How You Can Afford a Baby: 10 Money Saving Tips

Save Money on Child

You have read those cost projections for raising children. MSN back in 2001 projected a cost of $249,180 (which would be much higher in today’s dollars) for a family with a $65,800 or greater income. The Baby Center tells us the cost of raising a child from baby to adulthood is $266,698. The Wall Street Journal estimated the cost at $222,360 last year.

While I am not one to dispute the research of such prestigious publications, I simply can’t believe that the average parent with the average baby one might encounter in an average grocery store or sporting event or church service is really going to spend a quarter of a million dollars raising that child. Something somewhere is flawed.

It has been several years since we raised our four children but I can assure you that Janice and I didn’t spend an extra million dollars to raise them and I want to further assure you that it is okay to bring babies into this world even if you aren’t sitting on a huge nest egg. So . . . whether you are just getting started or already have several children, these money saving tips will help you keep a rationale perspective on how to afford your baby.

Oh, and if you are getting ready to have your first child here is a newborn baby checklist that covers all the basics – and then some.

1. Have a budget.

You only have so much money, so a working budget is going to be your best friend. Because baby will require diapers, baby food, doctor’s visits and child care, you will need to cut back your current spending to keep your budget balanced. Whether it’s eating out less, forgoing a car purchase or simplifying your vacation, you and your spouse need to be on the same page.

2. Don’t assume the baby needs a bigger house.

The biggest single expenditure from these studies is normally housing. This includes all extra you might spend on housing, utilities, and home furnishings because of the baby. If you can afford it and would like a bigger house, go ahead and get one. But don’t think that Junior will grow up needing therapy if he has to sleep in tight quarters or share a room with a sibling. Janice and I had a big house before our children came along and we still live in the same house. Yes, some brothers shared a bedroom, but they never seriously damaged each other and are great friends today.

3. Try cloth diapers.

At around $15 each, cloth diapers sound pricey, but when compared to using 6-10 disposables every single day, you can recoup your cost in a couple of months. Cloth diapers with Velcro fasteners are much more user friendly than in the days when I used to fold and pin them around my babies. You can buy one-size-fits-all and also be environmentally responsible. Try the calculator on Diaper Pin to learn your savings. Also consider a program like the Amazon Mom program to save up to 30%.

4. Feed table scraps.

Yes, I really said that. Janice and I didn’t like the thought of putting the prepared green paste called “peas” into our baby’s mouth, so we bought a baby food grinder (still available for around $10) and fed our baby (within reason) the same food we ate. The little grinder requires no batteries and will grind vegetables, fruit and meat to a healthy consistency. Once we purchased our grinder, we never bought another jar of baby food. According to Wholesome Baby Food, our “table scraps” cost about $.03 per ounce compared to $.23 per ounce for store bought, an 87% savings.

5. Find clothing at yard sales.

Guess what? Babies and toddlers do not wear their clothing out – they outgrow them. You can therefore find baby clothes in pristine condition for nearly nothing at yard sales. While you are there, you can also find strollers, car seats and playpens . . . often in new condition.

6. Save on day care.

Yes, childcare can take a big bite from your budget, but check to see if your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account and figure your childcare tax credit. Other thoughts: Weigh your (or spouse’s) net income after deducting child care, travel expense to work, lunches out because of job, and clothing required for the job. One of you might be better off staying home with baby, especially if you could develop a home income stream.

7. If possible, breast feed.

A study on Kellymom indicates a savings of between $714 and $3,164 for one year of breastfeeding compared to formula.

8. Have proper life and disability insurance in place.

Ask yourself this question: “If something happens to my spouse, or me, how will the remaining spouse be able to care for our child and continue to pay the bills?” You probably spend more eating out in a month than life insurance and disability insurance premiums would cost, so you absolutely can’t afford to not have them.

9. Don’t select schooling you can’t afford.

If you can’t afford (meaning cash flow) a private grade school or high school, use a public school. If you can’t afford that prestigious college, let your child attend a community college and state college. No degree is worth ten or twenty years of debt payments. Read my post 10 tips on how to graduate from college debt free for ideas and encouragement.

10. Make retirement investing a higher priority than college savings.

You may be tempted to start a college fund right away, but don’t sacrifice your retirement investments. Junior has lots of options to cover college expenses. What alternatives to retirement do you have?

11. Make a will.

I realize that I promised ten tips, so consider this one as a bonus . . . a very important bonus. If both of you die without a will, the courts will decide who cares for your child. Is this what you want? Make a will so you can name the guardian that you want. Do it today.

Concluding Thoughts

Yes, your new addition will take a chunk out of your budget, but don’t get psyched out about these exorbitant claims of how much they cost. If you want to have children, I think you should have children. God is the giver of life and if he decides to give you a child, he will provide a way for you to care for the child.

One more thing: Whatever they cost, they are worth it.

