Unexpected pregnancies can break a well-balanced budget, Grownups—blogger Chonce Maddox discusses how she managed her surprise family addition.
All financially savvy Grownups should be prepared for life-changing events that could have long-term effects on their finances, right? In a perfect world, that would be the case, but major changes are often unexpected. And an unplanned pregnancy is arguably one of the most common life-altering events for many Grownups.
While my first pregnancy was unexpected, it was rather relaxed: I figured I had nine months to plan, and that had to be enough time (whether I was ready or not). My main focus was preparing my budget so I wouldn’t feel stressed about money and could enjoy motherhood to the fullest.
Here’s how I approached my finances after finding out I was pregnant.
It’s no secret that kids are not cheap. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated it costs $300,000 to raise a child until age 18 (taking inflation into account).
During my pregnancy, I focused on narrowing down what my baby would truly need: food, shelter, health care, a car seat, bottles, clothing, and hygiene products—that was basically it.
I knew I didn’t need a fancy changing table or designer stroller with a matching baby bag. Realizing that took a ton of pressure off me and I started focusing only on what really mattered.
Evaluating Income and Expenses
During my pregnancy, I was a young adult in college. I didn’t have a steady job, which is scary now that I think about it. I did have decent pay from an internship that I loved, but knowing that was a temporary arrangement was no source of comfort.
I started tracking my income and determined how much I could save for when my son was born. Luckily, my expenses were very low—I was still living with my parents—and I was able to sock away money for items like diapers, wipes, bottles, bibs, etc.
My boyfriend and I stopped splurging on dining out, expensive outings, and aimless shopping. After cutting our expenses, we found we had enough money to set aside for all our baby’s expenses—both planned and unexpected.
Having a baby will cause your expenses to increase, and it can be scary when your projected expenses exceed your income. The strategy I used may not work for everyone, but (if nothing else) it will allow you to loosen your budget by freeing up some of your income.
Aside from saving a fixed amount of money for the next nine months, it was also important for me to plan out what my income and expenses would look like in the future. Like I said, I was in an awkward place in life—I didn’t have a career or even a steady job. On the other hand, I didn’t have many expenses, since I lived with family at the time.
Since I was at community college, I knew I would be getting some money back from financial aid. I also knew how much I could save leading up to the birth of my son. Plus, I could consider the child tax credit in the future.
It was somewhat risky, but I decided to spend the first few months bonding with my baby after giving birth instead of rushing out to find another job. Being in a dual-income situation also helped, since my boyfriend was working and we lowered our expenses so much.
Evaluating the Changes
Once needs, income, and expenses were evaluated, it was time to make a plan of action and implement the changes. I created a rough pre-delivery budget based on my current situation, which was basically a watered-down version of my more frugal budget.
I also built a post-delivery budget, including insurance, baby food, medical expenses, disposable diapers and wipes, etc.
My strategy was all about lowering the costs of raising a baby so I could buy myself enough time to graduate college and land a higher-paying job. I really focused on saving money: I had a large baby shower and, thanks to generous friends and family, received many important items for my baby. I also collected baby clothes and gear at garage sales or via free hand-me-downs. I purchased a few new items too, but it wasn’t much of a financial strain since I had been saving.
An unexpected pregnancy isn’t the end of the world. For me, I’ll admit it seemed like that at first. But planning is key.
It doesn’t take nine months to create and implement a budget, even if it requires some trial and error. By staying calm, evaluating my entire situation, accepting support from my loved ones, and focusing strictly on needs, I was able to optimize my current income. I enjoyed my pregnancy and first few months of motherhood without stressing out about finances.
Chonce Maddox runs the blog My Debt Epiphany
and contributes personal finance stories to many other online publications.
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