The Real Cost Of Having A Baby

A word to the wise: never read an article about child rearing that starts out warning you about all the things you will have to give up when you have children. It is not that you won’t have to give things up–of course you will–but rather, that articles that begin by emphasizing what you will lose almost always want to scare you by telling you how awful pregnancy/children are.

baby money

And so it seems to me with this post called The Cost Of Having A Baby. It starts out telling you that you will never have sex or fun again and then goes on to scare you about how expensive babies are.

But while bringing a new person into the world isn’t going to be free, it doesn’t have to be as bad as people make out. It seems to me that many people don’t consider the actual needs of the baby when making purchases. For example, let’s look at a few of the things this article mentions as necessities for a child:

Babies come with a lot of gear. Here’s a sample of some of the stuff we’ve acquired for just one kid in just 18 months: a crib, a pack-‘n-play, two strollers, four carseats, a Moses basket, several types of bouncy seats, a changing table, a diaper bag, sippy cups and snack traps, bottles and binkies, burp cloths and a Diaper Genie. (That last one keeps your house from smelling like poo and, like printer ink, requires pricey proprietary liners).
Total cost of all this stuff? I’ll venture a guess at about $2,000, but I’m not including clothes and consumables, which we’ll get to.

There is no attempt in these paragraphs to look at what is needed for the child and what is not. Yes, you need a crib, but do you need a diaper genie when a garbage can (frequently changed) works fine? Why do they need four carseats–does that mean these people have four cars? Why two strollers? Is a Moses basket a necessity? Do you really need “several types of” bouncy seats?

I mean, this is all for one baby, right?

For almost every expense that the article mentions, there is a cheaper option available. It laments the cost of formula but glosses over the fact that breast milk is free. It mentions the cost of diapers is around $50 a month, but completely ignores the existence of cloth diapers, which are cheaper and can be reused.

That doesn’t mean everyone always goes with the cheaper option. Sometimes you can’t breast feed, sometimes you just want to change a diaper and move on with your day–but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least weigh comparative costs when making financial decisions.

On top of this, there are tons of ways to get used and free baby supplies. Friends and neighbors want to get rid of baby things, and they are happy to pass them on to you. As for used gear, there are baby swaps, used baby stores, thrift stores, garage sales, and Craigslist. Even new clothes can be cheap–baby outfits can cost under $5 if you shop around.

Then there are the big things the article mentions–day care, life insurance, college fund, etc. I’m not going to get too deeply into these issues, but I will say that if the budget is really tight, things like life insurance and college funds can wait a bit. Likewise, when you start factoring in super-high expenses like day care, it’s smart to run the numbers and see if the second job is worth the cost of having it. Surprisingly often, it is not.

After telling people that they will need more than $50,000 to fund their baby in the first year of life, this article has the nerve to say, “Don’t let this scare you.” If you listened to this guy, you would be crazy not to be a little scared.

I guess I’m annoyed with the prevalence of articles that try to suck the joy out of a wonderful thing by telling you how miserable it will be. Yes, babies cost money, but you do not have to go bankrupt to have one. You just have to make smart purchases, like with any other area of life.

Here’s some further reading:

What Do Newborn Babies Really Need?
Baby Costs The Frugal Way
Bringing Up Baby, Cheap from The Tightwad Gazette III by Amy Dacyczyn
How to Get Ready For Baby Without Spending a Bundle
Baby Cost Calculator

How did you save money with your children?

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16 thoughts on “The Real Cost Of Having A Baby”

  1. i doubt we spent $50,000 per child period, much less in the first year, excluding college. Baby showers, hand me downs, consignment stores, garage sales, DIY, breast feeding, real food vs. tiny jars, cloth diapers, doing without frou frou stuff that only gets used for a month or two are all good strategies that we used.

  2. i doubt we spent $50,000 per child period, much less in the first year, excluding college. Baby showers, hand me downs, consignment stores, garage sales, DIY, breast feeding, real food vs. tiny jars, cloth diapers, doing without frou frou stuff that only gets used for a month or two are all good strategies that we used. We also ran the numbers on my part time $17 an hour job, and found that after day care and the higher tax bracket, we broke even. Considering what i spent on dry clean only clothing, transportation, and convenience food, it cost me to work.

