One whole paycheck…each month…for an entire year.

That’s how much I would need to save up for the baby I was planning to have. Well, according to Google.

When I searched “how much do babies cost,” it pulled up the USDA’s cost of raising a child calculator, which gave an estimate of about $16,000.


That was a LOT of money, so I decided to be extra careful with my spending and ended up with a far smaller baby tab.

My final figure? Just about $6,100.

In this post, you will find:

  • Our first-year baby expenses, so you can see a real-life example of how much it actually costs to raise a newborn
  • Realistic budget ranges to help you plan for your baby
  • My best tips for how to avoid overspending when it comes to baby

This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

how much do babies cost? my actual first year budget



  • Find out what costs you’re likely to incur for baby.
  • Come up with a savings plan.
  • Start saving before the due date!

My Actual Expenses in the First Year

The table below includes an itemized expense log of what I spent in year 1 for my son. You can also find a visual list of my best baby finds here.

First Year Expenses Breakdown Table
ItemQuantityTotal PriceVendor
Hospital, Mama3-day stay$1607.85Local provider
Labor & Delivery, Mama$456.45Local provider
Delivery doctor, Mama$422.05Local provider
Delivery doctor, Baby$40.05Local provider
Medications, Mama$26.75Local provider
Total for HOSPITAL$2553.15
Increased health insurance premiumFamily$422.40Local provider
Witch hazel pads, Mama1 tin$4.39CVS
Mastitis visit, Mama1 visit$10.00Local provider
Mastitis medication, Mama1 bottle$15.00Local provider
Hospital parking8 days$24.00Local provider
Well baby check up, BabyTaxes only$24.36Local provider
Tongue tie surgery, Baby1 surgery$40.00Local provider
Vitamin drops, Baby5 bottles$37.60CVS
Total for OTHER MEDICAL$577.75
Crib, 2 mattresses, 2 waterproof pads, 4 fitted sheets1$45.00Craigslist
Pack n play playard1$40.00Craigslist
Foam mat1$24.82Babies R Us
Rug8 x 10 ft$94.23Costco
Folding mattress1$93.19Walmart
Utilities (estimated increase)$600.00Electric Company
Total for HOUSING/NURSERY$892.24
Swaddling blanket1$3.34Thrift store
Baby hangersSet of 10$1.19Walmart
Total for CLOTHING$21.96
Breast pump rental5 months$65.55Local provider
Organic nipple cream3 jars
(2 oz each)
Fenugreek5 bottles$32.97Walmart
Formula11 bottles$65.21CVS, Sam’s Club
Bottle brush2$4.33Amazon
Bibs3$1.50Thrift store
Baby food6 pouches$6.28Babies R Us
Prune juice2 bottles
(64oz each)
Total for NURSING/FEEDING$208.63
Cloth diapers20$47.98Ebay
Cloth diaper inserts40$8.00Ebay
Disposable diapers2$62.00Target
Baby wash5$25.19Target
Laundry basket1$1.16Walmart
Antifungal cream1$15.00Local provider
Rubber duckies2$2.32Target
Total for BATHING/CHANGING$161.65
Preschool application fee1$25.00Local preschool
Total for CHILDCARE$25.00
Newborn announcements100$27.37Costco
Car shades3$6.99Amazon
Lamaze toy1$186.03Amazon
Tower blocks1$11.99Thrift store
Jittery toy1$11.20Babies R Us
Shopping cart toy1$12.24Babies R Us
Socket protectors25$2.09Amazon
Gas (estimated increase)$500.00
Birth certificates2$16.50Dept of Health
Thank you giftsVarious$1244.41Various
Total for MISCELLANEOUS$2117.78

baby essentials checklist and baby savings plan worksheet tracker printable


Get this two-part printable:

  • Essentials checklist:
    • Baby must-have items
    • Highly recommended and optional products
    • Estimated budget per category
  • Savings plan:
    • One major financial task per month
    • Fun savings tracker

Estimated baby expenses (by category)

Below is a summary of the most common baby-related expenses you’ll deal with, sorted by category. For each section, I’ve included the following:

  • USDA’s cost estimate, according to their cost of raising a child calculator
  • The realistic cost estimate range that I think most people can reasonably expect to spend
  • The amount I actually spent
  • A list of the expenses that would fall into each category

An asterisk(*) is shown next to the biggest cost-eater per section that I think first-time parents should keep an eye on when budgeting for a baby.


