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Can We Afford a Baby? What to Expect When Budgeting for a Newborn

By Matt H., Dad of 2, high school band director (no band camp jokes, please), and Ohio State football fan

Yes, having a baby comes with some costs.  Maybe the experience will cost you sleep.  Maybe it’ll cost you the motorcycle.  Maybe it’ll cost you the ability to pronounce the word ‘gif’ correctly.  But one thing is for sure: having a baby costs money.  How much money? Well, that’s what we’re here to talk about.

For some people, the thought of having a baby is so financially daunting that they push it off until they’re ‘ready’.  Others jump right in to having kids without even considering the financial aspect.  No matter where you are on that spectrum, there are some things to consider.  If you and your partner have had questions like, “How do I start a baby budget?” or “How much does it cost to raise a child?”, you’ve come to the right place.  

Let’s talk money.

Before Child (or, B.C.)

When we start to dive into a ‘Baby Budget’, two main categories emerge.  Things we need to buy once and things we need to buy monthly.  Luckily, we can (and should) take care of a lot of the ‘one time purchases’ before our baby gets here.  Things like strollers, car seats, clothes, diap….


Before you start scrolling amazon for strollers with flames on the side and a neon light kit….

Do you have a plan for the BIGGEST EXPENSE?

According to a Michigan Medicine study, average out-of-pocket spending for the delivery and newborn hospitalizations was $3,068. And for 1 in 6 families, out-of-pocket spending exceeded $5,000.  These numbers are after health insurance pays their portion. Yikes. We’ll tell you from personal experience hospital costs can vary wildly—on of Fathercraft’s founders, Paul, changed jobs between kid 1 and kid 2 and was dismayed to learn that hospital costs for kid 2 were $3,000 higher out of pocket. This has not influenced his favorite kid choice, he swears.

If you are ‘planning’ to have a child soon, or are currently expecting, medical expenses need to be a priority in financial discussions.  There will also be trips to the OBGYN where multiple tests and ultrasounds will be thrown into the mix.  If you don’t know your co-pay amount, it’s time to learn!

While we’re talking about things to consider B.C., we also need to think about where your child will be spending their time once/if you need to get back to work.  Will one parent stay home? Can you afford this? What daycares are in your area? When searching for daycare facilities in my area, I found prices ranging from $500 all the way up to $1,300 for one child.  We will circle back to daycare later on when discussing monthly costs to budget for.

Now, back to those strollers…

Let’s talk about those ‘one time’ expenses that we can buy before the baby comes.

Stroller – $120-$500+

There are so many stroller options out there. Fortunately, Fathercraft has you covered with stroller reviews and top picks, here.  Some have the ability to snap a carrier into, which is great for newborns.  Having a stroller that’s compatible with your carrier is a huge headache saver and make things easier if one parent is with the child alone.  Here is one I would recommend, the Graco FastAction Fold (Amazon) .

If you’re really watching your budget, this stroller (Amazon) doesn’t have the ability to attach a carrier, but is much cheaper and has excellent reviews, all for about $120.

When it comes to strollers, try to envision the types of circumstances you will be pushing your child around.  For my family, this included going on walks, pushing around stores, around the zoo, etc.  I’m not a runner, and we don’t plan on taking our stroller offroading.  When/where will you use your stroller? The answer to this question will help you find the right one—full-sized, compact, jogging, … the list goes on. We’ve also got a whole playlist of our stroller reviews over on YouTube. (Pssst if you head over there, consider subscribing. We’d appreciate it and it’s an awesome channel, if we do say so.)

Bassinet/Crib – $150-$1,600+

A bassinet is a great option for those who want to have their baby sleep in their room. They are smaller than cribs, and more portable. Some are robotic. What? Yeah, seriously. Check out our review of the Snoo smart bassinet.

Cribs these days can range from just a simple crib all the way up to Optimus Prime level transformer.  The convertible cribs are a great choice because you can transform the crib as your child grows.  Most cribs are “4 in 1” which means they can go from crib to toddler bed, day bed and then full size bed with headboard.  Check this one out from Amazon.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s safe! Much more on crib and bassinet safety over here.

