By Eric on April 27, 2012 21

How a Baby Changes Your Budget

When it comes to our budget, we like to have control. We take comfort in being able to set a budget at the beginning of the month and stick to it as the month goes by. Of course, there are minor hiccups here and there, but we’ve gotten pretty good at managing our budget over the past three years.

So, when we found out we were pregnant, the budget planning began. We’ve written previously about how to prepare financially before you’re expecting, and also about how to budget for the big items you’ll need before baby arrives. But we so desperately wanted to know what our budget was going to look like after little Roo arrived.

This, however, turned out to be a more difficult task. As much as we researched and tried to plan, there are so many unknowns. Rooney was 7 weeks old before we felt that we had a decent idea of how our monthly budget was going to change.

Of course, the financial transition is huge, and we still don’t quite understand how it will all shake out. My first piece of advice is to simply save money in a general baby fund. That way as bills come in during the transition period, you can have piece of mind knowing that you are prepared and have money stashed away.

Target shopping Dad

We’ve made more trips to Target in the past eight weeks than we have in the past three years.

The lesson we learned while we tried to prepare our budget for Rooney is that having a baby is not only an emotional, physical and spiritual transition, it’s also a big financial transition. Here are some thoughts on how to attack a budget when expecting a baby.

Budgeting for a Baby

  • Formula: When we decided to give up breastfeeding, we had an initial influx in cost of formula. Our budget took a hit of about $25/week. This was a cost we didn’t see coming, and we had already spent $224 on a breast pump and $30 on a pumping bra. Possibly money-saving options: Breastfeed, buy generic (Target brand), sign up for coupons.
  • Diapers: We’ve taken advantage of a couple good deals on diapers when we see them. If you are stockpiling cash in a baby fund like we did, then it’s easy to pounce on a good deal when they’re available. Kelsey’s cousin recommends that we never pay more than $0.14 per diaper. We change Rooney at least every feeding, which is eight times a day. I would say we go through about ten diapers a day. Let’s do the math: 10 diapers x $.14 per diaper = $1.40 per day. That’s less than $10/week.(We’ve heard good things about Amazon Mom, but have yet to take the plunge.)
  • Wipes: Same calculation here, except sometimes we use up to four wipes per change depending on the severity of the treasures we find. But with diapers, wipes and formula, we are always looking for coupons and shopping around for the best deal.
  • Clothes: Because Rooney is our first child, we had three baby showers and were blessed with an abundance of gifts, mostly clothes. This is great because we probably won’t have to buy her clothes for the first year of her life (except for the awesome jeggings that Kelsey found for her this week). After that, we’ll have to look at setting a budget to keep up with her growing body.
  • Hospital bills: We loaded up our flexible spending account at the beginning of the year so we could foot the hospital bill with pre-tax dollars. It’s also smart to consider the fact that you may have to stay in the hospital for extra days or have unforeseen procedures done (Rooney’s frenectomy was one example). Being organized was essential to us feeling like we knew what was going on, and once Rooney arrived we were well prepared to handle the necessary paperwork to take care of all the not-so-fun stuff started surfacing. (Be sure to look closely at the bills you receive in the mail. Kelsey called to dispute three different doctor bills and avoided us paying $1,300+ in unnecessary fees that should have been covered by insurance.)
  • Maternity leave: Our HR person at work was a huge help in preparing us for Kelsey’s maternity leave. We planned it all out and knew exactly what Kelsey’s paychecks were going to look like during her nine-and-a-half weeks off.
  • Insurance: Every situation is different, but we knew that we were going to have to add Rooney to our health insurance. This comes right out of my paycheck, but it means that my take-home pay is decreased. This was a significant amount of money coming out every other week and I’m glad we knew it was coming rather than being surprised.
  • Child care: We not only gathered information about day cares in our area, but also tried to get a grasp on the going rate in centers and in-homes to help get a firm grasp on how this would affect our budget. The cost might blow your socks off, so it’s better to figure this out early in the pregnancy. If one of you is planning on staying home, you’ll really want to run some mock scenarios to be sure the numbers work out for your budget.
  • Estate plan/will: If you don’t already have a will, it becomes even more important once you have offspring. It’s on our list. We haven’t done it yet and it’s hanging over our heads. We hope to do this soon!! Just another expense to budget for.
  • Birth announcements/thank yous: Kelsey takes great pride in corresponding with our loved ones, so putting together the perfect birth announcement was essential. So, we budgeted for it early.

Babies are blessings

Babies are such a blessing. That’s why it’s so important to think about the above items (and anything else that applies to your situation) before your baby arrives. When the time comes, you want to be able to focus on taking care of your wee-little one instead of sifting through paperwork and bills trying to figure out how to pay for the never-ending expenses.

What was the biggest financial surprise after having your first child?



Husband to Kelsey. Father to Rooney. Follower of Jesus. Born and raised in Iowa. I like blogging. Bulleted lists excite me. Thanks for stopping by.

