Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Budgeting for Baby

by Christina VanGinkel

If a new baby in the house does one thing besides providing a new bundle of joy to care for and love, even at a lack of sleep, he, or she also leaves your wallet a little bit thinner. Diapers and formula alone can take a budget that was relatively normal and leave it feeling down right sparse. If possible, begin working all the little extras into your budget before they actually arrive.

If you use a checkbook, one simple way to do this is to create a column in the back of your register specifically for a baby supply fund. Every time you write a check, subtract a dollar extra or round it up to the nearest dollar. For example, if you write a check for $10.22, subtract $11.00 and transfer 88 cents to your baby fund. This does not seem like much, but if you write out quite a few checks each week this can add up quickly.

If you pay mostly with cash, take all your extra change, even singles if you can spare a few, and toss them into an old-fashioned piggy bank at the end of the day. Both of these methods work surprisingly well. Even though they are both mind over matter, you just do not seem to miss the money all that much when you subtract it in this way.

Another way to gain quick cash for all the extras associated with a new baby in the house is to take a serious look at where your money goes in a given week. If you or your spouse happen to be a coffee or tea lover and purchase a cup or two regularly from a restaurant, cafe, or coffee house, just cutting these out, or cutting them back, can be a huge boost alone to your budget. One friend I know usually bought himself a cup of flavored cappuccino every morning on his way to work, plus a cup every Saturday morning when he would head to the park with his dog. He cut out his weekday cappuccinos, having a cup of regular coffee at home, but keeping his Saturday morning splurge. He said the first week or two was difficult, as it was such a habit, but it left him enjoying his cup on Saturdays even more, plus he could hardly believe how fast his dollars saved started to add up. Every morning before he left for work he would toss the couple of dollars he would have normally spent into a jar on his dresser, so he had a visual each day, right from the start, just how fast his dollars were growing.

Personally, I cut my magazine habit when I found out I was pregnant with my youngest son. Always grabbing a magazine nearly every time I walked into a grocery store was so easy to do. Those glossy covers just about begged me to bring them home. I subscribed to the ones I really enjoyed, and just held my ground against all the others. I too took the money each shopping trip, estimating what I would normally have spent, and tossed it into a bowl on my dresser. By the time my son was born, I had saved enough to cover diapers and incidentals for almost the entire first year.

It is possible to squeeze money out of almost any budget. Just take a realistic look at where your dollars go and decide what things you can do without, or do with less of.

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