illustration of toy box and stacks of money
profile picture of Beth Braverman
Beth Braverman

7 Surprisingly Painless Money Makeovers That’ll Help You Prepare for Baby

Here’s how to make sure your bundle of joy doesn’t blow up your budget.

Let’s be honest: Having a baby is exciting, but it’s also crazy expensive. On the whole, that’s probably not news to most people, but consider this eye-popping stat: Raising a child to the age of 17 costs, on average, more than $200,000—and that’s not even counting college! But here’s the thing: Those costs won’t hit all at once (unlike the moment when you realize that, ready or not, baby is coming out, like now). And since you’re still in parent-prep mode, now’s a great time to make a few small changes to the way you handle money, like canceling subscriptions you don’t use and bundling together insurance policies to score a discount. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even save enough to finance baby’s future bachelor’s degree (hey, a parent can dream!).

Understand Your Medical Plan

Even totally healthy babies need to go to the doctor a lot for basic checkups. Add in a few “Why does my child scream like a banshee at 7 p.m. every day?” and “Is this rash normal?” visits and those medical bills can really start to add up. Keep health care costs down by making sure you understand the ins and outs of what your plan covers: Check that you’re using in-network doctors and find out what you’ll have to pay out of pocket for visits and lab work. And because becoming a parent typically counts as a qualifying life event that allows you to switch plans outside of an open enrollment period, now’s the time to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere.

Reevaluate Your Insurance Policies

And while we’re on the topic of insurance, one super-simple way to slash costs is by bundling together multiple plans. Esurance, for example, makes combining your home and auto insurance surprisingly painless and affordable by saving you up to 10 percent on premiums (yes, we sound like an ad—because technically this is one—but also, it’s true!). And if you haven’t yet, new parents should also look into life insurance to make sure your family will be financially protected. Bonus alert—the younger and healthier you are when you buy term life insurance, the lower your rate.

Take Advantage of Credit Card Rewards

These days, nearly all credit cards come with some type of rewards program. Look through the terms of each of yours to find the card with rewards that most align with your goals, whether through cash back, travel points or special offers at certain retailers. As long as you pay off your balance in full, using your credit card for all your everyday purchases is kind of a no-brainer—who wouldn’t want to pocket a few extra bucks each month or shave down the costs of long-distance traveling, especially when you have a baby in tow? (We won’t tell your in-laws if you use those points to book a trip to Miami, instead of hopping on a plane to visit them.)

Stop Paying for Subscriptions You Don’t Use

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re currently living in a subscription economy. Nearly everything—from the entertainment we consume to the clothes we wear—is available via digital subscriptions. Yes, that convenience is awesome, but with it comes the possibility that you’re shelling out monthly for services that you don’t really need anymore (if you ever did in the first place). Spend some time looking through your bank and credit card statements (or use a budget tracker like Mint) to monitor your accounts for recurring fees, and cancel any subscriptions that no longer make sense for your life and your budget. Better yet, download an app like Truebill that will do the grunt work of canceling services for you. Win!

Automate Your Finances

Pregnancy brain is real—and that absentmindedness doesn’t necessarily go away once you’re dealing with a newborn and a wicked lack of sleep. You’ll probably throw your phone in the diaper pail at least once, and definitely miss a payment or two. While your phone can’t sterilize itself, your bills can pay themselves if you set up auto pay on all of your accounts. (Hint: Use your credit cards if you can to snag more of those aforementioned rewards.) In addition to making life easier, automating can save you on late fees, possibly score you lower rates from some lenders like student loan providers, and even help boost your credit score thanks to always paying on time. While you’re at it, consider setting up a small automatic deposit each month into an account dedicated to emergency savings. By increasing your savings now, you’re less likely to rack up credit card debt to pay for an emergency—like replacing your phone that got covered in poo.

Make the Most of Employee Benefits

If someone offers something of value to you, you take it, right? Well, the same holds true if that “someone” is your workplace. Mind you, we’re not talking about making off with office supplies, but taking advantage of any valuable benefits offered by your employer—many of which are geared toward young families. For example, a flexible-spending account or health-savings account, depending on what type of health insurance you have, can help reduce medical costs. And if you’re planning to use day care or a nanny, see whether your company offers an option to cover some or all of those costs with pretax dollars. Pro tip: These pretax deductions lower your taxable income, which could mean you’ll owe less to Uncle Sam.

Be a Better Shopper

It’s easy to get carried away when shopping for a new baby—it’s not like those adorable onesies will buy themselves—but newborns actually don’t really need a lot of fancy (or pricey) things. Cut down on expenses, for example, by buying everyday things like diapers or formula in bulk, and getting secondhand baby clothes from local consignment shops or online through a service like ThredUp. Another idea: Look for multifunctional gear that grows along with baby, like a crib that converts to a toddler bed and a stroller that can be used from infancy through toddlerhood. Individually, these swaps may not make a huge dent in your kid’s future college fund, but altogether they can really add up—and if not, hey, there’s always scholarships.

Let’s be honest, this article is sponsored by Esurance. We make insurance surprisingly painless, kind of like how The Bump makes planning for a baby easier. Learn more at Esurance.com.