Thursday, May 20, 2010

How Much Does It Cost to Have a Baby?


Hello, my name is Sara and I am an obsessive planner.

I'm still at the stage in life where I consider it to be a hobby more than a neurosis (although I am open to the idea that the fact I consider it a hobby might be part of why it's a neurosis...). I love planning. I really do.

But let me introduce you to my newest "self-identified kindred spirit," Onnie.

Onnie does not have any children. In fact, Onnie won't even be married for another year and a half. But dear Onnie has already created an Excel(!) sheet entitled the "Ultimate BabyCost Matrix" designed to help her "figure out what stuff might ACTUALLY be needed when raising a little one for the first two years."

I am agape!

Her document is so far ahead of where I am. I just finished the conception phase (I only had to buy pre-natal vitamins and a basal body temperature thermometer!). I am now starting to read about pregnancy now, so that when I'm actually pregnant, I can start reading about how to raise an infant.

The best part is that Onnie agreed to let me share the document with all of you so you can give us feedback based on your perspectives/experiences. Hooray!

Onnie, thank you so, so much for sharing your hours and hours of work with all of us (there are two sheets included in the document!).

To everyone else: please be kind. It's completely okay to have a different opinion, since so much of what you "need" as a new parent depends on certain choices you make about parenting. Onnie's document is based on choices that she wants to make for herself. And we need to respect that. So if you're making different choices for yourself and therefore have different ideas about what should be on the list, please share your ideas in a way that doesn't make Onnie feel bad about her own choices.

I don't mean to pull out my teacher voice here, it's just that people can be mean commenters sometimes. I'm used to and have come to expect it occasionally, but I don't want to subject Onnie to any meanness because it is so, so kind of her to share this document with us in the first place.

Okay, I am getting down off my soapbox so I can finally share the document with you. Please share your opinions about how it should be revised in the comments section, so I can add to this document and make my own list. Thank you!



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23 comments:

Amber said...

I'm a super planner... with a huge lazy streak. I'm in awe of Onnie's list. My partner and I are on a similar time frame that you seem to be on. Big difference is that I'm the hold out. We're racing in a 70 mile canoe race on Memorial Day and over the last year that has been my reason for not moving forward with trying to conceive. In the last six months I've been training at the gym and trying to wrap my mind around having a baby. It seems so crazy still. I do think that you're right... no one is ever fully ready.

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Onnie: Do you have a diaper sprayer on your list? I looked but didn't see one. What do you think about them? They seem like a really convenient way to rinse poop off cloth diapers before washing them, and they only cost $45. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Therese S. said...

Oh, wow, Sara. This is great. How'd she do this? It's awesome!

Anonymous said...

She (or any of us) could use this spreadsheet to make a baby registry with. Then you could be gifted some of these items. Great job Onnie! Thanks for sharing this.

Sara said...

This is a great list! I do have to say as a mother of 2 that you really need less than you think you need. Some things you think you need go totally untouched. Cloth diapers are something that I wished that I would have used. We are nearing the end of the diaper stage. My only surprise was health care costs, check into Health savings accounts. They have saved us for the past three years. Depends on your insurance but the money is tax free for use on health expenses. No one plans on having a special needs child but it happens and costs more than you could imagine.

Aamba said...

This is great, thank you so much! I created an Excel spreadsheet to calculate when my man and I would be ready to start trying for a baby, listing by month everything we had to have done before we started trying. I thought I was the only one who did things like that and clearly I am not!

Anonymous said...

WOAH this is certainly impressive. the only nerdy thing I would recommend is FORMULAS! It looks like you're doing all the adding yourself since the cells are stretched to wrap text. This is fine, but if you divide each cell into two cells, one for strings (words) and the other for numbers (costs), you can then use the summing formulas to calculate everything for you! AND THEN if you change the cost of something or add an item, the formula will update for you. This would be helpful if you needed to add or change things down the road but didn't want to re-do the whole thing. OR you could add another set of cells for the actual costs, and it would turn into more of a budget vs. cost spreadsheet.

ohmygod I love excel.

