5 money mistakes to avoid when you're pregnant

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Expectant parents expect to make mistakes.

And unless you did a lot of baby-sitting as a kid or have been a professional nanny, you probably aren't going into parenthood knowing, for instance, exactly how to soothe a screaming newborn.

It's going to be a similar situation when it comes to the financial component of parenting. There are so many ways to waste money as a new mother or father that to get used to it, you might as well take some dollar bills, toss them into a fireplace and watch them burn. (That was just hyperbole. We're not suggesting you actually try this.)

But even though it's inevitable you'll waste money as a parent, you'd do well to consider the many traps you could fall into. As everyone knows, parenting is expensive. Whenever the U.S. Department of Agriculture comes out with the average cost of raising a child, it's always high (approximately $245,340 to raise a child to age 18, according to USDA data from 2013, the latest year for which stats are available).

So if your family is slated to expand, avoiding these errors may save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

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1. Not having health insurance – or failing to use it properly.

In 2013, Truven Health Analytics released a study examining five states and concluded that it costs an uninsured person approximately $30,000 to deliver a baby (and $50,000 for a caesarean birth). Even with insurance, you're going to pay a decent amount. According to the study, you're likely to spend $2,200 on a vaginal birth and $2,700 for a C-section.

That's why Michelle Katz, a Los Angeles-based licensed practical nurse and public speaker in health care, says one of the biggest mistakes she sees people make is not finding out what their insurance covers.

Things not covered can include "big-ticket items" like the epidural, Katz says, or a baby's stay in the neonatal intensive-care unit. And if you aren't paying close attention to your policy, you could miss that your chosen hospital doesn't accept your insurance.

Katz says she recently helped a couple negotiate expenses with their insurance company. The couple had triplets and had good insurance, but not good enough. Their insurance covered $800,000 of the delivery and hospital costs, but they were still on the hook for the rest of the bill – a whopping $1.2 million.

"I am hoping new moms don't assume that because their OB-GYN is covered that the hospital their OB-GYN practices in is also covered, because it may not be," Katz says.

Katz also recommends making sure your prenatal vitamins are covered by insurance, since those can get very expensive.

2. Delaying buying life insurance.

The last thing you want to think about when a baby is due is death. But life insurance is something you want to get in place as soon as possible, just in case, and then you can pretty much forget about that unpleasant topic until you have more kids, and you may want to get a little more.

Winnie Sun, a financial advisor and founding partner of Sun Group Wealth Partners in Irvine, California, notes that if the mother wants to be insured before the baby is born, ideally she should get life insurance before she conceives. If that's not possible, get it in the first trimester, Sun says.

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"Most insurance carriers will not insure a pregnant woman post first trimester," she says.

Some insurers will, and some even do during the second trimester, but insurance experts say that as pregnant women gain weight and become more at risk for conditions like pre-eclampsia, insurers become risk-averse.

3. Failing to budget for life after the baby comes.

It isn't that you need to look at how your expenses will change when you're buying diapers, although that's important. You should also be thinking about "the other big financial decisions," says Sun, citing items like starting a college savings fund for your child.

"Considering that babies generally cost the least amount in the first year, it's a good idea to get a handle [on] your spending before the bigger financial years arrive," she says.

4. Buying too much or the wrong stuff.

Lacey Langford, an accredited financial counselor in Summerfield, North Carolina, says the biggest money mistake she sees new parents make is "buying every latest and greatest baby item – and buying them brand new," she adds.

Some things, she says, you should purchase new – notably a crib and car seat, she says.

That's because both involve safety, and if you do purchase a secondhand crib or car seat or stroller, do yourself a favor and go to a search engine and make sure the item hasn't been recalled. The Consumer Product Safety Commission often recalls baby-related products (in January, for instance, it recalled Britax B-Safe 35 and B-Safe 35 Elite infant car seats and travel systems), and it's easy to imagine that many recalled items are never actually returned. Or you could end up inadvertently purchasing an item no longer considered safe. Drop-side cribs, where one side of the crib lowers, were banned by the CPSC in 2011. The cribs have been blamed for at least 32 deaths since 2000.

But while purchasing a used baby crib could lead to problems, it's generally another story when it comes to, say, a used baby monitor, toys or clothing.