Everyone’s circumstances are different, so don’t take these numbers as set in stone as they reflect my personal experience only.

Our intention is to share a real-life example to first-time parents to help them navigate the finances of having a child with at least some information, rather than going in totally blind.

As such, you may spend less or end up paying more based on your individual situation.

hospital medical bill costs


USDA estimate: $1500
Realistic estimate: $1500-$4000
My actual spend: $3130.90

Expenses include:

  • Increased healthcare premium
  • Out-of-pocket hospital bill*
  • Out-of-pocket prenatal and postnatal check-ups for mom and baby
  • Medications
  • Vitamins/supplements
  • Medical supplies

My hospital bill was higher due to complications I had during delivery. This required extra services as well as an extended hospital stay to monitor the status of me and baby.

It’s pretty hard to say what will happen when you give birth, and complications are a lot more common than you’d think. Just try your best to stay healthy so you can maximize your chances of having a smooth and complication-free delivery.

How to save big on medical expenses: First and foremost, get insurance. According to my labor and delivery bill breakdown, the cost before insurance was over $13,000!

If you already have coverage, then look into health savings accounts or flex spending accounts that allow you to put a portion of your paycheck before taxes into a separate account that can only be used for health-related costs. This could easily save you hundreds or even thousands.

house icon


USDA estimate: $4700
Realistic estimate: $500-$3500
My actual spend: $292 or $892 (see note below)

Expenses include:

  • Increased mortgage/rent/property tax if upgrading to a larger space
  • Utilities
  • Furnishings for nursery*
    • Crib
    • Rugs/flooring

I didn’t compare my utilities prior to and after baby was born. The first number for the total I spent doesn’t take utilities into account, but the second number adjusts for an estimated $50 more month.

How to save big on housing expenses: Don’t upgrade more than you have to. Because we stayed in the same home and didn’t even create a separate nursery, our cost didn’t go up by much at all.

Since nursery furniture can get costly, make sure you’re making the most of your baby registry by adding it there. Even if it’s too expensive for one person to get, a group of people might chip in together to buy the item for you.

baby essential clothing yellow onesie


USDA estimate: $1000
Realistic estimate: $100-$500
My actual spend: $142.94

Expenses include:

  • Clothing
  • Accessories
  • Diapers*
  • Footwear

Ah, the classic question of which diapering system saves you more money. Read my take on the cloth vs disposable diaper debate, where I mention an obvious tip that most parents are overlooking. It was responsible for our family saving over $1000 in diaper supplies.

How to save big on clothing: Let friends and family who have older kids know that you’re expecting. Many of them will be glad to pass off old clothes to you. If you don’t have such a network, there are other ways to get free baby stuff. Or, make Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace your friend. There are so many great deals on loads of used clothing for dirt cheap.

save money on baby essentials feeding


USDA estimate: $2000
Realistic estimate: $200-$800
My actual spend: $208.63

Expenses include:

  • Formula*
  • Breastfeeding supplies
  • Bottles
  • Solid foods
  • Feeding cleaning supplies
  • Bibs
  • Dining out

The idea of feeding formula honestly didn’t cross my mind at all because I was so focused on learning how to breastfeed. But then baby was born and alas, I had low milk supply, baby had trouble latching, and formula became a very important part of our feeding routine.

How to save big on feeding: Be prepared for the possibility of needing formula, which I turned to when my son wasn’t taking to breastfeeding and my body wasn’t producing enough breast milk supply.

Sign up for formula programs to get free samples and coupons, which will help bring your formula cost down significantly. I signed up for both Similac and Enfamil. Each were pretty generous, and softened the blow to my bank account.

plan for a baby face icon


USDA estimate: $3600
Realistic estimate: $0-$10,000
My actual spend: $25

Expenses include:

  • Daycare*
  • Babysitting*
  • Special classes
  • Education fees

I technically included a $25 application fee for preschool when my son turns 4 since you need to get these things in ASAP to reserve a space for your child. We are fortunate that the grandparents on both sides are willing and able to look after our son so that we don’t have to pay for childcare.

