I happened across an interesting little piece on-line, in which a mom (Nicole Middendorf, who happens to be a certified financial adviser) decided to keep every child-related receipt for her son’s entire first year, to find out how much it really costs to have a baby. I must admit: I was amazed. Here were her breakdowns:
Car Seat: $560
Breast Pump: $476
Nursery Accessories: $326
Diapers: $40/month ($480)
Baby Toiletries: $21/month ($252)
Nursery Furniture: $1800
Child Care: $1050/month ($12,600)
Miscellaneous, including Birthday, Baptism, and Photography: $2676
The grand total for the first year? Over $21,000… and that didn’t include any actual birth costs or other medical expenses.
Wow. Not to be terribly snarky, and recognizing that every individual has their own spending priorities, but… wow-twenty-one-THOUSAND-dollars. That’s amazing.
By contrast, I thought I’d figure up rough totals for our last baby, because we actually did buy some new items for Lefty (our original gear sort of… died… in the months following Spicy’s birth. She does happen to be in constant motion, and a major destructive force in the ‘Verse… but I’m sure that has nothing to do with it. Really.)
Let’s see, heading down the list: I had anticipated pulling out the original $35 car seat we got for Eldest and sewing up Fresh New Cover #4, but Lefty showed up a month early, and I was sincerely and drastically Not Prepared for her to show up. So, while I was irritating the heck out of medical people… erm, recuperating post-birth, I gave my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal fellow instructions on where to find The Carseat, and how to use Oxyclean to sterilize it, and where there was a piece of polar fleece that he could cut convenient holes in to cover the grody old cover temporarily, so we could put the baby in it.
He showed up a few hours later with an unfamiliar infant seat, spandy-new (cute) cover and all. I looked stink-eyed at him. “But Punky,” protested my Beloved, “this one was so sweet! And the other one was so…. not. And this one was on sale! Very good deal!”
(Did I mention this man grows a really gorgeous beard, and has twinkly blue eyes, and is the father of my children?) So then I melted and got over it. It was, after all, on sale.
So, we spent $40 on a brand new infant seat.
By the time Lefty outgrew the infant seat, my Beloved had experienced a remembrance of the various substances that tend to extrude from small humans, and we’ve re-used the $40 front-facing car seat we bought with the Eldest, and which we have sterilized with each subsequent child. Total cost for car seats in fourteen years: $80, tax included.
Stroller: $76. It was a double stroller, too, with one-hand collapse-and-go technology, sun shades, reclining seats, cup holder for Mom, snap-on cup holders for both strolling mini-minions, and under-seat cargo hold suitable for light library runs… and since we had a coupon, we got a totally free umbrella stroller, too.
Breast Pump: now, we did pay $500 for this one. We named her Lefty, and she puked a lot, and then nursed even more. So, no mechanical assist was required. But, I have used a pump in the past (weird service opportunity, but cool), and that one was a very nice Medela Double-Pumping Electric Milking Parlour Featuring Adjustable Mega-Suction. (The Medela marketing department has no idea what a gem they’re missing, not having me around the office.) Those do tend to run $280, new, and I can see why someone might want it new–or at least, with new tubes and nozzles and valves and such (because you *can* buy those separately.) And the mechanical bits are rentable, too. Since we didn’t buy or rent one with Lefty, I’ll have to chalk up an actual Zero for this expense.
Clothes: I am a firm believer in “Everyone Gets Their Own Underwear”–so I always buy new onesies/grow suits with each baby. Fourteen of ’em. And the way my babies grow, they wear that first set pretty much forever, and then I buy another set at about nine months. So that’s approximately $40 on four packs of little stretch cotton undershirts. I do save some items from baby to baby (like nightgowns), so there was no added expense there, until that Beloved of mine spied a 3-pack for $8 that had, and I quote, “Really cute little girly things on them.” (I am a complete sucker for those eyes of his…)
I also spend about $40 on fabrics during a baby’s first year, and sew little shirts, dresses, and bloomy pants. I count myself blessed to have knitting and quilting relatives, so we tend to be given cute sweaters, hats, booties, socks, and the like, but if I had to sew them all myself, make it $100 as a *very* generous fabric allowance for at least one year of clothing a small person. All told, if I’m being really free with money, we realistically spent under $100 on every clothing-related item for Lefty in her first year, including the flannel for the 48 double-sided burp flannels we went through every 24 hours. I wasn’t kidding when I said she was a bit… gurpy.