  3. We ran the numbers on my part time, $17 an hour job (this was in the 80’s, good money!). After day care costs and a higher tax bracket, we broke even. Considering the expensive dry clean only career clothes, convenience foods and transportation, it cost us to have both parents out of the home. The increased peace and happiness with a parent at home was priceless!

  4. I love your article. While I haven’t actually sat down and counted how much our 9 month old has cost so far, we got a crib as a gift when he was born. I breast feed. I cant convience my husband that cloth diapers are better yet, but i’m working on it. Even so, I coupon and have gotten free diapers, but mostly I pay an average of 3 dollars a pack. For holidays we always tell everyone that if they would like to buy us something, buy clothes for our kids, or other things they might need. My daughter is 5 and I cant’ recall actually having to buy brand new clothes. She gets them for her birthday and holidays. And dont think she’s deprived of toys on those occasions. She has 5 sets of grandparents and a set of great grandparents. I’ve actually been making our kids clothes. As for the changing table, I change my baby on the king size bed thats 3 and a half feet tall we got for free when my mother in law wanted a new bed. I think maybe all in all we spend like 300 bucks on him so far. Even what toys he has were given as gifts. We also utilize thrift stores. Great post!

  5. First baby? You can a get a bunch of that so-called necessary stuff with a baby shower-and if you’re like me, return for refund(where gift receipts were included) or store credit, those things you know you’ll never use.
    For the first 6 months, our daughter slept in an over sized laundry basket, that I lined with blankets, and a couple of my shirts. That is, when she wasn’t sleeping on me. We did find a crib at a yard sale that was brand new, in the box…for $35! I did use disposable diapers a lot, but, those were bought with the store credit mentioned above, and I stocked up when ever they were on sale, and I had coupons. Plus, I used wash clothes instead of wipes.
    I was one who couldn’t breast feed, so, unfortunately, we got nailed on formula. 🙁 However, once she was ready for solids, I bought baby food only a couple times-until I realized I could make it way cheaper!
    When it came to clothes, I bought at thrift stores as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I hit all the half price days, and stocked up on different sizes. Then, once she was born, I wasn’t picky about what she wore…if I grabbed a blue sleeper, fine. If I had an over sized tee, that was fine too…I didn’t stress about her having to wear pink, or be dressed like a little doll. Seriously, all she did was barf, pee and poo on her clothes anyways! lol! And, if I got behind on laundry, she went butt naked lying on a blankie on the floor…yeah, we had accidents but, open air is good for baby’s skin anyways. *shrug* I’d have had to clean up her diaper anyways, so what’s a little pee on the floor?

  6. My husband & I worried about how we would afford a child & put it off because of financial reasons, to some extent. Now 20 months after having my son, I realize how stupid it was to fall for the fear-mongering like the article you cite. The total of $50K for the first year seems INSANE to me. Of course, living in Canada, I have access to parental leave (50 weeks of 55% salary) & socialized medicine, so that takes a large chunk out of the total, I suppose. But still, the number of things we have been given from friends & family. I’m fairly sure, had we wanted to, we could have sourced 90% of what we needed for free. Perhaps the writer of that article has no friends or family who’ve had kids & has never heard of Craigslist? 😉

  7. I can believe that some people spend that much- but they probably overspend like that on everything. I know that we don’t spend anywhere near that because we don’t MAKE nearly that much a year and comfortably support a family of four. Our two girls don’t go without anything and honestly have way more than they need.I did nurse for the first year but have always used disposable diapers and buying the store brand ( which I NEVER had a problem with, unlike luvs and pampers with we got as gifts and leaked horrbly ) we never spent more than $35 a month on diapers! It’s all a decision on whats important to you- overpriced baby stuff or spending time and love on them.

  8. One person’s experience does not a comprehensive study make, but we had to use formula (medical issues) and disposable diapers (daycare won’t do cloth) and we spend a tiny fraction of what those people are talking about. Especially with a first baby, people will give you stuff (new and used); the only things you really should buy new because of safety issues are a crib, car seat, and breast pump (if you even need any of those things). Otherwise, only buy what you need as you need it, and shop around for it–just like any other ongoing expense. I buy my kid’s (brand name) clothes at thrift stores (infants grow out of clothes before they wear out), cheap diapers from Amazon, and wipes from Costco. Target formula is the same nutritional profile as the name brands, and costs half as much. Buy one car seat and two bases, if you have two cars. By far our biggest expense is full time daycare, but we found a wonderful home care option through friends in the community next door that’s $100/week less than the going rate in our neighborhood, and participating in a FSA brings the cost down even more. We pay into a college fund and life insurance with the money we save. As far as not getting to do fun stuff once the baby arrives… I do more fun stuff now that I’m a mom than I did before. I make my free time count by making concrete plans with friends and family instead of just playing it by ear. I usually manage to read a novel every week, too!

