Having a baby is a milestone that many look forward to. However, as exciting as starting a family is, it can be expensive. Whether you’re planning ahead or only a few weeks from your due date, the right information can help you save.
Debt.com got advice from 11 experts about the actual cost of having a baby and tips to make the early stages more affordable. Here’s what they say about the financial side of parenting.
How Much Does It Cost to Have a Baby?
Before figuring out how much having a baby will set you back, it’s helpful to break down costs. Some include:
- Prenatal care
- Postnatal care
- Basic amenities for infant
Keep in mind that several factors can influence how much you spend, from what city you live in, to your personal health needs. Another determiner of your bill is your health insurance provider. They take into account what’s covered by your plan, whether you’ve met yearly deductibles, set copays, and if you have gap insurance to cover non-primary costs.
Most pregnant women receive prenatal care—a series of visits with a healthcare provider to ensure you and your baby are healthy. It comprises various tests and services such as physical examinations, x-rays, ultrasounds, or blood and urine samples.
Services range in price, but if it’s classified as a preventive service and you have a qualified health plan, it should be free. Most plans cover preventive care resources such as prenatal vitamins, STD screenings, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, anemia, or Rh incompatibility at 100%.
If you need services that aren’t classified as preventive care, you may have to pay out-of-pocket fees. Examples include:
- Prenatal genetic testing to check for genetic conditions. Not all insurance providers cover the cost, so it could mean paying $100 to $1,000 depending on how complex the test is.
- Doctor’s office visits that are subject to copays
- Ultrasounds in hospitals that have physician fees and procedure charges. An ultrasound can range from $200 to $500+
- Hospital stays if you have a complicated pregnancy could require copays or coinsurance payments
- Procedures due to complications would likely be charged by your doctor depending on what benefits are covered and what your cost-sharing obligations are
Delivering a baby is both a scary and magical experience. It can also be the most costly aspect of having a child. It’s important to know how much your insurance will cover and how much you’ll be paying on your own.
According to a 2015 survey by the International Federation of Health Plans, the average cost of delivering a baby in the United States was $10,808.
Li Tian, mom blogger and founder of Full Time Baby tells us you should budget to spend at least $10,000 when delivering a baby. However, from her personal experience, she spent $2,000 out-of-pocket with both of her kids. This is why choosing the right insurance plan in advance is crucial.
EXPERT: Li Tian – Full Time Baby
“If parents have fairly comprehensive coverage, they might even hit their out-of-pocket maximums.”
Unfortunately, not every mother has a straightforward birth, and complications can lead to more expenses. Mommy blogger and financial educator, Fo Alexander, ended up paying $7,000 out-of-pocket for a vaginal birth because of minor complications with her daughter. However, she explains that the high cost of giving birth means you’ll likely meet your deductible and your insurance will cover subsequent costs.
EXPERT: Fo Alexander – Mama and Money
“The positive side is that having a baby will typically meet your yearly deductible and, sometimes, out-of-pocket max. This means that future medical expenses should be covered at 100% by your insurance company.”
Hospital Births May be More Cost-Effective
Explore your options and compare the cost of home birth vs. hospital births. Most insurance providers don’t cover home births, which means it would be an out-of-pocket cost. On that premise, it could work out cheaper to have your baby in a hospital. Forbes contributing writer and founder of The Confused Millennial (TCM), Rachel Ritlop, agrees that going to a hospital can help you save.
EXPERT: Rachel Ritlop – The Confused Millennial
“The cheapest way for me to have had a baby was traditionally at a hospital. A home birth was going to cost us $3,000 more, and to rent a tub for birth was going to be $750 more.”
If you choose to deliver your baby in a hospital, also note that vaginal births are sometimes cheaper than C-sections. The average cost of vaginal birth is said to be $30,000 while a C-section could cost over $47,000.
How to Save Money on a Hospital Birth Bill
Calculate Out-of-Pocket Costs
Even if you have insurance, you may still be faced with out-of-pocket costs. Whether you’re insured or uninsured, you want to get a breakdown of each birth expense to determine how much you’re going to spend in total.
Bola Sokunbi, Certified Financial Education Instructor and founder of Clever Girl Finance, suggests contacting the hospital where you plan to give birth to learn about these costs.
