As soon as my wife and I got married, so many people would ask us when we were going to start having kids. I think it’s just one of those things you’re supposed to ask a newlywed. But as much as I would get annoyed by that question after the four-thousandth time it was asked, I find myself asking every one of my newlywed friends the same thing. My answers to this question ranged from, “Do you really want a bunch of little Travises running around?” to, “My wife and I want to have some time to ourselves for a while” to, “We want to make sure we’re financially ready first.” For the last one, the most common response — especially from parents — was, “You’re never going to be financially ready.” And they were right.
First of all, the reason baby showers were invented is because stocking a house with everything you need for a baby — crib, car seat, changing table, furniture — adds up to a whole lot of money in really quickly, even if you buy from a second-hand store. Now, let me give you a quick breakdown of some of the other necessities.
- Diapers. A box of around 100 diapers can range in price from $30 to $50, depending on where you buy them and what brand you decide to go with. While our son was still breastfeeding, he would poop all the time and go through 12 to 20 diapers a day. Now that he’s on formula and his digestive track is maturing, he poops once or twice a day and goes through about 8 to 10 diapers a day. Of course, there is always the option of going with cloth diapers, but we chose not to go down that road.
- Wipes. The number of wipes used per diaper change depends on what type of business was conducted in the diaper and how much it spread. The good news about wipes is that they are relatively inexpensive, and a box can last a long time. You can usually find a box of around 1,000 wipes for close to $10.
- Formula. Some mothers are able to breastfeed their babies all the way to the point that they are ready for cow’s milk and baby food. For the rest of us, formula becomes a regular expense. Depending on the brand, amount, and type of formula — soy, fussiness and gas, colic, etc. — you can expect to pay from $12 to $30 for a 12 oz. to 16 oz. can of powder. There are premixed, ready to drink bottles of formula, but these are more expensive. As your baby grows, he or she will need more and more formula. My son is five months old and drinks close to 28 oz. or formula a day, so we go through a can of formula every five to seven days.
- Laundry Detergent. There are certain types and brands of laundry detergent that are recommended for newborns because they are more sensitive and can have a reaction to regular detergent. My wife and I use Dreft, which costs around $12 for a 50 oz. jug — good for 32 loads. But babies go through a lot of clothes, and we do laundry for him about every other day.
- Clothes. Babies grow fast. You’re going to have to replace your child’s entire wardrobe about every three months. How much this costs will all depend on what you choose to dress your child in, but remember, babies can go through numerous outfits in a single day.
- Babysitter. If both parents have to work, someone has to watch the kid. I can’t put a price on this because the cost can vary so much. There are babysitters that can stay at your house, childcare centers, and plenty of other options for you to choose from. Typically, it will cost more to watch a newborn because they require more care and attention. Also, some centers will simply make sure your kid survives the day, while others will educate and help your child develop. I’ll let you guess which one is going to be more expensive. The best advice I can give you is to shop around a lot, talk to people, read reviews about centers or babysitters, and try to find the highest quality of care that you can afford. They are, after all, going to be responsible for your child.
- Other Stuff. There are a number of other things you’re going to need to have, but that aren’t necessarily a regular expense. Things like moving up in bottle or nipple sizes as your child grows, soap, shampoo, lotion, diaper rash cream, pacifiers, books, toys, gas drops, and cleaning supplies to get spit up out of your carpet don’t cost much individually, but they can still add up.
I think it’s a great idea to make sure you’re financially stable before you start having kids, but even if you’ve planned out an entire budget, I’m not sure you can be truly prepared for how much having a baby costs because there’s no way of knowing what to expect. My wife and I have had our fair share of costly surprises throughout our five months of parenthood, and many of them simply couldn’t have been planned for.
We had planned on breastfeeding for as long as we could for two main reasons: breastmilk is the best thing for a newborn and it’s free. My wife even pumped and stored a stockpile of it for me and the babysitter to use when she was going to have to go back to work. Well, due to my son’s food sensitivities, we had to switch to not only formula, but some of the most expensive formula out there. So now, every time he spits up, all I see is money splattering all over the place. Also, the doctor visits associated with this, his acid reflux, his ingrown toenails, his constipation when we started adding cereal to his bottles, and his ankyloglossia — the medical term for being tongue-tied, which means the frenulum (flap of skin under the tongue) was too far forward and had to be clipped — have all caused us to adjust our budget and spending quite a bit. So be prepared for surprises.
But luckily, there are ways to save money. My wife and I signed up for Babies-R-Us rewards and receive coupons and specials from them. We also signed up for Similac’s mailing list and regularly receive $5 coupons for formula, which helps since the formula we have to buy is so expensive.
Even though you never know what kind of surprise costs are going to pop up along the way, you can get a pretty good idea about what your regular expenses may look like. You just need to make sure you have a little bit of money set aside to cover any surprises. Having a child is a wonderful thing, but there’s no doubt that a baby comes with a rather hefty price tag.
The New Father: Date Night’s Not So Spontaneous Anymore | Permanence Is an Intimidating Concept | The Gross Out Factor | Going Places | Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help | Parenting Is a Lesson in Teamwork | Juggling the First Holiday | Baby on Board | Dealing With Baby Heartburn | Father and Son, One on One | Diaper Changing, Learning the Hard Way | He's Crying and I'm Freaking Out | My Baby Smiled at Me | Food Sensitivities and the Breastfeeding Baby
On Mondays, Travis King shares learning experiences he encounters as a new father.
Photo: Travis King