  1. Thanks for these posts. My husband and I are talking about starting our own family and the steps we need to take to do that. Quite frankly it scares me because we don’t bring home a lot of money even with us both working 2 jobs and I don’t see that changing soon. It’s a lot to take in to consider how much a baby will cost. I appreciate you openness about life after baby. I hope that I can learn a lot during your journey so that my journey won’t be so jarring.

    SN – Rooney is adorable! Good job guys!

  2. Be sure to sign up for Similac checks– not sure of the exact websites, but I’m sure you can Google it. I breastfed, but they still sent me ‘checks’ all of the time (until my daughter was 1)– and they are usually $5-$10, sometimes more! They say they are non-transferable, but that’s not really the case, so if you have another expecting or postpartum friend that is breastfeeding and doesn’t need them, ask for hers!

  3. Thank you for this post – it is so helpful!

    Our foster son didn’t come to live with us until he was 9 months old and was covered under a state nutrition program until he was a year old so his formula was provided at no cost to us. The program also provided a certain amount of conventional baby food, milk, cereal, cheese, and fresh produce.

    After he reached a year old, however, we no longer qualified for the program because our income was too high. That’s when we started to see a really big hit to our grocery bill. We were committed to providing him with organic food since that’s what my husband and I eat in our home but we had been combining the conventional foods the program provided us and had supplemented a little organic food to keep our costs down. Once we no longer had the safety net of the program, our food bills increased SOOO much.

    We found ways around the costs by stocking up on already-prepared baby food when it went on sale (the organic variety was hardly ever on sale at our grocery store) and by trying to make our own at home. I would spend an entire Saturday afternoon preparing baby mushes at home from fresh produce to freeze but it would last me for several weeks so it was definitely worth it and much, much cheaper (and healthier!) than buying the jars/packs.

    Diapers were another big hit during those early months. Our son went through a stage when he seemed to break out from every brand of disposable diaper except for the Seventh Generation brand (which are expensive!) so we had to buy those for his day use at childcare and use cloth nappies at home to curb the costs. That stage seems to be over now and we’ve happily been using the Target generic brand for quite some time.

  4. Y’all are so thorough! I love it. My husband and I are the same way. We use mostly Target baby items — we used formula when we were done breastfeeding, diapers, and wipes. Check Target’s website for coupons! I just printed one the other day that was either $1 or $1.50 off a box of diapers (you might not be in a size that has boxes yet, though. I used to buy the next bigger size if I wanted to take advantage of a coupon and stash the diapers for later.) Also, keep an eye on Target’s diaper and wipe clearance! Huggies might be more expensive than generic, but if you find them on clearance and also have a coupon it might be cheaper.

    Kelsey, that’s awesome about the hospital bill that you disputed! My husband has talked down every one of our hospital bills. Sometimes, you can negotiate whether or not they’ve made a mistake. When our daughter had ear tubes right before Christmas, the bill was outrageous. My husband asked them if they would take $XXX (whatever it was, I can’t remember at the moment), and they did! I’m sure that wouldn’t work in every one’s situations, but, it goes to show that it doesn’t hurt to ask!

  5. Great post! Our biggest financial surprise was the cost of medical stuff after my daughter was born. The checks at the doctor’s office every month were not always covered in full. One example – we had her iron levels checked starting around 6 months, and this, apparently, cost extra, but we felt important to have done. Also, she was sick for 6 weeks (!)after starting day care. First with diarrhea, then an ear infection and then pink eye. We couldn’t take her to the day while she was sick, and couldn’t take that much time off of work, so we hired a babysitter. On top of all that, I have been very sick off and on since she started day care, stomach flu (twice!), sore throat, and colds. So medical bills for her and me have added up. So when thinking about child care costs, don’t forget to add in back-up care costs (if no family around to help) and the additional medical expenses of a sick family.

    One thing that has helped us a lot is hand-me-down clothes from co-workers and family. We’ve spent very little on clothes for our daughter.

    Child care costs are sobering. The cost of diapers, wipes and misc baby items pales in comparision to what we pay for child care, after our mortage, it’s our biggest expense.

  6. BAH!

    ( thanks for sharing this, guys. ) – i think it’s so helpful! sooooo helpful.


  7. We (well technically J) made baby wipes. Similar recipe here:

  8. It’s not until I read this post that I realized how different it is for mothers in the USA in comparison to Canada. My husband and I are struggling with the decision of when to have a baby and how it will be financially and I don’t even have to worry about paying for any medical expenses (all covered in our provincial health care) and we get a year of mat leave with 55% of our pay. I couldn’t imagine how much of a struggle it would be if we had to factor in all of those extra expenses that we just take for granted here. This makes me want to save so much more money. Thanks for giving us a realistic outlook on what expenses you can expect. Most of these you cannot find on any of the baby websites.

