You've probably read other articles about what you should be doing financially to prepare for your child. The experts have told you that you need to write a will, choose guardians, pay off your debt, establish a college-savings plan, squirrel away for retirement, and buy life insurance. In a perfect world, yes, you should do all of those things. But the truth is, no one's perfect. You'll have so much to deal with during pregnancy and your baby's first year that you'll be lucky if you get around to even clipping a few diaper coupons. In fact, in a Babytalk.com poll, only 2 percent of moms said they wrote a will when they were pregnant. More than a third owned up to doing absolutely nothing during their pregnancy to prepare financially.
So give yourself a break. If you have the time, energy, and money to do a few of those things, then great. Otherwise, focus on making sure you have enough savings to get you through the coming months. Kevin McKinley, a certified financial planner, author of the book Make Your Kid a Millionaire, and father of three, helped us make a list of all the basics you may have to spend money on from now until your baby turns 1. Not everything will apply to you, so check what you think you'll need and add up the totals. Then, work on reserving enough cash to cover it all. If you know the expenses that might come up, you won't be caught unprepared.
What you might spend:
Maternity wear It's about karma. A woman passes along a box of clothes to her sister, who gives it to you after her pregnancy. You, in turn, will give it to a friend once you deliver. Take advantage of this pay-it-forward chain to save big bucks. If you like your fashions new (or need sharp clothes for work), your tops-and-bottoms line can add up. total: $100 to $1,000
Health/medical You'll have co-payments (usually $10 to $15) for both your ob-gyn and, once the baby is here, the pediatrician. Non-covered hospital delivery charges are usually nominal but, depending on your insurance, can be up to $500. Add on another $50 to $100 for infant medical supplies. total: $450 to $1,400
Nursery You could, of course, go crazy decorating the nursery, but there are really only a few basics that you need: a crib and bedding, a dresser with a built-in changing area, a baby monitor, toys (though you'll get plenty as gifts), and a comfy rocking chair or glider. total: $750 to $1,450
Baby gear, daily care, feeding supplies, and more
Baby gear Again, there's a lot of stuff that you might want (a jogging stroller, say, or a wipes warmer), but what you need is a car seat, a high chair, a stroller, a bouncy seat, a diaper bag, childproofing supplies, an infant tub, and, probably, an infant carrier or sling. Prices for each can vary wildly. total: $350 to $900
Daily care Simply keeping your tot in diapers for the first year can cost as much as $700. But don't forget to think about all the wipes, diaper rash ointment, baby shampoo, pacifiers, burp cloths, and other everyday items your wee one will need. total: $900 to $1,000
If you're breastfeeding... You'll need a few nursing bras, nursing pads, a breast pump (which is the biggest expense here, running from $50 to $350), nipple cream, and breast-milk storage bags.
total: $150 to $500
If you're bottle-feeding... Formula is the biggest cost in this category if you don't breastfeed. You can spend between $900 and $1,200 for the year, depending on the type you get (ready-to-eat or powdered, DHA/RHA-enhanced or not, etc.). The price of bottles and other bottlefeeding accessories, though, is fairly low. total: $950 to $1,300
Feeding solids When the time comes (around 6 months or so), you'll need teething snacks, jarred baby food, infant cereal, bibs, and infant tableware - not to mention a good dry cleaner! total: $300 to $400
Infant clothing Like maternity wear, baby togs are often communal. Still, your ever-growing tot will need coats, shoes, swimwear, and more. total: $250 to $500
How will I pay for everything?
Track where each and every one of your dollars goes for 30 days. Then separate the luxuries from the necessities and decide what you can do without. At the beginning of each month, withdraw enough cash to equal the cost of the essentials, plus a few hundred dollars for discretionary expenses. Stow away the credit card and checkbook for emergencies - if the dollars in your pocket don't cover it, you've already decided you don't need it.
Register! We can't say often enough how important it is to sign up for the stuff you need (for a complete guide to registering). Friends and family will be excited to buy gear, clothes, and playthings for your new addition - let them! Baby showers are a time-tested (and fun) way to take care of some of your major costs. Ask your parents or in-laws for some of the big-ticket items like the crib or stroller.
Don't always buy new. Ask yourself what you can buy secondhand. It's always good to get a new car seat, for example, but the nursery room dresser can be found for less at a consignment shop.
Work your contacts. Scout relatives, coworkers, friends, and friends of friends for maternity clothes and baby gear that they no longer need. Most people are more than happy to have someone take outgrown baby stuff off their hands.
Cancel the gym membership. You won't have much time to go anyway. Even if you spend $50 per month and visit twice a week, that's still more than $6 per workout. Go for a daily walk instead.
Cut your web, phone, and cable bills. Find a company that offers all of these services, plus incentives to be your one-stop provider. Cutting out the premium cable channels will leave money for a rental movie or two each month. You can also eliminate the need for a landline phone by using a cell to make all your calls.
Skip the fancy dinners. As much as you love that bistro in town, you might want to try to find cheaper alternatives for your weekly date with your spouse. A picnic, perhaps? A dinner at home by candlelight? - Kevin McKinley