Cassie said...

As a new parent (my son is 6 weeks old), the two awesomest items for calmness and bonding have been the moby wrap and the miracle blanket. I was initially skeptical because of their cost ($40) for what seem like pieces of fabric, but they have both been essential.

Paige said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I'm a planner, too, but I always find it a little overwhelming when starting a new list or spreadsheet. This will be a great starting point and easy to modify to fit my personal tastes.

BeeHive said...

I think this is an interesting list, however, being a pessimistic planner, I don't think the estimates are high enough for the average person. I would prefer to see a few "worst case" scenarios thrown in that have happened to a few of my close friends: baby hates baby-wearing thereby requiring a stroller and swing, mother can't produce enough milk and must use formula, washing machine needs to be replaced after a month of daily use, etc.

Randa said...

Wow! That is an awesome list! Go Onnie!

There are a few things I would add on to the list, however. As BeeHive said, a few "worst case" scenarios are probably needed. With some of the volunteer work I've done at my college with Child and Family Development, there are a few things that hardcore mommas never plan on. For one thing -breast feeding. Why it may be one of the most natural things in the world, some women [It's somewhere between 5-20%] cannot breastfeed - they just cannot lactate. Some babies - like myself and all my siblings - cannot stomach breast milk and have to get specialty formula. I've seen women who have said they've felt "less like a mother" because they can't lactate, which is unfortunately but it may be because many people are uninformed.

Also as BeeHive hinted at, you can plan on and on about how YOU want to do things but the baby may not agree. It is important to keep a little flexibility into a plan so as to not be disappointed when things don't work out, though I do believe Onnie adds a little bit of wiggle room.

Once again, great job Onnie!

Onnie said...

Wow! I totally didn't expect the huge volume of responses when you posted this, Sara!

@Everyone: thanks for all the great input! It's very encouraging!

I'll just let you all know that two years ago I told my boyfriend that I really wanted to have a baby within four years - and as soon as I told him, I realized: wait, how much does that cost? There's a so-so calculator on the Babycenter page for your baby's first year, but really there are just so many little things ($15-$50, or the sort of things that might just be hand-me-downs from friends) that could potentially add up - I wondered what I would really want as a mother. And EVERYONE tells you there’s so much junk you don’t need. What would, for starters, be MY bare minimum?

I'm totally into biking and carrying my own water bottle everywhere, and I use LunaPads, so I already knew I aspired to be a totally crunchy, cloth diapering, attachment-parenting kinda mom. I'm also REALLY cheap (though I've been known to drop a pretty penny at the farmer's market), so again, that’s why I thought I’d start with my list of “essentials”, instead of going all out on the worst-case scenario. Still, even cloth diapers can cost a lot - what works for one family won't for another, and so trying out different systems to make both parents happy may take a while, and can take some serious funds (although some diaper companies allow “trial packages” with a limited cost for 30 days – I think Nicki’s Diapers is one, if anyone’s interested). But here's the crazy thing I realized, as I started finding baby products that just sounded so "me" or so "Brett" (the BF) - you actually don't NEED everything at once. Take breast pumps as an example. Randa, I'm totally with you that whatever mother can't breastfeed can look to formula and there's nothing wrong with a family that makes that choice for ANY reason, but I'm in nursing school right now and 100% committed to breastfeeding myself, and exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months (the time when it is most protective against digestive disorders, allergies, asthma, etc) (and FYI - it's actually less than 5% of mothers who can't produce enough milk physiologically, but sadly many mothers don't establish a good latch at first which can eventually lead to insufficient milk supply and severe PAIN for mom - hence the many moms who may mistakenly believe their bodies aren't making enough and who probably want to quit breastfeeding anyway if a poor latch is tearing at their nipples – OUCH!). So, um, I knew that I’d breastfeed, and even if I had a severe preemie (yeah, OK, I didn’t budget for hospital bills! I’m hoping for a very good deductible with my next insurance plan) or if my baby just weren’t able to latch, by hook or by crook I’d pump instead until my baby got a latch – and if that never happened, for my baby’s first year at least. If that were the case, I’d probably start by renting a pump from the hospital to get my supply up and running, probably buy a few good books I haven’t listed here on improving milk supply, load myself up with fenugreek, and then switch to a consumer-grade pump like the Lansinoh once I felt comfortable with my supply in two months: maybe $350 total (or more, if I splurge on the Medela Freestyle). On the other hand, if I get a perfect latch from the get-go, I only need to worry about buying a pump and introducing bottles somewhere in that magical time between the 4th and 6th week, when the baby’s established enough with breastfeeding to not get nipple confusion, and yet won’t refuse the bottle (which I’ve ALSO heard can happen – some breastfed babies end up totally hating bottles, making going back to work VERY tricky for mom!). Either way, though, a pump was NOT something I wanted before birth, because circumstances have a way of not being exactly what you expect them to…still, this was the best way I found to deal with the worst-case scenario I could imagine.