Car Seat – $160-$300+

There is a difference between a car seat and a carrier.  A car seat would look like this option from Graco (Amazon). 

This stays in your car – which means you carry your baby in your arms out to the car, strap them in, drive, unstrap them and carry them in your arms to your destination.

A carrier (you might hear this called a pumpkin seat) looks like this option from Graco (Amazon).

This comes with a ‘base’ that stays in your car.  You strap your baby into the carrier, carry them out to the car, click the carrier into the base and go.  If you line up your stroller purchase with your carrier purchase, you can click the carrier into the stroller as well.

So, price range? Each of these items retails for around $160.  That buys you *one* car seat or *one* carrier/base.  If you want something in each car, you’d need either a car seat in each car ($300 now) or if you go the carrier option, you can buy a second base which costs about $80.

Personally, we started with the carrier and a base in each car.  This was ideal for about the first year.  After a year or so, we switched to the car seat. Carrier options are also great because it means you can get your baby into the seat in the comfort of your home, then just click them into the base in the car, so you don’t have to become a contortionist in your back seat.

Monitor – $70-$400+

There are a couple of things to consider about monitors. Nowadays, wifi monitors allow you to use your phone/tablet as the screen. This is a great concept because now you don’t have to worry about losing your monitor.  Here’s our review of our top pick for wifi monitors, the Nanit Pro.

The alternative is the camera+monitor option.  These are cheaper, ranging from $70-$200.  Here is an example of a good quality cheap option (Amazon).

So, should you buy the $400 monitor or the $70 monitor?  It really depends on what kind of person you are, what kind of parent you find yourself becoming, the needs of your child, etc.  Everyone finds something different that works for them.  

In my experience, being able to see your child clearly and hear the noises they make is key.  If you want to be able to count their eyelashes from your iphone 37pro, great. If you want to simply be able to tell if they are laying down or standing up, great. Make the choice that you feel most comfortable with, and don’t stress too much—remember, kids survived for millennia before the advent of baby monitors.

But, if you really want to nerd out, much, much more, including our picks for best baby monitor in a number of categories, over here.

Clothing $100

Buying clothes before the baby comes seems incredibly simple – but there are a few things to consider:  

  • Keep track of the clothing sizes you buy/recieve as gifts. You don’t want all of the clothes you receive to be size ‘newborn’, then suddenly your newborn has Shaq’s genetics and they outgrow all of their clothes by week 2.  
  • Try to match your clothing sizes to the seasons. This is something your wife will intuitively do, but here’s your scenario: you run to the store to grab something. You walk past the baby isle and see all of the cute clothes. You want to demonstrate your dad abilities and decide to buy a baby outfit. However, the outfit you bought is a 3-6mo tank top and shorts. Your baby’s due date is November 12th. See the problem here?
  • Would your baby look super cute in a little Nike hoodie with Nike joggers and baby Air Jordans? For sure! (Amazon) And $80 later, this could be your baby! Now unless you plan on becoming the next Duggar family and having your next 14 kids wear this outfit, buying an $80 newborn outfit that will be worn approx. 8 times then stuffed in a box or donated is a financial decision that some people wouldn’t be comfortable with. Your baby will look cute no matter what they wear; name brand or not.

Diapers & Wipes Stockpile – $150+

When you tell people that you are expecting a baby, be ready to receive all types of advice and gifts.  When we told our family, my mom and mother in law came home from every shopping trip with clothes, diapers and wipes.

My wife…I mean, WE wanted to use all natural products (or all natural when we could).  This mainly pertained to wipes, soaps, cream and lotion.  

There is definitely a weird line between letting people know that you have diaper/wipe preferences, and coming across as telling people what type of gift they should buy you before they even ask how they can help…

With that said, if you want all natural wipes, you don’t want to continue receiving the ‘wrong’ kind of wipes over and over again.  So, this is something to consider.

Just like with buying clothes, you need to keep an inventory of what you have in stock.  Your baby will only be in certain sizes for so long – you don’t want to have 20 boxes of newborn diapers and suddenly your baby could be playing left tackle straight out of the womb.  Newborn diapers generally go up to a 9lb limit, which the average baby outgrows by the end of the first month.

