Friday, December 30, 2011

The cost of a baby

Financial concerns are some of the scariest things soon-to-be parents or anyone contemplating having a child in the future must consider. For our entire 5.5 year marriage thus far the cost of babies and children has been at the forefront of all the financial decisions Matt and I have made (so much so that you may recall my financial spreadsheet I made several years ago titled "Can we ever afford kids?", the answer being yes).

You've probably heard stories similar to this one on the Today Show about the lifetime costs associated with raising a child. As this story points out, the average American family spends $250,000 per child over of the course of its financially dependent lifetime. This figure excludes the costs associated with college, and let's be serious, by the time our daughter will be entering college a four-year institution will probably cost $250,000 on its own.

So, as I like to do, I've conducted a little experiment. I decided to save every receipt for every purchase related to bringing a baby into the world. I've also kept an elaborate spreadsheet that I've updated every time we brought something baby-related into the house. Here's the breakdown of what I found.

As of this writing, $8,348.97 has been spent on unborn Baby Awesomerod. The actual full-retail price total that has been spent is $9,436.94. This number includes only the lowest possible health care costs ($175), which, if we didn't have such amazing insurance, would add at least $10,825 to the bill, bringing the total to at least $20,261.94.

Matt and I have personally only spent $2,365.97. So, this number would be significantly higher if 1) we didn't have great health insurance, 2) we didn't have incredibly generous friends and family, and 3) I hadn't been using coupons, comparison shopping, accepting hand-me-downs and being as generally savvy as possible.

Now let me say, before I go any further, that a baby does not need $8,348.97 spent on it before it's born. In fact, a newborn baby needs very little in terms of the true necessities of life. Here is a post from Pregnant Chicken that highlights the few items a baby would actually need. Her items listed come to a total of $257, but she excludes a car seat, which I would add in at roughly $150, bringing her total [before borrowing anything from friends] to around $400. She excludes a stroller as well. She also assumes breastfeeding will work (and not involve any special care items for mom to help with breastfeeding), and therefore doesn't include the costs of formula either. Finally, her plan is that after the first pack of disposable diapers the parents will switch to cloth diapering. So, she really takes the term "necessities" about as far as it can be stretched, which is probably not realistic for most people.

I fully admit that Matt and I are not normal, that we do not live in the real world of people who survive paycheck to paycheck and worry about how they'll pay bills or get food on the table. We live an upper-middle class existence, and though we are not in the top 1% in terms of the Occupy movements (we are solidly part of the 99%), we are no doubt in the top 1% worldwide, just like no doubt most of my readers are as well.

All this said, the financial world our baby is about to enter is "normal" in the circles in which we orbit, so this post is directed toward that audience just to give you an idea of our experience as you may or may not anticipate your own.

How did I arrive at our baby cost figures? There were five areas I tracked: health care, nursery, maternity clothes, gifts, and baby clothes/gear we bought to fill in gaps after we received gifts.

Health care
Our total spending: $175 
Actual value: At least $11,000

Breakdown of expenses:
$50 for progesterone supplements co-pay during the first trimester
$100 for hospital delivery co-pay
$25 for private room preference at hospital

I am very aware of the fact that we are exceptionally fortunate to have outstanding health care. Not to get too political, but it is devastating to think about all the people out there who do not have health care and therefore have to pay for routine health care and urgent care costs out-of-pocket. According to this article from WebMD prenatal care can cost approximately $2,000 without insurance, and the hospital bill for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery costs approximately $9,000 without insurance (and $15,000 for an uncomplicated cesarean section without insurance).

The article does point out that another important prenatal health care expense is for prenatal vitamins, which I've been taking for so long I forgot to even include in my baby spending spreadsheet. If you're looking for the best deal on prenatal vitamins, not surprisingly your grocery store's generic brand is just as good as any expensive brand on the market (One a Day as an example of an expensive brands comes to mind). Although I took generics for a couple years, I wanted a vitamin containing DHA and started taking the Nature Made Prenatal Multi + DHA vitamins that Costco sells at $19.99 for 150 softgels. (This blows the Amazon price of $14.79 for 30 softgels out of the water.)

Our total spending: $1,067.32
Actual value: $1670.90

I feel like I've written plenty about the nursery, but just to give you a sense of the quick budget breakdown...

Several items came to us as gifts. One major item, the dresser/changing table, thanks to its solid wood construction would have cost hundreds of dollars if we'd bought it new, but Matt snagged it for $40 on Craigslist and gave it lots of TLC. And, of course, I bought a lot of supplies on sale or using coupons.