Nursery Accessories: I did splurge on new bed pillows for me, $10. We don’t maintain a separate nursery for our babies, and don’t buy baby-themed accessories, in any case. With Eldest, we did buy some really cool fairy engravings from an artist at the Burnside Street Market (under the bridge) in Portland, Oregon. Does that count? So… $25 in fourteen years on nursery accessories.
Diapers: my Tall, Dark, and Slightly Neanderthal fellow has a “thing” (yes, you have to make air-quotes, and hunch your shoulders a little when you say this) about cloth diapers and baby poo, and the process by which you detach the latter from the former. So, we have used disposables, and we buy fairly cheap ones, and we change them very, very frequently because I hate the thought of chemicals sitting on my child’s skin. $30 is a fairly reasonable estimate per month, but let’s hike that up a bit in Lefty’s case, because she was tiny, and wore the more expensive preemie sizes for the first month. So, $400 total for the year. (See, husband? Had we gone with nice cloth to start with, we’d have spent about 3/4 that just one time, and still be using the same sets 14 years later!) (I’m not bitter or anything. Really.)
Bottles: Lefty stuck with her very favorite brand: Momma. But, we did spend about $15 in binkies/dummies/pacifiers, which she used for the first six months, along with her thumbs, and Momma.
Toiletries: $10 for the year in lovely handmade lavender soap, reserved for the baby. One enormous tube of generic A&D ointment, $5. The End.
Oh, let’s also roll in $30 for liquid Baby (Generic) Zantac drops, because the puking? It was some pretty nasty gastric reflux, so we put her on acid reducers for six months, and those were available in a generic for dirt cheap. Yay, expiring patents!
Nursery Furniture: see the note above regarding Not Maintaining a Separate Nursery. We re-used a basket, and Lefty also slept in with me. It doesn’t work for all families.
Toys: we like to call those “Our Other Children.” Really, though, we did buy a few baby-specific items, but the total tab for those toys was under $50 for the entire year, including birthdays and Christmas. Babies want People, mostly. And things to gum on (see: People.) And she really liked celery sticks, and jerky. (“You can’t feed a baby blackroot!” Bonus Geek Points for knowing the movie reference…) (We waited until after the reflux stopped before introducing these culinary delights.)
Child Care: I am now worth, officially, $12,600 per child. Using Bureaucrat Math, that means I make about $50K just taking care of my own kids, but tax-free. I like that!
Miscellaneous: our family likes ceremony, and we take a goodly number of photos, but rarely do we pay a professional. I’m blessed with a sister-in-law who happens to be a professional, should the occasion arise, but we tend to do that on a sesquicentennial basis, rather than monthly, so our photography costs are quite low. If I was going to start estimating photography for a brand new baby, I’d include a $400 allowance for a nice digital camera, and $10 a month for printing costs. But, I didn’t actually spend that with Lefty, as we already owned a camera, and I am a total slacker at getting pictures physically printed.
As to birthday and baptism parties, we combined our Lefty’s blessing/dedication with our Boy’s baptism (our faith requires individuals to wait until they are older than 8 to request baptism), and a family reunion, and a vow renewal for one of my brothers/sis-in-laws. It was a busy weekend. Our part of it cost $100, because we splurged on not making all the food ourselves. And I did spent $40 on fabrics for her gown.
So, if I neglect to consider medical expenses, co-pays, over-the-counter medicines for incidental ailments, and the stitches Lefty had to have at 11 months because she fell over in the kitchen whilst trying to walk and split her eyebrow on the edge of the cabinet… well, all-told, without considering birth or medical maintenance for that first year, we spent a whacking great….
Without trying hard, I managed to save more than twenty thousand dollars.
And I’m not even certified.
Again, I know–not everyone is in the same financial boat, and we have been able to provide on one very modest income, plus what my little business brings in (and believe me when I say, I work for peanut. My goal is to eventually work from home for peanuts, plural.) Looking at the sorts of numbers people anticipate, even if we cut down some of the silly stuff (nearly $300 for a stroller?? And nearly three grand for parties and pictures?), no wonder people are so set on portraying children as an insurmountable financial burden, if this is the kind of advice they can get from financial planners.
Rant over. Hopping down off my tree stump.
But seriously: Rebel against the idea of Family As Financial Woe. Our kids are worth so much more.