EXPERT: Bola Sokunbi – Clever Girl Finance
“Ask them what their average delivery costs are for a surgical vs a non-surgical delivery and what the costs include (e.g. epidural, hospital stay, etc.). Then reach out to your insurance provider to find out what percentage of your delivery costs will be covered. This will give you a good sense of what out-of-pocket expenses to expect.”
Having an itemized list of expenses also gives you the chance to see if there are any services you can do without. Don’t be afraid to challenge high prices and ask if there are cheaper alternatives.
“If you don’t have insurance, inquire from the hospital about what kinds of plans they have for uninsured patients and determine if you qualify for any government assistance like Medicaid,” says Sokunbi. You could also explore options like hospital charity care programs and negotiating lower medical bills.
Another way to save is to compare healthcare plans and switch if you find one with more favorable terms. A plan with a low deductible and higher copay, for example, could shave dollars off your final bill.
What you pay depends on the insurance you have. To put this into perspective, here are examples of different insurance plans and how each can impact out-of-pocket costs.
- Scenario A: You have a zero deductible plan and pay high monthly premiums. As a result, your health insurance provider should pay for the entire delivery.
- Scenario B: You have a low premium and high-deductible plan with 80/20 coinsurance. Your deductible is $5,000, so you’d have to hit that before your insurance would begin paying for your delivery. Because of your coinsurance, you would also have to pay 20% of the delivery costs and any agreed copays.
- Scenario C: You have a high premium low deductible plan and no charge after deductible. Your deductible is $2,000, so once you’ve paid that in out-of-pocket fees, your insurance pays 100% of your labor costs and you aren’t responsible for any copays or coinsurance.
When comparing plans, you may find there are certain services or specialists you want to use that aren’t covered by your current network. This is yet another incentive to review other plans and possibly switch based on your needs. For those who are low-income earners, find out if you’re eligible for government assistance; you could get free or low-cost healthcare through Medicaid.
John Schmoll of Frugal Rules also suggests using HSA or FSA accounts to save.
EXPERT: John Schmoll – Frugal Rules
“Depending on your insurance, and assuming there are no complications, parents should expect out-of-pocket expenses to run $2,500. If you have an HSA or FSA, you can save money pre-tax for those expenses to help mitigate costs.”
Seek Out Hidden Costs
When having a baby, you must check for surprise expenses. Despite Rachel Ritlop getting an estimate beforehand, hidden costs still caught her off guard.
“I paid what my insurance had projected, but then we got slapped with a bill that was similar for my daughter’s hospital stay. We asked for it to be itemized and saw it had a ‘nursery’ charge which was weird since she never left our hospital room,” said Ritlop.
Fo Alexander also had a similar experience. Although she received an estimate for her delivery and stay beforehand, an unexpected bill blindsided her. “The hospital neglected to share that my child’s stay was not included in the estimate. This ended up costing us an additional $2,000 that was unexpected,” Alexander explains.
If you do your research beforehand and leave no stone unturned, you may lower your healthcare costs and avoid surprise bills.
Postnatal + Postpartum Care
Postpartum care is normally required about six weeks after giving birth to ensure that you’re healthy and recovering well post-pregnancy. Aside from performing a physical examination, medical professionals check on your mental health and general wellbeing. Similarly, postnatal care confirms your little one is thriving in the first few months of their life.
As for costs, your insurance provider should cover both postnatal and postpartum care. If your insurance plan includes a copay or you use services your service provider doesn’t cover, you could pay high out-of-pocket fees. Your best bet is to verify with your provider before obtaining any services.
The Cost of Having a Child by Alternative Methods
Not every family can have their child through biological means. With this in mind, we explore some of the other options and costs of having a baby.
When looking into adoption it’s important to do your research and know whether private domestic, international, or foster adoption is right for you and your growing family. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adopting children from an international or private agency might cost $15,000 to $50,000, while adopting from foster care costs little to nothing—but that doesn’t mean you should choose an option solely on price.
There are expenses such as consultant fees, agency fees, legal fees, and other placement fees with private and international adoption. As for foster adoption, there are several federal and state assistance programs that can help pay fees.
HelpUsAdopt.org is also a national financial grant program that seeks to help those looking to adopt by giving them up to $15,000. This service is available to all types of individuals or couples and it’s completely free to apply, so it’s worth looking into.
