How Much Should You Save Before Starting a Family?

From bottles to nurseries, kid expenses vary.

From bottles to nurseries, kid expenses vary.

Deciding whether you can afford a bundle of joy or two is a personal decision, but having a good idea of the general costs can prove helpful. From diapers to child care to teen-age braces, middle-income parents can expect to pay more than $200,000 in expenses for one child over a period of 17 years, and a sizable portion of the spending starts in the first year, according to a report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2011.

Before Pregnancy

Before you attempt to delight your parents with that grandchild they've been waiting for, evaluate your health insurance coverage. (Hey -- no one said this couldn't be a downer.) Check whether your policy covers prenatal and maternity care as well prescriptions and diagnostic testing. Make sure you will have coverage if something goes wrong and you need hospitalization or surgery before delivery. Check your co-payment requirements as well and set enough money aside to cover them, including co-payments for services you hope you won't need. Ideally, your insurance should cover most or all of your care during pregnancy and at least 30 days after you deliver. If it will not, consider looking for better coverage before you get pregnant.

Leave Time

After you bring a new baby into your family, you will probably want to spend as much time as you can with the little one before you go back to work. If you do not have paid leave through your job, save enough money to replace your income for the amount of time you plan to stay home with your new family favorite. For example, if you plan to stay home for three months, save three months' worth of income. If your company offers partial pay, save the difference between the amount you will receive and your normal income.

Emergency Funds

Whether you have children or not, loss of income or an unexpected major expense can prove devastating. With children running about, however, comes more responsibility and an even more pressing need to have a sizable emergency account. According to Allstate, most people need an emergency fund equivalent to three to six months of expenses. You may feel more comfortable saving even more when you're planning for a family. Self-employed parents may also require more to account for the possible loss of a client or a downturn in business.

Baby Supplies

You might receive many of the supplies you need from friends and family members, especially if you have a baby shower. However, you will likely want to purchase some things yourself. The amount of money you need to save for baby supplies and equipment will depend on the items you choose, as baby item costs vary widely. To get an idea of how much you need, make a list of everything you plan to buy, such as a crib and bedding set, several outfits and a supply of diapers -- you'll need lots of them -- and then find out how much the items cost online or at a store near you. Finally, save the amount of money you need to cover those items plus about 20 percent extra for items you decide to buy on impulse. There will likely be plenty of those -- the baby cuteness factor is too much for most parents to resist, even if they're on their second or third.


The costs of having and raising a baby will vary, depending on your unique situation and style of parenting. However, you can use statistical information to help you estimate how much money you might need. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a baby costs middle-income couples close to $12,000 from birth until age 1. Expect to spend even more as your child grows, especially if you plan to provide your talented little one with extras like swimming and dance lessons or if you want to save for your their college education.


About the Author

Jordan Meyers has been a writer for 13 years, specializing in businesses, educational and health topics. Meyers holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Maryland and once survived writing 500 health product descriptions in just 24 hours.

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