Budgeting with a Baby

After browsing through dozens of potential high-chairs for our six-month old daughter, my husband and I found ourselves at the upscale chain Giggle. “This one’s only $250!” I exclaimed, as I ran my hand over the smooth wood of the sleek model.

My husband looked at me. “Only $250” for a high chair? A few days earlier, we’d talked about a budget of $60 for this purchase. My enthusiasm for the pricier model epitomized a recent trend in my shopping habits: When it comes to my baby, no price tag is too high. I want to get her the best, from teethers designed in Germany to Baby Bjorn potty training stools.

The fact that she goes to daycare helps fuel the flames of my spending sprees. I might not be able to spend all day with her, but I will buy her whatever she wants! $80 Jumperoo? Done. Organic, pureed baby food? Absolutely. And if she might sleep better with the $50 mobile, add that to my diapers.com order, too.

In my former, pre-motherhood life, I was frugal. I brought my lunch to work, rarely bought coffee, and owned few nice clothes. I liked saving money. But as soon as I entered into this new realm of mommyhood, a flip in my brain seems to have been switched. I don’t think I’m the only one – my mom friends report similar expenditure hikes and the dozens of shopping websites and blogs aimed at moms seem to underscore our personal experiences.

The money comparison website www.Bundle.com confirms that parents spend more across almost every category of spending: groceries, shopping, health, travel, and transportation. Overall, married adults with kids spend $46,160 a year on average (excluding mortgage and rent payments), while married adults without kids spend an average of $40,304.

But there are some exceptions to that rule. Bundle.com reports that young parents save money on restaurant meals. It certainly has worked out that way for my husband and me. We barely leave the house after 8pm anymore, much less dine anywhere fancy. We’ve also severely cut back on other types of fun, such as international trips and weekend getaways.

Those trade-offs mean parents can enjoy some respite from the endless expenditures on toys and diapers, even if it comes at the expense of their own enjoyment. As my husband put it, “The baby budget has taken over the travel budget.” (And don’t worry, fellow new parents, the restaurant ban doesn’t last forever. Bundle.com reports that after age 36, parents start eating out again – but it costs more, probably because they bring their kids with them.)

For now, I don’t think our savings on restaurants and travel quite make up for the vast amounts of cash that are going toward baby food, diapers, clothes, toys, and other gear. But I have learned to reign in my own spending, at least a little bit. Reviewing my credit card statements made me realize that cutting back on new baby items could mean more money for my daughter’s college savings account.

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So now, each time I’m thinking about purchasing a new summer outfit, or colorful toy, I ask myself: Should this money go towards future college tuition instead? Framing the question like that makes me more likely to hold off.

Do you have any baby budgeting suggestions? Please share them below.