So the strip has turned pink, and you couldn’t be happier. Or you’ve decided to start trying to have a baby. Congratulations! But just beneath the excitement comes the little voice that asks, “How much does a baby cost?” And maybe even, “Should I have a baby?”
Unfortunately, kids aren’t cheap, and whether you’re planning the costs ahead of time, or scrambling to figure out whether you’re going to be able to afford the kid who is already on the way, at some point every new parent has sat down and tried to figure out how much having a child is going to cost.
While the numbers aren’t pretty, there is power in knowledge, and knowing how much you’re in for can help you prepare. There are some things you can do to mitigate your costs as you move along, and even tuck away a little extra before you’re up to your eyeballs in expensive diapers.
Breaking Down the Upfront (and Ongoing) Costs
In South Africa, the first cost to consider is the delivery cost. While it will depend on your medical insurance and which hospital/city you reside in, the average cost of an uncomplicated vaginal birth at a government hospital (Department of Health) is free. Privately it can cost between R16000 to R25000. If you’re planning to have a C-section or your medical history requires it, tack on another R10000. Birthing centres charge around R12000 for a normal childbirth, there are additional costs for appointments leading up to the day. Others may look into a private midwife, these types of home births can range between R11000 to R16000.
As for the rest, the costs can vary widely. If you don’t already have one set up, now is the time to dust off your Microsoft Excel skills and create a budget. Enter the following costs:
- Diapers – Unless you’re planning on going the Earth Mom route (and if you do, good for you – you’ll probably save a lot of cash) you’re probably going to spend between R4000 – R6000 in the first year on diapers.
- Child Care – If you are planning on going back to work, the Care Index suggests your child care costs will be about R70,000 per year.
- Medical Bills – Unfortunately, the medical bills from the birth won’t be the last that you see. Expect another set of bills for checkups (AKA Well Baby Doctor Visits), at approximately R7000 total if you don’t have health insurance.
- Clothing – Clothing for kids costs on average R600 per month. And you will most likely buy (or be given) lots of clothes that your kid will outgrow before they wear more than once or twice.
- Formula – Formula will range from R4000-R8000 per year. While you may save if you go the breastfeeding route, that isn’t exactly free either. Factor in the costs of a pump, a nursing bra, and absorbent pads.
- Crib, Car Seat, Changing Table, and Stroller – These are the most common fixtures that every kid needs, but you may decide you need more. You can expect to spend around R7000 on the basic necessities.
If you’re keeping a tally, you’ll notice we’re up to about R70,000 and we have not cleared the first year. Wait until you start thinking about colleges!
Hidden and Unexpected Costs
While it can be relatively easy, though daunting, to consider the cost of having a child if you just look at upfront costs, there are some hidden costs that will need to factor into your plans.
Consider the following: Are you planning on taking maternity leave? Will having a baby disrupt your earnings during your maternity leave? What happens if you must go on bed rest prior to the birth? What happens if your birth plan doesn’t go as, well, planned?
Have you considered the additional housing and transportation costs? If you or your partner is driving a coupe, you may need to look at changing vehicles. And if you are in a one-bedroom apartment, while that might be sustainable for six months, your long term plan now includes upgrading your housing budget.
If you have enough runway ahead of the birth to set some funds aside while you are still at full earning potential, consider setting up a “slush fund” in case of emergencies. And be realistic about the impact that having a child may have on your career goals.
Mitigating Your Costs
While having a child is expensive, there are some things beyond accepting tons of hand-me-downs that you can do to save your bank account.
Update Your Financial Plan
You have already taken the first step in determining the costs that are coming your way. The next step is to set up a long term budget and look at trimming where you can. While you may have been able to throw a trip to Plettenberg Bay on your credit card every few years previously, you may need to hold back, or at least put a little more planning into your financials. Pinterest is full of free baby budget planning worksheets, which will make creating and sticking to a budget much easier.
It may also be time to update your health insurance, and shop for the insurance for your future child. There are plenty of resources available, which may offset some of your initial hospital and doctor costs.
You’re a Bad Parent if you Don’t Buy (…)
Parents are wonderful in that they want the best of everything for their child. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you’re a bad parent if you don’t buy every product that comes along.
The marketing for these products is stellar, so reduce the risk of impulse buying by planning ahead. Separate items that are required, and consider asking for any extras on your Baby Shower registry. And don’t let anyone (or any marketing agency) fool you into thinking you’re failing your kid if you don’t buy them tons of expensive toys.
Taxes Are Your Friend
For once, you’re going to enjoy tax season. Possibly for the first time ever, you may get a tax refund. Research these tax breaks in advance to see if you can structure your finances to take advantage of them.
Should I have a Baby?
While kids are admittedly expensive, don’t let the cost deter you if you’re leaning towards becoming a parent. If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never be ready, and there are some things that cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Take the time to consider the costs, and prepare as much as you can. And then accept that you may or may not be broke for the next 18 years.