Marvelous Money: the cost of our first year with a baby

23 May 2018

Three years ago, I wrote a post about preparing financially for a baby (my most-requested Marvelous Money topic at the time!). I promised in that post to revisit the topic at some point in the future when I actually had children, and I’m so happy to do so today! My angle: what it actually cost us to add a baby to our family in the first year.

Several of you have shared that you think of me as a “big sister” going a few steps ahead of you, which is wonderfully sweet and a title I take seriously. I want to share these numbers not because you’ll be able to copy and paste them into your own life, but because if you’re thinking about having children and wondering how it will affect your finances (hand of my younger self raised high!), it is incredibly hard to find useful numbers.

I hope this post offers some hope, helpful perspective, and fodder for conversation with your spouse! :)

First, a few details about the parameters I chose:

— Our daughter was born in January, which is excellent for sharing numbers, since we budget every dollar on an annual basis. I’ve included all of the June-related costs from 2016 here (unless otherwise noted), as well as the June-related costs from 2015 that we incurred while preparing for her arrival.
— I have not included the retail price of gifts we received, items we borrowed, etc. here — just what we actually paid out of pocket. Obviously, there is a HUGE range of prices for everything baby-related, and it can make a big difference how much you buy used or buy at all. This is not meant to be a universal cost breakdown but just a glimpse at one family’s expenses based on our unique circumstances and priorities.
— I did not include any healthcare costs, as those were paid for by savings in our HSA and I don’t consider them “out of pocket.”
— I did not include “shelter” costs (i.e. our mortgage) or transportation, since we would have had those anyway. I also did not include any portion of our grocery budget, because it did not change in June’s first year with us.

That should cover the preliminaries! Here’s the breakdown, with explanation following…

cost of first year with a baby

Birth: This included our birth class and our doula.

Books: I bought four pregnancy and parenting books – my favorites are here!

Childcare: This is by far the largest portion of the total, but I have not even an iota of regret about spending this money! There is almost nothing I would rather spend on than making sure June is safe, loved, and well cared for when we’re not with her, and we were so happy with the school we sent her to for her first year. This covered about eight months of care post-leave.

Clothing: We were incredibly lucky to receive LOTS of hand-me-downs from Nancy and my sister. The majority of the rest of June’s clothing was purchased at my favorite twice-a-year consignment sale, with a few additional special items here and there. I think this is a category where we saved a lot of money, especially considering we had a girl – ha!

Diapers and wipes: We almost exclusively used Water Wipes and Up&Up diapers and were very happy with both.

Feeding: This included our Kiinde supplies and some formula. Thankfully, breastfeeding dropped this category wayyy down!

Gear: This category included everything that we didn’t borrow or receive as a gift, including our baby monitor, our bassinet, a console for our stroller, a convertible car seat, baby gates, and more. You can read about some of our favorite gear at different ages in these posts!

Nursery: This was the only category whose total surprised me a bit, but we did have several large expenses that added up! The good news is that these purchases were the LEAST important, so they could easily be forgone if you’re on a tight budget. Larger purchases included the light fixture ($120); the glider, fabric, and upholstery ($475); a quilt for the twin bed ($110); and the Liberty fabric for the crib skirt ($154 – that stuff ain’t cheap!).

Personal care: This category included diaper cream, Nose Frida supplies, burp cloths, a thermometer, body wash, toothbrushes, and other toiletry type things!

Toys, gifts, and fun: Thankfully, babies don’t need too much to have fun :) This category included her beloved action stackers, a few books (we received SO many as gifts!), cups and a ring stacker, and the ukulele we got her for her first Christmas.

If you’re a visual person, here’s the breakdown in pie chart form:

And one with the major categories besides childcare:

There you have it! If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear how our breakdown stacks up to your own spending, or where you were able to save if you also have a sweet baby! Thank you, as always, for being so kind and thoughtful, friends!

