Kelsey Sheehy of NerdWallet
AP – The arrival of a new baby is all-consuming. In the early weeks, your waking hours are a cycle of feedings, diaper changes and Googling “Is it normal for a baby to (fill in the blank)”.
Mustering the energy – and attention span – for otherwise routine tasks like showering and paying bills can feel like a tall order.
You’ll be lucky to remember what day it is, much less when your next credit card payment is due.
Do your future, sleep-deprived self a favour and start prepping your finances early into your pregnancy so things can run on autopilot for a while after the baby arrives.
If you don’t already have a budget, start there, said Cecilia Williams, a mother, certified financial planner and the chief operating officer of Halbert Hargrove, a financial planning firm.
“Outline all your current income and expenses so you and your partner have a solid understanding of where your money goes each month,” Hargrove said. “This will absolutely need to be adjusted as you get closer to your due date, so having a starting point is priority number one.”
Then build a plan for managing the other costs, large and small, that come with having a baby.
RESEARCH THE COST TO DELIVER YOUR CHILD
The price tag for childbirth is steep. The average cost for delivery can vary depending on where you live.
Contact the hospital where you plan to deliver to get more specific numbers.
Have access to a flexible spending account (FSA)?
If timing allows, set your contributions to save incrementally for your hospital bills.
When hospital bills start rolling in, you can pay directly from your FSA.
PLAN AHEAD FOR PARENTAL LEAVE
If you have paid leave through your employer, ask questions early.
Find out how many weeks are covered.
Do you need to use vacation and sick time first?
You also want to know when and how your benefits will be paid out, especially if they’ll come from multiple sources.
If you don’t have access to paid leave, or you’re planning to take additional unpaid time, practice living on the reduced income to the extent possible.
This will help you identify optional expenses to reduce or eliminate and help you build a savings cushion before your baby’s arrival.
START ‘PAYING’ FOR CHILDCARE
Childcare is the single largest monthly expense for most new parents. Get a jump start by “paying” for daycare well before your baby arrives.
Put the money into a separate savings account – ideally one that earns interest – every week or month.
This helps you adjust to the new expense and allows you to bank a few months of childcare costs that you can tap for upfront costs like deposits and application fees.
Not sure what childcare costs in your area?
Ask around your friend group or local parent group to get a sense of what daycare, a nanny or other arrangements cost.
You can also build other baby essentials, like diapers, formula and wipes, into your budget now, making an educated guess. It doesn’t need to be perfect; you can adjust down the road.
AUTOMATE BILLS AND CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS
Set any recurring bills to autopay, ideally from one account or credit card. If you can, go one step further and set that card to autopay, too.
Blogger and stay-at-home mother of two, Carly Campbell said this was one of the best things her family did before welcoming their first child.
“All the various bills were taken care of without our active attention,” she said. “We only had to check the bank account once per month to make sure there was enough for the lump-sum payment.”