Financial Planning and Emergency Savings for Expecting Parents

Here’s how to prepare your finances for a new child

A man with a beard and a pregnant woman sit on a couch, looking over their budget on a tablet
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Expecting parents have a lot to figure out, and almost half of new parents admit they weren’t prepared for child-related financial demands. Yet, the right money moves can help support a growing family and give your child a solid financial foundation. Here are some financial planning and emergency savings steps for expecting parents.

Adjust Your Household Budget 

The average cost of raising a child until age 17 can run as high as $233,610, not including college expenses, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report. Depending on your annual income, your child’s first year could cost between $9,690 and $19,770—and those costs will only increase.

These future expenses make it important to examine your income and spending now. Pull out recent bank statements, and compare your pay to your current expenses.

Next, forecast future family expenses. Housing is one of the top expenses for families, according to the USDA. You also might need an extra bedroom or larger vehicle to accommodate the addition of a new family member.

Other big spending categories include:

  • Food: Up to 20% of child-rearing costs, and you could end up spending between $99 and $183 per month to feed a 1-year-old child.
  • Child care and education: Up to 23% of child-rearing costs; infant care ranges from $215 per week at a child care center to $565 a week for a nanny, on average.
  • Clothing and diapers: Disposable diapers alone run $70 to $80 per month.
  • Extras: Don’t forget out-of-pocket health care costs, a car seat and stroller, haircuts, books, and more.

Now is the time to free up funds for covering new costs. Cut unnecessary expenses, lower recurring living costs like rent or phone bills, find ways to earn more income, or research options to fit child care into your budget.

Treat the pre-arrival period as a trial run for your new-baby budget. Try living on your adjusted budget, then use leftover funds for baby-related purchases or savings.

Fund Emergency Savings

An adequate emergency fund ensures that you can cover unexpected financial hardships, including unemployment, medical emergencies, and loss of child care. So, start (or expand) your emergency fund.

Consider emergency savings in terms of months—as in the months of covered living expenses if and when a crisis arrives. Each month saved buys you another 30 days to pay bills while researching options and solutions.

A well-funded emergency savings account falls somewhere between two and five months of living expenses, the average period of unemployment in 2020. A three-month emergency fund is reasonable for dual-income earners. Saving a six-month emergency fund is ideal if you’re worried that your job isn’t secure or if you’ll be a single parent.

Here are a few other ways to add to your new-parent emergency fund:

  • Request cash instead of, or in addition to, baby-shower gifts.
  • Send $10 per week to savings through automatic transfers or paycheck deposits.
  • Add tax refunds, birthday or holiday cash gifts, or other small windfalls to your fund.
  • Declutter to make room for baby, sell unused items, and save that cash.
  • Revisit W-4 withholdings and employment benefits to increase your take-home pay and save the difference. Just remember that you could end up owing the IRS money at tax time if you have too little withheld from your paychecks.

Review Health Insurance

Having a baby can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $41,000—or more—depending on where you live, your care needs, and your health insurance plan. Your plan has a huge impact on how much you'll pay for out-of-pocket prenatal care, labor and delivery, and infant care.

Review your health insurance plan for details, such as in-network health care providers, deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums. Call your insurer to clarify how costs are covered, and ask about programs that offer additional financial or health support to expecting parents. If necessary, you could also lower out-of-pocket costs by changing plans during open enrollment. Check eligibility for Medicaid through the Healthcare.gov tool, and consider CHIP coverage if you earn too much for Medicaid.

Many plans don’t include maternity coverage for dependent children. You could end up paying out of pocket for prenatal and maternity medical expenses if you’re a dependent on your parent’s health insurance plan.

Having or adopting a baby counts as a qualifying life event that permits changes to a health insurance plan outside of open enrollment, such as adding your child or uninsured partner to your plan. You also might be able to switch to a plan with better coverage after you have the child.

More Ways for Expecting Parents To Prepare

Plan for Parental Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides parents with up to 12 weeks off after a child joins their family—but it’s not necessarily paid leave. Check your employer’s policy on paid parental leave, and start saving to replace your income while you’re on parental leave.

Understand Child Tax Benefits

The IRS offers a child tax credit of up to $2,000 for children under age 17. Other child-related tax benefits include the child and dependent care tax credit, adoption tax credit, or employer-provided adoption assistance and dependent care benefits. You’ll need your child’s Social Security number to claim the Child Tax Credit. You can apply when providing information for your child’s birth certificate, or at a Social Security office. The second option takes longer, as your child’s birth certificate must be verified.

Child-related tax benefits have been significantly enhanced in 2021 in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Children up to age 17—not 16—are eligible for the Child Tax Credit for this one year only, and the credit for children under 6 years old is increased to $3,600 as well. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit has been favorably adjusted as well.

Pay Down Debts

Debt is the top financial stressor for 32% of families. Eliminating debts and other liabilities help you to increase financial security and free up cash for building wealth and supporting your family.

Buy More Insurance

Life insurance and disability insurance can help you affordably plan for worst-case scenarios and care for your family.

Organize Your Finances

A written will allows you to decide how your child will receive assets and be cared for. Add your child as a beneficiary to existing bank and investment accounts and insurance plans, but don't neglect to name a guardian to manage these finances for them until they reach the age of majority.

Save for the Future

Consider saving for your child’s college education using a 529 plan. Save for your retirement, too, to avoid becoming a financial burden on your child later in life.

Financial Planning Is Good Parenting

Growing up in a financially stable home is a powerful head start that correlates to improved well-being, behavior, and health outcomes for your child, both now and throughout their life. You’ll give your child security and model positive money behaviors as you responsibly manage family finances and build emergency savings.