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If we know one another personally, you probably know that my wife and I just had a child of our own. I'm still working on my swaddling technique and I haven't quite figured out how to shove the “pack and play” back in that tiny little bag, but I have learned a few things over these past several months. For my currently pregnant and maybe one-day pregnant readers out there (and their spouses), here are seven financial tips:
- If possible, get health coverage where the insurance company will pay 100% of your costs after your deductible and copayments have been met. Call me Captain Obvious, but births are significant health care events, so they are going to have a price tag. If you’re on a plan that covers 100% after you reach your deductible, you have the comfort of being able to back-in to what your birth medical expenses will likely be without having to wonder how much it could cost if there are complications. If you are planning to have children, health insurance is a good thing to address before you are pregnant because you don’t always get an open enrollment period before the baby arrives. You can also go ahead and strategize about whose plan the baby is going to be on if both parents have health insurance.
- Boost your life insurance or get life insurance if you haven’t already. If Mom is going to stay at home for a while or shift to part-time, Mom needs to have some significant life insurance on Dad should something happen to Dad and his paycheck. If Dad is going to keep working and Mom is going to look after the baby, Dad needs to have some significant life insurance on Mom should something happen to Mom and her child care services. Interchange “Mom” and “Dad” here as needed, but you get the picture. An article I recently read pointed out that going ahead and boosting a woman’s life insurance early in her pregnancy may be a good idea as complications such as gestational diabetes could arise during the pregnancy and obviously, situations could occur at birth. As you would probably expect, it’s cheaper and easier to get life insurance if you have fewer health issues and less treatment history.
- If Mom is going on maternity leave, there is a good chance she will be drawing short-term disability that will very likely not be 100% of her pay. This means you have a pay cut coming, and you need to plan accordingly! I’d suggest ratcheting up the savings now if Mom is still working so that you can offset your upcoming pay cut when the time comes and not have to significantly change your lifestyle.
- Many of our friends that are already parents have warned us about looking after “us.” A baby can be a wonderful addition, but he or she takes time and energy, and can subtract from what you can offer your spouse and your friends. In that spirit, I’d also start saving for date nights and friend nights. It’s not just dinner and a movie anymore! It’s going to be dinner, a movie, and a babysitter. Look after the baby, but look after your marriage and your friends, too!
- Pay off your credit cards! You should do this whether you are having a baby or not, but I can already tell you that you’re going to want to have as much spending power available to you as you can. Baby stuff is expensive! I’m sure you’ll get some gifts (and my wife and I are very appreciative of what we have received), but you’re not going to get all that you need without buying some of the stuff yourself.
- In the spirit of my comment about baby “stuff” not being terribly cheap, don’t overspend or overbuy baby stuff, either. It makes me sound like an old man, but I can tell you for a fact I wasn’t raised with all the gadgets and gizmos that some of these baby stores tell you that you “have to have.” My wife asked a good friend of hers who was a recent Mom to accompany us as we started considering what we would need for our new family member, and I think that was one of the best ideas we’ve had. My wife may have invited her friend for comfort, support, and wisdom, but every time she told us we didn’t need the premium plus version of that bottle, or the spa edition of the bath apparatus, or the nuclear-powered thermometer, I literally felt money going back into my wallet!
- Try to figure out what the new normal budget is going to look like. Whether it’s pay cuts, health insurance expense increases, double income households becoming single income households, daycare expenses, or lots and lots and lots of diapers to be purchased, your budget probably won’t look the same after the little one arrives. No matter how cute those little hats and booties are, your financial principles need to stay the same: spend less than you make and live within your means.
I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be writing a lot of posts at strange hours over the next few months…