Becoming a parent on your own can be a costly process. The average cost to adopt a child ranges from $0 to $50,000, according to U.S. News, or if you go the IVF route, expect to pay $12,000 to $17,000 per round, according to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. And once the child is here, you should be prepared for a whole other slew of expenses. To get a realistic picture of the cost of single parenthood, we spoke with Charlotte Cowan Geletka, CFP, managing partner at Silver Penny Financial Planning. Here’s what aspiring single moms-to-be need to know.
What costs should single moms be prepared for when it comes to taking care of a child?
Not to scare people, but Fidelity studies this frequently and they say that the cost to raise a child from birth to adulthood can be close to $200,000. Now, that’s over the course of a lifetime, and that’s the average — people do it for a lot less, people do it for a lot more.
The largest cost, especially when raising a child without a partner, is going to be child care. You have to look up the child care costs in your area because that is going to be a significant part of your costs. People say [you should budget] 30% for living expenses, but I would consider lowering your living costs a little bit to allow a little bit more room in your budget for child care costs.
Child care is the biggest [cost], hands down, but clothing a child is also expensive. There are so many great things you can do [to save money on kids’ clothing] now, like [buy from] Poshmark or consignment [shops] or Facebook Marketplace. You can find clothes and gently used things, and you can save a ton of money doing that.
How much should women be prepared to pay for child care?
I myself am a working mother of two children, and I wish I would have done more research. Some options are a day care facility, or going into a nanny share where several families will go in and split the cost of a nanny. An au pair is something that is a lot more affordable than people realize. I would definitely say, if you’re a single parent, look into the cost of getting an au pair. They live with you, but the cost is a lot more reasonable than you may think, especially when you spread it out over the cost of a year. If, let’s just say, a day care costs $2,000 a month and au pairs were running $16,000 to $18,000 a year, [the au pair costs less] and you get way more hours.
What are some ways to lower living costs ahead of becoming a parent?
We’re in an environment right now where the cost of purchasing a home is very high. The percentage of housing costs as a percentage of your budget has gone up a lot, so I would say, if you’re a single person looking to bring a child into this world or to adopt, you might be rethinking your living situation. I could see how psychologically you would be like, “I need a bigger house,” but kids don’t take up that much space when they’re little. There are things you can do to lower your living expenses that will set you up for a stronger financial position, especially as you face the unknown. Maybe you live with family for a short time or I’ve even heard of some people having roommates.
How much money should a woman ideally have saved if she wants to become a parent on her own?
You need between three and six months [of living costs saved]. If you don’t have that, I don’t think you’re ready financially to have a child.
How can women boost their savings if they want to have a child but aren’t quite there yet?
The number one thing is to be aware of what you’re spending. Another thing is to automate [saving]. Go ahead and set it up so that as soon as your bills are paid, you set an automatic deduction from a banking account into a savings account. You need to automate your life as much as possible.
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This article by Gabrielle Olya was originally published on GOBankingRates.