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Tales from the Wallet: Financially Preparing for Baby

financially-preparing-for-babyWe’ve talked about some of the major financial milestones that can affect your life, like wedding and grad school — but we haven’t yet talked about how to financially prepare for baby. (We have talked in general terms about family planning, as well as when the “best” time to get pregnant is.) So here are the questions: how can you prepare financially for a baby?  What considerations should factor into the decision to start trying?  Mamas, what are your best tips for the women still just pondering it? 

First, a story.  I remember being pregnant with my first child and reading a story somewhere about how babies were so expensive.  Yeah yeah yeah, I thought.  Sure, there are big purchases like a stroller and a crib.  But a baby shirt is like $5! Diapers are like, what, $20 a box?  NBD.

Stopped laughing yet?  I didn’t get it — in a big way.  CHILDCARE is the huge expense for children.  It really escaped my notice that if I wanted to work for 40 hours a week, then someone would need to watch the baby for 40 hours a week.  In most states, public school doesn’t kick in until kindergarten — aka, age FIVE.  So that’s five years of childcare — per kid — that you need to figure out.  We’ve talked about the pros and cons of different childcare arrangements over at CorporetteMoms, and last week we talked generally about parental budgeting — but I thought we’d bring the conversation over to Corporette.

For my $.02, for those of you just considering a baby, I would say:

  • Lock down health insurance.  I would strongly, strongly, strongly advise you to get health insurance (a good policy!) before you consider having a baby.  Doctors’ visits add up, as do ultrasounds, visits to specialists, and the ultimate labor and delivery bill.  (I believe my copay was $1000 for each pregnancy, but for my relatively uncomplicated births I recall seeing that the hospital bill for Jack was $16K, and for Harry it was $14K…. I definitely would not have wanted to be facing either of those numbers without insurance.)
  • Know your maternity leave policy. Note that you are only eligible for FMLA leave if “you have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, and have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.” We’ve also talked on here about negotiating for maternity leave at the interview stage, as well as (on CorporetteMoms) what an ideal maternity leave would look like.
  • Consider getting short-term disability.  Pregnancy may or may not be covered — and it may not be covered as a preexisting condition — so it’s best to think about this before you get pregnant.
  • Know if any vesting periods apply to you.  Stock options, pension plans, 401K matches, etc — if any of those employee perks may apply to you, take a look so you know what the situation is. If you’re only ten months away from being fully vested in a big perk, you may want to wait to start trying for another month or two.
  • Get a budgetary cushion.  You will need some cash for doctors’ copays and baby essentials, and you’ll eventually be able to roll that cushion over for childcare expenses.  In a perfect world I would suggest you have at least $1K-$5K cash, but obviously a lot of people have gotten pregnant with a lot less and been fine.
  • Talk to your doctors.  Finally, if you haven’t yet started trying to conceive, a minor note — talk to your doctor (and have your partner talk to his doctor) before you start.  My doctor suggested I get some more shots (the MMR vacine, if memory serves) that I could not have gotten while pregnant or nursing, and I also had genetic testing done. Unexpected health complications can be expensive, so being proactive here can really help.

Meanwhile, once you’re pregnant, I would suggest:

  • All of the above.
  • Lose the extras.  Drop the extra loan payments you may be making (or scale them back significantly), drop or scale back the automatic investing you’re doing, and if things are really tight, even consider scaling back on your 401K or other retirement investments. This will help you aggressively build (or keep building) your cushion, and once the baby arrives it will help you adjust financially to the new expenses.
  • As early as possible, start thinking about childcare.  If you live in an urban area like NYC or DC, get on the waiting list for the daycares in the area as soon as you know you’re pregnant — even if you decide to go for a nanny in the long run, it’s better to have all options available.
  • Don’t worry too much about nursery decor, toys, or clothes — at least, not until after you’ve had your baby shower, and after you’ve found the local parenting listserv in your area where parents resell their gently-used baby stuff for 50-80% off retail prices. The book Baby Bargains is a must for assessing what you need to buy new, where to register, and more.  Be sure to get the latest edition — they revise the book frequently to stay up to date with different recall notices and changes in guidelines. (Some of our other favorite resources for pregnant moms are here. Also note that Amazon Mom is amazing.)
  • Slow down on that babymoon or push present.  There’s a lot in popular culture that makes you think these things are expected, but really weigh whether they’re right for you (and your financial situation).  For the babymoon, there are pros and cons.  The pro: this is the last time you’ll have to be alone with your partner for what will feel like a very loooong time.  The cons: if you’re pregnant, you’ll possibly be sick to your stomach and not up for a lot of physical activity.  Yay!
  • Reset your expectations.  If you earn $50K a year, and you would owe a babysitter $40K a year, does it make sense for you to stay home?  Not necessarily — a lot of parents look at it as “paying to work,” but remember that you’re also keeping your career alive.  If you have a burning desire to be a SAHM, that’s one thing, but from a purely financial perspective it doesn’t necessarily make sense in the long run.  (If you DO want to be a SAHM, check out our tips for keeping your career network alive as a SAHM.)

Finally, I suppose, another $.02 note — you’ll never truly be able to prepare for having children, financially or otherwise… part of the fun of it all (ahem) is figuring it out as you go. Deep breath, big hugs, keep calm, etc.

Further reading:

  • How to Financially Prepare for Parenthood [Lifehacker]
  • How to Financially Prepare for an Unexpected Pregnancy [Go Girl Finance]
  • Checklist: How to Financially Prepare for a Baby [Learnvest]

Ladies, what are your best tips for financially preparing for baby?  What adjustments did you make before you started to TTC, what adjustments did you make while pregnant, and what adjustments did you make after your baby was born? 

Pictured: Halogen® Saffiano Leather Zip Around Wallet, originally $98, now marked to $58 as part of the Nordstrom clearance sale.

how to financially prepare for baby

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Comments

  1. SoCalAtty :

    Well isn’t this just perfect timing? Luckily I’ve done all of that stuff. One of the best infant care places in my area has a 15 month waiting list, but you can’t get on the list until you have a due date. My backup place has only a 5 month list and won’t have any problem fitting me in at all, so at least that is a relief.

    We’re definitely dropping the “extras” – for me, that’s the horse. She’s up at a sale barn and should (hopefully) be sold within the next month or so. I swear, the next trainer that tells me how nice of a horse she is… But that’s ok, all of the money I’m getting from her sale will go directly to savings. We haven’t grown that much over the last year because I’ve been working on maxing out both my 401k and my health savings account.

    DH and I have decided to turn the babymoon thing into a real babymoon – with the baby! I’m taking 4 months of leave, and my due date is September 10. So I’ll be off over December, and we’re thinking of going back to Hawaii the second week in December. Baby will be just over 3 months at that time, and, I may be absolutely insane planning a trip like this, but we’ve done lots of trips like that with friends and their kids at the same age, and we had a great time. I’ll plan it as “flexible” so it won’t be a big deal if we cancel, but it is a thought, anyway.

    I’m in California, so here, at least at my company, we don’t have to drain our PTO when we go out on FMLA or PFL (that’s California’s Paid Family leave) so that leaves me a little cushion when I come back from my 4 months off.

    • Anonymous :

      “One of the best infant care places in my area has a 15 month waiting list, but you can’t get on the list until you have a due date. ”

      Am I missing the mind teaser answer to this, or are the occupants of months 11-15 donkeys and whales?

      • I think it includes people who have already given birth and are willing to switch over as soon as a spot opens up.

      • I assume it means that no baby is eligible immediately after being born–you get on the waiting list after you have a due date, and then after birth you’re still not eligible for a few more months (best case scenario).

      • SoCalAtty :

        That’s correct! I think a lot of people switch over when a spot opens up. When I asked their Director what people do while they are waiting for a spot, her response, without missing a beat, was: “they just hire a private nanny until a spot opens up.”

        I laughed a little and asked her what families that can’t afford that do…and she just shrugged. It was a little awkward. I guess we could afford to do that, but I’d really rather not…hence the back up infant care location. Even worse, at the first location, they only have 8 infant spots and priority goes to siblings. Last year they had 6 siblings…

    • I found that a waiting list of > 1 year means that most of the <1 year spots go to siblings of current students (there's usually a preference). We got in after the kindergarteners left the oldest room, which means that everyone moved up (and when you move up, the ratios get larger, so they can add students even if no one leaves). Then #2 child got a spot as a 3-month old b/c of the sibling preference (so non-sibs are a total [email protected]).

      At least you go an answer — some places just burst out laughing when you call to ask about infant care.

