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Budgeting for baby: From childcare to college, the items you should plan for now

Of course you’ve heard it before: kids are expensive! Even if you keep things simple, there are some new expenses that will be a part of your life once you become a parent. Beyond those adorable onesies and that great newborn gear that you may get at a baby shower, there are some expenses that may be less expected and surprising. But, the good news is that you can start to plan for these additional expenses now! Some of these expenses can include:

  • Diapers and formula: These are items that your baby won’t always need, but if one or both of theses items is regularly on your shopping list, costs do add up. Be sure to add any regular expenses like these into your budget, at least until your little one is only eating solids (soon) and potty trained (not soon enough).
  • Food: As your little one grows, so will their appetite, and if you’d don’t notice it sooner, you’ll definitely notice a change in your grocery spending by the time they hit the toddler phase.
  • Childcare: If you haven’t been thinking about this yet, you should do so now. For many families, childcare is a very large expense and this is one of the most major ways in which their spending patterns will change. Here’s a breakdown of average childcare costs by state from the Economic Policy Institute to get a better sense of what you should plan for in your budget. 
  • Convenience items: Takeout when you’re too tired to cook, groceries delivered to the house when your little one has a stomach bug and the fridge is empty, a cleaner once a month if you just can’t get to housework like you used to. These sort of things can make a big difference if you’re in a pinch, but they do add up. 
  • Necessities as baby grows: As your little one grows, they’ll need new clothes, shoes, outerwear and the like. You’ll probably also want to occasionally buy baby items like books and toys. You already know that all of these things cost money, but you may not have factored this soon-to-be regular expense into your budget yet. 
  • Household items: Before you know it, you may need to buy items for your home like gates for babyproofing or a big kid bed when your little on outgrows their first sleep setup. 
  • Gear as baby grows: This can include items such as a larger car seat or a booster seat for the dinner table.
  • Classes, lessons, and extracurricular gear: Don’t forget to include costs for guitar lessons, soccer, and ballet lessons, but also gear like a guitar, shin pads for soccer, and leotards for dance.
  • Utility bills: This may come as a bit of a surprise, but water, heat, and electricity bills could rise a bit once your baby is born. More laundry, leaving the heat or A/C more frequently, more time spent at home— it all adds up.
  • Time off from work: Every parent’s work situation is different, and for many people taking time off from work means less earned income. Beyond any parental leave that you might take off after your baby is born, you may need and want to take time off to spend with your little one as they grow, for both fun (vacation!), somewhat fun (school vacations), and not so fun (when your little one gets sick) reasons. 
  • Healthcare: For many people, adding a new dependent to their health insurance means an increase in their monthly premium, and it likely also means an increased deductible. Look into the specifics of your health plan to be sure. And having one more person in the family means, of course, added costs for provider appointments or ER visits, prescriptions or over the counter medications, medical supplies and the like. 
  • Life insurance: This is an expense a lot of parents find worth it to have an added sense of security about their family’s future.
  • Housing: Hopefully you are plenty comfortable where you are right now. But it’s not uncommon for new parents to decide they need a little more space as their family grows.
  • Other lifestyle changes: It’s hard to know what the future will hold, but will you want to take your little one to concerts? Decide to take up fishing as a family? Go to the local amusement park in the summer? Take a different sort of vacation? These changes might shape your expenses too. 
  • College or technical school: For parents who have their own student debt, it might be wild to start thinking about your own child’s education this far down the line, but it is something you may want to plan for if you do have the means. 

Some of the items on this list are things you might want to start budgeting for now, and some are items you just might want to be aware of as an expense that could be coming in the future. Consider also that your family’s needs will change over time; some costs won’t last forever (like diapers, thank goodness) and new costs will spring up (like piano lessons or a prom dress). It’s very easy for money to be a source of stress— so if reading a list like feels rather unfun, we really feel you— but knowledge is power, and being aware of the ways in which your expenses could change should ultimately be empowering so you can take the action you need to feel secure in how you’re spending your money. 

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