13 unexpected costs of having a kid
First-time parents face a mountain of expenses, from top-of-the-line nursery furniture to dozens of teensy polka-dotted socks.
But filling a nursery isn't the only thing making demands on a new parent's wallet. Unscheduled doctor's visits, utility bill spikes, and the ever-increasing cost of childcare can hit new parents' bank accounts with a variety of unexpected costs.
While everyone's experience is different, a little foresight can be great for the budget. So we reached out and asked real parents, including our Business Insider colleagues: What costs did you not see coming before your baby was born?
Here's what they said:
The cost of convenience
Andrew Key, who runs the website Living Rich Cheaply, didn't expect that he would lose his inclination to comparison shop after his son's birth last July.
"I like to consider myself a savvy shopper, and I always try to find the best price. But when you're sleep deprived and have a crying baby at home, you just buy whatever it is you need at the most convenient place," he explains. "Most times, the closest place doesn't have the lowest price, but it's not worth it to comparison shop when you're short on time."
A few bottles aren't so expensive — but what about when you have to buy every kind?
"No one really talks about it, but sometimes babies refuse to drink from the bottle," explains Key. "When my wife returned to work, my son would not drink from the bottle, which was pretty stressful, as he was extra fussy. We bought a bunch of different bottles until we found one that he was willing to drink from."
They say a baby should always wear one more layer than you do, but keeping the house warmer will cost you.
"The one cost that I didn't even think of was the increase in utilities," says Grayson Bell of Eyes on the Dollar, who had a 15-month-old at the time he spoke with Business Insider. "My wife and I are very hot-natured and love our home cold all year round. Since our son was born after Christmas, our home was cold, but that quickly had to change. We now pay double for our electricity bill and 30% more for our water."
The same holds true for babies born in the summer as well.
"We had a bag of tricks to get through NYC's muggy summers in our top-floor apartment with nonexistent roof insulation — by turning off the AC units, turning on fans, and sleeping on top of the covers — but this wasn't an option for us with our newborn, who was born right as summer started," said Dave Mosher, science correspondent for Business Insider. "A sleepy baby (and her sleepy parents) kept us anchored at home and using the A/C all of the time."
Most parents expect childcare to be a huge expense. But just how over-the-top expensive it actually is can still come as a shock.
"I was floored by the cost of childcare," INSIDER deputy editor and mother of two Jennifer Polland said. "Right now, the cost I pay for daycare for both of my kids is as much as my rent!"
In fact, in 33 US states, the average cost of full-time, in-center care for one child under age four has eclipsed that of in-state public college tuition.
Though breastfeeding is natural, the supplies that make it possible and convenient for modern mothers come at a cost.
"If you breastfeed, you will go through four nursing pads a day to mop up leaking milk. And at $0.10 to $0.25 a pop, that adds up over the weeks and months," Mosher says. "And if you nurse at work, you will fill up a bag with expensive bottles, tubes, storage bags, and so on. The expendables here quickly add up, but in the long run it's a lot cheaper than formula."
Babies grow fast — and sometimes, too fast for their clothes.
"We seem to go through his clothes constantly," says Anna Newell Jones from And Then We Saved of her 5-month-old son. "Just as soon as we pull out a new size of clothes we're putting others away, and he doesn't even wear most of the items! If he does, it seems he only wears them once or twice. If we weren't given any clothes or hand-me-downs as gifts, we definitely would just be putting him in the inexpensive white onesies — the ones that you can get three to five in a pack for $7.99!"
Hospital goody bag
Even though he always considered himself a planner, John Schmoll of Sprout Wealth was still taken aback by his wife's hospital bill after delivering their first child.
"We did our best to find out what delivery would cost and saved the money so as not to be shocked by the bill when it came," he recalls. "When we reviewed the itemized bill, however, I was surprised to see that the 'take home bag' filled with diapers, wipes, pacifiers, and other newborn goodies, wasn't complimentary. It came at a pretty steep cost."
Schmoll, who is a father of three, was sure to do it differently the next time around.
"When our boys were born a few years later, I left the bag at the hospital and saved a few hundred dollars by having those items on hand at home. I also learned that I could get a few free formula and diaper samples from our pediatrician, which eliminated the need for the hospital's costly good bag anyways."
Not all insurance policies are created equal.
"My wife and I had tried to get pregnant for more than a year on a top-of-the-line (i.e. no coinsurance) health plan, but our uncertain struggle and a steep increase in premiums for that plan tempted us toward the lower-cost coinsurance plan, for which we'd be responsible for 20% of a pre-negotiated medical bill (plus deductibles)," Mosher says.
He goes on: "Naturally, we got pregnant with our first child days after open enrollment ended. Accounting for premiums, deductions for a flexible spending account (to pay down our bills with tax-free money), and negotiating bills with our healthcare providers, we're paying roughly $2,000 more than we would have if we'd just stuck with the premium health plan. Our baby is healthy and beautiful, but if we have another we're going to take this expensive lesson to heart."
Even before the baby is born, new parents are hit with several purchases needed to get them through the pregnancy.
"Clothing manufacturers get away with murder on maternity clothes and nursing bras," Mosher says. "They are never on sale anywhere we looked, so expect to pay full price. The build quality of the bras is also noticeably poorer — bent clasps and broken straps are typical, even after a few weeks of use."
"We thought we were doing pretty good by saving up money to cover the loss in income for the 12 weeks my wife planned to take off from work after having our daughter," says Schmoll.
"What we didn't plan for was meals that first week or two after coming home," he added. "You're so sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with the newness of feeding a tiny human every two hours that you don't think about what you're going to eat. Without any freezer meals prepared beforehand, we ended up eating a lot of expensive, unhealthy fast food."
Dad's time off
Even though many companies in the US don't have paid paternity leave, it's understandable that both parents will want to take time off to spend with the family's newest member.
"You think about saving money for Mom being able to take time off, but not for Dad," explains Schmoll. "The second and third times around we knew to save enough money to supplement my unpaid leave so our budget wouldn't take a hit during the week or two I was able to take off."
First-time parents find themselves at the doctor more than they would expect.
"My husband and I prepared ourselves for the cost of delivery and expected lots of hospital bills to roll in, but I never thought about medical bills that pop up once the baby is actually born," says Amelia Hahnke of The Homebook, who had a 16-month-old at the time she spoke with Business Insider.
"Our son had jaundice right after he was born, and we took him to see his pediatrician no less than three times in the first few weeks of his life," she explains. "Then came the doctor visits for head colds and flu bugs and ear infections — for a while it seemed that bills were showing up in our mailbox almost daily."
No matter how many fancy products you purchase, babies are still time-consuming.
"The biggest unexpected cost is time," Mosher says. "You will wake up earlier, get home later, and struggle to find moments to even use the bathroom. But of course it's worth it!"
Now check out useful tips to teach your children about money:
5 money mistakes couples often make before having their first child
There's an aspect of estate planning too many people overlook
The smartest thing to do with your money before having kids, according to a financial planner