    • Coach Laura :

      We took our four-month-old to Hawaii and had a blast. Stayed in a condo with a kitchen. Nursed mostly but baby also took a bottle as I was already back to work. Still remember hubby walking up and down the aisle of the airplane wearing baby in a front-carrier and bystanders being amazed at what a good “babysitter” he was, not knowing that hubby was a full-time stay-at-home dad.

      So the take-away message is, a three or four month old and Hawaii is do-able.

      • SoCalAtty :

        Thanks!! Good to hear. We’ll do that too – condo with kitchen and laundry. I know everyone talks about how they hate time shares, but ours is through Hilton, and points based, and I love the thing!

  2. WorkingMom :

    SO true. In some cases, full time childcare can be the equivalent of a small mortgage. I wish I was exaggerating. The biggest challenge for us has been not online full time childcare costs, but also transportation. Not all day care centers keep the same hours that many of us do. So someone has to drop the child off and pick the child up. Even when you get to school age, transportation is forever an issue. School does not run from 7am – 5pm. (And it shouldn’t, don’t get me wrong.)

    • I’m curious about your “and it shouldn’t” comment. While I agree that kids need fun and rigid school from 7 am – 5 pm would be bad, what if school included fun time from 3-6? I personally think “school hours” are antiquated from times when kids helped tend to the fields. The hours should be adjusted to what parents need in this century.

      • Anonymous :

        I don’t have kids yet but I’ve looked at the schools in the area, and there is one that starts with 3 year old care and offers additional hours. The regular 3 year old session is morning only so the additional hours only get you to 3pm, but once they’re 4 and in true pre-K, the aftercare goes until 6 (and that option continues through 8th grade). The description makes it sound like it’s mostly what you describe–supervised play time, after food and a nap. There is no additional instruction, and they also bill the aftercare time separately so you can treat it as childcare expenses for tax purposes, to the extent you are eligible for any cafeteria plan/tax credit/other benefits.

      • My child’s school starts at 8:15 and then has aftercare from 3-6. Aftercare is awesome. It’s one big play date with snacks for the littles and homework time/free time for the older kids. It is billed separately for teh reasons mentioned above.
        I hear you that it feels like a long day, but that’s all my child has ever known with two working parents. He’s still getting quality loving care, its just not me or DH that is giving him that. He knows some kids go home earlier and he tells us how much he likes staying to play. It’s hard to feel guilty when he is happy and thriving.

        • My daughter LOVED aftercare at her elementary school. Some days I was able to pick her up earlier and she would beg to go to aftercare. She liked playing with all her little friends!

      • +1 to Mascot’s comments. Our son was in aftercare through 6th grade, although DH is a professor with more flexible work hours so DS didn’t stay ’til 6 every day. It was a good experience for him – fun, enrichment activities, homework time when he was older.

      • My daughter had daycare for 2 years before starting kindergarten and never had any issues making it thorugh the day. She’s now in full day kindergarten and a few days of before and after school care. Even on her days just at full day kindergarten she is wiped out! With the focus on common core, and keeping up with standards it’s learn all the time and little room for play or rest. I value education, but a 6 year old can only handle so much sitting still and absorbing. I’d be all for a full day of education if they included more rest and play time though!

    • Yay! I am saveing alot of money so that I have money for retirement, but also if I have a baby, then I would be abel to spend some of it on the baby. But I want to have 2 babie’s, one boy and one girl and I need to have my first baby THIS year. I realy hope that I can find a guy to impregnate me, but if NOT I am lookeing into INVITRO Fertilization, where I pick a sperm donor from a list of peeople (unless I can find a guy who will give me his seemen).

      Myrna says I should see if I can find my OWN donor, but so far the guy’s I meet onley want to have sex, not to provide a DIXIE cup of seemen to a nurse who will freeze it for me. FOOEY! Myrna is thinkeing of freezeing her egg’s, but I do NOT want to be 50 and have them put my egg’s back in me with seemen fertilised. DOUBEL FOOEY!

  3. Oh this is so timely for me, as I’m 14 weeks into my 2nd pregnancy (kid one is 17 months).

    Child care: No joke, it’s crazy expensive. Last week I estimated what it will cost to have a 2 year old and an infant in full-time day care and it’s going to be north of $30k–it’ll likely be more than I made at my first job out of college. I just can’t wrap my brain around it. It’s like a car payment every week for just the one kid.

    Feeding: I’m not regretting my choice to bottle feed, but it is NOT cheap! We found the cheapest way to get it was through Amazon Prime. A pack of 6 big boxes was costing about $125, and we’d rip through that in about 3 weeks. It was worth it to me because bottle feeding is so easy, but it’s something I wasn’t expecting.

    Cars: I needed a new car when we were planning on the first kid, and I was like…you don’t REALLY need an SUV or minivan when you have a kid… It’s KIND of true, but we’re looking at replacing my husband’s 3 year old Jetta soon. I LOVE that car, but you can’t have 2 people in the front seat and a rear-facing car seat in the back. I feel like either baby things have gotten bigger or cars have gotten smaller. A bigger car is not really a need to have, it’s more of a nice to have, but I just wasn’t expecting to feel like I need so much more space in my cars.

    Actually…babies make your whole house feel smaller. I seriously get why people do the big house in the suburbs with the super long commute thing.

  4. On resetting expectations, don’t forgot about contributions to 401K. You’re not looking at just straight salary stopping if you’re staying at home. Your employer benefits–401K, health insurance, bonuses, etc. should also be considered.

  5. Daycare cost :

    (I think this is relevant to this thread, but Kat, feel free to delete if it is too far off the path).

    Can people who have a child/children in full-time, private daycare please post how much you pay per month? Asking b/c we are currently in one large city (in the SE) but may be relocating to either a large Northeastern city or a large West Coast city prior to baby’s arrival, and so trying to get a grasp on costs in different regions.

    • SoCalAtty :

      I am on the list for two. The first is $1400 / month, and the second is $900 / month. The second is lower because it is partially subsidized by the school district and shares facilities. That’s right outside of Los Angeles, at very highly rated facilities.

    • Anon in NYC :

      In NYC I’ve been quoted anything from 1500 – 3400/mo. Quality and “enrichment” offerings vary based on price (like, music teachers, baby yoga, daycare-provided food, etc.). At 1500/mo, it is pretty bare bones.

      • officedronette :

        Also NYC, downtown, centers in our neighborhood for full-time infant care are $2400-2900.

    • Extended hours (6:30 – 6:30), brand-new and very nice private daycare that is also a Montessori school through 3rd grade. Very large city in Texas.

      Infant care is roughly 1300/month. Prices decrease as they get older and we now pay 900/month for my toddler (yay?). We do pay a little extra for basketball and soccer lessons offered during the day, however.

      • Anonymous :

        JJ, I think I’m in the same metro area as you. If you don’t mind me asking, would your daycare happen to be in the P-burb or a similar distance from downtown? I’m not at this point yet but curious whether these extended hour options exist mostly out further where even an 8-5 work schedule can require 6:30 to 6:30 care if the parent works downtown by the time they sit for 90 minutes in the car each way because of the guaranteed daily accident(s) on each of you know what and you know what. Would love it if those hours are to be found in the neighborhoods closer to downtown even though, again, this is years down the road for me.

        • I’m not in the P-burb, but in a suburb slightly closer to downtown (both as the crow flies and driving-time), and my daycare/school has several locations in other ‘burbs. Both daycares that we’ve used have offered extended care from 6:30 – 6:30. I have some friends that have used daycares that are closer in to town and I’m fairly certain they offer similar hours. In actual downtown, though, there are really only 2 good daycare options (that do have the same hours) and both have waiting lists for at least 10+ months.

    • SA-litagor :

      I live in Austin, Texas and good child care here runs $950 to $1100 per month.

    • We don’t use it anymore, but for the short time we did here in East TN (very low cost of living area), the higher end one that we used was just over $1000 (I think about $1050) per month (plus you supply all of the food, diapers, etc.) for infants and dropped to just below $1000 after 1 year. There are a lot in the area where the infant charge is more in the $800-900 range, though, but this was one seemed better in a lot of ways (and we were surprisingly happy with it, for a couple who really hated the idea of using day care).

      • Is that the Chattanooga part of East Tennessee? I’d love to hear more about what you did if that’s the case.

        • Chattanooga :

          I live in Chattanooga, and my infant daycare is $885 a month.

        • Nope, Knoxville. (Though I used to live in Chatt, and loved it there.) The place that we liked was the Goddard School, and I believe that they have locations in Chatt, too. We ultimately decided to go with my husband staying home, though.

    • Close-in DC suburb: $1700/month for an infant. Provides formula and food.

