For such tiny people, babies sure do have the potential to rack up huge bills.
But it isn’t just top-of-the-line nursery furniture and dozens of teensy polka-dotted socks that make demands on a new parent’s wallet.
From unscheduled doctor’s visits to a utility bill spike, a variety of unexpected costs can hit your bank account.
While everyone’s experience is different, a little foresight can be great for the budget. So we reached out and asked real parents: What costs did you not see coming before your baby was born?
Here’s what they said:
1. The cost of convenience. Andrew Key, who runs the website Living Rich Cheaply, didn’t expect that he would lose his inclination to comparison shop after his son’s birth last July. “I like to consider myself a savvy shopper, and I always try to find the best price. But when you’re sleep deprived and have a crying baby at home, you just buy whatever it is you need at the most convenient place,” he explains. “Most times, the closest place doesn’t have the lowest price, but it’s not worth it to comparison shop when you’re short on time.”
2. Bottles. A few bottles aren’t so expensive — but what about when you have to buy every kind? “No one really talks about it, but sometimes babies refuse to drink from the bottle,” explains Key. “When my wife returned to work, my son would not drink from the bottle, which was pretty stressful, as he was extra fussy. We bought a bunch of different bottles until we found one that he was willing to drink from.”
3. Utility bills. They say a baby should always wear one more layer than you do, but keeping the house warmer will cost you. “The one cost that I didn’t even think of was the increase in utilities,” says Grayson Bell of Eyes on the Dollar, who has a 15-month-old. “My wife and I are very hot-natured and love our home cold all year round. Since our son was born after Christmas, our home was cold, but that quickly had to change. We now pay double for our electricity bill and 30% more for our water. We would be paying more for electricity, but we reduced it by purchasing a space heater for our son’s room.”
4. Outfits. Babies grow fast — and sometimes, too fast for their clothes. “We seem to go through his clothes constantly,” says Anna Newell Jones from And Then We Saved of her 5-month-old son. “Just as soon as we pull out a new size of clothes we’re putting others away, and he doesn’t even wear most of the items! If he does, it seems he only wears them once or twice. If we weren’t given any clothes or hand-me-downs as gifts, we definitely would just be putting him in the inexpensive white onesies — the ones that you can get three to five in a pack for $US7.99!”
5. The hospital goody bag. Even though he always considered himself a planner, John Schmoll of Sprout Wealth was still taken aback by his wife’s hospital bill after delivering their first child. “We did our best to find out what delivery would cost and saved the money so as not to be shocked by the bill when it came,” he recalls. “When we reviewed the itemized bill, however, I was surprised to see that the ‘take home bag’ filled with diapers, wipes, pacifiers, and other newborn goodies, wasn’t complimentary. It came at a pretty steep cost.”
Schmoll, who is a father of three, was sure to do it differently the next time around. “When our boys were born a few years later, I left the bag at the hospital and saved a few hundred dollars by having those items on hand at home. I also learned that I could get a few free formula and diaper samples from our pediatrician, which eliminated the need for the hospital’s costly good bag anyways.”
6. Takeout meals. “We thought we were doing pretty good by saving up money to cover the loss in income for the 12 weeks my wife planned to take off from work after having our daughter,” says Schmoll. “What we didn’t plan for was meals that first week or two after coming home. You’re so sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with the newness of feeding a tiny human every two hours that you don’t think about what you’re going to eat. Without any freezer meals prepared beforehand, we ended up eating a lot of expensive, unhealthy fast food.”
7. Dad’s time off. Even though many companies in the U.S. don’t have paid paternity leave, it’s understandable that both parents will want to take time off to spend with the family’s newest member. “You think about saving money for Mum being able to take time off, but not for Dad,” explains Schmoll. “The second and third times around we knew to save enough money to supplement my unpaid leave so our budget wouldn’t take a hit during the week or two I was able to take off.”
8. Doctor’s visits. First-time parents often find themselves at the doctor more than expected. “My husband and I prepared ourselves for the cost of delivery and expected lots of hospital bills to roll in, but I never thought about medical bills that pop up once the baby is actually born,” says Amelia Hahnke of The Homebook, who has a 16-month-old.
“Our son had jaundice right after he was born, and we took him to see his pediatrician no less than three times in the first few weeks of his life,” she explains. “Then came the doctor visits for head colds and flu bugs and ear infections — for a while it seemed that bills were showing up in our mailbox almost daily.”