by Naomi Charles
I was pregnant for the first time, and feeling a bit anxious, so I asked my brother, whose wife had a baby the previous year, “How much does it cost to have a baby on a monthly basis?” David said, “If you can afford a coffee a day, you can afford to have a baby.”
Well my baby girl is a year old yesterday, and I have kept track of all the money we spent on her and guess what? David was right. All told, we spent $641.00. That is $52.41 a month and $1.75 a day! (Isn’t that the price of a coffee these days?)
Now what does $1.75 a day include? Well everything: diapers, baby food, clothes, presents, toiletries, official documents, medicine, and even her birthday party expenses.
So why did I bother to do this? Well I wanted to prove something. Many people say they can’t afford children, unless they have all the education they want, a good career and a double income in their family.
Many modern sources you look to will not give you the impression that having a baby is affordable. For example, Deborah Pike Olsen writes from the website, babycenter.com, “You’ll spend almost $10,000 on your baby’s first year, according to the thousands of moms who took BabyCenter’s exclusive survey.” On the CanadianFinanceBlog.com Tom Drake provides a “reasonable expectation” of the costs the first year as $11,025. His breakdown is Food: $1646, Clothing: $1879, Health Care: $154, Child Care: $4,990, Shelter, Furnishings, Household Operations: 2,356.
So how did I manage to spend so little on her first year? First, I was committed to being as economical as possible because I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Today, this is rare because many mothers feel they cannot manage the family finances without going back to work. There is also societal pressure to feel inadequate if you are not contributing a check each month. I call it the “just a mom” syndrome.
One thing many new moms don’t account for (and how can you?) is the utter generosity of everyone around you when you’re going to have a baby! It’s amazing. People will ask what you need, will drop off baby clothes and equipment, will hold surprise baby showers and elderly neighbours you’ve never even talked to will knit blankets and booties for your little one. Babies in the womb and out seem to emit some sort of compulsion field that causes everyone around them to want to give something. Now this compulsion also affects the mother, but she should try to restrain herself a little bit from buying, because the deluge of gifts will come from all sides and she most likely will have more than she needs. I cried at my baby shower because I was so overwhelmed and I prayed that every baby would be so welcomed. If you are in a community where you share your life with others, whether it is a church, a quilting guild, your workplace, your family, or circle of friends, they will want to share with you when baby comes.
Another big money saver is cloth diapers. I researched a good kind by talking to other moms who used them, and when asked at my baby shower what I needed, I said “cloth diapers!” Many women bought them, so I had a whole collection! I use them when we are at home and use disposable ones when we are out and for overnight.
I didn’t buy a bunch of baby equipment. The only thing I bought was a car seat for $50. I was given a high chair, a stroller and a play pen which she uses as a bed. It travels well. That’s all. I didn’t want a change table, (the floor is safer) or an exersaucer, but I was given a jolly jumper.
I didn’t buy any toys. Your friends and family will take care of that. And the funny thing is, toys are nice, but what they really want to play with is real stuff, likeTupperware, car keys, books, and the baby wipe container. Why buy toys that will just add clutter? Plus if you are home with your baby, you don’t need so many toys to entertain them because YOU get to play with them!
I’m not sure who spends $1879 on baby clothing! Thrift stores are great and second hand baby things often look brand new because the little tykes grow so quickly out of them. A person can also sew clothing to save money. It takes some time and energy during baby’s nap but if you can sew, go for it!
Okay, breastfeeding is key! Not only is it the best food for baby, but it’s a lot cheaper than formula. Not that it is easy, especially at the beginning when you are getting the hang of it, but don’t give up and get some good advice from nurses or experienced mothers. As you go on, it is comfortable and convenient, and your milk is ready to go whenever and wherever your baby needs it.
Also, after 6 months, as much as you can, have baby eat what you eat. Those jars of baby food add up. Get a manual baby food grinder and when you sit down for supper, and grind whatever they can eat. Gradually, baby will transition to eating everything with the family.
I would budget $100 per month for baby and at the end of the month put what is left in a savings account for her. It’s been adding up. And guess what? The government (in Canada) gives you $100 a month for Universal Child Care benefit plus there is family allowance. So how can we not afford a baby?
Every baby and situation is unique. One friend was not able to nurse and her baby required special expensive formula. But this mother is excellent at making the most of coupons so when she buys groceries, she can save up to $45 at a time. Each family finds their own money saving skills.
A simple life, without too much stuff, can be very enjoyable. My daughter certainly isn’t deprived. She’s very happy, always looks cute, enjoys her food, her library books, going outside and playing with Mommy and Daddy. And I can’t even begin to tell you how much we enjoy her. Everyday she does something new and her smiles and laughter lift us up like nothing else. I look forward to spending these years with her discovering the whole world and the One who made it, for about the price of a coffee a day.
This article was first published in the May 2012 issue of NFP Saskatchewan and is used here by permission of the author.