Whether it’s an accident or carefully planned occurrence, having a baby is an enormous responsibility—one you may not be ready for. Many couples plan carefully for any new addition to the family, but others are caught off guard, having spent little thought or preparation for the arrival of a baby.
Statistics show that approximately 6 million pregnancies occur each year in the U.S. alone. With over 60 million women in child bearing years, only 64 percent use contraception, and over 450,000 babies are born to teenage mothers. Unexpected pregnancies become more common and the costs increase due to lack of planning and preparation. Planning and preparation which could save young families hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year, as well as reducing the psychological and educational costs involved.
According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy, 48 percent of community college students have been or gotten someone pregnant and 61 percent of these individuals have not finished college. That’s a lot of young people missing out on a college education.
Are you ready to grow your family?
Money takes the romance out of trying for a baby but if you don’t consider it a priority, you’re only asking for trouble. Babies cost money; money which you may not have. It may seem impossible to imagine that your little bundle of joy can cost you more than anything you’ve ever purchased. The truth is, baby number one is going to cost you more than a small car, and that’s just in its first year.
Do you have a spare $8000 lying around?
According to PregnancyToday.com, you’re looking at $8000 in the first year alone. For some people that might not seem like much; unfortunately, that figure doesn’t include birthing costs, pregnancy check-ups and unexpected expenses that can arise. If you don’t have insurance, the cost before you even step out of the hospital can be double or triple that amount. Wannabe mothers and fathers can forget about the reality of the situation. A baby is for life and it will change yours completely.
Dreaming up names, shopping for baby clothes and flicking through parenting magazines may sound like fun but it’s not enough to prepare you for the true cost of having a baby.
With half of the pregnancies in the U.S. being unplanned, one third are to unmarried women in their 20’s. More than half are likely to drop out of college and forgo a quality education in order to raise their child. With added emotional and financial stress, they are unlikely to return to college once the baby gets older. Dropping out of college due to an unplanned pregnancy results in a lower income and increases the risk of living in poverty. The psychological stress can be even more costly.
So what are the actual costs of having a baby?
The true cost will depends on a number of factors. According to the U.S. Census Bureau only about 250 million Americans had health coverage in 2007. Without health coverage, a hospital birth will set you back about $7000 upwards. A home birth with a midwife will cost around $3000. Then, you have to think about nappies, chairs, a cot, pram, stroller and you’re looking at another few thousand in the first few weeks of your newborn’s life. These are costs that cannot be avoided. Second hand is an option or making the most of “hand me downs”—but that’s not always possible.
Nappies can cost anywhere from $75 to $125 per month. Not breastfeeding? Add $100 per week for formula. If you need to work, sending your baby to child care will cost anywhere from $0 to $800 per week. That’s a lot of cash needed from day one, every week and every year of the baby’s life. As they grow there’s clothing and education costs to consider. By the time your child reaches 18, you may have spent anywhere up to $250,000—before college tuition. It’s possible to spend over $1000 per week on your newborn. In the end, being prepared allows you to enjoy being a parent instead of stressing about finances or all the other costs involved with having a baby.
So how can you prepare for a baby?
1. Contraception is vital. If you’re not pregnant and not yet prepared to have a baby make sure that you are using an effective form of contraception. Condoms or the pill are a cheaper option compared with raising a child.
2. Get health insurance that covers you and your future baby. Check that all your costs are covered and you won’t be hit with an unexpected hospital bill reaching the tens of thousands once you’re home.
3. Start saving right now. It doesn’t matter if you are only in the planning stage. The sooner you start saving, the easier and less stressful it’s going to be once the baby arrives. Even $50 per week is going to make a difference at the end of the year.
4. Clear any debt you may have and avoid getting into new debt. Having to pay credit card bills or loans will only add to your new financial responsibility.
5. Finish your education first. If you’re still in college and find yourself pregnant, find out how you can have your baby and still continue your education, if not for yourself, than for your baby’s future. An education is something no one can take away from you and a baby is not a reason to stop. Thousands of women have babies and manage to continue their education. You can too.
6. If you’re in a relationship try living on just one pay check for a few months, while putting the other in a savings account. This will help you learn how to spend less and give you an emergency fund for when the baby arrives.
Katarzyna Radzka is a freelance writer and TEFL teacher currently based in Warsaw, Poland. Her writing has appeared in Real Travel, The Australian Writer, & AustralianReader.com among others.