You’re about to take the biggest step of your life and cross the threshold into parenthood. If the baby is the only thing on your mind, you can be forgiven. After all, this is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you. It’s no wonder that your head is in the clouds as you dream about your whole family playing in the yard, feasting on a huge Thanksgiving dinner or happily riding in the car to see grandma.
Now it’s time to come back to Earth. Babies are expensive, and if you want to provide a wonderful home and top-notch education for yours, it’s going to take some financial planning. Not only will staying well in the black help you pave the way for the little one, but it’ll also improve your own physical and emotional well-being so you can fulfill your role as a parent with gusto. Here are some tips.
Research Childcare Costs
Over $233,000: That’s how much it takes to raise a child, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s a serious chunk of change and doesn’t even include college. So where does this money go? It goes toward items such as housing, transport, clothing and food, among others. Familiarizing yourself with these various expenses will help you and your partner to …
Set a New Family Budget
Back to that enormous sum. It covers your child up until the age of 17. Do the division, and you get just over $13,000 per year or around $1,150 per month. Now that sounds much more doable but it’s still quite a lot, so meeting all the little one’s needs is going to take some adjustments. You’re likely going to have to cut expenses to meet the 50/30/20 ratio for household needs, wants and debt service suggested by a finance writer at NerdWallet.
Make Sure They’re Covered
Not all insurance companies are the same and a parenting expert with Everyday Family recommends contacting yours to find out if your baby is covered under your plan. If they are, you still need to contact the company within days of the birth to make sure they are added. Bear in mind that your partner’s plan, if they’re covered by their employer, may offer better terms, so read the fine print on both.
Pick the Right Mortgage
If you’re planning to move into a house in the near future, you’re probably aware of what a mortgage is and how important it is to save for it. If you haven’t done so already, make sure you research your loan options and have enough money saved up for a down payment. Know that not every mortgage type has the same interest rates or requirements. For example, a conventional loan is low-cost compared to loans that require private mortgage insurance (though you must put down at least 20 percent to avoid PMI). With a conventional loan, you also have options for a fixed-rate if you see yourself living here indefinitely or adjustable-rate mortgage, which can be a better option if you don’t plan to stay in this home for very long.
Save Up for Emergencies
As a new parent, it is crucial to have plenty of savings on the side to pay for the unexpected. Do not use your checking account as your emergency fund as that’s just an invitation to spend money. Instead, open up a separate account (that earns good interest) and arrange to have a set amount from your checking account transferred there every month automatically. How much depends, of course, on your income and budget.
Invest in Their Education
The magic number is 529. That’s a special type of savings account that allows parents to invest money after taxes and then withdraw it tax-free to pay for higher education. That money belongs to you, but if your child decides not to go to college, you can’t withdraw the money without paying income tax and a 10 percent penalty on earnings, so it’s a bit of a gamble.
Get started with your planning now with a close look at your income and expenses or a call to your financial advisor. You’ll feel better once you’ve made some concrete steps to ensure your child’s well-being, then you can go back to daydreaming about their first Christmas.