Paint and paint supplies
Our total spending: $80.12
Actual value: $80.12

Dresser/changing table project
Our total spending: $93.78 ($40 for dresser; $53.78 for supplies to refinish dresser)
Actual value: $311.28

DIY curtains
Our actual spending: $129.11
Actual value: $250.95

The major price difference here happened thanks to the fact that I stumbled upon this fabric when it was 60% off, so I spent $100.74 on 6 yards of fabric instead of a whopping $215.

Furniture and other decor
Our actual spending: $748.93
Actual value: $953.93

Here's what fell into this category: crib, crib mattress, crib skirt materials (for DIY project), chair, ottoman, bookcase, trash can/diaper pail, decal, and framed art work. The major price difference here is again thanks to receiving a few nursery items as gifts.

Storage solutions
Our actual spending: $15.38
Actual value: $74.62

We paid for the iron-on patches; the rest of the items we got through our Container Store gift card.

Maternity clothes
Our total spending: $586.08
Actual value: $769.87

I've written several times about trying to minimize my maternity clothes spending. I think I succeeded. I received several items as gifts and one item as a hand-me-down. I also bought most of the shirts I purchased on sale (though I never seem to find pants of sale normally, and this again applied when shopping for maternity clothes). My obvious maternity splurge was my expensive jeans for $200, but at 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant I stand by that purchase and the fact that they have gotten me through my pregnancy and they will continue to get me through the postpartum period as well (news flash: you're about 6 months pregnant looking after you deliver, and it doesn't go away over night).

I've posted this before here in my ultimate baby to-do list, but I thought for convenience I'd repost below everything that went into the maternity spending category:
  • BeBand 
  • bra extender 
  • three pairs of work pants (black, gray and khaki) -- my favorite pair of work pants wound up being the $30 gray pants I got at Motherhood Maternity
  • one pair of nice jeans (Citizens of Humanity Dita Petite Secret Fit Belly Maternity Boot Cut Jeans)
  • two pairs of maternity leggings (black and gray)
  • two maternity dresses
  • one jean skirt (specifically this one from Old Navy that I highly recommend, but remember to order it one or two sizes smaller than your normal size because it runs large)
  • one nicer skirt
  • four long-sleeve maternity shirts
  • eight short-sleeve maternity shirts (tip: scour the sale rack of Target's maternity section as well as Gap Maternity [located inside some Baby Gap stores])
  • one nursing bra
  • one nursing tank
I will add that I am fortunate that 1) as a teacher the expectations regarding how fancy I look at work are pretty low, so I didn't need to buy anything particularly formal such as a suit and 2) this has been a really mild fall and winter, so I got away with not needing to buy particularly heavy winter clothing, which is typically more expensive than summer clothes.

Our total spending: $0
Actual value: $5983

OK, so this is the one category where the actual value is an estimate, but I think it's a pretty darn accurate estimate. A lot of the gifts we received came from our registry, so that is easy to track, and a lot of other items, such as books and clothes, are fairly easy to track. Specifically, our baby's wardrobe is keeping Carter's in business, so maybe it's worth it to invest in some Carter's stock.

The baby gifts fell into the following categories:
Registry purchases: $2,433.85 -- This includes a lot of the big-ticket baby items such as our car seat, stroller, high chair, Ergo baby carrier, baby monitor, Pack n' Play, exersaucer, infant gym, safety gate, diaper bag, bouncer seat and lots of cloth diapers.
Clothes: $1,107.91 -- We also received several sets of clothing on loan, and the value of those are not included because they do not belong to us
Other (off-registry toys, books, gift cards, cash, etc.): $2,441.24 -- We received several baby gear items as hand-me-downs that we'll be keeping, so I did include the retail value of the infant tub, Bumbo seat, infant swing, and Snap N Go stroller frame in this total. We even got some of our friends' leftover infant disposable diapers since their son has already outgrown them.

As you can see, when I wrote about all the showers (part 1 and 2) thrown in Baby Awesomerod's honor, I was not using hyperbole when I said we are truly wowed and grateful for all the generosity that's been shown our family.

Baby clothes/gear we purchased
Our total spending: $537.57
Actual value: $838.17

This is the category in which I really went bargain hunting and cashed in on sales, clearances, online shopping, and lots of coupons and store credits.

All along I've wanted to purchase clothing for our daughter myself, so I've picked up 22 clothing items, all but two of which I found on sale during trips to Target or Old Navy or bought at TJMaxx, which tends to have great infant clothes selection at highly discounted prices.

The other items that fell into this category I primarily purchased after my first shower. