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Raising baby, raising money

Erika Ekman Harmon

How much cash do you have in your pocket? If you’re the parent of a newborn, it won’t be there for long, and your checkbook will suffer the same fate soon.

The first year of a baby’s life is a period of rapid growth, both for baby and the costs associated with raising a young child. From birth to the age of 1, baby can run the bills up into the thousands – and that’s just the first year.

“We’ve probably spent a good $800 in diapers alone, from birth to now,” said Erin Villela, mother of 5-month-old Madeline.

The average baby goes through eight diapers a day. The number is roughly the same for bottles, bringing the infant formula bill during the first year to about $800. Add jarred baby food, rice cereal, juice and snacks to that and baby’s grocery bill can double.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Clothes, budget about $700 for the first year. And remember, when baby outgrows those cute sleepers in two months they’re still like new.

Toys, another $300.

Baby furniture including crib, bassinet, dresser, changing table and decor can run into the thousands. The crib alone, brand new, averages $300.

Does he have his own room? Add $200 more on monthly rent.

Does she attend day care? At an average of $2.75 an hour, plan to spend about $350 a month.

And don’t forget periodic well-child checkups at the doctor’s office. They cost about $159 each. During the first year, baby will have visited the doctor four times for vaccinations. Total doctor’s cost: about $650 – more if baby gets sick. And rare is the child who gets through the first year without some sort of illness.

Earaches run about $45 per visit, and medicine another $20.

And while we’re talking doctor’s visits, it’s probably a good time to remember that babies don’t just happen. Nine months of prenatal checkups for mom, plus ultrasound, the climactic grand appearance and newborn care at the hospital averages $2,600. That’s just a physician’s fee. It doesn’t include a two-day stay at the hospital for both mom and baby.

Luckily, some parents get help with medical expenses.

“Most insurance companies will cover 80 to 90 percent,” according to Tahoe Family Physicians billing representative Wanda Liebhold. “For people with insurance, the out-of-pocket cost for OB checks and delivery is about $580.20,” she said, “not counting hospital charges.”

All told, it costs about $8,300 a year, or $694 per month, to raise one child in a two-child, two-parent, middle-income family, not including pregnancy and delivery, according to a recent Department of Agriculture study.

And after the first year, the costs just continue to soar.

The Department of Agriculture has estimated that new parents will spend $149,820 to raise a child from birth to age 17.

A 1996 survey of 12,850 two-parent households and 3,395 single-parent households found that housing took the biggest chunk – 33 percent, or $49,710. Food was No. 2 at $26,130, followed closely by transportation, clothing and child care.

A generation earlier, raising a child cost one-sixth as much, the survey showed. Several expenses, such as child care, weren’t a factor in earlier times. In 1960, the first year the department conducted the survey, raising a child cost $25,229. Today, two-income families are the norm and full-time care is often required.

There are cost-saving measures parents can practice. But no matter how well mom and dad clips coupons that fact remains – if they’re raising baby, they’d better be raising money.

Ed Villela, Madeline’s dad, said despite the numbers, he doesn’t think the cost of raising his daughter is too high.

“If that includes clothes and food and everything, that’s not bad.”

And worth it? “Oh, definitely worth it. She’s a babe.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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