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May 23, 2018 9:00 am

I admire your (and John’s) commitment to financial peace and responsibility, Em! You’re amazing.

Emma Scott
May 23, 2018 9:52 am

This is super interesting to see! We didn’t track to the dollar, but I would guess our break down is similar. My husband has been astonished at the childcare cost (he planned to watch her part time as he works from home and quickly realized that’s not very feasible, HA!).

One thing I’ll add is I found purchases go in waves. During maternity leave there were things I was getting like extra burp cloths, finding a swaddle that worked, etc. Then, once back at work I purchased a bunch of pump stuff (different size flanges, extra flanges, etc.), then the crib mesh bumper, extra sheets, etc. So around the 4-6 month mark it felt like I was on Amazon weekly for a $10-25 purchase. But by around 6 months that went away.

Similarly we’ve purchased very few “extras” for our daughter (clothes, toys). I do remind myself every so often that getting things that will make life easier (an extra silicone ice cube tray for freezing more homemade food at once, a small pump to make work travel easier –“big” splurge which made the last 4 months of pumping easier with lots of travel!) –these were VERY worth it. So while I am a conservative spender and don’t like “stuff” sometimes it’s worth it! It’s all a phase!

Kelly Strawberry
May 23, 2018 10:42 am

Very interesting and so glad you shared…and even mentioned it could help with some spouse conversations, which is so true! I’m pretty sure I came in right at that same amount.

I would include healthcare because I have great Duke insurance, vaginal birth, no meds, and still probably paid about $1,000 total in all pregnancy-related, out-of-pocket expenses (no doula or classes).

Nursery – $30 crib on craigslist and nothing else!
Formula-fed Similac after the first 3 months approx $1000?
Pampers approx $1000?
Day Care full time (40+ hours per week) approx $13K
Replacing pacifiers that are misplaced/chewed by dogs approx $100

Basically everything else was gifted or hand-me-downs other than a few Amazon purchases here and there!! Yay for being cheap…but I did buy name-brand formula and diapers because they worked well for us and I never felt the need to try anything different. My husband groans about the cost of day care, but I feel it’s worth every penny!

May 23, 2018 11:20 am

This is very insightful! Thanks for sharing!

May 23, 2018 2:32 pm

This is so helpful Emily! As someone who is in the pre-baby but preparing stage, this is helpful and sounds about right from my research. I actually mentioned to my dad the other day about the cost of childcare and he was floored by how much it is now! I mean $13,000 is more than in-state tuition for UNC! Pretty mindboggling! Obviously, it’s a cost that’s worth it in the end but does make us the most hesitant at feeling ready for that since we will both want to work full time. Thanks for sharing! Definitely going to show Austin!

May 23, 2018 6:47 pm

This post is SO great! I kind of wish I knew what we’d spent in Beau’s first year but I also kind of don’t because I know it’s a lot more than this. Eek! Beau’s birth was about 6k + he was formula fed which is about one zillion dollars. Fingers crossed nursing Sophie goes better because this post has reminded me how much I’d love for those dollars to stay in the bank! :)

May 23, 2018 6:48 pm

Follow up thought: It’d be really cool if there was such data as a few different families and different lifestyles so you could compare the info but that’d be hard to gather haha..

May 24, 2018 4:21 pm
Reply to  Em

Emily, I am due in August with our second boy. (my first is June’s age) I could probably track this data if you wanted to do a comparison post with your second babies cost + a family with a different lifestyle. Similar to Lisa, I think our gear category would be hire than yours since we splurged for an uppababy vista for our second child since it could fit two and we knew we wanted more kids in the future. No worries if not!

May 24, 2018 6:15 am

This is so fascinating to read, especially because I know we were very similar on some categories (for example, exact same diapers and wipes and Kiinde system) and very different on others (our Uppababy fandom alone drove the gear category way up). Just like wedding budgets, it’s interesting to see which priorities couples choose when spending on their babies!

I’d be curious to see a follow-up of how this breakdown is similar/different for baby #2!

