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Budgeting for a baby: where to start

Whether you’re planning when to start trying to conceive, or you’ve just found out you’re pregnant, this thought will probably cross your mind: 

How the hell am I going to afford this baby? 

Like any big life investment (and believe us, you will invest a LOT into this child), there are lots of ways of going about it. You can buy top-of-the-range everything, or you can rely on secondhand items that you find by the side of the road – one of the many crafty ways to save money when having a baby.

This article should help you start the thought process around how starting a family will impact your finances. Take a deep breath, get your calculator app out, and let’s dive in.

Pregnancy and birth costs

The cost of your pregnancy and birth will depend on a lot of things: the type of maternity care you choose, whether you give birth in a private or public hospital, whether you conceive naturally or use fertility services like IVF… the list goes on.

Beyond the healthcare side of things, you may spend on things like a maternity wardrobe, dietary supplements, exercise and physio classes, birth classes and more. 

All this before you even have a baby in your arms!

Immediate post-baby costs

Although your nesting instincts may kick in as your due date draws near, resist the urge to buy everything from the Baby Bunting catalogue. You won’t need it all right away. For example, your baby may sleep in a bassinet until they’re a few months old, so you won’t need a cot when you bring them home. And you may not need to buy a baby bath if your newborn fits nicely into the kitchen sink.

In saying that, there are some post-birth costs you shouldn’t avoid, like medical checkups for you and your bub. Make a list of what things you’ll need immediately, and what you can save for later on.

Here are some ideas of immediate costs.

Postpartum costs

  • Nutrition: Food delivery services, breastfeeding cookies/tea/herbs.
  • Medical services: GP checkups, specialist checkups, physio checkups, postpartum exercise classes and postpartum doula services.
  • Clothing: Compression garments to aid your healing, nursing bras and breastfeeding-friendly clothing.
  • Toiletries: Maternity pads, nursing pads and dry shampoo (trust us on that one).

Newborn must-haves

  • Car seat
  • Pram
  • Bassinet or cot
  • So. Many. Nappies. – either disposables or reusable/cloth nappies
  • Wet wipes (so many uses for these)
  • Blankets
  • Baby clothes
  • Medical items like Infacol, Sudocream, a thermometer etc.
  • Optional: A breast pump or formula and bottles.

Ongoing baby costs

The above may cover your first few weeks of newborn life. But let’s get into the costs of the next few months and years.

You’ll need:

  • Poop control: Supposedly 3,000 nappies in your babe’s first year of life. #FML.
  • Healthcare: There are costs involved in adding your baby to your ambulance cover and health insurance, plus regular medical checkups and panic doctor visits every time they have a strange new symptom.
  • Feeding: Formula, bottles, breast pumps, milk storage bags… and that’s before they start on solids. Then we’re talking extra food on the grocery list, a blender if you’ll be pureeing food, little plates and spoons, and bibs for days.
  • Clothing: Singlets, onesies, t-shirts, pants, socks, more socks, sleeping bags, beanies, more socks again because all the socks have gone missing.
  • Toys: As they get smarter they need more advanced things to play with. (Hack: Kitchen utensils never disappoint.)

Returning to work costs

Don’t overlook the fact that someone has to take care of this baby. That may sound obvious, but if you’ve envisaged a relaxed life working from home while your baby plays quietly in the corner, uh… that doesn’t happen. 

Whether you’ll be leaving your job for the far more important and far less remunerated position of FTM (full time mum), dropping down to part-time, or putting your baby in childcare while you embrace the working mama life – here’s what to consider.

Childcare costs

The average cost of childcare in Australia is $113.83 per day. (Crazy, we know.) This differs from suburb to suburb, and may be subsidised by the government if you’re eligible. Do some looking around to find a childcare service that suits your family’s budget and needs.

Childcare doesn’t always have to mean paid childcare. Consider if any family or friends could take your baby a few hours or a day per week so you can get back to work without paying more for childcare than you earn.

Reduced income

If you or your partner return to work part time, this will mean a drop in your overall household income. But, doing this could save you in childcare fees. 

As much as mums are still often expected to be the primary carer, remember that you don’t have to do it that way! More and more we’re seeing dads become primary carers while mamas get back to work. Or parents sharing the care between them, especially if workplaces offer generous paternal leave (which they totally should!).

Parental leave payments 

Eligible mums can receive up to 18 weeks of minimum wage payments from the government, and eligible partners can receive up to 2 weeks’ payment. Your work may offer additional paid or unpaid leave, and you can check your employer’s policies or ask HR about it. But at a minimum, they have to pay you what the government offers and reserve your job for up to 12 months after you give birth.

These parental leave payments aren’t a lot, but they can definitely help! See if you’re eligible and work this into your baby budget.

While we can’t give you the exact cost of adding a baby to your life, hopefully this article has helped you explore the financial impact of starting a family. It can be overwhelming, we know. 

However, we haven’t touched on the things you can’t put a price on: like the feeling of meeting your baby for the first time, hearing them say ‘mama’, or watching them take their first steps. While babies cost money, they tend to pay you back in other, more valuable, ways.

What unexpected costs caught you by surprise when having a baby? Leave a comment!

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