    • In my area of Brooklyn there are three daycares, and each is ~$30k/yr (~$2500/month).

    • Diana Barry :

      FWIW, when I looked a few years ago the centers for infant care in the Boston suburbs were about $2000/$2500/month. May be higher now.

      We pay about $2850/month for our nanny (on the books, that is our all-in cost) and that is for 3 kids.

    • Bay Area. $1340 for 3-5 year olds and $1650 for infants, both at a good, larger, waiting list-type daycare/preschool (7:30-6:00 coverage). Both kids started at licensed in home daycare, which was in the $1000ish range for similar or slightly shorter hours.

      • hmmm…. in my part of the Bay Area: $1500-$1600 for 3 yr. olds (in the midst of next year’s sign up now); and $1600-$1800 for infants and toddlers. Our daughter was home with a nanny for the first two years, @ ~$2800/ month (on the books, taxes paid).

        • Watermelon :

          My part is $2500-ish a month for an infant in a daycare center. However, you might not get off a waitlist for some time, so it’s even more for a nanny until there’s room at a center.

      • SF Bay Assoc :

        I’m on the hunt now and have called dozens of places. Most places are $1.8k-$2.2k for infant care in the peninsula area. Many have a 100 person wait list – no exaggeration.

    • We pay $1400/month for a high-quality private daycare (with music classes, healthy meals provided, an outdoor play area, etc.) in Boston. Our daycare is a bit of a unicorn, though, and many of the other options we were considering were in the $2500-3000 range for the same quality of care.

    • DC – nice center – $2K/month for infant. No break for second child.

      ETA – before we put her in a center, she was in an in-home daycare that ran about $1600/month.

      • Ditto — we’re paying $2k for our infant at a nice center in NOVA. Extended day (over 9 hours) is $2076. It’s more than our mortgage.

    • Midwest mid-size city. We pay $368/week for full-time infant (which is 6 weeks up to 2). The price sheet we just got says it goes down to $295 at age 2.

    • DC, slightly subsidized cost because our daycare is in our federal building: $240/week for my 4 year old. My first grader is $182/month for before school care (school starts at 9) and $180/week for two hours of afterschool babysitting. When they were a newborn and 2, respectively, we paid about $2400/month.

      When our toddler got booted from school for behavior (ouch), we hired a live-in nanny and paid about $2600/month, plus taxes.

      Don’t forget summers for school-aged kids! I got a great deal on YMCA summer camps, and we are still forking over $2400 for 8 weeks for just the one kid. It’s brutal.

      • God, yes!!!! SUMMER IS THE WORST. Just when you think you’re done with day care costs… Summer is more fun as a working mom because you don’t have to worry about homework and stuff after work, but it is definitely a financial hit for us compared to the expense of after-school care.

        • Meg Murry :

          And so many of the summer camps in my area are 9-3 and still expensive. Seriously, 9-3?? Or I have to drive my kid 20-30 minutes to camp daily for a closer to all day option. And I have to piece it together week by week.
          Our daycare offers a summer program, but its almost all younger kids, so I don’t want him to spend his whole summer bored. Looking forward to when he’s old enough for a week or two of sleep away camp -although that doesn’t count as “childcare” for tax purposes. Ugh, US education system – 3 months off in the summer is so unnecessary

    • Paying a lot :

      In SF Bay Area. $450/week, full time (6-6 if need be) 5 days a week, breakfast and lunch and snacks included, for a toddler (18 mo – 2 years). He’ll be cheaper when he’s in the 2s. It’s a corporate day care (not in home). That’s not including extras (music class, etc.). I like it because it goes all the way through pre-k, but we might switch to a closer place soon (on the waiting list for one – was told there would be a spot in the spring; have been in the waiting list for another for at least 18 months, lol).

    • Katniss Everdeen :

      SF Bay Area. I pay $1000/month for licensed in-home daycare for the 18 month old (5 days/week, 8-6) and $2000/month for full-time (well, 9-6) preschool for the four year old. We also spend about $700 per month on extra evening babysitting to cover pick-ups on nights we have to work late.

    • Infant care in a nice boston suburb: quotes from $1800-$2500/month for group care (big chain and small local chain). We go 4x a week and pay $1600/month. Our current place knocks it down to “only” $1500/month once you hit 2.9 years. Other places drop after you hit 15 months.

      A friend a bit further out in the suburbs pays $1500/month for her 15 month old.

      In MA, the ratios are 7:2 or 3:1 for infants. Our daycare is almost always 6:2 because not all infants are full time.

    • Late, but wanted to chime in for Atlanta. We pay almost $1200/month at Creme for our 18 month old (prices drop when she moves into the next room). Great place, DD is super happy, and it’s the best hours (7-7). I can’t imagine leaving her there during all of her waking hours, so the late pick up isn’t as helpful as I thought it would be. Many other places are cheaper, but the program and facilities sold us.

      • Also, look at what is included. Our daycare provides all food, diapers, wipes, cream, etc. I love not lugging in all that stuff and I suspect that alone is worth $200-400/month. I did have to bring in prepared bottles and purées, but nothing since she weaned.

  6. Anon in NYC :

    ETA that one of the things my husband and I are doing is thinking about college savings.

    What sort of research can/should be done about 529s and other college savings vehicles? Any recommendations on where to start?

    Also, if you were to prioritize retirement savings versus college savings, which would you choose? I’ve heard that retirement should get more weight, since you can take out student loans but you can’t borrow for retirement.

    • Retirement. 100% of the time. A college senior who is cash-strapped can come up with a lot of options (defer for a year/two and work, loans, scholarships, in-state, etc). A 65 year old who is cash-strapped is in a much more precarious position.

    • Absolutely retirement. No question. We fully fund two 401ks and IRAs – if we can save on top of that, it goes into a 529. If we end up with more in retirement savings than we really need, we can use that to help pay off any loans our kids have ended up with. If not…it’s better for our kids to have student loans than to have to support their retired parents.

    • Diana Barry :

      100% retirement.

      We also fully fund our retirement savings (I have 401k, DH has a SEP IRA) and then we throw a few hundred a month into the 529s. Will prob do more as the kids get older.

      We don’t get a state income tax deduction, so we just picked the 529 held with Schwab, where we have the rest of our investments.

    • Meg Murry :

      And you could take money out of an IRA if absolutely necessary for education expenses – but you can’t take out of a 529 for retirement expenses – so definitely prioritize retirement. http://www.irs.gov/publications/p970/ch09.html

    • We pay (as stated above) $1800/month for one child. We will be looking at $3500/month once we have two. We plan to keep setting that $ aside after the full time childcare needs are met and put that all in various savings vehicles (a mix of a 529 and a generic savings account). After 10 years of $3500 socked away, we will be looking at $420,000 in the bank. We will probably only put about $1-200k of that in the 529 to keep the rest of it usable for other purposes.

    • I’m an accounting professor and a CPA, and I can tell you definitively to fund your 401K and IRA first before you consider a Coverdell or other college tuition fund. All are tax-deferred; IRA withdrawals can be used for qualified educational expenses at a secondary school. IRAs and 401Ks are generally excluded from FAFSA calculations for financial aid, as they are your assets.

      One key point, especially if you are like me and rolled a bunch of 401Ks into an IRA – consider an IRA that can be converted to an inherited IRA if you and your spouse pass away. Most people forget about IRAs when they set up trusts in their will for their kids. An inherited IRA option lets you require your child to receive the minimum distributions and maintain the remaining principal until a specified age of majority.

  7. UpstateNYatty :

    This is my first Corporette comment. I’ve dilligently read and followed comments for years, but as a spectator. This post is EXACTLY the conversation I’ve been having with my husband and the numbers I’ve been crunching prior to TTC. Two things that I would love to hear further commentary on:

    1) What kind of out of pocket expenses can you expect during pregnancy and newborn months that could be covered by an HSA? Of course it depends on insurance (ours luckily has phenomenal pregnancy and delivery coverage), but what are some things that you have set aside money for in addition to the obvious co-pays, hospital bill, etc.?
    2) Short-term disability coverage in NY, from a private company like Aflac… how does this work if you have no maternity leave but would be using PTO?

    Looking forward to hearing your responses!

    • We had an FSA, not an HSA, and used it to pay for a doula (best baby investment ever!) and pump rental (dr-ordered).

    • Anonymous :

      No personal experience with short-term disability, but I’ve read that you must have a doctor’s note for it, and so you’ll only be eligible for 6-8 weeks unless you have an extremely complicated delivery.

      ETA: you might want to look into whether your insurance covers lactation consultants, and +1 to the above comment re: a doula!!!

