Over the past year, our son has become the focal point of our lives and an immense source of joy, inspiration, and ancient dormant feelings beyond articulation.
While basking in the emotional explosion of having him fill our world, we are not above calculating the costs of having him (especially while considering having another).
Below you will find pictures of a baby cost calculator I printed out while pregnant. I highlighted the items I thought we would need, made notes about community members and friends who had already offered us used supplies, and set out to beat the estimated $12,128.
It goes without saying, we were very lucky to have many people give us used items (and free food via Meal Train) when he was born. We fully disclose this below.
Community integration was an amazing and overlooked asset while raising our child over his first year. Of course, it’s nice to be active in your community and make friends for a variety of healthy reasons, but we were incredibly surprised how people (even surface-level aquaintances) contributed time and money when we took on the vulnerable task of having a child. We didn't expect this and certainly didn't bank on it as part of our broader plan. But we did find this phenomenon very moving and we do plan on paying it forward.
*Disclaimer: I consider this to be an online journal. This post is not a financial strategy for anyone. It's not even advice in my book (except the advice to use a baby calculator). I'm not saying our methods below will work for you or your situation, and I was simply curious myself regarding the numbers.
*In addition, I would have enjoyed finding something transparent like this online while I was pregnant (instead of finding dry statistics about the $10,000 estimated for the first year).
*I know we are very lucky people and not everyone will find items or come across needed items in the same way. Considering how much raising our child still cost us in the first year as manically frugal people, I found this experience revealing (and concerning) regarding broader social issues associated with quality child care.
The Numbers: Did We Beat the Calculator?
Disposable Diapers: $200
We received $100 worth of free diapers from Amazon when our online registry crossed $1,000. It actually crossed this threshold because we kept buying items on it ourselves after the baby showers were over. We bought an additional five $40 boxes of diapers ourselves.
Rag Wipes: $0
For about a year before having him, I tore up old soft shirts of mine.
Disposable Wipes: $75
We still use the rags exclusively at home but send the disposable wipes to daycare. We’ve bought five $15 packs (and some on Amazon to help us pass the $1000 threshold).
Used cloth diaper set from an old high school friend: $0
These diapers barely worked and were a frustrating DISASTER.
It's the thought that counts though! Thanks old friend!
Online set of 12 new cloth diapers: $50 (- $25 via the registry): $25
These worked once his legs became chubby.
($300 plus the cost of electricity/water for washing the rags/cloth diapers lands us close to the predicted $468)
Poopy Total: $450
Breast Milk: $0???
If you count the extra food I ate to keep my supply up, this obviously wasn’t free. But we’ll cheat here...
Breast Pump: $50
It was actually $200, but my insurance covered 3/4ths of it and I bought the rest of it with HSA money.
I was lucky two other mothers gave me their used pumps. I kept one at work and used the other one when I traveled. Three pumps made it an "almost" decent experience.
Milk Bags/Bottles/Brush: $0
Received excess via another mother.
AND he never used one of them. Glad I didn’t overthink this one or research the plastics found in pacifiers until my eyes popped out. I'm paranoid like that.
Plastic Nipples: $24
Can't escape plastic. Get over it I told myself.
Bought a set of size 3s once we realized he didn’t like how slow the milk was coming out of size 1s. I’d never heard of such a problem before. Thank goodness for our excellently informed daycare GUY!
Sippy Cups/Spoons: $24
Solid Foods: $1,000
Let’s just say he started comprising ⅓ of our total food budget starting at 6 months old… We froze a lot of peas, carrots, pears, and beans in little ice cube trays and tried not to buy packaged "baby food."
It wasn't as time-consuming as I thought it'd be to make it (although he probably ate some freezer burnt food along the way).
Feeding Total: $1,118
"One Time" Costs
Basic Stroller: $0
Received via registry. Asked for a $160 one (on the cheaper end). It is taken daily on a dog walk (except through extreme snow) and it has been fine.
Infant Car Seat/base: $0
(Side note: We were given a car seat from some trusted friends. Keep in mind, you have to make sure it is less than 7 years old and has never been in an accident. Buying used from acquaintances or receiving this item from friends helps to guarantee its safety. Otherwise, it's safest to buy new.)
