This is the first in a four-part series on life milestones. Deal Hunter will talk to experts about ways to plan and pay for some of life’s biggest moments: a new baby, a significant birthday, a wedding and alas, yes, a funeral.
Babies are an expense that grows and grows, and all babies (and new moms) are different. “One big mistake new moms make is to assume that they’ll need and use everything that everyone tells them they need,” said Dana Points, editor-in-chief of Parents and American Baby magazines. “Start with the minimum and branch out.”
Mother Nature is wise to give you a nine-month buffer to prepare for the arrival of that tiny human. You’re compelled to provide him or her with life’s essentials: food, clothing, medicines and diapers. Then there are expensive extras: cribs and car seats, plus all the things that are just too cute to pass up.
Luckily, you’re not the first mother to give birth (or new dad to freak out when it’s happening.) These tips will help you save massive amounts of cash, which you can place in the college fund.
Before you even think about pregnancy, assess your health insurance options. If you work for an employer that offers a health-care saving fund or a flexible spending account, Points recommends you join. “You can save money out of paycheck up to certain amount . . . it’s also taken out of your paycheck before taxes” and will save money in the long run. Linda Murray, global editor-in-chief of BabyCenter.com, agrees. “Make sure you’re picking the option best for your family before the baby is born.”
In the hospital
A hospital bill is a hidden expense you should plan for. “You need to ask yourself, ‘Do I want a private room or to share a room?’ The extra fee can vary according to the hospital,” Points said. If there are complications, you might be there for more than 48 hours. Urban areas tend to charge more, so before delivery, decide whether privacy is the worth the fee.
The free stuff
The best things in life are free, and babies are welcomed with loads of free stuff. “Pregnant women are very fortunate because [companies] want to give them free samples or discounted products,” Points said. Parents.com has a “Free Stuff” section, which offers discounted items for new moms. Also, “Like” companies on Facebook to get free products, and ask hospitals for the freebies they have on hand. “They have swaddling blankets, baby thermometers. Hospitals will give it all away, so bring an extra bag,” Points said.
It’s never too early to start planning for the biggest investment of your baby’s future: college. “The overall cost of a child until age 22, on average, is $260,000 without college factored in,” Murray said. So start setting aside now in the form of a rebate. Sign up for YouPromise Account, a 529 plan that gives you cash back when you spend money at certain retailers. “The amount of money you spend over 18 years can add up,” Points said. “And get the grandparents to sign up, too.”
This is what friends are for. Put big-ticket items on a registry so your friends can chip in. Many stores will give you discounts and coupons for signing up.
Big ticket items
Strollers and cribs will cost you, so experts recommend asking friends and neighbors to borrow these items. But be aware that these products, along with car seats, might be deemed unsafe, even if they’re only a few years old. “You should check on Parents.com Recall Finder,” Points said. “Car seats and strollers and cribs are often recalled [for safety reasons], and new ones are different than ones available two years ago.”
Breast feeding and pumps
Breast feeding is a personal decision and not one that should be based on economics. That said, breast feeding can save more than $1,000 in a baby’s first year of life. Even if you decide to breast feed, don’t invest in pumps or nursing bras until the baby comes. “During pregnancy, moms might be tempted to buy a snazzy pump or nursing bras, but wait until you’ve tried it,” Points said. Pumps are also a high-ticket item, and because of sterilization, you can’t share them. “You can rent one from a hospital or birth center,” Murray said.
The great diaper debate
Choosing cloth or disposable diapers is a matter of preference, not cost. “We’ve done studies on the cost of cloth versus disposable diapers, and it’s a wash,” Murray said. But if you choose disposables, know Amazon Mom and Diapers.com will deliver to your door, and Amazon Mom gives you three months of free, two-day shipping.
Sharing with strangers
Your eyes are bigger than that bloated tummy. You won’t use everything you buy. That means all the moms on your neighborhood Web discussion group will have the stuff you want, unused. Borrow locally, or go online and share. Sites such as Thredup.com let you share baby and kids’ clothes by the box. You can also rent toys and maternity clothes, so search the Internet for sites that meet your needs.
Clothing: Ignore it
“You’re going to get clothes as gifts, so resist the urge to buy clothes,” Points said. Instead, by onesies in bulk. “Also, if you’re thinking of having more than one, buy or ask for more unisex clothing. Yellow and green are great colors!”
THE BOTTOM LINE There’s no cheap way to have a baby, so spend the nine months before Johnny or Janie arrives planning, not shopping. Budget for baby the way you budget for yourself, and remember — that little one grows up (and out of stuff) really fast.
ON SALE THIS WEEK
Mark your calendar for the weekend of April 27-28 for Georgetown’s Ninth Annual French Market. Grab discounts galore — up to 70 percent off — at sidewalk sales on spring fashions, art and home furnishings. Participants include Urban Chic, Sherman Pickey, Sassanova, Magic Wardrobe, duo, Susan Calloway Fine Arts and Heiner Contemporary. Restaurants and neighborhood salons will also get into the act: Sweet crepes at Cafe Bonaparte will be half price, and Easel Hair Studio will mark down shampoo and hair products up to 50 percent. Upper Wisconsin Avenue NW, between P Street and Reservoir Road. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. See www.georgetowndc.com.
Stop by Pear Tree Cottage on Sunday for a storewide sale on antique, vintage, new furniture and accents for home and garden. All full-priced furniture, lighting, art and mirrors will be 25 percent off, with some items up to 50 percent off. A glass bubble chandelier is $810, down from $1,080, and an antique concrete rooster is $168, originally $210. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. 130 Maple Ave. E., Vienna, 703-938-1331.
During Saah Furniture’s 61st anniversary sale, unfinished and finished wood bookcases, entertainment centers and tables and chairs are selling for 20 to 30 percent off their original prices. A 30-by-10-by-72-inch birch bookcase, regularly $236, is on sale for $188. Through April 30. 10 a.m-7 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. 5641-F General Washington Dr., Alexandria, 703-256-4315. www.saahfurniture.com.
— Janet Bennett Kelly