Your newborn will go through between 8-12 (or more) diapers per day.  So that giant box of 140 diapers you just bought will last you about 2 weeks.  As far as wipes go, I personally have found that we used 1 wipe for number 1, 2-3 wipes for number 2 (there are obvious exceptions to the latter; i.e. the word “blowout”).  Using these numbers, you’ll go through a pack of wipes (60-70 count pack) about every week.

If you buy a couple of large boxes of Pampers for example, you’d be looking at about $150. If you’re looking to go the natural route (like *cough* my wife or Fathercraft co-founder Paul), check out our review of Abby & Finn.

Baby Bath Time – $50+

There are all types of baby bathtubs out there.  Sure, you could try to bathe your child in the sink or the big tub, but a wet newborn is slippery.  There really is no reason to not buy a baby bathtub considering they range from $25-$50. Plus they have fun names like The Summer Splish ‘n Splash … awwww (Amazon) . You can also stock up on soap — this is a place we definitely recommend one with natural ingredients, like Honest Company Soap (Amazon).  If you want to go ahead and stock up on lotions and diaper rash cream, here are a few recommendations — Honest Company Lotion (Amazon) and Honest Diaper Rash Cream (Amazon). 

Bottles – $20-$40

Whether or not you plan on breastfeeding/formula feeding your child, having bottles is a good idea.  Our top recommendation is Doctor Brown’s (Amazon)

If you hate doing dishes and want to be able to go a whole week without having to wash any bottles, then pay $200 and buy a bunch of bottles. But then you better buy a sanitizer too, because, gross. Realistically, you can spend $20, buy a 4-pack and make it work.

You can find much more on what we found to be true baby essentials in our list of the same name.

After Child (or, A.D.)

You’ve made the one-time purchases.  You took a picture of your dog sleeping in the crib.  You discovered what feedback on the baby monitor sounds like.  You made a dad joke about the stroller having 4-wheel drive.  

Now let’s talk about those expenses that will occur monthly, or at least more than a one-time purchase.

Monthly Baby Budget

To help us figure out what we need to include in our monthly budget, lets walk through a day in the life of a newborn.  

They sleep. They eat. They poop. Repeat.  

This cycle continues for the first month or so. Their wake-windows increase as time goes on, but this pretty much sums up their existence for the first couple months.

So what do we need?

Child Care – $500-1,500

Child care prices are high enough that many parents have one person leave the workforce just because their entire paycheck was going to child care.  If that isn’t a possibility for you, do your research on babysitters, day cares, etc. that are available in your area.  If you are super lucky, maybe even a family member or two can take turns watching the little one.

Diapers ~$60/mo

We’ve already talked about diapers, but it’s important to consider what brand of diapers you’ll be buying and how much you already have stocked up.  As with anything, there are really cheap diapers out there and really expensive (relatively) diapers. When can you tell the difference between a cheap diaper and expensive diaper? Usually, on a day to day experience the cheapest diaper and most expensive diaper will function exactly the same. It’s on those more rare occasions that you can tell the difference.  Such as:

  • You’re at dinner and you didn’t immediately change your baby’s diaper as soon as they went number 1.  Now a second number 1 comes along, and they soak through their diaper, onesie and pants.
  • Your typical number 2 (not a blowout) happens to spill out because of the way they were sitting/laying.
  • I personally have had issues with the velcro strap ripping when trying to fasten really cheap diapers (my wife tells me I can be aggressive sometimes…).

So, lets shoot for the average.  You need 10 diapers a day.  Let’s say an average of $.20 per diaper, multiply all of that by 30 days and there’s $60 a month.

But wait, there’s more!

If you’ve found the diaper brand you like, check to see if there is a rewards program.  Pampers and Huggies offer the ability to scan your diapers in order to receive money back. It takes 30 seconds to scan in, and you can save some cash.