Do you think $250,000 is a reasonable figure for extra money required to raise a child? Why or why not? Which of these tips is your favorite? What additional tips can you share?

This article was originally published on Personal Finance By The Book on August 9th, 2010.

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22 Comments
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  1. This site is fantastic.
    Question on wills: my wife and I have been talking about making one quite a bit, but we don’t even know where to start. Searching for “writing a will” online brings up a lot of … questionable … sites. Do you have any recommendations? We don’t have a lot of money to spend on writing one…

    thanks and keep up the great work!

    • Erik,
      Go to daveramsey.com and order a state specific will from legalzoom.com – it’s only $29 and will also inclue a power of attorney and the document you need to give someone the power to determine how you die – according to your wishes.

      • Hmm…I did legalzoom will for Illinois and it’s coming in at 69-79 dollars. Maybe I accidentally chose some option I didn’t need but I don’t think I did.

        • Erik,

          My bad. Dave Ramsey site recommends U.S. Legal Forms…not Legal
          Zoom. I went to daveramsey.com and then hit the U.S. Legal Forms link in the right column. It appears you can get a Dave Ramsey, state specific, will kit special for $15.

    • Erik — I agree with jim’s advice. Remember that wills are state specific, but Legalzoom will take care of that. Some “will kits” are too generic.

  2. even if you have less money remember having baby is best feeling of life.

    • Right! Janice and I have never regretted (or even noticed) that we had less money. But the good thing is this: once our kids were on their own, we discovered we had more money.

  3. The funny thing is my partner and I are looking at having a child very shorty. We are waiting for our house to finish building then I’m sure we will have a child on the way. This article had some great information and tips for my partner and I. By the way rule #2 i have already broken and its to late the house is already under construction. Thank you for this great article.

    • Mark — congratulations on your upcoming addition. I suppose, now that your house is already being constructed, you might as well plan on having several more! :)

  4. Sure hope that $250,000 ish estimate doesn’t include the cost of college – ha! Even with in state tuition, you can plan on spending $100,000 for college easy – assuming you’re footing the bill for the entire thing.

    • It might be $100,000 today, but if someone is just having a baby now, imagine the costs of college 18-20 years from now. I think it has more than tripled since I first went about 12 years ago. Not trying to be negative, I just think its an important thing parents should consider. Future cost of college, not current cost.

  5. Great tips! My wife and I are planning on having kids in the next couple of years and we will be sure to keep these in mind.

  6. Well we have eight kids. I guess it cost us $2M to raise them. Funny, I missed it somewhere. We probably averaged less than $60K per year. The main thing it costs is you love and affection for your spouse and your kids. If you stay out of debt it helps big time. Teach you kids to work. Learn how to stretch your food. Stay away from junk food. Don’t be subject to the govt’s ideas of what you need.. Just a few ideas.

    • Harry — Nothing like hearing from one who has been there. You make my point exactly: once those kids come along, you figure out how to afford them. I wonder if the people who did those surveys ever had kids of their own. By the way, I love every one of your suggestions.

  7. We also have 8 children, ranging in age from 13 to 8 months. We are fairly high income but still…we don’t make enough that we could spend 2 and a half million dollars to raise our kids. That makes me chuckle, actually. I must admit that I do buy baby food and use disposable diapers because of the time savings and because we CAN pay for such things. But if we had to, I could do without those luxuries. And yes, I need to pull out my food mixer for the baby. Re college, we’re probably going to get creative. Our children will almost certainly attend local universities and may well live at home for part or all of their schooling. I am not of the view that “going away to college” is a necessary rite of passage. Jesus didn’t :-). We believe that as online schools become more prevalent, the options for college WILL change and we intend to take advantage of those options for our children. One of my major goals for the children is that those who go to college don’t emerge with a degree and a ton of debt.

  8. 10. Make retirement investing a higher priority than college savings.
    When our first daughter was born, we set aside money every month for their school. The big mistake was that we did not max out our retirement first.

  9. gwen hicks

    I don’t know that it’s wise to encourage people to have children they can’t afford. This is why the welfare rolls are so high. That said, we are a nation that encourages excess and materialism. If we would teach our children that they are more than the sum of their positions, that would go a long way toward helping people afford their children. We need to stress that what children need is guidance and love, not designer duds.

  10. Great advice! Call it a pet peeve though but I always had a problem buying someone else’s clothes at a garage sale, even baby clothes, you just dont know where they have actually been. Being a father myself I can understand the need to save when and where you can because our little bundles of joy can get pricey at times – especially day care.

  11. These are very helpful tips. I do practice discipline in my budget which includes savings and investments.

  12. It’s not recommended to purchase used car seats. Car seats have expiration dates (many people don’t even know that), and a car seat that has been in an accident is no longer safe and needs to be replaced. If you were on a motorcycle or bicycle and crashed, would you still wear the helmet you were wearing?

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