Onnie said...

@ Sara Cotner: I need some sort of guest post in your blog to fill these responses, I think! Also, a diaper sprayer is an excellent item for many families! I’m hoping to try part-time elimination communication to catch as many baby poops as possible, and I’m thinking of combining that with flushable cloth liners or hybrid diapers instead of getting a sprayer myself. But – if you’re breastfeeding, you don’t need a diaper sprayer until solid foods arrive, so that should probably go in the 3-6 month category box. All my friends who breastfed exclusively swear by their babies’ non-smelly poops…I hope they’re right!

Onnie said...

@ Sara: Thanks for the tip on Health Savings accounts! I’ve always sort of looked askance at those and wondered if I’d really need them. It’s good to know that they’re a good option for family health costs – which any of us might need in the future!

@ Anonymous2: I love Excel too, but I’m terrible with it! I kept trying to figure out a way to do summations and ended up just gritting my teeth and pulling out the Calculator app. But I’d love to figure out the Ultimate BabyCost Matrix to make it applicable to everyone. It totally helped me demystify the Baby Industrial Complex when I started fantasizing about having my own kids.

@ BeeHive: I definitely agree, this is not a perfect cost-estimate list for the average person. This is for the person who lurks on Diaperswappers.com boards at night, curious about the cheapest prices on used newborn diaper covers even though she’s nowhere near preconception. For FUN. Still, even though my decisions aren’t average, there’s no reason that the format can’t be adapted to everyone’s needs. The main point of the Ultimate BabyCost Matrix is that you don’t need everything at once, so why not budget for the best and worst-case scenario for that particular moment in time, and leave off on your "dream items" until a future date? My goal is to have my estimated maximum costs through 3 months postpartum saved before conceiving, and seeing the costs laid out over the course of a year really helps me see what, exactly, I’m saving for. This is the sort of format that could help anyone figure out their own custom BabyCost Matrix and know what having a baby really means in terms of money up front.

Onnie said...

@Randa: I'm sorry, I misread your comment. I'm so sorry to hear you had problems digesting breast milk! I know about PKU and food allergies and galactosemia, so those are conditions I would definitely want to check out if I wanted to breastfeed and knew that breastfeeding had been difficult for any babies in my family. As for myself, I was breastfed, and I know I don't have any of the common conditions that lead to genuine low milk supply: severe breast hypoplasia, breast trauma or breast-reduction surgery. If any moms-to-be are on the fence about breastfeeding, keep in mind that studies have shown that nothing beats determination to breastfeed when it comes to whether or not you will succeed. That, finding good support (in real life or online), and knowledge (I can't recommend enough "Breastfeeding Made Simple" to break down the physiology of breastfeeding for everyone) are the three key areas I'd urge everyone to explore before birth if they think they want to breastfeed.

