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Can I Even Afford to Have a Baby?

If only they came with a check

Author Joanna Nesbit

Published on: October 04, 2017

Baby with bottle

Grandparents might scoff at the notion of planning how to afford a baby, but today’s cost-of-living expenses are challenging even the well-paid. With no relief in sight, it’s not surprising that young professionals feel less optimistic about future prospects and more worried about job security than in past years, according to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, which surveyed 8,000 millennials in 300 countries. 

If you’re a parent-to-be, you’re smart to consider the financial challenges that come with a wee one. But it’s not so much the stuff — stroller, diapers or high-tech monitor — that adds up. It’s the lifestyle adjustments that hit your bank account hard. Here’s what to consider before you start trying to conceive. 

Health care

Prenatal care and birth costs often catch new parents by surprise, and complications leading to a Caesarian section can spike medical bills. Maternity care is one of the 10 essential benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but costs vary according to your policy’s benefits. Investigate your deductible, co-pay and the percentage of costs that are covered after the deductible is met.

Find out what adding a dependent will cost. If you need better coverage, make the change during open enrollment before you get pregnant. Birth qualifies as a special enrollment event, but as of publishing, pregnancy does not. Keep in mind, changes to your coverage may be in store if the ACA is repealed. Finally, start saving now for the bills that will roll in after insurance has paid out. 

Job leave

Not all jobs are flexible or generous with leave. Analyze both jobs’ (if you’re partnered) maternity and paternity leave policies and the cost if one of you plans to stay home part- or full-time. Washington state will guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave, beginning in 2020, with a few caveats: You must work 820 hours at a business in the previous 12 months before qualifying and companies with 50 or fewer employees are exempt from paying the employer portion. (Small-business employees can still pay into the program and access its benefits.)

Child care

In 2016, the average cost of day care in the U.S. ran nearly $1,000 per month but it varies wildly. If that sounds unrealistic for you, consider alternatives to conventional childcare. Do you have family nearby? Is it worth relocating to be near family? Could you nanny-share with another family? Does your job allow working remotely part of the time?

Try banking $1,000 per month (or the amount typical for your area) to experience that income level. Keep in mind: Feelings can change once your baby arrives, and the desire to return to work may plummet. Consider banking one paycheck to see if one-paycheck living is possible and creating a nest egg for maximum flexibility. This stay-at-home calculator will get you started.


You may think you need a bigger house or a better car, but these upgrades might not be necessary — or at least not until no. 2 comes along. Babies don’t take up much space, and plenty of families do fine in smaller abodes. You’ll be better off considering life insurance policies and getting a will in order. The need for upgrades will make itself clear in good time.

Pay down debt

Do you have a car payment? Credit card debt? Student loans? If you can pay down your high-interest cards or attack your car payment before pregnancy, you’ll have more financial flexibility once your income is compromised.


Baby equipment

You can drop a bundle by shopping new or boutique for baby gear, but you don’t need to. Babies change quickly and certain types of equipment go out of favor in a matter of months — or might be rejected from the beginning. Think baby bouncer, swing, backpack, the list goes on.

Borrow what you can, shop consignment and tap your family for a baby shower. Just make sure products haven’t been recalled, and research which items are better purchased new, such as car seats or cribs. But for the most part, waiting until your baby arrives will help you sort the true needs from the wants.

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