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Life seemed full before you had a baby. But now as the mound of laundry grows, spending skyrockets, and you’re not sure when you’ll have your next shower or coherent thought, it may feel like you’re bursting at the seams.
It’s hard enough to adapt to the new normal of family life. How does a new parent ever get around to figuring out the new normal of money?
Just like caring for your new baby, try taking it one day at a time.
“No one ever feels financially ready to have a baby,” says Amanda Jay, Umpqua Bank personal banking expert, “But everyone figures it out. When you align your money with your values, you can finance what matters most. And it helps to get started before the baby arrives.”
Prenatal yoga and chia seed smoothies can help some new parents feel ready for their baby’s arrival. But you can also try crunching the numbers.
Research birth costs and reserve funds for hospitals, doctors, and insurance copays. Some hospitals offer a discount for paying in advance; see if yours does.
Know your family leave options and how you will cover any related wage loss for extra time at home.
Choose and budget for childcare before the baby arrives so it’s easier to go back to work.
Gain tax advantages by claiming your dependent exemption and child credit at tax time. Use any employer-sponsored dependent care accounts to pay for child care with pre-tax dollars.
Add your child to your health insurance within your insurer’s time guidelines to ensure pediatric expenses are covered.
If walking the dog, cooking dinner, or lugging the baby carrier through a big box store is putting you over the edge, consider calling in reinforcements.
Have it delivered
Schedule purchases (at a discount) for diapers, formula and other baby essentials with an online retailer, like Amazon.com Subscribe & Save. Thrivemarket.com is a great resource for wholesale-priced natural food and home product delivery. Or, save time ordering groceries online with FredMeyer ClickList.
Take food prep off your plate
Make it easy to feed the family in the early days by inviting your community to help (mealtrain.com helps you schedule), or getting healthy meals delivered from Blueapron.com or Farmtofit.com.
Make it yourself
On the flip side, doing your own food prep can make a huge dent in expenses. Prepare and freeze meals before your baby is born, make your own baby food, and cook in bulk. Having healthy food on hand gives you more time and energy for baby care and helps you avoid the cost of fast food.
From dog walking, to housecleaning, to laundering cloth diapers, you can hire experts in your community (or call upon friends and family) to help lighten your load as you adapt to your new normal.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
You don’t need to spend top dollar to outfit your baby with the latest gear. Babies aren’t vain, and they’re perfectly happy with secondhand shopping. Repurposed strollers, diaper bags, high chairs, toys, books, and clothes are a great way to conserve costs. Craigslist, Nextdoor, and OfferUp make it easy to find and purchase quality, used items from people in your community.
Not sure when to get help? If a service is likely to save you time, energy, or strife, it’s worth considering. You could re-allocate discretionary funds such as clothes, travel, grooming, or lattes to fund your new sanity habit.
Jay advises, “If you’re not sure about a purchase, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. If it is, look for a quality alternative that’s less expensive. If you can’t find one, and you still think it’s worth it, make the purchase. This is a great way to slow down and become more conscious of your spending.”
You want to live well today, and tomorrow. Here are some ways to spend and save smart, with a lifetime perspective.
Save what you can
Saving money can be tough, especially when you have a newborn. If you’re overwhelmed by expenses, it’s okay to start small.
Umpqua Bank personal banking expert Gareth Hood suggests, “A simple way to save is to have money automatically deposited in a savings account every month, so you don’t have to think about it.” Even $50 per month can really add up over time.
Prioritizing your savings can help you feel less squeezed.Many experts recommend saving in this order:
From burst pipes to broken bones, family life is full of unexpected and urgent costs. Create a reserve so you can cover these ongoing expenses without going into debt.
Don’t make your elder years a burden for your kids. Saving for your future is an investment in theirs.
Consider a state-sponsored 529 plan that lets you save for college tax-free. But don’t fund this at the expense of your retirement account!
Hood also stresses that a savings plan isn’t one-size-fits-all; it’s most important to do what’s right for you. “Do your research,” he says, “and save in the way that fits your family.”
Make a budget and track cash flow so you can understand and manage your spending. With greater clarity, you can make the hard choices about where to re-allocate funds for what matters most.
Get life insurance for both parents—even if one is at home. This is generally a small investment that yields a big peace of mind return.
Protect your child’s future with an estate plan or will that designates a guardian and clarifies your child’s access to finances.
Eventually, your baby will sleep through the night, your budget will stabilize, and your laundry will get folded. For now, take the next step you can take. You’ve got a lifetime to handle the rest.
“Plan ahead, work together, budget, and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” advises Hood.
Start a conversation with an Umpqua Associate about your needs today.