Wipes ~$15/mo

Like we’ve already said, you’re going to use between 1-4 wipes per diaper change.  It really makes a lot of sense to buy in bulk when you can, because it will be years before your child outgrows wipes. Plus, wipes (at least good ones, read the label) are safe on faces for snot, good for cleaning up spills, blowing your nose (yeah, sounds gross, get used to gross) Buying in bulk saves you money in the long run. You can also get rewards from Pampers wipes. 

Buying in bulk can net you around $.025 per wipe.  We can plan on roughly 20 wipes per day. Multiply by 30 days and there’s $15 a month.

Food ~ $150

Budgeting for feeding a newborn is basically broken down into breastfeeding vs formula.  If breastfeeding:

  • Check with your health insurance to see if you qualify for a free breast pump — here’s a good article from Forbes.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer.  
  • This means a breastfeed baby will be free to feed for at least 6 months.  

That may be the AAP’s recommendation, but we recognize that’s just not possible for every family. So, formula feeding:

  • Most infant formula-fed newborns will eat 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.  Newborns eat about 2 to 3 ounces of formula every 3 to 4 hours.  By the end of the first month, they eat at least 4 ounces about every 4 hours.  
  • Research the best option for you and your baby and consult with the Pediatrician.  Monthly cost of formula on average (considering an average amount consumed, and the average cost) will be about $150 a month.

Related: check out our review of Bobbie Baby Formula.

Soaps, Lotions & Creams ~$15

We discussed some of these options earlier, but how often will you actually use soap, lotion and cream for your baby?

It is recommended to bathe your child once every 3 days or so.  Your newborn doesn’t need to take a bath every day – this will dry out their skin and they aren’t outside playing in the mud and getting sweaty.  

If you bathe your child 10-12 times a month and lotion them up after their bath, a bottle of soap and lotion should last you the whole month if not longer.

Diaper rash cream can be used sporadically.  Occasionally your baby will need it for every single diaper change for 2 days in a row, then you’ll hit a 2 week stretch when you never touch it.  You can plan on one bottle of cream getting you through a month and a half/two months, but don’t be surprised if you use a good amount of it when your baby is sick or teething.

Math Time!

If you take the average price of the B.C.  items listed above, we are looking at:

  • ~$3000 hospital bills (this obviously can vary)
  • $300 stroller
  • $500 crib
  • $200 car seat
  • $250 monitor
  • $100 clothes
  • $150 diapers/wipes
  • $50 bath time
  • $30 bottles

Taking out the hospital bills, you’re left with a grand total of $1,580 to prepare for your baby!  If you try to find the absolute cheapest option in each category, you’re looking at roughly $800 before the baby comes.

We’ll note your mileage (cost) may vary dramatically. It’s possible to spend WAY more than this. It’s also possible to save on some big-ticket items if you’re lucky enough to have a baby shower, friends who’ve had babies and can lend you clothes, or parents or in-laws who want to chip in.

Monthly, you could safely plan on spending between $250 (no child care) and $1500 (with child care) a month on your baby.  

Speaking of in-laws, you know that lecture your (well-intentioned, of course) father-in-law gave you about budgeting an extra 20-30% of the cost of your mortgage for home repairs and unexpected expenses? Yeah, babies are like that too — expect the unexpected, save for a rainy day, all that good stuff.

Final Thoughts

So, can you afford a baby? Hopefully after reading through this article you can answer that question for yourself.  Obviously, this list doesn’t include every single thing you will ever buy for your newborn.  But, if you were like me and had zero clue what the costs of having a baby were, maybe now you have a better idea.  

Also, if you’ve got babies on the brain, hi! We’re Fathercraft. We’re all about helping new and expecting parents prepare, get educated, have more fun, and a lot more. Learn more right over here.

What do you call a cow on a trampoline? … A milkshake!

Why did the cookie go to the doctor? … It was feeling crumbly

Hi, we’re Fathercraft. Our mission is to help guys gain the confidence, skills, and knowledge they need to be an awesome dad. Here you’ll find baby gear reviewsessential baby product recs, and a few things of our own, like our new dad class and our dad bag.

All the best on your journey into fatherhood.

P.S. What did the beach say when the tide came in? Long time no sea.

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