He Said/She Said: What It’s Really Like Financially to Have Your First Child

Gabrielle Karol

Delia: Right before he was born, I wanted to go out to dinner a lot—a last hurrah!

Did your saving habits change before William was born?

Peter: We opened up a special savings account for the expenses for the first few years of our son’s life.

Delia: We opened up a CD to save for some of the expenses of having a newborn child. We also made sure that we had our emergency fund fully saved up, just in case there were complications that would prevent me from working when I was expecting to go back, or something like that. I always knew I wanted to return to work, but I wanted to be prepared just in case.

How have your spending or saving habits changed since you had William?

Delia: One thing is for sure: It was definitely a lot easier to save money before our son was born! Moving into the larger apartment changed our ability to save significantly, and we’re looking to find a new place with less rent.

We have a lot less disposable income now, and we eat out a lot less than a couple without children. We also used to take small trips about once a month, but we don’t anymore.

Peter: Babies are expensive, and particularly so in New York City. The biggest expense is the nanny we share with one other family. She is fantastic and we couldn’t be happier with her. Then of course there is the two-bedroom apartment, which is definitely a luxury. We mostly cook and blend our own baby food, so that saves some money, but diapers, formula and other miscellaneous items add up. Our friends and family have been incredibly generous with hand-me-downs, so we have not had to spend money on clothing.

In terms of savings, we opened up a 529 investment account through New York State to help finance college for our son one day.

Has it been difficult to adjust to your new lifestyle?

Delia: I miss going out to dinner with Peter. We went out for lunch together recently, just the two of us, and it was so nice to be at a restaurant alone. For the most part, however, it doesn’t feel like sacrifice, though, because it’s an entirely new life stage.

Peter: Some spending habits are easy to cut back on as a matter of course. We just don’t have time to gallivant around the city eating at restaurants, catching concerts and boozing late into the night. Other spending habits have shifted, too. For example, we spend more money on groceries because we are eating out less.

Have your priorities shifted?

Delia: Since our ability to save is largely affected by our larger apartment and the cost of our son’s nanny, we’re constantly having the city vs. suburbs conversation. Rent and daycare would be a lot less in the suburbs, but the commute would be tougher on me from my job in Manhattan. Now, I can be home with William in 15 minutes. And being a new mom in the city is awesome in many ways—there are lots of other great new moms that form a community.

But as we start to think about this, it seems clear that having lots of amenities and being close to hip bars is a lot less important, while being close to outdoor space is higher up on our list of priorities.

Lastly, I’ve also realized how hard it is to foster a life that supports a family. Having time to really concentrate on your family is often at odds with being able to work and provide the resources for cool opportunities for your family. Time has never felt so precious to me.

Peter: In terms of shifting priorities, my son’s future education has become of top priority to me. Given the rate of increase in tuition at secondary and higher educational institutions, it’s hard to comprehend how in the world we will ever be able to afford his education.

  • pm16

    I would love to see a monthly budget relating to child expenses per age of the child to give an idea of how much it really cost. 

    • Jess

      Agreed! On top of that, maybe even a before and after budget glance to see how priorities/expenses shift.

  • Kate

    How much does the nannyshare cost in your part of the country?  Could you tell us a bit about how you cover his or her benefits?

  • Curly girl

    Peter & Delia, we’re in the NY area too and, with the higher cost of living here, share your concern about being able to save enough to send our very young kids to college.  As the first grandkids on either side of the family, everyone was so excited that they wanted to spoil the heck out of our kids (to the best of their respective abilities), but considering our limited space, we’ve asked our parents and grandparents to open their own 529s for our kids (in lieu of smothering them with toys & clothes).  They contribute most of what they would spend on the kids for Christmas and birthdays to their 529s and give each a very small gift (our kids are still so young that a balloon is just as exciting as a toy).  This is awesome for us because it helps to relieve some of the pressure of saving for college.  It also gives our parents and grandparents a feel good gift & tax deduction because of the states they live in.  As we know from LearnVest, compounding interest over 18 years goes a long way even on a seemingly small amount!  If your family members have the ability to do this, maybe it can help! :)

  • DMoney

    This was the most useless article I’ve ever read.

    • Midwest Living

      I agree I am getting annoyed by all the articles by New Yorkers and their money woes.  How about interview some people in more normal situations rather an such an extreme as the high cost of new york.  I find it impossible to relate to any of the articles because of their extremely self imposed high cost of living situation

      • StatenIslandersAreNYers2

         Not everyone in NY has such a high cost of living. I live in NYC but I live in Staten Island and commute every day to work [roughly 2 hours] to make living a bit more affordable [I make little less than 30K]. Although, I do see how one can get annoyed when someone is making 100K or even 75K complain about not being able to make ends meet. But, these articles are meant to show us other people’s point of view. Just like theirs, our point of view is neither right or wrong.

  • Emurdock

    Thank you so much. This was a great concept for an article and I loved that they were interviewed separately. Peter’s last comment hits home on the whole thing. That once you’ve saved for one thing, there’s always something else looming in the future. 

  • Barteau

    I live in LA and my husband and I had a baby last January.  Our expenses have been different because I have been staying home with our baby this year.  Because we have been doing all our expenses in cash for several years I can tell you with certainty that our additional baby expenses have been $200 or less each month.  One month we spent $300 but that month I bought a used crib and stroller and Pack-n-Play.  We use cloth diapers and I have made all our baby food so as he is moving more to table food our expenses have shrunk but I still budget $200 per month in case of overages.

  • Lauren

    Like anything, having a baby is as expensive as you want to make it. When I was pregnant with twins, my husband and I realized that the cost of childcare for twin infants made it not worth both of us holding down fulltime jobs, paying out tons of money in childcare, and then constantly being stressed because we both worked fulltime and were trying to raise twins. In the end, we decided that it was better for me to stay home, because of the opportunities that my husband had at his company, and the fact that he was in the middle of a graduate degree (Both of our jobs were on the table. This was not a gender-based decision). We re-examined our budget in order to align it with only one income, and cut expenses wherever necessary.

    We were lucky to get almost all of the baby necessities at our shower (car seats, cribs, stroller). We used cloth diapers, and our babies were exclusively breastfed until 6 months. Other than the additional expenses on our water bill due to the extra laundry (about $25/month extra), we spent very little money on them. At 6 months we started to add solid food, but made our own. I make about 2 weeks worth of food for roughly $5.

    You pay for convenience, which is what disposable diapers and jarred baby food is. Having a baby is a HUGE change in your life, but it is possible to do it without breaking the bank.

  • Rachel Weatherington

    I would love to see another interview with a less well-off couple in other parts of the country.  

  • liz

    While I think it’s great that these people are willing to give up so much to have children, it just makes me so much more sure in my choice to not have children. I think people need to be as financially prepared as possible before bringing a child in the world (or adopting one) and not do it just so they’ll have someone to love them or because they like sex and can’t figure out how *not* to get pregnant. Congrats to all these parents who are considering all the ramifications of their decisions.