How to Budget for Month to Month Baby Expenses

by Kevin on February 12, 2013

How on earth do you prepare for the massive unknown variable of your daily, weekly, and monthly baby costs? If you surveyed 50 of your friends with children you would get 50 different answers as to what you should spend each month on baby expenses. You would have frugal friends, spend-everything-on-the-baby friends, green friends that want to save the environment, and everything in between. Putting together a budget for monthly baby expenses was baffling to me.

I told you last week that one of the first things my wife and I did when we got married was to start setting aside a (relatively) small amount each month for a giant “pay for major baby expenses” fund. We wanted to be financially prepared to buy a crib, bedding, changing table and all the other major things you have to buy to house, care for, and feed a baby.

Doing that math was relatively easy. There are only so many things you need on the list. Generally speaking they all fit into the nursery. I can count furniture pieces. I can Google some general prices. That’s easy math.

On the other hand, I have no idea what children cost to maintain.

(He says as if they are a vehicle or livestock that requires regular maintenance… I think I have some work to do.)

Thankfully we used one simple trick to help us ease into the financial storm that is bringing children into the world.

How We Created a (Rough) Budget for Monthly Baby Costs

I told you last week we set aside $90 per month for presumed Child #1 and $35 per month for presumed Child #2 soon after we were married. Much like retirement or buying a car with cash, this let us slowly build up a balance in our kid “accounts” on our monthly budget spreadsheet rather than scrambling for the cash all at once (or within 9 months of finding out your wife is pregnant)!

We have no idea if this will be anywhere near the amount of money needed, but we’ve decided to start off with the assumption that we will just role our current monthly baby savings over to being the monthly spending accounts after the kids enter our lives. Of course once kiddo number two hits the scene then we’ll probably need more than $35 per month, but for now we think this will work.

How Many Diapers Can I Afford?

Diapers are a terrifying thing for a single child that is becoming a Dad. I’ve never changed a diaper. Intentionally. No thanks.

Not only do I have to start changing diapers, but I have to pay for them, too! A financial double whammy.

So baby #1 will start off with $90 per month. Will this buy us enough diapers?

I have no idea. But let’s run through the math. Let’s assume baby needs 12 diapers per day. That’s one every two hours. (I hear that is a decent estimate.) You can buy diapers for at most 25 cents per diaper, usually less if you are buying big boxes online or at bulk stores. We’ll stick with 25 cents for now.

12 diapers per day x 25 cents = $3 per day. Multiply by about 30 days in a month and you end up with $90.

Of course this doesn’t account for food, clothing, things like that. But we also anticipate — as most couples do — receiving many things including diapers as gifts from friends and relatives. It is impossible for me to determine how much and what we would specifically receive, but I’m guessing at least for the first 6 months things will even out to about $90.

Why Estimating on Your Baby Budget is Okay

The beauty of just estimating what our costs will be is this: you don’t have to be perfectly on target with your estimates. Since most people go into parenthood completely blind, just having some sort of financial cost built in is a good idea. Even if the cost ends up being $120, $140, or even $180 per month… having anticipated at least half of that cost up front lessens the financial hit when you get to reality.

It isn’t perfect — which bothers the spreadsheeter in me — but it works, and in this case just being close is better than not trying at all.

Do you agree?


Marguerite February 12, 2013 at 9:30 am

This particular example really hits home, because I have a 7 month old and my husband lost his job recently — if we had to pay for diapers, our budget would be busted. We had already decided to try cloth diapers (we didn’t go with the super fancy all in one kinds, but did a budget friendly prefolds and covers, spent around $150). It’s been so easy to do just an extra couple of loads of laundry a week. And if we decide to have another we can reuse them. I hate to think about how much money we spent on disposables with our first!

Golfing Girl February 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

Formula is a big expense if you aren’t breastfeeding (even then you have breastmilk storage bags and breast pads to buy…$6 and $9 respectively). My diapers run about 18 cents since we use generic. I highly recommend generic. Wish we would have used them with out first, but we got smart on the next two.

Mark Monnin February 13, 2013 at 11:59 am

We use cloth diapers, which has saved us a lot of money. They aren’t harder to use (velcro or snaps instead of the disposable’s tape), but do require a little extra work. We also use disposables when we go on vacation so we don’t have to worry about doing laundry.

Also, my wife breastfeeds (currently weaning), and our daughter didn’t take well to bottles, so we didn’t buy many storage packs. We also didn’t go on many dates :). We saved a ton of money through breastfeeding.

And cloth diapers are better for the earth and breastfeeding is better for the child.

Comments on this entry are closed.