      • Definitely doula! Though our HSA didn’t cover her. Still the best $1000 we spent on birth/ baby stuff.

        • Ah, yes, thanks for the $$ for doula. Will definitely have one of those lined up since my SO is not planning on being in the delivery room (I’m okay with this – he is fairly squeamish, and would probably be more of a distraction than a help).

        • UpstateNYatty :

          Great points! Need to find out if 1) insurance covers doulas and lactation consultants/classes, and 2) if not insurance, does FSA cover it? Did find out that insurance covers b-pump but does not cover lamaze type classes.

          • I believe, though I am not certain, that the ACA mandates coverage for a certain number of visits with a lactation consultant.

          • My pediatrician’s office has LCs on staff, which is convenient but also means that they can bill appointments with the LCs to our insurance company. It’s covered (at least for my insurance) as long as they submit it as a “feeding problem.” Something to consider as you’re picking a pediatrician.

        • SoCalAtty :

          Do you ladies think that a doula would be helpful if I already know it will be a c-section?

          • I’ve heard it is helpful – they know how all the routines go for all kinds of births and can be your advocate. That said, I don’t think c-sections are too tough to manage if you’re prepared ahead of time.

    • I have Aflac in a midwestern state, so our rules might be different, but for me PTO didn’t matter — I got Aflac payment/s on top of that.

      • UpstateNYatty :

        Interesting! I will have to find out about how it works here–if I could get Aflac on top of using paid sick time off for the 6 or 8 weeks or whatever time is “sick”/the disability period your dr. would certify you for.

    • I would also add that you may have additional “out of pocket/out of scope” expenses related to your delivery, if its a bit more complicated. I had to have an emergency C-section, and baby had a NICU stay, and there were costs that categorized differently that mean they were out of pocket, but did not count towards our “out of pocket” total. (I am forgetting the actual designation for this.)

      One example, the back up “on call” OBGYN that supposedly seconded my procedure (who I swear was not in the room). He, a hospitalist, wasn’t in our network, and because an OBGYN from my practice actual preformed the procedure, his fee was essentially out of scope, and was excluded from our out of pocket total. We ended up paying more than our family’s annual out-of-pocket because of those sort of expenses.

    • I used my HSA (but an FSA would work too) for prenatal vitamins (get a prescription from your dr because they are OTC), chidlbirth classes, lactation consultant copay, [email protected] supplies (extra pump parts, creams, storage bottles, ice packs, etc.), you can also use it for mileage to and from all places you received treatment/bought stuff, which I didn’t know until very recently.

      I also wanted to have the fetal DNA test done and wasn’t sure my insurance covered it. I was fully prepared to pay $1800 out of pocket using HSA money to cover it. (as it happens, my insurance covered it after I met my deductible, so that was a nice surprise).

      • UpstateNYatty :

        I was wondering how that worked with prenatals, because I know if you just buy OTC at a drug store it won’t qualify. My insurance told me that the ACA mandates coverage for [email protected] pump (mine will pay 100% of single price or that much toward a double) and parts… but not supplies like pads, wipes, extra bottles, baggies to freeze etc. I didn’t think about using FSA funds for those extra supplies, and I definitely didn’t know about mileage, thanks!

    • officedronette :

      Re point 1 – One thing I didn’t bank on was having difficulty maintaining pregnancy. I’ve had two miscarriages and have required significant interventions (to the tune of $6K out-of-pocket, but HSA-eligible) to maintain this pregnancy (almost halfway and hoping we get to bring this baby home). So while people may think of infertility costs and the costs of ART, I hadn’t hear anyone mention the cost of having a miscarriage.

      Definitely make sure you have some room in your budget for the unexpected, though I hope you never need it and it ends up being an additional cushion after baby.

      Getting hit with pregnancy costs, and then surgery costs for the miscarriage (needed D&C, which isn’t uncommon), and then going back to square one had a financial impact in addition to the obvious and painful emotional impact. I would guess I spent $1500-2000 for care related to the babies I’ll never get to meet.

  8. SA-litagor :

    Very timely here as well. Also, it’s worth pointing out that short term disability is a great option if your employer does not have paid leave (looking at you government jobs, small firms, etc), BUT it usually has a 9 month waiting period for benefits. So if you’ve even thinking about TTC, sign up for short term disability now.

    • Agreed. But also, if you’re not taking a long maternity leave because you aren’t getting paid during it, do the math. I was all hot to sign up for short term disability since I wasn’t eligible for my first child due to the waiting period. Then we did the math and for my planned 8 week maternity leave, it would only pay like $300 more than the premiums I would end up paying in. It might be worth it if I had complications or was in a car accident or something but as an income recovery plan for maternity leave, we ended up just dumping the premium amount into savings each month.

    • If you’re getting paid leave (6 weeks paid, then another 2.5 months of vacation and sick days), can you get short term disability for that time as well? Or is that double-dipping? I think I might have just answered my own question….

      • At my employer, our “paid leave” IS our short term disability. So, no, you can’t tack on any more of that (unless, of course, you had complications during childbirth that warrant it).

      • I used my short term disability (6 weeks) and then another six weeks of sick and vacation time. I work for the government and we don’t get any paid leave aside from short term disability and what we have saved up in leave time.

        • UpstateNYatty :

          So, Anon at 5:26 you were able to tack sick time on after the short term disability period too? I work for the government also, but no short term disability is offered so it would have to be private (if I am even eligible). It would be great to use some kind of short term disability, say for 6 weeks, but then I’m not sure I could use another 6 weeks of (paid) sick time off after that, because that would essentially be 12 weeks of disability/sickness.

          • Yes, I was able to tack it on after (and before actually, since our policy has a waiting period). The checks from short term disability came separate from my regular pay check. I used up almost all my sick leave and almost all my vacation time. My HR representative did all the paperwork and figured it all out for me (and I didn’t really understand the breakdown she used, like some weeks were 3 days sick, 2 days vacation, etc.). I had to get some stuff signed by my midwife, but that was really it. So I had a total of 12 weeks off paid.

  9. SuziStockbroker :

    I’m Canadian so Kat’s healthcare advice doesn’t apply.

    By far our biggest expense was childcare. Littlest one is in full day school now, yipee!

    I put my kids on the waiting list for daycare through the school BEFORE they were born and still never got in, so we went with a nanny after the second one was born which cost us about $34K a year.

    DEFINITELY sign up for daycare the minute you can, and then (this is important), you have to call the daycare regularly and check where you are on the list. I have heard too many stories from friends all over North America not to believe that the squeaky wheel gets the oil in this case.

    You really do not need all the “stuff”. In larger cities it seems like it is some kind of competitive sport these days, having the “right” stroller etc. I never bought into that and am glad I didn’t. Your baby does not care! And will be fine without the high end stuff.

    Also, because I am crazy, I used cloth diapers. I had 2 in cloth dipes at one point and was working full time. It’s actually a lot less work than you’d think and its waaaaaay cheaper, especially if you think you’ll have more than one child.

    • UpstateNYatty :

      Very interested in cloth diapers here–but I’ve found that none of the local childcare centers here allow them. It’s very disappointing.

      • Interesting. If you’re around Albany, I have heard of several who do.

        • UpstateNYatty :

          In between Albany and Syracuse. I’ve been told it is a “sanitary” issue… not sure how so though. They all seem to have the same policy, I think it’s just easier on them (or they believe it to be). I was told that they welcome b-feeding though… gee, thanks! Not too progressive if you can’t tell.

          • Have you brought in pocket dipes to show them? Our first daycare was hesitant, but fine once they saw them. Many care providers think of old school prefolds w/ pins. My sister had a similar experience with her daycare provider in a different city.

          • The parents who cloth diapered in our daycare provided ready to go (pre-stuffed or all in ones) diapers and a wet bag. Diapers came off the child and went straight into the bag, no dumping, no rinsing. Putting it into the bag was no different than putting the disposables in the trash. They wore gloves for all changes. I think once a parent showed them how easy it was (no pins, no rinsing) they got on board.

          • UpstateNYatty :

            Thanks atty and mascot. Those are great suggestions. I have not brought anything in yet as we’re only TTC right now–but I had called around to get prices on daycares (there are only a few large centers locally that offer the kind of schedule we’d be looking for), and thought to ask about cloth diapers while I was getting the info. I do think many people have outdated ideas of cloth diapering. On that note, could you share your favorite resources? I’ve already stumbled across endless websites and youtube videos–the info is a bit overwhelming!

