Congratulations, you're expecting a new baby!
In nine short months you'll get to meet this new little person and have the joy of raising him or her. In the midst of thinking about what he'll be like or what impact she'll have on the world, you can easily forget that this baby comes with something -- a price tag.
The Department of Agriculture estimates that children born in 2012 will cost their parents up to $241,080 by the time they turn 18. It's a large sum, but you can start to prepare by saving money through the pregnancy and shortly after the birth. Just follow these nine tips.
Compare hospital costs. One of the biggest costs associated with having your baby will be the cost of delivery. Not only should you consider what the hospital or birthing center will charge, you should also balance what your insurance will cover. What is covered and what procedures cost can vary greatly, even in the same city. So find out the expense differences so you can make an informed decision that saves you money.
Say 'yes' to baby showers. One of the benefits of expecting a baby is that people want to buy gifts for the yet-to-be-born baby -- let them! A shower can be thrown by co-workers, friends from college, neighbors or family. Let them know the things you need so they can buy them, and you can avoid any duplicate products.
Set aside money for maternity/paternity leave.
Shop secondhand for clothes. Many first-time parents don't understand that newborns grow out of their clothes very quickly. You can easily save money by buying gently used secondhand clothes. There are a variety of places to get them: yard sales, consignment shops, friends and family members. If you're planning on having other children, you can also save the clothes for the next child.
Get free samples from your pediatrician. As you get closer to the arrival of your little one, you'll likely visit your pediatrician to go over questions you may have. Take this as an opportunity to ask for any samples they may have to offer. Most pediatricians have samples of formula, diapers and more. It may not be a lot, but the free products can help save you money those first few weeks.
Share maternity clothes. If you have friends who are pregnant or have been recently, this is a great opportunity, as you can share clothes with one another if you're the same size. There is no need to go out and buy a new wardrobe if you can share among friends. That way, all of you can save the money for other needs.
Clip coupons. Some companies, such as Gerber and Earth's Best, offer coupons when you become pregnant. They may require you to sign up on their websites to receive them, but they offer a variety of coupons you can use once you have your baby. They vary from specific product coupons to dollar amount spent. If coupon-hunting isn't your thing, you can save money by buying generic products.
Avoid the 'need' to buy everything. As a new parent you want your child to have everything -- that is an understandable desire. Save yourself money and stress by not giving in to that desire. One example is a high chair. A high chair isn't needed immediately, since the baby won't be able to sit on its own safely. Yet high chairs are still a popular and costly purchase many make before a baby is born. You can cut this cost by buying something else like a booster seat that straps to a dining room chair. This also can't be used safely for some time, but it can be a great option to save both space and money once the time comes.
Stock your freezer with meals. The last thing you're going to want to do once you bring your little one home is cook dinner. This leads to temptation to order in food and spend money. But you can avoid this by pre-making meals during the last few weeks of your pregnancy and freezing them. Once you're home from the hospital, you just have to pull out a meal, warm it up and you're good to go.
Having a baby is, without a doubt, a costly endeavor. However, with a little planning and creativity you can save money and start a lifestyle of making your budget stretch.
John Schmoll is the founder of personal finance website FrugalRules.com, an online community centered on increasing financial literacy, budgeting, investing and finding freedom through frugality.