The first year is the hardest. (On the wallet, too.)

We had health insurance. We paid $500 a month for our premium. I had a perfectly normal pregnancy. It was still around $4,000 for my out-of-pocket cost just for the delivery! Yikes.

This is nothing new. Babies are freaking expensive.

Just look at this recent estimate for 2015 – $13,000 a year on average for most of us in the US, which is about $233,000 from birth until age 17. This does not include college costs.

And can you believe that estimate is down from 2014? It was $245,000 back then. Ha.

Let me tell you, I am NOT the kind of person that enjoys owing any money on anything at all. I busted my butt to graduate college debt-free, drove a beat-up car that was all paid off, and kept all of my credit cards with statement balances of zero. I think I get so anxious about huge numbers in our finances because some of my formative years were during the Great Recession of 2008.

This was when the housing bubble burst and left a lot of people facing foreclosure, including my mom. I didn’t want to end up in another situation where I would have strangers harassing us because of something that was past-due that I could not pay. It was hard for everyone back then, even for the people who tried to collect on us, only to find out we had nothing of value to take.

(Seriously, they tried taking my car. Because of my mom’s debts. My car was only worth $400 at best. The repo guys were not happy about that one. Banks were desperate to collect on anything at all.)

The trusty rust bucket I used during high school and nearly half of college. Best $800 I’ve ever spent.

Fast forward back to 2017. When the pregnancy tests came back positive, I was happy. But I was also crying. I was seriously freaking out. I thought I would have more time to plan for an occasion such as this down the road, especially financially. I had gotten to this point in my life faster than I had anticipated.

However, I was pleasantly surprised that we managed to survive the first year without taking on too much hardship – and not bleeding our bank account dry. We were lucky to have people in our network that got us access to hand-me-downs and free samples of nearly everything. Our church friends were also super supportive and helped us with whatever we needed in the first month.

Here are some takeaways from my latest financial journey so far…

Healthcare is Often Non-Negotiable – Stay Informed!

This was the largest expense in my experience.

We had health insurance. We paid $500 a month for our premium. I had a perfectly normal pregnancy. It was still around $4,000 out-of-pocket just for the delivery! This didn’t count what I had to pay out-of-pocket for prenatal check-ups until I had met my $4,000 deductible. So around $8,000 was just to keep tabs on the baby and make sure everything went well. We are so happy that she is healthy, but that cost alone was outrageous!

I tried being a responsible consumer and called around to find out how much services would cost for each hospital in the area. It was basically impossible to get a straightforward answer. Most of the time, I would get re-directed to a few different departments, only to be told that the costs were “variable” and that they couldn’t give me a proper estimate even. Yikes.

Thankfully, I can at least sort of haggle with the hospital for the monthly payments. I learned that the hospital I went to can never refuse a payment, no matter how small it is. If there are months where I can’t make the minimum payment, I try calling the hospital to tell them that I can only spare 5 bucks or whatever I’ve got left that month. My goal is to at least prevent the debt from going to collections. If it comes down to only having enough to pay for either groceries or this bill, you can take a good guess on where that money will be going.

Only a little more than $3,300 left to pay. Yay.

The Benefits of Amazon Prime for Diapers

The second biggest expenses for us were diapers and wipes. Fortunately for me, I had accidentally paid for an Amazon Prime membership a few months before finding out I was pregnant. We took full advantage of all that the Prime membership had to offer. As Amazon Prime members, we had access to Amazon Family, which gave us 20% off diapers, and the Subscribe and Save program also allowed us to take an extra 15% off of other items as well! After that, the membership basically paid for itself with all of the savings on just the diapers and wipes alone.

Also, it was really just nice to have the items come to me. This also saved me from extra trips to the store because of diaper shortages. And with frazzled mom brain in full swing, it was awesome to set a subscription for the diapers I wanted, and then let Amazon do the rest. Another thing off of my plate!

Evolving Wardrobes – Choose Wisely!

The third largest expense? Just the clothes I had to buy for myself during and after the pregnancy. (Had to be presentable to the public, yes?) I worked in an office, so I had to wear professional-ish attire that fit me well. If my belly was sagging out of my pants or if my top was too tight, that was going to be a problem. The pregnancy and postpartum shapewear I got was phenomenal but expensive! I also had to get larger bras to accommodate the additions to my, err… assets. (And also very expensive.)

And it’s not just the mom who needs new threads – baby’s gotta be dressed, too! We were so blessed to have a couple in the church offer us anything they had for their first child. Our nursery was nearly free because of them! We also were blessed with an unlimited amount of clothing for her first year, which we didn’t spend a dime on.

I didn’t stress in the early months about baby clothes. A baby does not yet have any sort of fashion sense. There is no need to buy expensive clothing. Chances are, the baby will outgrow a LOT in the first few months and may not even get to wear some things. It’s absolutely amazing how fast these little ones grow!

Make Up an Email for Free Stuff!

Even if I did not benefit from some of these items, chances are I can find a mom who could use them! Take my word for it – there are marketers out there who want you to have these free items so you can come running back for more. They hope that if you try a product and end up loving it, you will run to the store to buy more of it. They hope that this can create customer loyalty and a relationship with the brand over time.

But who says we’re obligated to go buy something just because of a free sample?

I got loads of goodies, samples, and discounts from many companies and retailers. Some include Sam’s Club, Enfamil, Similac, Phillips (Avent bottles), Huggies, Pampers, Luvs… well, you get the idea. A LOT of places. And all I had to do was give them an email and fill out a painless form here and there.

I loved getting those little presents in the mail during my pregnancy.

I also earned some perks and discounts by setting up baby registries with different retailers. I had three different ones set up: Amazon, Target, and Babies “R” Us.

If you want to try this, just make up a specific email for the goods so your primary email doesn’t get spammed to death. Because it will. And if you do happen to go through those emails, you can sometimes find good deals on products that you will actually use!

Babies. Don’t. Know. Anything.

Finally, I use this knowledge to my advantage when thinking about toys and food. Or anything else, really. Babies have no idea what they are about to experience when they pick up an object or try solid foods for the first time. It is a wonderful thing to witness, even if they are just playing with a paper towel roll or eating last night’s liquified leftovers. They really don’t know better.

PJ loves boxes. Simple objects around the house (that are safe!!!) will do just fine to entertain her for now. And luckily, she will eat anything I put in front of her. This means I can save a lot of money on food by just feeding her what we are eating. There is a time trade-off for homemade food, but it was so much cheaper for us that it was worth the time spent in our situation.

Your turn! Do you have any helpful tips to save money during the first year? Share with me below! I’m always looking for new ways to stretch my dollar further.

By Jessie

Jessie works a full-time job and also happens to be the mother of a bubbly toddler named PJ. She lives with her husband Dan in Southeastern Michigan and hangs out in the Toledo, Ohio area a lot. Loves food, coffee, and likes to play video games in her spare time, if she's lucky to get any.

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