          • The online cloth diaper scene is very overwhelming. I like Kelly’s Closet, Jillian’s Drawers (retail store in Ithaca), and Diaper Junction, all of which carry a bunch of brands and all of which have programs that let you try out a bunch of dipes and only keep/pay for the ones you like. Couple things: the cloth options for a newborn (<10 lbs) are a little different because they don't fit the "one size"/adjustable dipes that many people use for the rest of the kid's time in dipes. So you can either try newborn dipes and then switch to one size or wait 2-3 months. Craigslist is also a great resource. Other than that, feel out what works for you. BumGenius one size pockets are probably the most common, universal cloth dipe out there, but there are cheaper brands (Kawaii) that are fine, pricier brands that fit marginally better on my kids at least (blueberry) . . . it's endless. Good luck!

          • AttiredAttorney :

            It may be a state licensing rule restriction, and have nothing to do with the type of cloth diapers you have or their lack of familiarity with them.

          • UpstateNYatty :

            It is endless! Thanks so much for all the info. I didn’t know there were options where you could try and then keep only the ones you like. That’s great to know–it seems silly to invest in a whole bunch of stuff and then find out the brand doesn’t work for your baby. On a funny side note, my husband is completely on board with cloth diapering except he has it STUCK in his head that he will not put a poopy diaper in our brand new washing machine. I even explained about b-feeding poop being different from when your baby starts to eat real food and how it will basically just disappear into the water (not to mention a rinse cycle!)… so he’s already insisting that we will have to empty the diapers in the toilet before wash, lol. I have to laugh, but seriously that will sort of defeat the point to add another step in!

          • Anon for this :

            Hopefully your daycare would accept the all-in-one cloth diapers, that really are not any more inconvenient or unsanitary than disposibles for the childcare worker.

            I have such a peeve though. Poop on any kind of diaper, cloth OR disposible, is supposed to go in the toilet, NOT just thrown in the trash.

          • Coach Laura :

            Diaper liners! These are such a great thing I still remember – 18 years later! They are thin tissue-weight liners that go in between baby and diaper (paper or cloth) and the solid stuff just rinses off and then the liner is disposed. And now on the wonder of amazon I see that they have biodegradable liners. Seriously, diaper liners are easier to use and no need to rinse (cloth or disposable) diaper in toilet!

          • anonymama :

            Wait, how on earth do you put poop from a diaper into the toilet? My babies generally had poop with consistency somewhere between mustard and peanut butter, I can’t imagine the mess of trying to scrape that into the toilet.

          • UpstateNYatty :

            Coach Laura, I’ve heard about liners, they sound great especially the biodegradable ones but I’ve heard they get pricey? The world of cloth diapering certainly offers a lot of options! Kat-would love to see a whole post on it maybe at CorporetteMoms! All in ones definitely seem convenient, but not the most economical option? Pockets seem like the middle of the road and most universally used option like atty above mentioned.

      • I worked at a day care in college that allowed the pocket or all-in-one diapers, but the cost of tuition also included pampers provided by the center so most parents just went with that. Later, when I had my own kids and my husband stayed home we used cloth diapers. It really saved a lot of money over the two kids.

    • UpstateNYatty :

      AttiredAttorney, I think you may be right in my case. While other centers in NY may allow them, these particular 2 I talked to did mention something about restrictions and what they are “allowed” to do. Will have to look more into this.

  10. UpstateNYatty :

    This post is EXACTLY the conversation I’ve been having with my husband and the numbers I’ve been crunching prior to TTC. Two things that I would love to hear further commentary on:

    1) What kind of out of pocket expenses can you expect during pregnancy and newborn months that could be covered by an HSA? Of course it depends on insurance (ours luckily has phenomenal pregnancy and delivery coverage), but what are some things that you have set aside money for in addition to the obvious co-pays, hospital bill, etc.?
    2) Short-term disability coverage in NY, from a private company like Aflac… how does this work if you have no paid maternity leave but would be using your own PTO?

    Looking forward to hearing your responses!

    • Anon in NYC :

      One of the things that insurance may or may not cover are things like birthing classes, newborn/infant CPR care, and b-feeding classes. Mine didn’t, so that was about $700 in NYC. I was able to pay for it using my FSA card.

  11. goirishkj :

    Check out daycare options even if you think your partner will stay home. When our daughter was born, DH was still working on his dissertation but looking for full time work. We figured he would stay home with her when I returned to my job. A week after she was born, he got an offer. We had not looked at all at daycare because the job search hadn’t been very fruitful. Luckily, there was an infant spot at a center several friends highly recommended so all was well, but it made for a stressful time.

  12. Another timely one here. I’m thinking a lot about how much leave I can/want to take. I have short term disability through work, but it effectively only gives me one or two paychecks (depending on whether it’s a vaginal delivery or c-section) at 60%. I’ll have at least a month of PTO available, but I’d like to save some of it. I’d be interested to hear if other people agree with Kat’s 1-5K cushion. I think I’d like to have at least two full paychecks banked, which would put me in that range, but probably more considering random health costs.

  13. eek vaccines :

    I hadn’t thought of the vaccines thing. What if you are already trying to conceive but haven’t received any updates/boosters lately? Is it too late to get another MMR if you are actively TTC, given that you could be pregnant but don’t yet know it? I told my primary care doctor that we were going to start TTC within the year but she didn’t mention anything about my needing additional vaccines…

    • If you are unsure whether you are immune, have a blood test (titer) done.

    • Anon in NYC :

      I would ask your OB about the MMR vaccine. I think it is not recommended for pregnant women, so you may want to wait until you know for sure before trying to get one. My doctor recommends the flu vaccine (in the first trimester is fine) and Tdap (but not until the third trimester).

    • When I had my first OB appointment after getting pregnant, they did bloodwork and after seeing the results, told me I would need an MMR booster after I had the baby. This was pre-measles outbreak, but they didn’t seem too concerned.

    • Get a blood test to know if you need another vaccine (I did this–still have immunity). There should be certain times in your cycle where you can be fairly certain you are not pregnant (ask your doctor; read Taking Charge of Your Fertility), so I would get a booster then if it turns out you need it.

    • Meg Murry :

      I was recommended to get the tDap (or Dtap?) booster after my son was born due to concern with the whooping cough risk to infants, and the fact that I hadn’t had a booster in at least 10 years. They gave to me at the hospital postpartum.

    • Late to the conversation but during the 3rd tri of my last (3rd) pregnancy I got a dTap booster. You pass some immunity for whooping cough via that booster. This was pre-measles scare; no idea about an MMR booster, but it’s definitely worth a query to the med question line of your doctor and OBGYN.

  14. One big problem on the maternity leave front is that a lot of smaller employers just don’t have policies for leave (nor does FMLA apply). For my first, I was the first time that the issue had come up in the 30 year history of the firm. It worked out fine; I took 8 weeks off and stayed in touch with the office, but they were very laid back in general and it wasn’t a burden.

    I’m a little over 1/2 way through my current pregnancy, at a new job that has a lot greater demands going on, and I can’t get any answer about what they expect/want/are willing to do at all. There’s been one attorney (my boss) who’s done this before, years ago, but I’m pretty sure that she’s the only one, and she hasn’t given me anything to go on (she can be a little weird when you don’t ask questions in just the right way, so I was hoping that she’d volunteer information in response to my hints before I have to ask outright, but I’m thinking that I might have to). All I’ve gotten so far is non-answers like “We’ll have to figure that out.” Ugh. We don’t even really have a vacation/PTO policy – you just kind of take off when you want/need to and assume they’ll let you know if it becomes a problem. I’m pretty much the easiest pregnant employee ever, no complications or even morning sickness, will have a planned c-section so we’ll know the exact date well in advance, and my husband’s a SAHD, so I have a huge amount of flexibility. We’ve planned enough savings that I can take some time unpaid if necessary (though that will hurt), and I’m happy to work part time and/or from home for a little bit, but I wish that I knew what’s going to be expected of me.

  15. All of this perfectly sums up why I am terrified of having children……

    • Anonymous :

      Me too. These posts are very informative and I’m glad to learn from others’ experiences. But to be quite honest I also find them abit depressing: if it’s not the financial concerns, it’s leave policies and how to juggle work/family. It’s exhausting just to think about :(

    • Anonymous :

      Not only that but considering I have been on the fence of whether or not I want to have children, this sort of posts tip me into the ‘he!! no category. I don’t understand what families with modest incomes do for childcare.

      • This is just a guess. But informal systems/unlicensed day cares e.g. leaving with the lady down the street that another friend recommended. Or if available family/friends/neighbours. Or home alone: remember a story on the news of a woman who was arrested for having left a toddler home alone. She was a single mom, said she had to go to work, it was either that or risk losing her job. It’s no excuse obviously but it made me appreciate how difficult it is.

