a pretty accurate idea of how much a baby will cost you. For our kids, we ended up spending about $60 a month until they started eating-and then we made our own baby food so save money, which increased our cost about $20 a month. I have long been a believer of the fact that kids can be as expensive as you make them.

Ultimately, it really all depends on your family lifestyle and what you feel is important to have. Splurge when you can-save in areas that aren’t as important to you. I’m a big believer in the idea that kids can be as expensive as you make them.

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Finances, Uncategorized

Can I Afford A House And School?

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“My husband is going into a masters program and at the same time I’ll be entering a program at a different school. My program would be full time, requiring me to quit my job. Here’s my question, when we start these programs we will have to move closer to the school. Have any of you been on student loans and also had a mortgage? We’d prefer to buy a house, because we’ve been renting for so long and want a place of our own, but my husband doesn’t think they’d approve us for both a student loan ($10,000-$15,000) and a mortgage. Has anyone done this before?”

I totally get the pressure of buying a house and not wanting to throw away money. We are in this mode where we think that we have to be making really smart financial decisions in order to have a good, financially safe future. We are also surrounded by people our age, or a little older, doing big things like buying nice cars and nice house-and we feel like we need to keep up. The interesting thing is, if you can be patient and wait a few years, you will probably elevate yourself to a MUCH better situation than you could imagine.

First of all-house prices are incredibly high right now. People are offering ABOVE asking price and ABOVE what houses are worth because inventory is 1/3 of what it normally is. So it’s a seller market-NOT a buyers market. I actually work with people who are in GREAT financial positions right now because they have sold their home at a high price, made a lot of money and are now renting until prices come down again.

With getting back into school, and losing a large amount of income-I would say hold off on buying a home. Is your husband still working? Can you live on his income alone?  It might feel like you are wasting money, but think about it this way. If you wait a few years until home prices come down (which they will) and your income goes up because of your combined educational accomplishments (which it should) you will actually be in a better position down the line to make bigger payments. Bigger payments mean you will pay LESS interest on your loan, which will actually save you money in the long run. A LOT of it.

As an example: If you have a mortgage of $850, in your first payment, only $55 of that goes to principle. $55! So the start of a new mortgage loan is the perfect time to start making extra payments. Anything that you are able to pay extra will be actually contributing to your mortgage instead of just interest. $200 in extra payments will actually be 4x the amount that usually hits your principle balance. So the way I see it, if you can’t afford to waste money on rent-you better be able to afford paying a lot extra on your mortgage payment. Otherwise it really isn’t worth it-and that’s not taking into account taxes, insurance, maintenance and repairs.

If I were you, I would rent a cheap apartment, save your money for school and a down payment and not have the stress of a mortgage payments on your back. If you have extra income after that-get a little crazy and go on a fun vacation when you guys are on break from school. There has to be SOME benefit to not working, right?