Everyone gives advice, regardless of your wishes not to hear it. Here's how to make sure that the baby learns to sleep well! Here's how you save on diapers! There is this awesome trick I know to potty-train the baby - at 6 months!
So while your head is spinning from logistics (we need a bigger place, a nanny, grandma's coming in from Phoenix, time to tell my boss), you're likely to forget the basics - how to plan ahead and pay for Mini-Me.
While you may think that costs are always unexpected (which is partly true), the good news is that the two of you control the show.
Here are the keys to mastering your finances with your baby in tow:
1) Take common-sense (and not-so-common-sense) precautions to reduce financial risk for your family.
a. Take out a reasonably valued life insurance policy for each of you (parents) based on your lifestyle. You never know what can happen, but if it does, G-d forbid, at least the other spouse will not be left in a complete free-fall while raising a baby on his or her own.
b. Put aside a rainy day fund of 6-12 months of (your combined) salary. What if one of you gets fired or decides to quit a job?
c. Review and update (or create) your financial plan to understand your current spending and project increases in what you will need to spend with the baby around.
Budget appropriately for formula and other food, clothing, daycare/nanny, stroller(s), transportation, decreased income (due to time off for Mommy and/or Daddy). Don't be caught off-guard.
Project out the costs (lost income and/or benefits) of staying at home vs. returning to work, how long each of you can stay at home with the baby.
d. Take the opportunity to reviews your finances and taxes to maximize all advantages, whether by earning points from your credit card purchases, maximizing your employer's 401(k) or Roth IRA contributions, negotiating down fees and recurring expenses (phone, internet, cable).
Here is a previous post on **12 Steps to a Comprehensive Financial Strategy**.
Ramit Sethi also gives a great primer on optimizing your finances here.
e. Go into the birth with clear eyes about how you will pay for what and where the money will come from. Have a safety cushion and hedge your risk appropriately. Don't be caught off guard by "circumstances."
2) Adjust your tax status when filing taxes and make sure to take advantage of the extra exemptions, child tax credits and child care expenses through pre-tax FSA (flexible spending account) and HSA (health savings account) contributions.
Don't miss out on the major tax advantages of having a kid. Plan ahead for the extra expenses and do your best to take advantage of pre-tax contributions through available FSAs, HSAs.
3) Start a 529 plan for your kid.
College is insanely expensive and will only keep rising in cost, so start saving and investing for it ASAP. Start here before you sign up to understand growth expectations, budgeting and which expenses are included and which are not when it comes time for your kid to spend the money on college.
4) Adjust your health insurance coverage to cover your baby ASAP.
Purchase any additional types of insurance, as necessary, for you and/or your kid. Choose your plan based on your projected needs. Consider starting an HSA (health savings account) at work to put aside pre-tax money to pay for any projected medical expenses, as necessary.
5) Don't run to keep up with the Joneses (or Patels or Ivanovs). **Have your own ideas about what's important for your kid to have and what's not important.**
Discuss your parenting approach and the principles you will put to work when raising your baby.
Communicate constantly with each other and be open about any hangups or reservations you may have with the other person's approach! Hash it out and pick your battles. This process is especially critical if you come from different cultures/countries and types of family.
If you're just "winging it," you'll end up spending tons of money on material goods when experiences are much more valuable - both for baby and for you.
Ask your parents how they raised you, what toys and books you had. You'll always learn a lot when you dig into what worked for them (and didn't) when raising you. You will find that less is always more and simpler is always better.
6) Everything is always negotiable. NEVER pay retail (but go to high-end stores to get great ideas for what toys, clothing and other things you want to buy for your kiddo). Always ask for a discount. Worst case, they say no. You'd be surprised how often people are willing to bargain, even on basic goods.
Borrow from, barter and/or swap with friends or neighbors, if you can. This works well, especially if friends or neighbors are at a different stage of life with their kids and have toys, clothing, books or other things that they no longer need (or don't need for now, when you need it).
Comparison Shop. Always check prices on Amazon, Craigslist and E-Bay, as well as local Mommy groups and baby-themes swap events.
Just because you love your baby to pieces doesn't mean you should drop your common sense when shopping for clothing, toys, diapers, books or anything else. Don't lose your head and always think like a rational, intelligent adult!
A free or cheaper version is (almost) always available when you want to buy something expensive. Use IFTTT.com to set recipes to watch Craigslist for items you want (whether a fancy stroller, toy you really want for your kid, extra formula or anything else).
Always do your research about what others say about solving your particular problem ahead of time, especially before making big purchases.
Buy in bulk when you can - but avoid buying every item you need in bulk. Here's a good guide on what you should ad should NOT buy in bulk.
7) No difficult situation you encounter is a completely new situation.
Someone, somewhere (likely in your town or neighborhood) has been through it before and knows how to solve the problem better, cheaper and/or faster than you know. Read and do your research. Crowd-source. Ask your friends, neighbors and colleagues. You will be pleasantly surprised how often people are willing to help out materially or with useful advice from their experience to help you solve problems better, faster and/or cheaper.
8) Simpler is always better.
Babies don't appreciate when something is expensive. They DO appreciate (and play more at a time with) a toy or other object when it's truly interesting and engaging, which has no correlation with price. When you were growing up, you didn't have any electronic gadgets, a thousand teddy bears or other distractions. Odds are, especially if you grew up in a poor country, you had even less and still turned out just fine in terms of curiosity, intelligence and motivation:)
As you will see, a kid is often more engaged and joyful when playing with a simple box or step-stool, spoon and fork, basic building blocks and shapes, anything with many colors and sounds/words, rather than when playing with an iPad or electronic device.
Stop your kid and show him or her flowers, insects, trees, leaves, cars, people. TALK to your kids! Teach them as many words as possible. Don't flood them with toys, but with experiences they'll cherish for the rest of their lives.
Also, LISTEN to your kids and encourage them to tell you what they see and experience! This is far more valuable than outsourcing to a voice on a machine or even a nanny.
9) Start a baby registry ASAP. Advertise widely among your family, friends and colleagues. Don't be shy - this can really help defray costs and help friends and family feel involved and invested.
10) Ask for help from family to cut down expenses from baby-sitting, clothing, etc., as needed. Consider swapping group baby sitting time with friends, neighbors and family.
11) Know your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), listed here. Have a good Employment Law attorney ready if your employer gives you trouble about the FMLA or fires you despite your rights thereunder.
- **Both mother and father** are entitled to FMLA leave for the birth of their child, or placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.
12) Get help from a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), financial adviser and/or tax attorney to plan out the tax implications of having a baby, as well as for any questions about a will, setting beneficiaries, cash gifts to the baby and any other related foreseeable events.
It's worth the time and money now and better than scrambling later, because your house is not in order.
13) Invest in experiences more than in material goods.
Take great (real, long, engaging, truly restful) vacations. Your spouse and kid will appreciate it much more than more crap accumulating around the house.
Get a babysitter and go on dates! Keep investing time and efforts in your marriage. After all, isn't this why you married each other?
Now drop the worries, make a plan and talk to your spouse about your goals and strategies to raise your kid like you want. You'll be surprised about what you agree and disagree about. As parents ourselves, we'll be rooting for you!
**And , as always, if you have any questions at all, get in touch!**
Are there other important strategies you’ve used to get your finances in order for when baby comes? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!
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Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.
*The views expressed herein are his own*