        • anonforthis :

          +1. We have a modest income and pay a SAHM friend of mine who has younger school-aged children (and also a modest income) to watch my baby. We pay her half of what the daycare centers we looked into cost. We get a break on child care costs, she gets some income while being able to walk her children to/from the bus stop and attend their assemblies, etc.

      • Yep, I was on the fence too and my husband and I decided we don’t want kids. That was 10 years ago and reading stuff like this makes me relieved with the choice.

        • Same here. Was also on the fence and I’m so glad I chose not to have kids. The financial freedom is incredibly liberating on so many levels.

    • Yes, I find this part scarier than all of those crazy birth stories you read online! Realistically, most people are not as wealthy as the readership here and manage just fine, so I’m sure my neurosis is just going into overdrive.

      • On balance, I was pregnant and reading all the crazy birth stories on the internet. I was 10 days late and that was literally all I did for the last 3 of them. I made myself sick with worry.

        I had the easiest, best delivery- i had decided to try “no meds” but things went from “nothing” to “FULL ON LABOR” in about an hour so meds were had immediately upon arrival, and the doctor got a hug from my husband. I then sat back, watched the morning news for an hour, and was told “hey, the baby is coming NOW, you may want to push!” by the nurse when she checked on me. 10 minutes of pushing later and baby was OUT. Also, DH and I are well educated and make decent but not crazy money. We pay THROUGH THE NOSE for childcare (more than our already high mortgage payment…). The trick is that (1) baby doesn’t care about anything. baby will sleep in a laundry basket, bathe in the sink and play with a cardboard box and HAVE THE TIME OF HIS LIFE. The first ~5 months are all about the parents. (2) people do this all the time.

    • Asideralis :

      Same! So much work and they are so expensive. Plus, they’re little humans that you can’t control easily. I’d rather just keep my dogs and have the extra money.

    • I really want kids, and soon, but it the finances of it really makes me nervous (not enough to not have kids, but enough that I’ll worry about it incessantly). Have any of you asked your parents about assisting with childcare if they live near you? Both of mine are preparing to retire and dying for a grandchild. I’m nearly certain they’d be more than willing to help 1-2x per week, but part of me would feel a lot better knowing this before having the kid… but then asking also opens a flood gate of “WHEN WILL I HAVE A GRANDCHILD?!”

      Oof.

      • Anonymous :

        If they would be willing to help with kids, great. You are lucky. But you should still consider that you may have to pay for some form of child-care/backup care. Even the most well-meaning grand parents sometimes want a break or other things might come up that they have to attend to. No kids here but I would reach out to family if they lived close.

      • Meg Murry :

        My mother took my kids 1 day a week when they were little, and now she handles after school 2 days a week. My MIL did 1 or 2 days a week in summer. The difficult part about it is when you have different expectations of rules – for instance, we had to have a talk with MIL that we expected her to enforce some rules about napping and food when she was regular caretaker, not just grandma who spoils kid rotten. Because skipping nap and having ice cream for lunch once a month with grandma is one thing – doing it 2x a week every week is recipe for disaster.

  16. Anonymous :

    Hope this is not off-topic but I wonder how much financial considerations factored in deciding whether to have more than one kid. After reading this post and the other about keeping up with your network if you decide to stay at home, I realize this is something else to consider. I’m mid-thirties, single, and don’t even know when I would be having a kid. But just based on financial considerations alone I’m not sure if I would really want to take a step back and stay-at-home.

    • I’ll answer. It did factor in. Not exclusively, but it certainly went into the deliberations. We could afford more than one, but we really like that we can consider more options for schools, activities, housing, vacations, sports, etc. by only paying for one. It was part of a greater resources evaluation. With two career spouses, there are only so many ways to divide our time. We both want to go to events instead of the divide and conquer strategy necessary for multiple kids schedules. The thought of that stressed us out.
      not knocking parents of multiple kids and their choices at all, just not the right choice for our family

      • Amen to all of this. We could afford to have more than one child if we really wanted to, but with one kid we have the time and resources to provide her with many more opportunities. It was even more about time than about finances. We also happen to be blessed with a very well-behaved, portable child whom we have been able to take just about anywhere since she was very young. A second child might have had a much different temperament, which would have restricted what we could do as a family.

    • SuziStockbroker :

      And on the other side of the coin, we decided we’d have multiple children even though they are (extremely) expensive, and certainly also set me back in my career by a number of years.

      What helped was my husband’s amazing pension, which meant we didn’t HAVE to save as agressively for retirement.

      It’s all worked out in the end, financially. I’m making a lot more than I did when I was in the thick of having babies and we have more than enough for all their activities, future education (we started saving when each was born).

      I paid to come to work one year, for sure but (in my case) it would have been very shortsighted to say “it will be cheaper if I stay home”.

      • This is great to hear. Thank you. We have two–more would be a financial stretch, but really we just don’t have the personal and time resources to stretch further. We’re okay now financially (in the thick of preschool years), but they’ll go to public school and especially my income will go up over time. So think about what one can handle in terms of $$ and energy now, in 2 years, 5 years, and 15 years. Each of those answers is/was different for us.

    • SoCalAtty :

      It does for us. We could afford more than one, if we really wanted to, but there are certain schools and things I’d like to do with the one child that I probably couldn’t do for 2. I was basically an only child (lived with grandparents, brother stayed with mom), and loved it, so I think we’re just doing one.

    • It did. We have one and are decidedly not “done.” DH and I both are mid-career and I got 2 promotions in the year I had my baby. I grew up with a SAHM and want a different kind of childhood for my kids. DH had 2 working parents until he was 10, then his dad retired and he had a retiree SAHD which is a bit different.

      I *may* consider SAHM-dom when we have more than one kid and a bit more money in the bank. In reality though, I may just try to go part time or work as a consultant with my current gig.

      • More to life than this... :

        Yep, money’s tight for a few years — but we wanted to have multiple kids to have a family. My husband was an only child and hated it; I had a sibling growing up who is one of my best friends now… it was very important to us to create that kind of family.

  17. My oldest daughter went to an in-home day care that an extended family member (her dad’s cousin) ran. I was still in grad school at this time and so it was really nice to have an affordable option with someone we trusted. She went there from infancy-4 years old. Then she started at a half-day pre-school and the other half-day at a day care center. There were a number of other kids that did the same thing and so the day care had a bus that picked them up. She is now in 8th grade and my husband takes her to school and picks her up everyday and then shuttles her around to various afterschool activities.

    8 years later, I had my son and then 2 years later, my last baby. My son is now 6 and in full day kindergarten and my daughter is 4. I work as a lawyer and my husband has been a stay at home dad for the past 6 years. He is an engineer and does part-time, contract based work mostly at night/weekends when I am home. It doesn’t pay a huge amount of money, but is good for keeping him connected. His mother just retired and is willing to help with child care, so we are considering whether he should go back full time. I am concerned she won’t do very much with the kids and will just let them watch TV all day. . .She is also interested in traveling, so I’m not sure how much help she can really commit to. So we will see, I am trying not to stress about it since we haven’t made any decisions yet. I really like my husband being home with the kids (even the school-age ones! Its nice not to have to worry about school closures, etc), but we could also use the money/additional retirement contributions, etc that come with him working full time.

  18. 1. When it comes to child care, the most expensive is not necessarily the best, but the best will definitely have a huge waiting list. Do some preliminary research before getting pregnant so you are ready to get on the waiting lists for your top choices the moment you find out you are pregnant.
    2. Be prepared to take an income hit before the baby is even born. I was pregnant during law school and my internship paid on an hourly basis. I had hyperemesis and tried my best to soldier through, but still had to take some time off when I was throwing up too much, or too close to passing out, to drive to work. Over the past few years, nearly every pregnant woman I’ve known has been put on bed rest towards the end of the pregnancy, which means short-term disability. I am not sure whether this reflects a larger trend in obstetric practice, or just bad luck among my acquaintances.
    3. Do not buy a lot of maternity clothes or clothes for the baby right away, until you know what works for you. I wasted money on work clothes and a gorgeous maternity wrap coat. I ended up wearing the same Japanese Weekend wrap dress for every dressy occasion, wore the same two pairs of pants to work over and over, and never wore the coat because I was always too hot. The baby never wore the cute little onesie + cardigan + pants outfits I bought her because newborns are difficult to dress and look weird in pants anyway. She spent the first nine months of her life in one-piece pajamas (winter) or sunsuits (summer).
    4. Do not buy a big huge stroller that is made to work with your car seat. We had and loved a car seat + umbrella stroller combo that was compact and easy to use. Other families we know have been very happy with car seat + Snap N Go until the baby is big enough to sit up in a good umbrella stroller (Chicco and McLaren seem to be popular). Giant strollers are cumbersome to fold, unfold, and maneuver. We do not know anyone who has actually liked and used their giant stroller. The one exception to the no-giant-strollers rule is the high-quality jogging stroller, which we used a lot for walks in the neighborhood, to the store, to the park, etc.
    5. Do not buy any baby toys, gadgets, etc. until the baby is actually in the developmental stage where the item will be used. You will have a much better idea about what type of high chair you actually want when your baby is 6 months old than you will when you are 6 months pregnant.
    6. Baby will do just fine sleeping in a pack-n-play for the first 6 months until she is old enough to start sleeping in her own room. No fancy co-sleeper or bassinet is necessary.
    7. Do not save specifically for college unless you are already maxing out your retirement savings and have a sufficient cash reserve for emergencies. Better to focus your tax-advantaged savings on retirement than to put them into an account where their use may be more restricted.
    8. During maternity leave you may go stir-crazy and want to get out of the house whenever possible. It is very easy to spend lots of money on coffee, lunches, outings, etc. A membership to our local botanical garden turned out to be a good investment for me, as walking around in the garden helped keep me from going shopping all the time.