"If your child can wear a different outfit for two straight weeks, that's too much," Langford says.

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Dog-sitting, babysitting, or house-sitting

These jobs are always in high demand, and the best part: you can name your price and create your own schedule! Post an ad on craigslist, or use your friends' and family's connections to get your name out there. 

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Rent out your space 

List your apartment on Airbnb or another rental site, and make some easy cash by staying at a friends and renting out your place for the weekend.

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Share your space

Just as you can rent out your full apartment or house, you can also post a free room (or even just your couch!) on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. This way you can split your living expenses -- and maybe even make a new friend!

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Sell your body parts

Now here's a weird one: Donate your hair, breast milk, or even plasma for a profit. According to Grifols, if you're healthy and weigh above 110 pounds, you can earn up to $200 a month donating your plasma to life-saving medicine. 

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Sign up to participate in medical tests and clinical trials. 

Universities constantly need volunteers to test new medicines and treatments -- and because the pool of willing participants is limited, there is typically a large compensation for being a guinea pig. 

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Participate in a focus group

Companies and organizations will pay you to join a focus group. These can be conducted in person, online, or via phone. You will most likely be reimbursed in cash or gift cards -- plus, you often get to test out fun new products! 

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Take online surveys

Similar to focus groups, you can get paid to give your time and insights on an online questionairre. Plus, you can do this from the comfort of your couch. 

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Bank on your sperm

Although we don't necessarily recommend this option, there is a very high demand for healthy sperm donors. Keep in mind some of the obvious drawbacks, but sperm donation is non-invasive and highly compensated. 

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Crowdfund your dreams

Crowdfunding allows you to raise monetary contributions from a large group of people who want to support your venture. Post your project or idea on a crowdfund site, like GoFundMe.com, and see the cash pile up.

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Become a tutor

If you're qualified, post an ad online or on a community board to tutor children on their school courses or for the upcoming SATs.

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Get a part-time job

Capitalize your free time (on the weekends or after work hours) by working a part-time job. A bartender, waiter, or Uber driver are all great options for an additional source of income -- and great tips! 

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Resell tickets

Take this suggestion at your own risk: If you're staying within legal limits, buy tickets low and sell high as an effective way to source additional money. (Just make sure to check your state and local laws first!)

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Rentafriend.com

You can sell anything on the internet these days... including your companionship! Get paid to go on a platonic outing for a few hours and enjoy your afternoon with a new friend. 

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Rent out your parking spot

Make sure to check with your landlord first, but if you have the option to park your own car further away, lend or share your parking space or driveway for the hour, day, or even month! 

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Keep a coin jar 

This one takes patience before a big pay out, but keep a spare jar or drawer for loose change that you usually toss anyway. It will keep it all in one place -- and those quarters do add up! 

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Make something to sell 

If you have a knack for arts & crafts, create jewelry or other handmade gifts to sell on sites filled with other thrifty vendors like Etsy

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Sell items online

This effective strategy requires low effort with a high return. Post photos of your used or non-used items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, and let the bidding begin! 

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Have a yard sale

Sell clutter you've been meaning to get rid of right in your front yard. This simple tactic is convenient, and guarantees a wad of cash right to your pocket.  

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Return past purchases

This tip may seem obvious, but is often overlooked: Take your recently-purchased items that are laying around back to the store for either store credit or a full refund. 

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Recycle scrap metal and cans

Collect cans and scrap metal out your own garbage, basement, and street and bring to your local recycler to exchange your findings for money.  

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5. Buying emotionally – and too soon.

Sure, your baby needs stuff, but are you listening to your head or your heart? La Shawn Paul, a clinical social worker and therapist in New York City, cautions against going overboard.

"We live in a society that forces consumption upon us, and marketers do a great job playing into the emotional desires of expecting moms," Paul says.

She also notes that not only can we fall prey to buying too much for the baby, but we can go overboard too soon.

And she is right. Think about your cash flow. Are you buying items like a stationery baby walker that your child won't really need until he or she is 6 months old? And if your baby won't be born for another five months, that's almost a year early, and you could have instead spent that money on something needed now.

"During the first couple of months, the baby does not need various means of entertainment, such as bouncers, swings and many other items that boast MP3 players and new technologies," Paul says. "Babies are really simple. All they need is love and care. To sum it up, all they need is you."

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