Tips for saving when
a baby's on the way
I just delivered my first baby.
That marked the end of nine months of receiving advice from everyone
under the sun. I think the tummy bump is so public that people feel
a subliminal call to advise. For instance, a woman in the grocery
store told me to eat apples if I want a girl and bananas if I want
a boy. Another woman told me to drink a glass of wine each night
because then my baby will be small and easy to deliver.
During my nine months, I learned to pick out the good
advice and ignore the rest. So now, as my stomach shrinks back to
its normal shape, I move into the ranks of people who give advice
to expectant mothers. Here is some of the best advice I received:
Skimp on a crib and splurge on a car seat. Recently,
I found out that my parents put me in a drawer for the first three
months of my life. After my initial shock, my mom assured me that
the drawer was not closed. Rather it sat on top of a table and served
as a low-budget bassinet. My mom said she got the idea from her
mom, who did the same thing.
When I went shopping for a bassinet I was struck by:
1. the price of a bassinet and 2. the similarity between the bassinet
and a dresser drawer.
So I went with the drawer.
The car seat, on the other hand, is about life and
death. You need one that is meant for a newborn, and you need one
that is fresh from the store, so that you have a manual; there's
no point in putting your kid in a car seat if it's rigged up incorrectly.
Follow the directions. Remember that you need a car seat to take
your baby home from the hospital.
Digital cameras and breast-feeding save money in
the long run. During this first week, we've taken pictures of
the first day home, the first bath, the first grandparent visit
... the list is endless. And we're not even camera-toting types.
So we're grateful for the digital camera we bought because unlike
film, we do not have to pay to print all the shots we took when
the baby started crying as soon as the flash went off. And we don't
have to pay to make prints for the family because we can send pictures
digitally via e-mail. The camera was more expensive than we would
have liked, and the list of available options made us dizzy. But
a neighbor told me that if you can get through choosing a digital
camera, then you are prepared for choosing a preschool.
Breast-feeding is like buying a digital camera --
initially a painful experience, but the results are delightful.
Anyone who thinks breast-feeding is easy has probably never done
it. Breast-feeding is painful, but think of the cost-savings: You
can buy $300 worth of formula every month, or you can feed your
baby for free. Besides, studies show that the breast milk is better
for a baby's development than formula -- maybe the only time in
your child's life when you can be certain that cheaper is better.
Buy life insurance. My
husband and I were planning to buy insurance after the baby was
born, but a friend pointed out that a parent could die during the
pregnancy so you need insurance from day one. The phone call to
the insurance broker not only protects your child from financial
disaster, but also serves to acclimate you to the seriousness of
having a child. So make the call early -- you'll need to adjust
Exchange all gifts labeled
"0-3 months." Most babies will outgrow the "0-3
month" clothes before three months. And frankly, in the summer,
babies do not need clothes anyway; they are not going to work; they
are not going to prom. They are eating and sleeping. The other problem
with the 0-3 month clothes is that they are the cutest: they look
like doll clothes so everyone likes to buy them as gifts. You will
get too many. So exchange these clothes for a few outfits in the
12-month to 16-month range. The only people who will be buying your
kid presents this time next year are the grandparents. The stash
of larger clothes will be a money saver later.
Start saving for college.
How many times have you said to yourself that you wished you started
saving for retirement earlier because an earlier start makes such
a big difference? Now is your time to repent: start saving for college
on day one. If you start the day the baby is born, you need to put
aside about $500 a month until the child goes to college. If you
start later, you have to save more. If you start a lot later, you
have to save a lot more.
Resist redundant toys. (This
is not advice I received. It's advice I wish I had received.) We
have two mobiles because we saw one we liked in December and one
we liked better in April. My husband rotates the mobiles so that
we don't feel like we wasted money buying two. We also have too
many rattles. In fact, in our excited anticipation we had purchased
too many rattles even before we started receiving too many rattles
as gifts. And stuffed animals. They were so cute in the store but
so domineering in our overstuffed toy chest.
As we sit in our living room surrounded by our absurd
toy purchases, my husband points out that we're better off making
these mistakes now, when the kid is a baby because buying two Xboxes
or two 10-speed bikes would be a more costly learning experience.
My mom sits in a corner with a smirk and says
that we should stop fretting over rattles. She says, "It's
nice to stick to a budget, but the most costly parenting mistakes
have nothing to do with money."
-- Updated: Aug. 1, 2003