  9. Yes, “we” made wipes and I loved them! I think that is pretty much my recipe, but I don’t remember using vinegar and never had a problem with mold, but we had 2 in diapers for a year! I used Bounty select-a-size paper towels and if you can get the big packs on sale and w/ a coupon, it is less than $1 per roll, and you cut it in half…that was the part where Erik helped – I enlisted his help in cutting/sawing :)

  10. We use cloth diapers and wipes for our little one and we love them! After an initial $250 investment we haven’t had to spend any money on diapers or wipes. And they are cute and make it easier to clean up those lovely treasures :)

  11. Thankfully we breastfeed, use cloth diapers, and had many items (especially clothes) gifted to us. So the initial extra cost of a baby wasn’t too bad. Even the hospital bill was only $200 thanks to insurance and having a completely unmedicated birth.
    But now that Liam is eating baby food it gets expensive. I try to make food which helps but I’m not much of a cook and so we do buy jars or pouches of baby food which can cost upto $1per jar/pouch.

  12. Hey guys, just to let you know I did a lot of calculating for wipes & diapers when I had Kylar. What I found was the Target brand wipes in the largest pkg. was the cheapest. I am so proud of you guys you are amazing & so organized, it helps so much & makes you stress less!


    When I had my first, I supplemented with formula, so I signed up for the Enfamil program and they sent a bunch of coupons and free formula. I signed up again recently and haven’t received anything yet so not sure if they’re still doing that. A few of my friends who had babies around the same time but exclusively breastfed (and one that had a miscarriage but still got the coupons in the mail) were able to pass along their coupons to me, and you can definitely use them even though the names don’t match up (they never check anyway). That really helped with the cost of formula because it’s so dang expensive!

    And you should definitely sign up for the Amazon Mom program. They changed it recently so that you only get 3 months for free and then you have to pay the Amazon Prime price, but you should at least sign up for the first three months and get a few boxes of diapers. Sometimes they have Amazon coupons that you can add to your orders, making them even lower. We also stocked up on diapers every time Costco had a coupon.

  14. We too love using the Target brand products. So much that we decided to open a Target credit card. Now, we only use the target credit card to pay for our Target purchases and NEVER carry a balance as we really don’t care for using credit. We only have two credit cards in our possession with one being the Target card. But it is nice to have the extra 5% off all of their diapers, wipes, formula, etc. Also, when you go to buy clothing for your children, you may want to consider going to some children’s consignment stores. In Omaha we have multiple stores and often times I find clothing in these stores with the new/original tags still on them. So, you can find new clothes that have never been worn for often times $2 per outfit. Just thought I’d bring that up as an option.

    • Target offers a Debit card version of the Red card. That’s what we have. You still get the same 5% off and free shipping if you order online, but without it being a credit card. They just take the money straight from your checking account.

  15. just a quick side note………. target accepts both a target coupon and a manufacturer coupon. So for example if the sunday paper has a coupon for pampers also check the target website under coupons and see if they have one for pampers and you can use them BOTH at the checkout. This goes for all items! I do it each time before my trip to target. It saves a few dollars at each trip which adds up if you are a frequent target shopper like us :-)

  16. When Rooney starts to get bigger and is a moving and active girl, use your thrifting skills and buy gently-used baby clothes at consignment shops, garage sales, etc. New clothes are nice, but when you know she’s going to get messy, and when you know she’s going to outgrow something as quickly as she grew into it, it can be nice to know that you didn’t pay full price for something she only wore a handful of times. My momma dressed my siblings and me in used/thrifted/hand-me-down gear until we were old enough to earn allowance and buy new things (or geeky/lucky like me to have awkwardly long legs and therefore need brand-new “long” styled jeans from the department store!). Totally worth the time investment!

  17. You live in a GREAT area for garage sales. I have clothed my kids (shoes, clothes, accessories, etc.) mainly on garage sale clothing. It’s much, much cheaper than paying retail for everything. I’ve also gotten most of their toys there too. In my opinion, garage sales are a true budget saver!

  18. Our biggest surprise was pajamas. I know! Right?! but after she outgrew her little cute sizes that everyone gave as gift we totally had to go buy some. I mean who gives baby clothes in 9 month size?

    We had actually over budgeted for diapers. So that was one pleasant surprise. Plus learned some tricks to get those diaper costs down. Target will honor both and Target store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on the same item. They will even do this during special promotions. So for example, when they do the whole “buy two cases of diapers and get a $5 target gift card back” I save up my coupons and go buy like 6 cases each with a Target and manufacturer’s coupon lowering the cost of a case of diapers from $22 to $15.50. On six cases of diapers that adds up to a savings of around $39. Plus buying several cases at a time that way ensures there is always a case in the closet so we are never caught having to run to the store for a diaper emergency and having to pay more or not use a coupon.

    Good luck! It does start to balance out and get more predictable as time goes on!

  19. When I saw how much we saved by cloth diapering, I felt like a rock star. And that I was also helping the planet and keeping chemicals off my son’s bottom? Amazing.

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