Prices we were looking at for daycare were between $400-800 a month.

How to save big on childcare: This is less a money tip than overall healthy life balance tip. Really sit down and discuss options for childcare with your partner.

Not only should you take the financial aspect into consideration, but also the change in lifestyle, impacts on social life and your relationship as a couple, etc.

Get family involved if you and they are willing, save up vacation so you can take a day off each week to relieve the babysitter, or find other tips to save money for childcare.

red car icon


USDA estimate: $2300
Realistic estimate: $500+
My actual spend: $500 (see note)

Expenses include:

  • Car payments
  • Gas
  • Car maintenance
  • Car insurance
  • Parking
  • Public transportation
  • Air transportation*

I didn’t track how many extra car trips I made because of the baby. For the most part, the only new travel we did was to more doctor’s appointments. Most of the other times were to run errands we would have normally gone on even before the baby. We also didn’t upgrade our car or take any flights in that first year.

How to save big on transportation: Unless you’re getting a second car, upgrading the size of your car, or flying in a plane to visit anyone, it’s relatively easy to keep transportation costs down.

If you do fly, check if your little one can travel for free. Most companies won’t charge for baby, although some international airlines may only offer a reduced ticket price.

baby essentials stroller icon


USDA estimate: $1000
Realistic estimate: $500-$1500
My actual spend: $1660.95

Expenses include:

  • Bathing supplies
  • Entertainment
  • Reading materials
  • Baby gear*
  • Toys
  • Gifts

About a quarter of our spending here was for actual baby supplies, including some baby essentials and other extras, but the rest was on gifts for the friends and family who were so generous and loving to our son.

How to save big on miscellaneous expenses: Few, if any, entertainment and learning tools need to be purchased brand new. Acquire hand-me-downs from family and friends through word-of-mouth, or purchase secondhand.

Also, take care of those who take care of your kid. Knowing that you have those who are happy for you and want the best for your family is priceless.

Express your gratitude because being careful with your finances is not just about the money spent. It includes being grateful for the positive relationships and support networks that you have in your life too.

baby essentials checklist and baby savings plan worksheet tracker printable


Get this two-part printable:

  • Essentials checklist:
    • Baby must-have items
    • Highly recommended and optional products
    • Estimated budget per category
  • Savings plan:
    • One major financial task per month
    • Fun savings tracker

How much money should you have saved for a baby?

So let’s summarize the estimated budget ranges for each category we discussed above:

  • Medical: $1500-4000
  • Housing: $500-$3500
  • Clothing: $100-$500
  • Feeding: $200-$800
  • Childcare: $0-$10,000
  • Transportation: $500+
  • Miscellaneous: $500-$1500

And the median of that range would be about $8750.00.

I’d consider this a realistic cost of raising a baby, which would cover the basics while leaving a cushion for some unexpected expenses and a few splurges.

How much does a baby cost per month on average

If we took that median figure of $8750.00 and divide it 12 months, that comes out to about $750.00 per month on average.

But remember, your costs will be highest at the beginning since you’ll need to have some things in place prior to baby’s arrival, plus that big fat hospital bill comes shortly after baby arrives home.

Aim to have at least $5,000 saved up by the time baby arrives, although the more you have, of course, the better shape you’ll be in.


How much does it cost to raise a baby? As discussed in this article, the short answer would be about $8,750 in the first year. Since the bulk of it will be spent at the beginning, having about $5,000 saved up before baby arrives would be a great start.

But if you want to keep the cost of raising a child low, stay conservative with your spending with the helpful tips above and keep your bank account as healthy as your little one during that first year.


  • Find out what costs you’re likely to incur for baby.
  • Come up with a savings plan.
  • Start saving before the due date!



Sylvia aka Mama Chang


Sylvia, aka Mama Chang, is a personal finance blogger out to prove the possibility of navigating high-cost living on a low-cost budget. Paid off college and condo in her 20's on under $55k salary. She wants to teach others how optimize money to maximize quality of life. Dual income with kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Pinterest | Instagram