May 24, 2018 7:28 am

Hi Em!

Thank you so much for sharing. This is SO helpful to people thinking about having a baby and deciding on the timing and I think it would make a big difference to them. I too searched for information and was so annoyed to hear the “it’s different for every family” kind of vague explanations.

For us, I think the biggest financial hit was between year 1 and 2 of having a child.
Our son eats so much and it’s not always clear what he’ll eat and so we stock up. Organic food – proteins, fruits, veggies, snacks, milk, yogurt etc etc…and then we cook different food for ourselves for dinner. I know this will change eventually and we’ll all eat the same meal. We probably eat out less now but then hiring a babysitter gets expensive! Also, when our son was born we were gifted so many clothes and toys and I didn’t buy much. But then naturally, the gifts stop coming and it was time for me to clothe our growing boy… and I bought him new toys to fit his changing needs along the way (and furniture: a mini table, a step stool, a potty, more childproofing.) And there’s more baby gear to get as they grow! A bigger car seat, shoes, coats, boots, an umbrella stroller, travel gear (because we couldn’t have a miles-long registry)…

HOWEVER, I moved to an area that has accessible consignment stores and tag sales. This was a GAME CHANGER. I have shed all my new-mom fussiness. Yes, it’s nice for him to have special clothes, but also ones he can dump sand on or spill on…and a good number of them so we aren’t scrambling with laundry all the time. And books, gear and toys on the cheap. $1 for a set of mega blocks instead of $20, etc. and it’s better for the Earth.
The other financial thing I didn’t think about – that having a child sets you on a course. It’s not just ‘can I afford one?’ But can you afford more kids (if you want them to have siblings with short age gaps (2-3 yrs).)

Oh and the costs of pregnancy: we had great insurance (get on the highest-costing plan for birth costs) but our hospital charged $1000 for a private room, the only way my husband was permitted to spend the night too (not covered by insurance). Research these sneaky hospital costs! And the cost of childbirth, breastfeeding, baby care, prenatal yoga classes… it adds up!

I hoe this doesn’t sound like a rant – we’ve been lucky and can handle these costs, but there are a lot -( we take all the free family babysitting we can get.) Just wanted to share some things to consider. At the end of the day, it’s also inportant for a mom-to-be to remember the difference between a need and a want when sering fancy registry guides!

May 24, 2018 1:08 pm

Currently being 37 weeks with my second (this time a girl), I have definitely done some things differently from the first time around and our initial out of pocket expenses have been drastically lower. I think it’s been a mixture of reusing items we already had and also trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle. So less clothes, toys, books, etc.

A big help was going through my son’s baby clothes and realizing how many things he really didn’t wear. Babies just don’t need that many clothes! So although girl clothes are way cuter and way more tempting to buy, I really haven’t bought that many items. I would say 80% of the clothes I have for her are hand me down’s or bought at a local consignment sale and FB resale groups.

I also used cloth diapers for my son and plan to use them for my daughter. This is a HUGE cost saver! It was an initial $200 investment, but they were used for 2.5 years for my son and will be used another couple of years for my daughter (I will have to do some maintenance on them like replacing the elastic, but they have otherwise held up very well).

My advice for first time Mom’s would be to wait on making non-vital purchases before the baby comes. There are just so many things that you *think* you need, but really don’t. Also, you mentioned this briefly above, borrowing is the best! Especially for “bigger” gear like a swing, bouncer, activity mat, etc. And if you find that there is something that you definitely need, Amazon Prime has two-day shipping :)

May 25, 2018 9:32 am

We are currently pregnant with our first baby so this was extremely helpful and interesting to read. What caught my eye is actually how inexpensive childcare is for your family. We have started our research and most places are about $2,500 a month (for 5 days/week) where we live in the Northeast. It’s all about perspective, right?! Regardless, this was extremely helpful and provided great context as we begin to put together a registry, etc. Thank you!