Car Seat Base #2: $0
We rotate who picks him up from daycare, so this was a must. Luckily, we received it via the registry (but it was worth $35).
Convertible Car Seat: ?
We haven’t bought it yet. We’re about to buy one for $150 because his feet are sticking far out of his first car seat, but this doesn’t count during his first year so I’m leaving it off!
Sling/Baby Carriers: $17
BIG lessons were learned in this department. We received a $110 one through our registry and NEVER used it. I bought two used ones (Bjorn and Eddie Bouer) that worked perfectly.
I never used the Moby Wrap given to me by a friend and I’ll give it back soon because she is expecting another baby. Bottom line - this took a lot of experimenting!
High Chair: $0
Received a clunky one from another mother. It stinks according to my husband...
Infant Bathtub: $0
Free and horrible. Barely used it and used a sink instead!
Frugal fail of the year. It became a glorified cat chair. Bought a glider chair for $8 then had to buy $48 cushions to go with it. Looks ridiculous. Never used it. Still don’t.
Diaper bag: $0
Received it from another mother. I would have just used a backpack and mat if I hadn't received this.
Baby Monitor: $10
Bought two used and never used them.
Playmats/Activity Centers/Swing: $0
Received via registry.
Received via the registry (and seriously could have gone without it and instead relied on the Pack 'N Play).
Pack ’n Play: $50
Seriously should have put this on the registry instead of the crib or the baby carrier or... many other things we didn't use or returned (including a co-sleeper).
Safety Gates: $15
Bought one gate used and received one free from a friend's friend (who had donated that used one - small town happenings).
For the basement steps, Adam painted an old door and put it up.
One Time Costs Total: $148
Health Insurance: $3,440
We met my deductible of $2000 the year we had him. In addition, adding him to my husband’s health insurance policy at work caused it to go up $120/month.
We were lucky with the timing of our child (May baby) and I had 14 paid weeks off as a teacher. Otherwise, this total could be much higher. I'm nervous about this (the timing) if we have a second time around.
We love our daycare GUY, think he offers a fair price ($137/week), love the other kiddos and parents there, and basically, we feel incredibly lucky we found any care at all, let alone the care that was our first choice. Our daycare GUY was already an acquaintance in town and we sat down with him at 12 weeks pregnant to book our spot. I can’t stress enough how important it is to start early on quality care.
"Guy" written in caps to encourage flexible gender roles. When people find out our daycare provider is a man who was once in the marines, we get great mixed reactions. Yep!
I'm conflicted on this issue. We are maxing out our own Roth IRA’s at this point. Roth’s are more flexible when it comes to using the money (as in, the money can be used for college - or not - as life evolves and changes), but there are drawbacks, so we are still forming an opinion about this and ready to research more this year.
(Side note: Neither of us received any help from our parents for college - so I suppose our background experience may be making us a bit biased here. The world has changed a lot since then though!)
We received several books via a local community baby shower where all we asked for was used books. We had planned on spending $35 a month, but we haven't found that to be necessary (yet).
While watching him grow through items so quickly, I’ve only gone garage sale shopping and shopped used!
“The Biggies” Total: $8,658
Grand Total Cost of Mr. Munchkin Pants: $10,404
Keep in mind, I may have missed a couple of things (like $2 used-toys bought on impulse) and the $100 I spent on used maternity clothes and new nursing bras before he was born. And ...
Also, for the sticklers out there, we have to remember the opportunity costs of time (I dropped my $12,000 a year side hustle) AND what the money could have done in the market. BUT WE LOVE MR. MUNCHKIN PANTS!
Thoughts on the Total
Overall, I am surprised by the number being almost average considering how hard we tried to be frugal (and how many people were nice to us). As mentioned above in the disclaimer, these costs are very eye-opening and very concerning regarding childcare costs facing broader society.
On the plus end of things, Ten thousand dollars is about the cost of our house on a good year.
NOW FOR THE FUN PART...
We'll talk about the cost of our house on a bad year!
Part 2 discusses the mysterious water leak that caused us to dig up the city street, why we had to pay for it, and our unreliable furnace that likes to die occasionally. We'll dig out old receipts to see if these costs are more or less than our first year with our baby.
How about you? Have you ever experimented with a baby cost calculator? What are your thoughts on buying or receiving used items?