(OK, I'll confess: someday I want to become a lactation consultant! Now wouldn't THAT be the biggest irony if I couldn't breastfeed! I'm just the weirdo who found it really cool that my body makes food, I guess. Go mammals!)

Sara E. Cotner said...

You all are so awesome! Now if only we could get Aamba to share her pre-conception list, too...

Onnie (and others): What are your thoughts about a full-body pillow to ease sleeping during pregnancy? I've been eyeing very expensive but healthy ones over at Holy Lamb Organics.

Also, I love that you factor in time for off-gassing on the car seats. I once read a theory that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome might be linked to all the chemicals new parents often inundate their babies' rooms with immediately prior to birth (via paint, furniture, etc.).

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Onnie: Oh, oops. I went back to the list (AGAIN!) to study it, and I realized you recommended using the tres tria cosleeper as a pregnancy pillow.

How the heck do you even know about all this stuff?

So impressed,

s.

Autumn Witt said...

Onnie-- I notice on the pregnancy portion of your chart you don't have any maternity clothes listed. Is this because you already have some, or plan to borrow, or don't think you'll need them? Just curious-- this has been a big (and not necessarily anticipated) cost for several friends who've been pregnant recently.

Onnie said...

@ Autumn - You're right, I should probably have some more money budgeted for maternity wear. I did put in funds to get two Bella Bands or a similar product early on in pregnancy because I figured they'd be useful both before and after (if you're breastfeeding, they can cover your belly while nursing with your shirt lifted up). And I'm hoping that since these last few years I've made a point of stocking up at the thrift store on extra long, stretchy tshirts and tunic tops that will hopefully cover my belly up until the 5th or 6th month at least. But yeah - I have no idea how to predict what I might or might not need for maternity wear, since it's all dependent on one's job or need for specific outfits, speed of weight gain, the size of your baby, and the season of your last months of pregnancy. I should probably realistically put in some money for a lot of maternity clothes off of eBay (especially pants - I need tall jeans), just to save me the embarrassment of spending my ninth month wearing nothing but Brett's clothes!

Sara said...

Being that I was on bed rest from 12 weeks on the full body pillow was my life saver. I still use it. I think it is a total must to support you tummy which makes sleeping so much easier.

Anonymous said...

Sara - I have a friend (who is breastfeeding) who's been using the diaper sprayer from day 1 and she swears by it. She uses cloth G Diapers if that helps...

Katie Ready said...

Wow!!! Onnie is really thinking ahead! I am a mother of two and I agree with an earlier post that said you end up needing less than you think you will. Also, if you are not planning on having a baby for a while be on the look out for new products. My daughters are only 19 months apart and there were so many new, cooler items in stores when my second was born.

I like that she budgeted such a large amount for a car seat. I highly recommend buying a Britax. While cheaper carseats are just as safe (as long as properly fitted to the child) the Britax is tons better! I have used a few different brands but nothing compares to the Britax one in terms of comfort and ease of cleaning (which you will be doing a lot!)

lisa said...

I'm astonished. Babies now need so much more stuff.....

Let me preface this by saying that I'm 48 and my youngest turns 21 this year...so: Diapers. The world's best dipes are the flat ones, which I'm not even sure you can find anymore. One size fits all, you can double them for nights---kind of leaves the poor mite sleeping downhill, but...Pins and some kind of soaker. My very favorites were goretex?

Babies don't really need many toys. At all. When they're tiny, the best toy is you. When they have some head control, a doorway bouncer and/or all the tupperware in your kitchen. Spoons, pots, pans, etc. The majority of the remainder will come from doting grandparents or yard sales.

Get two car seats, an infant one and then a bigger one. By the time you are ready to turn the seat around for a bigger baby, it's all yukky, and you've fought with it for way too long.

Some of the new stuff is really neat, but I think that just like the wedding industry, the kid industry is WAY out of line.

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