    • What do you consider a “giant stroller”? I was considering the baby jobber city mini gt (not actually a jogging stroller). You can snap in the car seat and then use as a regular stroller.

      • I am classifying as giant anything larger than an umbrella stroller that takes a car seat and then works as a regular stroller, such as the Graco car seat/stroller combos that were popular when my daughter was born 8 years ago. The big strollers may have improved since then, but back then they took two hands to lift and set up, and they were not the easiest thing to steer.

      • Not the OP, but in my mind a “giant stroller” is a travel system where the car seat and stroller are sold together as a unit.

      • I have this exact stroller, plus the Britax B-Agile car seat and adapter. I love it. No regrets!

    • Great, great, GREAT advice. The only place I will bring a different perspective is #2 – I had 6 fullterm pregnancies, was never on bedrest, and twice worked up until I gave birth or at least hit my due date (I understand from my pregnant coworkers that this not allowed anymore – possibly due to company liability reasons). Of my many friends, relatives and coworkers who had babies, most did not need to go on bedrest, even those who were dealing with gestational diabetes and so on. So while bedrest/disability is a distinct possibility, in the absence of known risk factors, don’t worry about it until it happens.

      • SuziStockbroker :

        Wow, me either. I worked on the Friday and gave birth over the weekend with my kids. No bedrest, nor missed work.

        • More anecdata – went into labor with kid #1 the evening after I worked a full day, and for kid #2 I worked in my office until very late evening on a Friday before a scheduled induction the next Monday. Most of my friends who had single births had similar experiences, while those with twins/underlying medical conditions/etc. were more likely to need bedrest, etc.

      • Anonymous :

        Just a different perspective on #2 i.e. bed-rest. I don’t think it hurts to have a contingency plan or financial cushion if the resources are there. I have a friend who was put on strict bed rest for 3 months, twin pregnancy with lots of complications. She had to be in hospital the entire time partly because the doctor did not want her to risk any activity–they have another child and could not get help for when he came home in the evening. Husband was writing his dissertation at the time and juggled that with caring for older kid and going to see her in hospital when he could. The twins were born prematurely which also meant time in the NICU. This may not be common but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that something can really go wrong because biology is not in anyone’s control. Either health challenges or finding you are having multiples when you had planned for one. In my friend’s case a financial cushion that would have helped pay for extra childcare or ease other expenses would have gone a long way in alleviating the stress.

      • No bed rest here, either. At advanced (very) maternal age. My kiddo was a week+ overdue, and I finally figured out that it was b/c I was too much in my head for my body to take over. I pulled the plug on work (including commuting by public transit) a week after my due date.

        So luck can go either way, but I suppose best not to count on it.

      • To add to the anecdotes, the evidence has shown that except in very specific circumstances, bed rest is ineffective at best and harmful at worst (and way overused). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3226811/ So if your doctor puts you on it, push back as to whether it truly is necessary/helpful.

        • Just realize that the unexpected can (and often does) happen. I was in my late 30’s with both kids. The first, planned hospital birth with midwife and doula – I had an emergency c-section and preeclampsia that worsened after birth. DH had 3 days vacation and then was back to work while I was on strict bedrest for a week after I was released from the hospital. They actually wanted to readmit me but I begged them not to, so with daily nurse checks, meds, and monitoring, bed rest was a compromise. My mom is deceased and MIL is not really “into that,” so I was on my own. DH would leave me sandwiches and a carafe of herbal tea each morning. Not fun.

          Second child, I developed kidney stones at 14 weeks and missed 3 weeks of work. Then I was diagnosed with preeclampsia at 25 weeks and spent the next 11 weeks on bedrest. After my diagnosis, I went on leave and then later resigned. It wasn’t fair to my company for me to be out so much, then give birth, and be out another 8 weeks (repeat c-section). On the plus side, I wound up having a surprise VBAC which stunned my doctors – the day before my c-sec was scheduled.

          When the kids were little and I went back to work, I worked part-time and we had an in-house nanny ($20/hr + taxes). Once my youngest was in 1st grade, I returned to work full-time and we kept the nanny/housekeeper for afterschool. Now my kids are 3rd & 5th grade, and they attend an aftercare program at school ($20/day for 2 kids, $16/day for 1 + $10k/year for the two to attend Catholic school). Still, most of DH’s and my vacation time goes for school holidays, in-service, parent-teacher conferences (a week of half-days – ugh), snow days, and the first and last weeks of summer (no camp).

          Kids are crazy expensive. We cut nearly everything when I went to part-time. We drive old cars, and except for expensive car seats (Britax), we tried to buy most things on consignment. My kids love consignment, but now with uniforms & dress shoes, that doesn’t work out so well. Plus the sports, afterschool activities, equipment…

          I love my boys, but my career has taken a back seat ever since I got pregnant. I’m ok with that – it was something I thought might happen – and I don’t regret it. In 7 years my oldest will be in college. In a few years he won’t want to be seen with me :-) Toddlerhood lasts a long time, but once they are in school it goes by very quickly.

          Oh, and don’t get sucked in to too much equipment. Wait until the baby arrives. One kid liked the swing, the other hated it. One loved the vibrating bouncy seat. The best toy we had was this kick toy that I found at a tag sale for $3. Our youngest kicked it so much that it finally broke. It was hilarious – he’d laugh when we put it in front of him. Baby Einstein and Teletubbies, the National Geographic channel on mute, and iPads were saving graces for hard days/nights or travel. Don’t read the books – they freak you out. Just enjoy and go with the flow. If you try to preplan or control everything you’ll be miserable. Each kid has their own rhythm from day 1!

    • Mrs. Jones :

      This is great advice. Also, shop consignment sales. Children do not need new clothes, books, and toys if you can get good used ones.
      I worked Friday, went into labor Sat. night, and gave birth Sun. morning (on son’s due date).

    • anonymama :

      I think I had the same Japanese Weekend wrap dress that I wore to death.

      I wonder if you know lots of older moms, or people with very high stress jobs, and maybe that is why so many have been on bedrest? I can assure you that it is not the norm for people I know (maybe two or three out of like fifty acquaintances?)

      Otherwise I agree with everything you said. So much baby stuff you only use for a few months anyway, far better to get it used, or ask around if friends or acquaintances can give/lend their used stuff. Also, Amazon has been amazingly helpful for buying things along the way as you need them… you can pick it out when you’re planning, and then adjust as necessary and order what you actually need when you need it without having to wrangly everything to go to the store.

      Childcare has definitely been the largest expense so far.

  19. Another semi-financial consideration to take into account is leave once you are back at work. Most people are out on maternity leave for their baby’s first few doctor’s appointments but most pediatric practices will see your child at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, etc. Not to mention if you’re a first time mom, you can count on a few visits to make sure your child’s cold is just a cold, etc. And if your child has a fever, most daycares will make the baby stay home. I used all my vacation and sick leave to get paid for maternity leave, which means I now have next to nothing for when the baby gets sick. My husband has tons of vacation/sick time but can’t always get out of work on short notice. This means I have taken a few days of leave without pay when the baby was sick and I have relied heavily on my mother and mother in law (who are thankfully both retired and only 90 minutes away) when she is only “kind of” sick. You need to plan for how to pay for time off to care for a sick child or back up child care for a sick child.

