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How Much Does it Cost to Have a Baby?

When I found myself pregnant for the very first time I was, as most other newly pregnant women are, extremely excited.  I saw the plus sign, told my husband, and called the doctor.  I was excited to go to my first prenatal appointment, as if that would make my pregnancy official.  At my first appointment, before I went in to see the doctor, they brought me in to look over my insurance plan and see what I would have to pay out of pocket.  I wasn't worried... I mean, I had insurance, so it couldn't be that bad, right?

Wrong.  The monthly OOP total came to something like $240.  I started to cry, right there in the office.  I was working as a barista at the time and my husband was still making entry level salary, and we lived in super-expensive Southern California.  We were on a tight budget, and there was no way (at least in my mind) that we could afford that much each month... and that was for prenatal care only... how were we ever going to pay for the actual delivery??  And the crib and clothes and diapers and...  I was still crying when I went in for my exam... yep, I cried through my pelvic exam.  Which my OB wasn't super nice about.  I mean, she deals with pregnant women every day, I doubt I was the first person to cry during an appointment.  That day I went from blissfully excited to an anxiety ridden mess.  Welcome to pregnancy.

I believe God works in mysterious ways- about a week after that first appointment, I had a miscarriage.  Obviously it was sad, but I would be lying to both myself and you if I didn't admit I felt a tiny bit of relief.  I took it as a sign that we weren't yet financially ready to have a baby.  In fact, the more I think about this, the more I think it is true- I had a blighted ovum.  They usually miscarry around 9 weeks.  Mine lasted until 13 weeks.  Had I lost the pregnancy at the "normal" time, I wouldn't have seen my OB and gotten the rude awakening re: the cost of having a baby.  And it was strangely comforting that even though that pregnancy wasn't viable, it had served a purpose.  A month later I got a promotion and my husband got a promotion and a merit based raise.  Two weeks after that we were pregnant again.  This time I was much more cautious with my excitement, and I dreaded my first appointment- in fact I procrastinated it until I was 17 weeks pregnant.  So when I sat down in that very same financial office and they told me that, sorry, they had made a mistake the last time and my monthly OOP was actually going to be $80, I was thrilled.  So the whole thing came full circle... much more quickly than I had thought it would, too.

Back to the question at hand- how much does it cost to have a baby?  That's a question we frequently hear the answer to on the evening news, as a 30 second tidbit on how child raising costs are increasing.  As of 2010 the average cost for caring for a baby for the first year was around $12,000.  I don't believe that includes any prenatal costs or labor and delivery, since the average cost of a vaginal delivery in a hospital is around $9,000 and prenatal runs around $2,000.

But no, I'm not trying to scare you out of having kids.  I'm trying to save you from spending that much.

You can save money on baby bedding, among other things, by making your own or buying used.
We'll call this an intro post.  And an inspiration post.  Yes, shopping for a new baby is fun and exciting, but it adds up fast.  Whether you want to save money just because you can, or because you don't have much to spend and are FREAKING OUT at the idea of needing another $12,000 to take care of a baby, I have lots of tips, tricks, and advice.  I'll cover most of these more in depth over the next weeks/months, but here are some quick tips to get you started:
  • Two words- cloth diapers.  But don't get caught up in all the cuteness, because you'll end up spending as much or MORE on cloth if you get too carried away! (check out for great deals on used cloth... and no, it's not "gross," I promise)
  • Buy almost everything secondhand*.  Secondhand does NOT mean compromising quality and safety, especially when it comes to baby stuff, because babies outgrow things long before they are worn out.  And yes, this even includes cribs, just be diligent about checking recall lists and inspecting the item before you purchase it.  *There is ONE baby item you should absolutely not buy secondhand- a car seat.  Save money by following all my tips and buy the best, safest car seat you can afford.
  • Make your own.  Depending on your skill set, there are a glut of baby items you can make yourself, from simple no sew projects to more complicated items.  However, it's also worth noting that while a lot of DIY projects can save you money, some can actually cost more than buying new from big box stores or buying secondhand.  So think before you make something, "is this saving me money?"  Particularly sewing projects, because cute fabric is expensive.  But if you're mindful and watch the clearance bins at your local fabric store, you can save quite a bit.  Also remember AFTER the baby is born, make your own extends to things like babyfood, which is much healthier than dead, jarred food and can save you quite a bit of money.
  • Consider a home birth or birth center.  No, this should absolutely NOT be a decision you make based solely on the financial angle.  First of all, you have to be a good candidate for an out of hospital birth, which should be assessed by a midwife.  Secondly, you have to be comfortable with the idea of an out of hospital birth.  Some women just aren't.  But if you feel like you might fit both of those criteria, give it some thought.  Financials aside, having your birth at home or in a birth center can be an amazingly intimate and fulfilling experience, bringing your baby into an environment that is warm and welcoming instead of cold and clinical, and a place where your wishes and the well being of your baby are THE word.  However, it's also worth considering because it can cost as much as half the cost of a vaginal in hospital birth, not only because the overall cost is just lower, but also because being in a birth center or at home reduces the likelihood of unnecessary (and costly) interventions.  AND many birth centers are covered by major insurance plans (just in case you didn't know that!).  And to get ahead of your next argument ("well I'd like to, but my husband would NEVER go for it"), you'll never know unless you bring it up.  Men take time to come around to things, so he may initially say no.  But he might also surprise you.
  • Save on services.  Look into ways to get services you want for your birth, like a doula or birth classes, for cheaper WITHOUT sacrificing (much).  For example, provisional Bradley instructors (instructors who have completed the training but are new to teaching) often charge less than fully accredited instructors.  However, this is another thing I strongly suggest you to splurge on if you either can't find a provisional instructor or you don't mesh with any you find.  It is super important to prepare yourself for birth effectively (ie not via the hospital's class), and to have the support you feel you need (as you would with a doula).  
  • Don't buy it.  I have a really short list of items you should buy before your baby is born here.  Compare that list for a second to the list you find here.  Pretty different.  There are probably some things that are not on my list that you may find yourself needing, but most of those needs will not be emergent, and you can get them when you need them.  This alone will save you a ton of money, because I think (and many moms will agree with this) that buying stuff you ultimately don't use is the biggest way you can save money on a new baby.
And there's more to come... Do you have anything to add?  How did you save money when your kids were born, or what baby item did you wish you had not wasted your money on?

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