Guest Post by Jonathan Bernstein, founder of Wizbe.com
Having a baby is an exciting, magical time. It s also the beginning of a lot of changes to your budget diapers, doctors, buying clothes that last 5 weeks. Housing and child care costs are two budget items that usually change a lot when a baby arrives. Reviewing these in advance will give you time to figure out how to fit necessary changes into your budget.
Housing Budget Strategies
When people have a baby, their first instinct is usually – I need more room. It’s true, having another person in the house, even a tiny one, often makes one’s current home feel crowded. But before signing a new lease or selling your house, take a step back and ask yourself some basic questions.
What do I absolutely need? More space, a place closer to work or daycare? A backyard is nice, but maybe if you’re close enough to a park, less important. Babies create a lot of messes, so a convenient washer and dryer goes a long way and helps keep you sane. Once you have a sense of your must haves, price out different options on sites like Trulia or Rent Jungle that meet your requirements.
Can I really afford to spend more on housing? If your new place is going to cost more money, then take the time to look over your whole budget and see how much wiggle room you have. If you hit a bump in the road – you lose a job for instance, can you keep on paying for the new place for at least a few months? Ideally, you should have an emergency fund in place for this very type of situation – make sure it would cover your more expensive place. The point is not to stretch too much to get all your must haves, and definitely not to stretch to get your would-be-nice-if-I-coulds-but-not-really-so-crucials.
Child Care Strategies
Child care is a major cost for most parents and one often has to make a trade-off between convenience and cost when picking child-care providers.
Child Care Options Pros/Cons
- Mommy or Daddy – nothing beats the convenience and the level of care a parent can offer and the price is right. However, if a parent is quitting his or her job to take care of a baby, those dollars of earnings are lost.
- A grandparent or relative – getting free or cheap babysitting is great, but may not be as reliable as a daycare center. Who will take care of the baby when grandma gets sick or has a doctor’s appointment?
- Home based providers – usually care for a small number of children, often in a provider’s own home. Typically cheaper and more intimate than a daycare center, they may not have the same standards as a daycare center and they may not be state inspected or licensed (many states do not require licensing when only a few children are being watched). Parents will have to do more digging to figure out the quality of care.
- Licensed daycare centers – offer more standard service and the opportunity for your baby to interact with similarly-aged children. You will have to transport your child to and from the center every day. Unless the daycare is next door, you’ll find yourself spending lots of time chauffeuring your child around and you will also have to care for your child when he or she is too sick to attend daycare.
- A nanny – often the most expensive option, but you get one-on-one time for your child and the convenience of someone coming to your door. Picking the right person is essential.
The greatest resource in finding the right fit is usually asking other parents. Learn from their experiences – their likes as well as their mistakes and regrets. They can give you key information such as how much they paid, how good the care was and who to speak to secure a spot at the daycare. You can also check out a site like Care.com, which lists both nannies and daycare centers in your area.
You’re likely in for some sticker shock when you begin figuring out your new baby-inclusive budget, but the sooner you get started, the more likely you’ll be able to find solutions that work for you and your baby.
For more help on parent finances, check out Wizbe’s free Parent Financial Guide. It covers essential parent to-do’s, one-by-one.