Last June 30th our son Carter was born. He weighed in at 8 pounds even and was 21 inches in length. Since then he has grown rapidly, to the point where is now somewhere around 20 lbs, and his height is in the 95th percentile. He's got two parents who are either near or over 6 feet tall, so we have a feeling he's going to be tall as well. In the past couple of months he's started crawling and standing on his own, and we're sure the walking part is just days away.
Have a child at the house has been an amazing event in our lives, and we both feel very blessed that our little boy has been healthy thus far. But while life with Carter has been a lot of fun, it hasn't all been rainbows and unicorns. There have been new expenses cropping up all the time, along with the reduced income as my wife quit her job to stay home with our son. We've found that certain areas were more expensive than we expected, while others weren't as bad as we thought.
Today I thought I'd do a quick look at some areas that we found that we spent more than we had expected, as well as talking about how you can avoid having your own expenses get too far out of control.
Baby Expenses That Were Higher Than We Expected
When we found out that we were expecting, I started researching how much we could expect to spend on our new baby. Here are some of the expenses we expected, that ended up being higher than we thought.
- Furniture and accessories for the baby: Over the past year this is probably one of our highest spending categories for the baby. I originally thought that we could get away with spending a minimal amount on baby furniture, but in the end we ended up paying for things like a crib, changing table, dressers and bookshelves, a rocking chair, baby chairs, Johnny Jump-Up and more. On top of that a lot of that furniture came with accessories, like sheets, pads, rail guards, safety bumpers and a thousand other little gadgets. All in all we've probably spent somewhere in the range of $1500-2000 or more on these things (probably more). How can you get away with not spending as much? Buy your furniture used, or get it from a secondhand store. It'll be just about as good. Don't buy all the accessories for every piece of furniture that you buy because it's just not necessary. Don't fall prey to the appeals that many companies use that make you think that if you don't buy their gadget or product that your child won't be safe or happy. They will be fine.
- Clothes for the baby: When we had our baby showers we got a ton of baby clothing that ranged anywhere from 0-3 months, all the way up to 18-24 months. Because we had received so much clothing I underestimated just how much more clothing we would need. Part of the problem is that the child grows so fast that they grow out of clothes before they've even had a chance to wear them. The other thing I underestimated was my wife's need to buy all sorts of “cute baby clothes” for our son. She would see something she thought was cute and then buy it. I can't tell you how many pieces of clothing he never even wore because he just grew so fast. We did have a budget meeting about that one to cut this category down a bit. How can you get away with not spending as much? Try to buy your baby's clothes at a secondhand store. Most of the clothes there are very lightly used anyway, much of it is brand new with tags still attached. Also try to ask for a wide variety of age range clothes at the baby shower. A lot of people want to buy cute clothes for newborns, when in fact that baby will only be that size for a very short time.
- Toys: We got quite a few toys for the baby via the baby showers, but once again both mommy and daddy went a little crazy on the toy front. First child and all. We have had to cut back on how much we're spending here because we spent way too much. Funny thing is, our son actually prefers playing with things we already had – like paper, and candy wrappers and the dog. Go figure. How can you get away with not spending as much? Simple, just don't buy as many toys for your kids, especially when they're younger. They won't be able to appreciate them anyway, they're more for you as an adult! If you do buy toys, find gently used ones at secondhand stores or thrift stores. Buy fewer toys, and rotate them. As the child tires of one toy, rotate in the other one. Fewer toys, but more fun!
- Increased medical costs: We're the prototypical first time parents, always getting worried about every little noise Carter made, every little wheeze or sneeze. We've taken him in to the doctor many times in the last year. Some of those times it was a good thing because he had ear infections or other infections. Other times it was just a little runny nose. When you're going so often, however, the co-pays add up. Over the past year we've spent more than we budgeted for on medical care. It's too bad, I could have added more to my flexible spending account! How can you get away with not spending as much? This is one area that you may not want to skimp on. Things we could possibly have done better to save a little money are some of those visits to the doctor when even the smallest little thing cropped up. A little bit of a runny nose may not be that big of a deal. On the other hand, if we hadn't been careful we could have missed those ear infections that our son had, which could have lead to big problems. One of my wife's cousins had a baby last year as well, and had a burst ear-drum due to an ear infection. Moral of the story, be careful about your kid's health care, but use your judgement in taking them in.
- Babyproofing costs: Another area where we probably spent more than we needed to was in babyproofing the house. My wife is big on making sure our son is safe, and while I agree with that sentiment, I'm not as extreme when it comes to padding every surface, locking down every shelf, putting gates around every corner and putting child-proof knobs on every door. How can you get away with not spending as much? I think that there is a line when safety becomes overkill. For example, do you need to pad the corners of a table that is higher than the child can reach? No. Do you need to lock cabinets higher than the child can reach? No. The key here is to provide for your child's safety, while still allowing for common sense. You can't protect your child against everything, and they have to learn the consequences of their actions at some point right? Cover the most apparent dangers where you can, but don't go overboard.
So those are a few areas where we spent more than we had intended, and how you can attempt to avoid the same mistakes.
What areas did you overspend with for your children? What expenses do you think can be avoided? Tell us about your baby expenses and where you overspent in the comments.