  20. What do people do about childcare when you have a commute? I live about 25 mins (via DC metro) from work and my husband is 20 mins drive in the opposite direction from our house. I’d prefer to keep childcare in our suburb (or his work suburb) since it’s cheaper. Is it unwise to have a parent 20-30 mins away from the child in case of emergency (or God forbid a repeat of 9/11 where everyone had to walk home). I’d rather avoid commuting via metro with child at all costs.

    • I went to law school and later got a job an hour from home. Until she was in kindergarten, my daughter commuted with me to the on-campus day care. It created a lot of problems when I needed to travel for work or when my classes went later than the day care’s closing time. It would have been more convenient to have her in day care near our home, 20 minutes from my husband’s office, but the quality and cost were so much better on campus that we just lived with it. It did make me feel better to be within walking distance.

    • We had similar commute times/directions via car in a city. We put the baby in daycare near our house. If there is an illness/minor injury, the daycare will take care of the child until you get there. If it is a time sensitive medical emergency, it doesn’t matter if you are 5 minutes away, they will call 911. If you run a few minutes late for pickup, they may charge you extra, but they don’t put the baby out on the curb. If there is some disaster event, the daycare will either evacuate per their protocols or shelter in place. During Atlanta’s snowpocalypse last year where people were abandoning their cars to walk home, teachers spent the night with students in gyms and class rooms. You can ask about their policies, and you should, but I promise that they have worked through these scenarios.

    • Mrs. Jones :

      Our child care has always been near our house, as opposed to our offices. If husband and I worked near each other, I suppose we’d consider something else.

    • SoCalAtty :

      My commute is about 30 minutes – 20 on a good day, 45-60 on a bad day or if there is an accident. My husband’s clients are all about the same distance from home, so we’re planning on day care close to home, so I can do the later drop-off and he can do an earlier pick-up. I keep a set of comfortable hiking clothes in my car, with shoes, so in case I ever have to walk home (earthquake risk!) I can. It is exactly 12 miles so could take me anywhere from 3 hours on up depending on the circumstances.

      • Thanks this is helpful. Yes just being in DC a lot of people (having been through 9/11–not only NYC was affected some people forget) keep sneakers/water/etc in their desk drawer because having to walk home is a real possibility.

  21. Petitecocotte :

    Ladies, what are your thoughts on Kat’s advice about resetting expectations? I have quite a few friends with higher earning husbands (ie wife in is public interest, husband is in big law) who quit their jobs after giving birth to be SAHMs. Apparently, it was determined that it didn’t make financial sense for wife to work and earn $45k if they were just going to turn it over to the nanny.

    This always seemed a little shortsighted to me. Rather than view it as turning over the wife’s earnings to the nanny, why not consider it an expense evenly split between husband and wife, as well as an investment in both careers? Am I missing something?

    • I think that it is very hard to generalize. I think some people are looking at it short-term, rather than a long-term pay-to-work investment in the wife’s continued career. I also think some women who WANT to be a SAHM are ashamed to admit that they really want to stay home with their children and they’d rather explain it away as a financial decision (which is kind of sad – you do you).

    • anonforthis :

      I’m certainly projecting here, but I also think this happens because some women don’t love their jobs and feel like there isn’t much point in paying the equivalent of their salary in childcare to have someone else get to spend most of the time with their kid. I like my job, it’s low stress, lots of holidays, great for a working mom, but if we came into a lot of money, I’d quit in a heartbeat to spend more time with my kid. That’s not for everyone, but I get tired of only seeing her for an hour or two on weekdays. (I’m the breadwinner and have much better insurance available than my husband so I will never stop working).

    • I think a lot of women find it hard to leave their baby all day, even though keeping your career going is also valuable in the long-term. It becomes a question of what’s more valuable to her: getting to spend all day with your baby or keeping up a career in the long-term? It depends what your career goals are. I’m not striving to any particular position and I’ve gotten a lot less ambitious as I’ve gotten older.

    • It’s definitely situation/family specific, but, for us, part of the decision for my husband to stay at home was financial, but part of it was also the unquantifiable benefits of having someone home and focused on the kid. One thing that I’m constantly aware of is how big a change to our quality of life it would be if we had to struggle to fit everything in (chores, doctor visits, errands, etc.) on evenings and weekends and time off, when he can take care of enough of that so that we have time to just be a family together. You can’t put a price on that, but it’s a huge benefit of having someone as a stay at home parent. c

      • What Lyssa articulated above is precisely why I am considering staying home, even though I make enough that we do not feel as though we are “paying for me to work” or such. It is difficult to fit everything in, and having someone focused on the home life seems that it would make life move at a much more steady pace than the frantic feeling that we both have trying to work + raise a family.

        And while my children are small and need a lot of attention/work, I also see women with children older than mine (jr high) who suddenly face bullying or behavior issues at school and quit to help their children deal with the difficulties they are facing, or have children in elementary school and are ran ragged by two working parents + school + aftercare + activities/ballgames. So I think that while a woman’s decision to work/stay home is very personal, it may also be quite fluid, working while they are young and staying home during their high school years, or staying home while they are young and returning to the work force later, for example.

        I don’t know what decision(s) I’ll end up making but it’s fascinating to read others’ perspectives!

      • It really is a struggle if you both work demanding jobs, especially with long commutes. DH and I both feel like we’re letting everyone down at work when we focus on home, but we can’t fathom only seeing DD on the weekends. Although this will certainly get easier when she doesn’t have a 7 pm bedtime, I’ve decided I just can’t do the long hours and am actively looking for a lower hour job. Not SAH, but it will be a huge pay cut.

    • anonymama :

      I think your priorities also can change after having kids. Of course it’s not true for everyone, but for some people having kids makes them realize that they just don’t care that much about their jobs, or that they would rather spend more time with their kids than continue on with their careers, particularly if said career is less-than-fulfilling or highly stressful. So it being “not worth it” for them to continue to work might not just include financial considerations, but also weighing the stresses of a two-career household with having a child and the extra responsibilities that entails, and the personal fulfillment someone may get from staying home with their child as opposed to working at a not-very prestigious job. (Not that I am one of those people, I enjoy going to work if just to have a break from childcare). Also, the support of having someone at home can also allow the working parent to advance in his or her career as well.

    • Mediocrity... :

      My pet theory: part of being a working mother is being mediocre. You are sometimes mediocre at your job, sometimes mediocre at being a mom, sometimes mediocre at being a wife, sometimes mediocre at running a household, sometimes mediocre at ALL of it, all at once. Some women want to be SAHMs so they can give their full attention to the family side of things and be good at something.

      • UpstateNYatty :

        Mediocrity: Unfortunately I think this is so true and a reality. A good friend/co worker of mine is an accomplished trial attorney, amazing mom, great friend, awesome cook, super organized, and a lovely gf (don’t forget the jerk ex husband in the mix). Totally my idol. She said that she often feels like she is sucking at everything–can’t give 100% at work and not 100% there for her kids. She could leave work early, only to miss half the soccer game anyway. Stuff gets messy at home, and sometimes she’s feeding her kids drive thru. I imagine this is the struggle for many working moms, sometimes at home you have work demands, and sometimes at work you have family demands. Hopefully you have a job that can accomodate those needs, and support at home to help too. But this isn’t a reality for everyone. It makes me sad that she feels like she’s not really excelling at anything and that something important is always suffering. To me, an outsider, she’s kicking butt and setting an awesome example for her boys of what women, or heck, people can accomplish. I don’t want to start a “having it all” debate, but I think this juggle is real and we put so much pressure on ourselves to rock in all areas of our life. I think she should be proud of all she’s juggling, but even the most confident women can have self doubt. This is definitely a fear for me already.

  22. Anonymous Associate :

    I would love to see something similar about planning for elder/disabled care. My fiance and I are supporting both sets of our parents now and that will continue.

    • UpstateNYatty :

      YES to this! As we are all accomplished overachieving chicks, the responsibility of other family members often falls on us too.

  23. We are 25 miles outside of Boston, Mass. For a Toddler and a Pre-K student fulltime but subsidized by an employer we pay 2400/mo. It is a well known brand for Daycare Centers. Without the employer help we would be paying closer to 2700.
    As for considerations on whether to work or not I agree with all that has been said…maintaining career, maintaining and increasing income, health benefits, 401k, paying into Soc Security should you need it but a final thing to consider is getting back into the work force later. I know a few women who chose to stay home full time but now regret it because they are struggling to get back in. Not only finding a job but if they do find a job it is working with the recent grads feeling way out of place and way over qualified.
    Finally as for savings, I would recommend building up your cash reserve in case you are not paid for maternity, for emergencies and just to help out. I caution reducing retirement savings because you could be leaving money on the table if you are not getting your full match and it is difficult to add it back in later. Try saving a daycare payment to see what it feels like.

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