One popular fertility treatment is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). IVF is when a woman’s eggs are combined with a sperm sample to manually create an embryo. This is then transferred to the woman’s uterus. To conceive, multiple IVF sessions are usually required which can cost up to $20,000. Although expensive, this process is widely used and highly successful.
Those that have fertility problems can also go through IVF with donor eggs. While the success rate is just as high with donated eggs, it can be more expensive ranging from $27,000 to $65,000.
There are two types of surrogacy, gestational and donor. Gestational, where IVF is used to give the surrogate a fertilized embryo, tends to be more expensive averaging from $100,000 to $150,000—as you also have to pay for the IVF treatments. Whereas donor, when the surrogate donates their eggs, can range from $90,000 to $130,000.
Basic Baby Necessities
Even before your little one arrives, you can expect to spend money on basic needs such as diapers, clothes, and formula if you don’t intend to breastfeed. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), parents can expect to spend around $12,000 in the first year alone.
When calculating first-year expenses, it’s a good idea to plan for contingencies. As Sami Womack, podcaster and owner of A Sunny Side up Life rightly advises, things don’t always go the way you plan.
EXPERT:Sami Womack – A Sunny Side Up Life
“You might plan to breastfeed to save money, but if that doesn’t work out, you’ll have to find a way to squeeze formula into your budget. Or say you want to use generic diapers, but your baby develops a skin allergy, so you’ve got to buy the expensive organic brand.”
How to Save on Basics
Consignment or Thrift Shop for Baby Items
Buying used clothes is a fantastic and popular way to save as a new parent. In 2018, the second-hand apparel market was worth $24 billion in America. Carly Campbell of Mommy on Purpose tells us it’s no surprise, as you’re able to get cute buys for far less than you’d pay in traditional retail stores.
EXPERT: Carly Campbell – Mommy on Purpose
“You can get amazing deals on clothing second-hand. It’s good for the environment, as re-using lessens waste, it’s good for your community as it puts a few dollars back in the pockets of parents who’ve purchased the things originally, and it’s GREAT for your budget. Second-hand baby clothes are a win all around.”
If you’re looking for quality second-hand goods at an affordable price, thredUp, Poshmark, and Facebook Marketplace are three popular picks among our experts. These sites can help you get gently worn and sometimes brand-new items that still have tags on them.
That said, parents don’t recommend buying all of your baby’s items second-hand. Car seats, pacifiers, or breast pumps are examples of items you should probably buy brand new. Bola Sokunbi recommends buying new car seats for security reasons, as manufacturers periodically update safety features.
Ask for Hand-Me-Downs
If you don’t want to spend any money at all, ask friends and family if they have used items they no longer need.
Whitney Bonds, financial planner and founder of Tried and True Mom Jobs Blog, says she didn’t purchase much when having kids.
EXPERT: Whitney Bonds – Tried and True Mom Jobs
“I’m a big believer in hand-me-downs; the only thing we purchased was car seats. My stroller is valued at $400 and I got it for the price of $0 by simply asking my sister if I could have hers once her son got too big for it.”
If you make it known that you’re interested in baby items your friends and family don’t use anymore, it’s possible to get big-ticket items without paying. You’d also be surprised that many of these items are still in great condition, or barely used, as children outgrow things quickly.
Look for Free Items
Believe it or not, you can even get free baby items such as diapers, formula, and clothing. If you’re creative in your search, you may find organizations and initiatives giving them away. For example, the National Diaper Network facilitates community diaper programs. Local churches can also be a helpful resource for free baby items.
Whitney Bonds got a free supply of diapers by utilizing diaper donations. “My church partners with an organization where they donate diapers, so we have been VERY blessed where we have not had to pay for diapers for quite a while,” said Bonds.
In terms of resources, Elle Martinez from Couple Money suggests using Freecycle, a grassroots initiative where people give and receive items for free.
EXPERT: Elle Martinez – Couple Money
“Besides tapping into options like Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and Craigslist, I would also suggest parents may want to check out a local Freecycle or Buy Nothing group. With money saved, you could redirect that money for some of the bigger-ticket items that you’re willing to spend more money on or stash it away into family savings.”
