Recent statistics from the Department of Agriculture show that parents of babies born in 2012 will spend a total of $217,000 to $500,000 to raise them through age 18 -- figures that don't include the cost of college.
Of course, the amount of money you'll spend on your a baby during his or her first year can vary wildly depending on family income, your medical insurance, whether you need to pay for child care, and whether you breastfeed. But it behooves all expecting parents to be as financially prepared as possible before their little bundle of joy arrives. And that means adding to your financial cushion.
For many people, saving an extra $3,000 over a period of nine months is achievable -- though it means finding $333 each month to set aside.
Here are nine tips to get you to that goal -- or much further -- in nine months.
1. Consider selling your car and joining a car-sharing program like Zipcar. Yes, this is a dramatic money-saving strategy. But it also reaps dramatic financial rewards, and may not be as difficult as you think to manage. "Members of car-sharing programs report spending only about $600 per year for their shared wheels, as compared to nearly $9,000 per year to own and operate their car -- that's a potential savings of about $6,000 over nine months," says Jeff Yeager, AARP's savings expert and author of four books about frugal living, including his most recent, "How to Retire the Cheapskate Way." Of course, your savings will vary. And you need to consider whether you can handle the hassle factor, depending on where you live, where you work and how many people are dependent on your vehicle for transportation.
2. Pick up a second job for nine months. Extra night or weekend work can provide just the boost you need to kick-start your baby fund. And remember, it's only temporary. "Once your bundle of joy arrives, you'll realize that working two jobs is a breeze compared to the work associated with a new baby," says Clare Levison, author of "Frugal Isn't Cheap." A work-at-home job can be a great way to help pay the bills after the baby's born, too, if one of the spouses wants to reduce hours or stop working outside the home.
4. Have a sale. Preparing your home for a new resident is a great time to clear out your closets and cabinets, and get rid of some furniture. Make room (and money) for baby by having a yard sale, or selling things on eBay or Craigslist, suggests Levison.
5. Stop drinking bottled water. Seems like a no-brainer. But it's easy to overlook the cost of those bottles of water you buy when you're on the go. "Americans spend an average of $1,400 a year on bottled water," says Leah Ingram, a frugal living expert who blogs at SuddenlyFrugal.com. "If you get a refillable bottle, you can save as much as $117 per month." You might want to buy a filter for your tap water to improve the taste and to get rid of any impurities. But there's still major savings to be had.
6. Give up your phone. Give up your cellphone or your landline, and you'll likely save $500 to $1,500 over nine months, suggests Yeager. "If you and your spouse each have a phone, give them both up for a $3,000-plus savings, and a better, less-stressful quality of life," he says. Potential savings aside, it's probably not a great idea to have to rely on borrowing a phone from strangers, or using public telephones, when it comes close to the due date. So instead of going completely phone-less, look into low-cost prepaid phones/plans, or consider ditching the data plan on your smartphone and using it simply as a plain old cell phone.
7. Pack your lunch. Add up how much you spend per month buying lunch out, and you may be shocked. Ingram says that the average weekday lunch out costs $7, which comes to $152 per month if you buy lunch every day. You'll spend a little more on your grocery store bill, but bringing your lunch is definitely cheaper, and possibly healthier, than buying lunch from a local restaurant or deli.
8. Save your baby gift money. Generous friends and relatives may shower you with binkies and blankets, but some may also give you money to set up a savings account for your little one. Make sure you save any cash you receive instead of spending it on diapers or other baby items.
9. Check for unclaimed property. Yeager suggests using the free nonprofit site www.unclaimed.org to see if you're entitled to collect any unclaimed funds or other assets, such as forgotten bank accounts, security deposits, or refunds for yourself or for deceased relatives. "One out of eight people who search the site are in fact eligible to collect missing funds, with the average amount collected about $1,000," says Yeager.
Saving as little as $20 or $30 here and there can add up quickly. Even if you can't manage to make your lunch every day, or you still need your (decaf) latte once in a while, cutting back and banking $80 per week will get you to your goal within nine months.
Michele Lerner is a Motley Fool contributing writer. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.