Baby MF is 6 months old now. How have the costs stacked up against our predictions?
When we decided the time was right to start a family, we wondered what the cost of having a child was. The many websites which exist to help a family estimate these cost are useless for a frugal family in the military or public service. These websites assume you will be buying all new furniture and clothes, paying a photographer for baby pics, and in general making a number of financially questionable choices. Here is a summation of how we planned for baby, an
d how we actually did.
Once our pregnancy had been confirmed we began collecting supplies in earnest. We were very lucky to recieve hand-me-downs of nearly all the clothes, furniture, and major equipment we would need from family. Some things, like old cribs which have been phased out due to their dangerous construction, we declined, and for a few items, like a changing table, we turned to Craigslist. Other items came from the curb, for free. Baby furniture is extremely expensive at a baby store. Run away! Breast pump and parts were supplied by our insurance.
We also had a baby shower. My calculated guess put us at nearly $3,000 per year for diapers alone. To help defray that expected cost we registered for small items at Babies-R-Us and Amazon.com. We received many small, non-inheritable items, like thermometers, a bottle warmer, diapers, and bibs. Instead of cards, we asked our family to bring a book signed with their name. As we read these books to the baby we get to remember the gifts and read the sweet messages on the inside covers. I was impressed by one cousin who didn’t bring one new book, but who instead picked up about a dozen used books from a library book sale. Major bang-for-your-buck gift giving!
At our shower we specifically avoided asking for clothes, since we had so many hand-me-downs, but over the intervening months many people have brought us clothes anyway. We kept some clothes, like onsies and sleep sacks, which we didn’t have many of, and clothes from close family. However, most of the new clothes were donated as-is to a local women’s shelter. We felt our abundance would be put to better use by donating new, rather than our used clothes. For the same reason, we have not returned any gifts or items we had extra, like outgrown diapers or maternity clothes. While these items could have been turned into cash or store credit, we felt it was more appropriate to donate.
Classes & Medical Electives
We skipped all the birthing classes, lactating classes, and hospital tours. In retrospect, paying the money for the hospital tour would have saved us a horrible experience of not knowing where to go when labor began early. Not roaming the halls of a hospital after hours with a heavy bag and a wife in active labor is worth any cost. We also should have taken more advantage of free lactation support.
We did spring for some out of pocket tests to give us peace of mind, but US Family Health paid for many ultra-modern items, including 4D Ultrasounds.
Other items of note which deserve their own post involve using Mrs MF’s health insurance and using her employees Paid Family Leave plan (we screwed up!), as well as Family and Medical Leave Act considerations.
The Birth and Beyond
Having military healthcare (we used US Family Health) meant we paid nothing out of pocket for the birth of our child. The birth was not textbook. There were several hurles along the way, including a few hours in a NICU, all of which would have been painful without quality health insurance. We did pay various parking fees at the Hospital, and we had several co-pays for medication related to the pregnancy, but otherwise had no direct medical expenses.
The First Six Months
As you know, we track everything. I keep one line item in my expense tracker for “Baby.” I color code diapers, since I’m interested in their lifetime cost, but don’t track them separately. We don’t track food as a baby specific item. Since I don’t track the additional calories Mrs MF consumes in order to breast feed, I cant really justify counting the food the baby eats that comes from a box or jar.
Over the past 14 months*, our child has had a direct cost of $2,366.
*Baby MF is 6.75 Months old as of this post
Diapers, by themselves, have cost $296*. Many newborn diapers were given to us, and we have used Amazon Subscribe and Save subscriptions exclusively for all other diaper purchases, as they have the best price and discount. We explored BJ’s, Walmart, and other stores, but Amazon beats them all, when bought in bulk. Our biggest tip is to get out of size 3 as soon as possible as they are the most in demand, and therefore most pricy, size.
*The cost of donated diapers was moved from the Baby category to Donations.
Over the river and thru the woods…
We often travel to Grandma and Grandpa MF’s home. These trips have inevitably led to expensive outings to the local baby store at odd hours to replace items we had forgot, at full in-store prices. Our recommendation would be to fully replicate your baby set up at your most often traveled overnight location. The savings in gas and time alone justify the extra cost. We duplicated (or had duplicated for us) a changing pad, a gifted pack and play, jumpy, mattress, sheets, some bottles, diapers, wipes, breast pump parts, pacifiers, and other various creams, rags, sprays and toys.
Our food costs have been rather low, even though we are fortunate enough to be able to provide organic solid foods to Baby MF. Breastfeeding has kept costs down somewhat, and so has our gardening. We have steamed and pureed buckets full of kale, pumpkin, string beans, yellow squash, zucchini, and beats from our organic garden. Other things, like peas, we have bought frozen in bulk and then pureed. Given that quality baby food costs, at it cheapest, $0.25/oz, and that the first ingredient is usually water, making your own food is a money making proposition, especially if you grow it, even accounting for the value of your time in steaming, pureeing, and bottling. The only thing I would go back and improve on is stocking up on empty baby food bottles early. This would have cut down on the need to freeze foods in bulk for later break out to bottles, reducing labor costs.
For us, the financial aspect of having a baby has been much as expected. We are spending less on diapers than I expected, and have avoided major costs, like a new crib, by practicing practical frugality. Some big ticket items, like a jogging stroller, we have put off. Some items we thought we wouldnt need, like a baby carrier, we had to purchase.
Because we had a solid understanding of our finances, due to tracking all our expenses, we knew we were in a place where we could survive as an expanded family with one income. Over the next year we will begin to see the full implications of all the recent changes, including a PCS move, the move to one income, and assuming full financial responsibility for a child now that the baby shower gifts have been used up or grown out of.
Readers, how was the first year of your child, financially?