Shop Discounts and Sales
Some people would prefer to buy new items for their baby, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Carly Campbell gives us insight into her saving strategy when buying new clothes. “I LOVE the clearance section of the Old Navy website. It’s especially great to stock up for next year at the END of the season this year—you can save 60% or more on winter coats or swimsuits… as long as you don’t mind storing them for 6 months.”
Aside from shopping in sales, stick to retail stores that are relatively cheaper. Walmart, Kate Quinn Organics, Target, Amazon, and Old Navy are just a few that sell quality items for relatively low prices.
Some stores even have family-related discounts. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can save 20% on food, diapers, and other baby products when purchasing them through Amazon Family.
For those with a Health Savings Account (HSA), check to see if you can purchase items such as prenatal vitamins, nursing pads, and breast pumps with your account.
How to Realistically Budget for a Baby
A good budget is one way to reduce the financial strain that sometimes comes with a new addition to the family. It will give you a clear picture of what you’re making, what you’re spending, and where you should scale back. Without a budget, it’s hard to know whether you’re spending more than you’re earning.
Don’t know how to create a family budget? There are several templates online you can use to help you. Try downloading debt.com’s free family budget worksheet! An effective budget should comprise income, fixed expenses, seasonal expenses, optional ones, and savings.
Start Budgeting Ahead
Once you’ve created a new budget, it’s time to put it into action.
As Sami Womack advises, “Build out the budget you expect to have in the future, now, before your baby arrives––and start using it.” She continues, “this will allow you to do a ‘test run’ with your cash flow and adjust to a new level of spending. Doing this now, even before you’re pregnant, gives you time to make adjustments as needed and evaluate what expenses may need to be cut or what changes in lifestyle need to occur to make room for newer, higher-priority spending.”
You can also experiment with different financial hacks, like using money-saving apps or switching to a cash budget.
One popular option is Ibotta, an app where you can receive rebates simply by shopping and scanning the items you buy. This is a great way to get cashback on brand-name costly items both in-stores and online.
Get a Side Gig
Becoming a parent can make you realize the importance of having more than one income. It’s especially important for single parents or if one parent decides to stay home and care for the baby. A side gig can be an effective way to keep income flowing and give you the flexibility you need.
Danish-American writer, Tove Maren Stakkestad, tells us that finding the right side job can be challenging because there are so many out there. She advises starting the search process by identifying something you enjoy doing or are skilled at and see how you can monetize it.
EXPERT: Tove Maren Stakkestad – Mama in the Now
“Whether it’s sewing and altering clothes, writing blog posts, creating resumes for job seekers, managing social media accounts for influencers, taking pictures of people or products – whatever your passion is, whatever you like doing, turn THAT into a business.”
Websites like Fiverr make it easy for freelancers in 2021 to showcase their work and advertise products. Fiverr is home to millions of qualified sellers that specialize in anything from marketing to songwriting to legal consulting. With an array of categories to choose from, the possibilities for your new gig are endless.
When looking for side job ideas, be careful not to fall for common scams such as multi-level marketing schemes, envelope stuffing, or paid online surveys. Avoid gigs that require you to make large investments upfront or promise too much too quickly. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s worth questioning.
Although working from home with children isn’t the easiest task, it’s one you’re capable of.
Only Spend on Baby Essentials
It’s easy to get carried away with spending when you have a newborn but try your best to focus on essentials.
Carly Campbell saved thousands of dollars by only buying the basics. She states, “So much of what we buy for babies is 100% unnecessary, and when your budget is REALLY tight, you’ll find out that baby can get by with next to nothing… babies NEED food, clothes, diapers, and love (and a car seat if you have a car). That’s it.”
Eric Roberge, CFP® and the founder of Beyond Your Hammock, advises that by concentrating on essentials and adhering to a strict budget, you’re more likely to have control over your finances.
EXPERT: Eric Roberge – Beyond Your Hammock
“Think about the ongoing impact your financial decisions will have, especially before you commit to big fixed costs that aren’t easy to just change when you realize you need to save more (like mortgages and car loans).”
Not only will focusing on essentials help you save, but it could also help you avoid debt in the long run. When you become a parent, you can choose to sink or swim financially. With careful planning and a reasonable budget, you should be able to swim. Always remember you can give your baby the world without spending more than you can afford.