Each year, the cost of having a baby increases. From 1997 to 2007, the price tag associated with the hospital stay alone rose from $3,983 to $5,464—a hike of 37%. Once you add in all the other expenses – like car seats and diapers – it can feel like you’re buried under a mountain of bills without an end in sight.
Having a new baby is stressful enough without the added pressure of trying to make ends meet. Instead of spending sleepless nights worrying about whether you’ll ever feel financially secure again, try some of these tips to stretch your dollars just a little further.
Doctor Shop Before the Birth
Although no one thinks twice about going from store to store to save a few pennies on bread or milk, few consider shopping around for better rates on their doctor bills. Call several ob-gyns in the area and ask for their current prenatal and delivery rates. If you don’t have insurance, make sure you mention this fact; many ob-gyns have a discounted price sheet for uninsured pregnancies.
Review the Final Bill and Negotiate for Lower Charges
Once you receive the final bill from the hospital, review it carefully. Hospitals often make mistakes that can cost you a small fortune. If you don’t have insurance, ask the business office if they can give you a discount or if they have any type of hardship program.
Whether you’re stuck with the entire bill or just what your insurance doesn’t cover, ask for a payment plan. Almost every hospital will work with you and allow you to pay the bill over time. Apply for a financial aid, such as payday loans to get a head start on the payments.
Be Smart When You Register for Baby Gifts
Register your choice of baby items at your favorite department store to guide your friends and family as they purchase gifts for the baby. Don’t be tempted to scan a bunch of luxury items you’ll never use. Instead, take this opportunity to select the things you’ll need the most. If you run out of ideas, you can never have too many diapers or wipes, and it’s always a wise choice to ask for clothing in a variety of sizes to accommodate a growing baby.
The one item that should go on everyone’s baby registry is a good car seat. For safety, it’s rarely a good idea to buy a used car seat, and hospitals aren’t allowed to let you take your baby home without one. Make sure it’s the right size for an infant and meets your state’s safety regulations. Remember, you baby won’t need a play pen or any of those cute toys for months, but he or she will need a car seat from day one.
Borrow What You Can and Buy the Rest at a Second-Hand Store
If you have a friend or family member who had a baby last year, you may be able to borrow most of what you need. Just remember to return it in good condition or pass it along to the next one in line to have a new baby. If you’re missing anything, check out the thrift stores and yard sales in your area. You can often find baby items that are new, or next to it, at a fraction of the cost of buying new.
Use Cloth Diapers
Although cloth diapers are a little more trouble than disposable products, they are cheaper and better for the environment. If you decide to go this route, don’t forget to add plenty to your gift registry or even request gift certificates for a diaper service. If you’ve never cared for a baby before, you’ll be amazed at just how many diapers you go through in a typical day.
Skip That Expensive Formula and Breastfeed
Another great way to trim expenses is to breastfeed instead of using formula. This plan is cheaper and better for both you and the baby. As a bonus, you’ll even save a ton of time by eliminating the need to wash bottles and prepare fresh formula each day.
Remember to invest in a good breast pump and have a few bottles on hand as a backup plan in case you have to leave your little one with someone for a little while.
Don’t Be Embarrassed to Ask for Assistance
If you don’t have insurance or you’ve lost your job, don’t be ashamed to ask for public assistance. That’s what it’s there for. Programs like WIC, Medicaid, food stamps, and other financial programs can help you and your entire family survive until you find a new job.
Now that you’ve got the first year or so under control, get this – the experts say that you’ll spend nearly $250K raising this baby until he or she reaches 18. Then, the college bills start rolling in. Once you get the hang of stretching a dollar until it screams for mercy, pull a little harder! You’ll need every penny before you’re done.