When we were expecting our first child, my husband turned to me one day and asked, “Can I get a new camera?”
With a smirk and a twinkle in his eye, he added, “It’s for the baby.”
He was joking of course, but his quip highlighted how quickly the line between needs and wants can get blurred in the months before a new little one enters our lives. Kids clothes are just so darn cute! And the choices for gear are endless. Thinking about the stuff a new child might need can fill you with affection for someone you haven’t even met, excitement for the new season ahead, and perhaps a sense of burden for the new responsibilities you’ll bear.
Prioritize Needs and Wants
Before you actually spend hard-earned cash on clothes and gear, let’s take a step back. Kids, and especially newborns, don’t actually need a lot. The most important thing newborns need is someone to love and care for them — to feed them, to change their diapers, and to help them sleep. That’s not to say kids (and their parents) don’t want other things too. But just like with other budget decisions, it helps to get really clear on your priorities. Perhaps you’d prefer hand-me-downs that connect you to other families’ stories. Maybe you prioritize eco-friendly items to minimize your carbon footprint. Or it could be you’d like to keep costs down so you can work on other financial goals for your family. Whatever it may be, knowing what’s most important to you will guide the practical decisions you make. If there are two of you parenting and budgeting together, listen to each other so you can get on the same page.
Before we get into the long list of things you might budget for, remember that every child is different, every parent is different, and every family is different. You definitely won’t need everything on this list (although some things you won’t have much say over, like medical costs). Plus, since you haven’t met your child yet, you may not know what they’ll prefer. And that’s okay — you can build as you go once you get to know your child and see what works for them. And if you’re a first-time parent, you’ll learn about your own preferences and parenting style along the way too.
One-time expenses you might need to pay for
Let’s get practical now. What one-time expenses might you budget for when welcoming a new child?
Medical: Depending on your health insurance, your medical expenses can range from near-zero to tens of thousands of dollars. You can often get an estimate ahead of time by looking up your coverage on your health insurance website or by calling the company directly.
- If you’re giving birth, you’ll have prenatal care, hospital bills, and postpartum care.
- If you’re adopting, you may need exams and paperwork.
- Fertility treatments, if that’s part of your journey.
- Pediatrician visits. Kids, and especially babies, go to the doctor A LOT. And with international adoption in particular, there may be extra tests after arriving home.
- Birth certificate. You may need this if you’re applying for parental leave from your state or local government.
- Adoption agency, lawyers, and/or notary service charges. Check with your agency for guidance on expenses.
Milk and Food
- If you breastfeed, you might not need anything extra. But sometimes a pillow, nursing cover, or a pump (often covered by insurance!) can be helpful.
- If you bottle feed (breastmilk or formula), you’ll need bottles.
- For an older baby, bowls that won’t break, kid-friendly spoons, some bibs, and a safe place to sit.
- A bassinet, crib, bed, or other safe place to sleep.
- Car seat. If you’re going to bring a newborn home from a hospital, this is often required.
- Stroller. If you aren’t getting a hand-me-down, try before you buy.
- Carrier. Again, try before you buy. It needs to work for the adult *and* the kid.
- Travel, if you are adopting from a different area. Again, check with your adoption agency for more on what expenses to expect.
- Kids grow out of clothes really quickly (infants about every 3 months, older kids once a year or so). In the first year alone, your kid may end up needing clothes in about four sizes.
- Also, their clothes (and your clothes) get dirty really easily. The amount of clothes you’ll want is inversely correlated with how often you want to do laundry.
Outside of one-time expenses, it’s also helpful to think about recurring expenses like childcare, diapers, food, and more clothes. And since your income is one of the most significant pieces of your budget, you’ll want to think about whether or not you’ll take parental leave.