10 Ways to Financially Survive the First Year of Parenthood

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You haven’t slept a full night in weeks. And your new baby is screaming at the top of his lungs as you try to rock-sway-bounce him back to sleep.

The first year of your baby’s life will be full of demands on your time and on your finances. And while we can’t help you with the shut-eye (bless you), we’re here for you when it comes to money.

So whether your bundle of joy is on the way, or your tiny insomniac is already testing the limits of your sanity, check out these 10 money to-dos for the first year.

And then take a nap. You deserve it.

Budget, Borrow, and Buy Used or Generic:

1. Focus on the Basics

Forget the wipe warmers. You don’t need a baby food maker. And just pick a bottle, already. Babies really aren’t that complicated, so don’t blow your budget on nonessentials. Focus on their needs, not your wants.

2. Borrow Clothes

Babies grow faster than a well-watered Chia Pet. That means they’ll wear those embroidered outfits once—maybe twice. So don’t be shy about borrowing clothes from a friend or family member. And if you do score some hand-me-downs, ask if you can keep them or if you need to mark the tags and return them when you’re done.

3. Shop for Used Toys

As your baby hits major developmental milestones like rolling over, crawling and walking, you’ll want some age-appropriate toys to grow with them. But before you race to Target or Walmart, check out your local thrift store or consignment shop first. Often, you can find barely used baby walkers and push-toys for less than half the retail price!

4. Buy Everything Else Generic

Marketers are smart. From medicine to formula, big companies strategically tout their products as “gas-free,” “gluten-free” and “no sugar added” to make us choose their products over the less-expensive store-brand options. But, they’re usually the exact same thing. So read the labels carefully and save some money. Plus, that’s more cash for your coffee fund.

Sell, Save and Seize Your Space:

5. De-clutter and Earn Some Cash

You’ll accumulate a lot of stuff this year. This can be especially overwhelming if you have more than one child—think clunky kitchen sets, “mini” tractors, popping vacuums and mega dollhouses. It can get out of control in a hurry. So routinely gather, clean and sell the older items your children no longer play with. Whatever you can’t sell, donate.

6. Invest in Plastic Totes

As your little one grows out of those precious onesies and footie pajamas, wash them and put them away according to size. Then, when the next kiddo comes around (or a friend or family member gets pregnant), you’ll have a ready-to-wear wardrobe for them.  

7. Rethink Your Rooms

You don’t need a new house just because you have a new baby. Last time we checked, babies take up about 20 square inches of space. So instead of going into debt for an extra bedroom, rethink the space you already have. Guest rooms can go, kids can share, and playrooms aren’t strictly necessary. Make better use of what you have until you can actually afford what you want.

Plan, Prioritize and Prepare for Tomorrow:

8. Focus on Your Retirement

There are tons of creative ways to pay for your kids to one day attend college, but nothing replaces your 401(k). If you can’t foot the bills in retirement, your kids will feel the pain. Do them a favor and invest 15% of your income for retirement before you throw cash at their college fund. You’re not a bad parent if your kids have to pitch in on their own education.

9. Get Term Life Insurance

Now that you’re a parent, your kids are relying on your income. That’s why it’s so important to have term life insurance—yes, even you stay-at-home parents—to make sure that your family will be taken care of financially if you are no longer around to provide for them. So figure out what your family would lose in terms of your yearly contribution and multiply that by 10 or 12. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

10. Make a Will

Make a will. Make a will. Make a will. Okay, you get the point. It’s not fun to think about, but you need to decide who will care for your children and how your assets will be divided should the unexpected occur. There are even some great websites that offer basic wills for next to nothing. So you really have no excuse.

This will be a busy year for you. So don’t beat yourself up over a bad month. Just do the best you can, and when you and your babe are sleeping a little better, revisit your money to-do list.

You’ll get there eventually—and so will your little one.