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.
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?