Life changes bring financial changes. Pregnancy, birth, and parenthood are pretty much the biggest -- perhaps because they're the longest -- life and finance changes you'll ever make. The good news is that they are gradual changes. In general, babies are way less expensive than teenagers. And easier to parent, but that's a whole other post. Still, it helps to have an understanding of the costs you need to cover as you slide into this next phase of life.
In this new series, "Budgeting for Baby," I'm going to talk about a range of financial decisions that happen around the time of pregnancy, birth, and parenting. It's normal to feel afraid and overwhelmed about money, especially when there are so many other changes and decisions to consider during this time. But it's not a good idea to let your fear put you in a state of "freeze" and ignore money altogether. When you ignore something that causes worry, it only grows larger. When you're fully in the know, however, even if you don't fully know how you will have enough money, you're more in control of your decisions and choices, which can help reduce stress.
In this first post of the "Baby on a Budget" series, we'll look at the typical costs associated with pregnancy, including spending that is usually necessary as well as optional costs. Whether you're already pregnant, trying to conceive, or planning a pregnancy in the future, use this list to plan, save, and figure out your monthly budget during pregnancy.
Costs Incurred During Pregnancy
Medical care - Depending on your health insurance and how routine or complicated your pregnancy is, this will likely be your biggest expense during pregnancy. Costs include each prenatal visit to your primary care provider (10-15), ultrasounds, lab work, tests and screens, any specialty care if needed, and any medication. You can request an estimate of your costs throughout pregnancy in advance by calling your health insurance and your doctor or midwife's office. Some care providers will work with you on payments by either reducing fees or extending the payment deadline if you have financial difficulties.
It's impossible to know in advance how your pregnancy will go and what all you will need, but the vast majority of pregnancies are uncomplicated. It helps to know which medical procedures and tests are necessary or strongly encouraged and which ones are not. Ultrasounds, for example, are generally only encouraged once or twice during pregnancy, unless you have a medical complication that indicates more. Some people opt out of ultrasound altogether. Genetic tests and screens also are optional. Learn more about suggested and optional test by taking an early pregnancy class, talking to your pregnancy and birth care provider (OB or midwife), and reading up on your options in a good pregnancy book, like Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide.
Budgeting for birth costs - While you don't incur birth costs during pregnancy, it can be helpful for you to start saving during pregnancy, if possible. Talk to your health insurance and your doctor or midwife to determine an estimate of your out of pocket costs for birth, then determine how much you can set aside each month to help cover those costs. If you're unable to budget extra money monthly during your pregnancy, talk to your provider to find out if they are able to reduce any fees and what kind of payment plan you can set up after birth.
Clothing - Most people need maternity clothes at some point in pregnancy. How much can you set aside from your budget to pay for new clothes? Keep in mind that there are several options for second hand, gently used clothes that can save you hundreds of dollars. To keep costs low, consider your job and day-to-day activities and build your wardrobe based only on the basic pieces needed, similar to a capsule wardrobe. For more tips on saving money on maternity clothes, check out our article, "How to Buy Maternity Clothes on the Cheap."
Baby gear/prep - Despite what advertisements would have you believe, babies really only need a few things, along with the warm body of a parent. If you're having a baby shower, you may end up with all or most of what you need and want for baby. If not, consider what you can spend and what you'll need or want for baby. It's easy to get carried away! If your budget is tight, focus on the essentials and look into what you can buy second hand.
Childbirth classes - I've included this in the list of "necessary costs" because taking a childbirth class can save you money in the long run based on how it can influence your decisions in birth, breastfeeding, and early parenting. Depending on where you live, the cost of a childbirth class will vary. The format of the class will also affect the cost -- in person vs. online, group vs. private, shortened/refresher vs. full-length class. Don't skimp on quality with a childbirth class. If a class is advertised as "free" or less than $100, find out why. Otherwise, if your budget truly is a concern, talk to the instructor about payments, a scholarship, or another creative way to cover the cost, like bartering a product or service.
Groceries - Your eating habits will likely change in pregnancy, from wanting to add more nutritious foods to dealing with a particular palate caused by nausea. Depending on your current habits, these changes could decrease or increase your grocery spending budget. Adding more fresh fruits and veggies could increase your spending. Decreasing the frequency of eating out will lower spending. Buying more prepared foods will cause an increase. Plan your budget accordingly.
Vitamins - If you begin taking a prenatal vitamin during pregnancy, plan for the expense. You may be able to get vitamins free through insurance, but if not, price out vitamins. Generic vitamins and buying in bulk will significantly reduce your costs. When it comes to vitamins, higher price does not equal better quality.
Time off - During pregnancy, it's not uncommon to have to take time off that's related to your pregnancy, whether due to medical appointments, nausea, or other complications. Not all employers pay for time off (paid sick, vacation, maternity leave), and missing pay impacts your budget. Consider how you will manage the financial effects of unpaid time if it happens during pregnancy. Plan also for any unpaid time after your baby is born.
Additional health care - Pregnancy, though it's a natural state for the body, takes a physical toll, especially when you consider all of the ways in which our culture does not promote preventative care or rest. Additional care services like physical therapy, chiropractic care, and massage may be required or greatly improve your pregnancy experience and overall health. Sometimes, insurance will cover a certain percentage of these services. Check with your insurance to find out how much and plan accordingly.
Doula - While some may consider doula services "optional," others consider it necessary. A doula is typically a significant expense, but for most people who've had the experience with a doula, it's "worth every penny." Research doula costs in your area to determine how much you will need to budget. If finances put a strain on your ability to afford a doula, get creative and look into different ways to cover the costs of a doula.
Babymoon trip - Some couples relish taking a last solo trip before their family of two transforms into three. The babymoon can be an incredible time to reconnect, rest, and recharge. If your finances allow for this kind of travel, budget and plan early in your pregnancy. Even if your getaway is a "staycation," you'll want to plan for the added expenses.
Exercise classes - Exercise during pregnancy can be as simple as regular, purposeful walks, which are free! But many people enjoy the connection, community, and commitment of group classes. Prenatal-specific classes are ideal because they take into consideration the limitations and the attention needed from the pregnant body. Research the average cost of a prenatal exercise class in your area to determine if your budget can accommodate.
Financial planning can feel overwhelming when you don't know what you're planning for. Learning more about your choices and needs will help put you more in control of your situation and decisions, which also helps alleviates stress and worry.