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How Much Does it Really Cost to Have a Baby?

By Amalah

Your intrepid advice columnist has up and had herself a baby, and will be taking a couple weeks off from her bossing-around duties. In the meantime, she’s arranged a cavalcade of her favorite writers from around the Web to come and take a crack at some of your questions, share their personal style secrets and wisdom, and hopefully keep you entertained while Amy attempts to sustain human life using only what she keeps in her bra.
Today’s guest columnist is the brilliant Amanda of Mandajuice and the Naked Ledger. As a former professional financial planner, Amanda knows herself some budgets, people. Which is why I knew she was the perfect person to pawn this question off on bring on as an independent consultant for more qualified insights.

So, I’ve been wondering, how much does a baby cost? No, I’m not talking about shady black market purchasing of babies. I mean, how much does it cost to get prepared for and have a baby?
I am making my five year plan, and I’m so excited that finally my five year plan includes a baby! However, I am scared of how much it will all cost, and am planning on doing some saving beforehand. I read your blog and I think you have a similar snobbiness/love of pretty things to practicalness ratio to myself, and so I felt I could ask you this question realistically since all the other stuff I found online was like “well, if you find your baby’s crib in a dumpster and only breastfeed (no pumping or bottles), then this is how much it costs.” Okay, not exactly, but you get my point.
When you add up all the gear and clothes and nursery stuff and feeding stuff and miscellaneous who-knows-what stuff, how much is it in upfront costs? I’m imaging the continuing costs not to be that bad, or at least manageable, like formula or nursing supplies and diapers and such.
Thank you!

Bravo, Elle, I can’t help but admire a woman with a five year plan! Me? I was working as a PROFESSIONAL FINANCIAL PLANNER when I found out I was pregnant and yet, in my infinite wisdom, we found ourselves totally and completely unprepared. We didn’t even have our own place to live when OOPS, two pink lines! Our five year plan became a nine month plan overnight.
The good thing for us (and hopefully for you too!) was that I ended up having THREE baby showers. I hadn’t registered for much, mostly because we had about 14 square feet of living space, but I ended up getting literally everything I needed. In fact I got so much stuff that I had to go back to Target and Babies ‘R Us (aka Babies ‘R Expensive) and register for MORE stuff just so all the people my mother invited to the baby shower(s) would have ideas. It was insane.
So my first advice to you is to take the generosity of your loved ones into consideration. If you had a big wedding and you still live pretty close to where you started? You’ll probably hit the mother load when you have a baby. If you’re having the first grandchild? LUCKY YOU. They won’t even LET YOU buy a damn thing.
But, if you’re like most people and you have to prepare for baby mostly by yourself, I’m happy to give you some suggestions about how much to save. Unfortunately, the best answer I can really give you is, IT DEPENDS. You’re probably not Paris Hilton, so I’m assuming you’re going to have to make informed decisions with your dollars and not go out and buy the $800 stroller AND the $500 diaper bag. (Although would that not totally rock the Kasbah?)
When I first sat down to answer this question, I started by making lists of stuff. Strollers ($100-$300), travel systems ($200-$300), bouncy chairs ($50), baby bathtubs ($20), bottles ($50), boppy pillows ($40), slings ($40-$100), highchairs ($40-$200), swings ($80-$130), not to even mention a crib ($100-$1000) and all the other furniture you may or may not want to buy. And the truth is? It’s totally futile to try and individually ADD UP all the expenses you might incur before baby arrives. In fact, it borders on impossible.
Instead, I thought I’d just break it down for you, Hammer Style.
For about $2,000, you can totally set yourself up for a baby. IKEA has some damn cute furniture and you can pick and choose which bright colored crap you want to stub your toes on for the next three years. Of course, two grand isn’t going to buy you EVERYTHING your heart desires. You might have to substitute the Graco travel system ($300) for the fancy European one ($500 and up). You can rock the baby to sleep in the recliner you already have, throw a pad on top of your dresser and call it a changing table and stock up on onesies when Old Navy sends out those awesome TWO-FOR coupons with free shipping. You would be FINE, though. $2,000 is about $2,000 more than MOST people save before having a baby.
But for $5,000, you can do it with a little bit more style. You might be able to splurge on a Fleurville diaper bag ($150) and buy an extra sling or two. You could choose slightly nicer bedding for the crib and find a couple of solid wood furniture pieces to last through more than one baby. You could buy the double electric breast pump ($300) and some ridiculously adorable outfits for your baby to barf and/or poop on. This wouldn’t be NO HOLDS BARRED spending, but your munchkin would want for nothing.
Obviously, you can save more if you want to spend more. I’ve known people who spent $4,000 on JUST a crib. If I had it to do again, I would’ve saved around $3,000 and then because of the baby showers, I could’ve bought a new digital SLR camera and a photography session with a real professional (you know, other than JC PENNEY’s), two things I look back and regret not having. That and a pedicure budget for when I couldn’t reach my own toes.
Here’s the part where I get all Financial Plannery on you! (I can’t help it, sorry!) Saving AFTER the baby is born is WAY more important than setting up the nursery. Things I encourage you to consider before having a baby: life insurance, disability insurance, HEALTH insurance (The above expenses are for STUFF only, not hospital costs! My epidural cost me $800 out of pocket!) (Totally worth every cent!), 529 plans and money for early childhood education. For us, affording preschool on one income has at times been a herculean effort ($500 a month for two HALF days a week!). It all adds up, so the more you plan and save BEFORE you have a baby, the better off you’ll be.
However much you decide to save, the fact that you’re thinking about it already? This far in advance? Makes you my hero. You’re going to have SO MUCH FUN shopping for your baby!

Don’t forget to visit Amalah’s must-read weekly Pregnancy Calendar.

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Published October 20, 2008. Last updated May 28, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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