  9. We found the nursery set up and early days with out little man were very cheap. We bought much of our nursery funiture second hand on ebay and were lucky to receive lots of hand me down clothes. In fact I bought out change table on ebay for $50 and 2 years later sold the same one on ebay for $88! We used cloth diapers, made our own baby food and breastfed as long as I could.
    We’re lucky to have maternity pay here in Australia so the time I was off work and home with my new baby was no financial strain – the strain came when I needed to return to work and enrol my son in daycare which costs us $710 per fortnight (or $440 after a government rebate).

  10. We’re expecting our first child – a boy – in June. We have also “acquired” two travel systems, two bouncy seats, a bouncy door-jamb swing, several hundred dollars worth of clothes and disposable diapers (despite me asking for cloth), a convertible crib, a walker, a floor swing, an activity mat, a deluxe pack-n-play, a rocking baby bed (handmade!), and gobs of other stuff complete with bells and whistles. Can I tell you how much money we have paid on any and all of this “stuff”? Maybe $35 total thus far; and we haven’t even had our shower(s) yet. Most, if not all, of the stuff we have now (barring the “primary” travel system, which was bought new for safety reasons – the other is only a couple of years old and still within regs – and of course, the diapers) either came from friends and family, a consignment shop, or a thrift store.
    Agreed there’s a lot of stuff that you CAN buy for the baby, but there’s not a lot of stuff that you HAVE to buy. There will be a lot of stuff that people are going to willingly buy you, and as long as they give you the receipt “just in case,” there’s not a thing wrong with being giving. And if you have some extra leftover stuff that you didn’t pay for? Big deal – keep it for the next kid, or better yet, do what all my friends have done and give it to someone who could use it.
    The only time I could see money as a concern regarding a child in the early years is the cost of actually birthing in the hospital, which may or may not be an option for some folks. In Georgia, homebirth is frowned upon legally and ethically, and direct midwifing (midwifery at home, without the overview of a licensed medical facility) is illegal. Last I checked, the average cost of actually having a child in the Southeast came to around $26,000. Thank God for insurance!

  11. I recently came across a book called “Baby Bargains,” which is a really smart buy. If you are willing to invest $12 on this book, I believe it is well worth your time to read it. It contains reviews on all baby gear and even maternity clothing. While I haven’t bought any baby gear yet, it gives a comprehensive look at each category, does a review on all brands and tells you which is the safest, cheapest brand with the most bang for your buck.
    The content is very dense, and at times a bit overwhelming, but they say that the AVERAGE “start up cost” of having a new baby is around $7500, but if you are smart, you can save around $3000. HOpe this little tidbit helps you!

  12. “I know that we don’t spend anywhere near that because we don’t MAKE nearly that much a year”
    This was exactly what I was going to say. We have 4 kids under 5, and my husband makes <$50K.
    It also annoys me that these type articles also suggest that subsequent children will also each cost $50k!

  13. Thank you for your article. We have two under two and whenever people look at me and say: “how can you afford that?” I look them straight in the eye and say, “it’s easy.” Between breastmilk, organic cloth diapers and my expensive but would hate to live without USED Ergo, the only things we needed were a crib (once they got bigger because we did cosleeping at first), diapers (not much for the second as we did EC), breastmilk (bring on the water and my vitamins) and clothes (FREE! I love hand-me-downs!) and the car seat (we didn’t skip on this). I am deeply saddened every time I read one of those type articles. Most of the things listed aren’t needed and it does scare new parents. Why aren’t we a more supportive and less materialistic society? It is moms such as yourself, with your posts that need to be written so that we can give parents hope, encouragement and support. Thank you.

  14. Love all the comments on this post! It’s great to know so many other people are in the same place about the cost of raising babies.


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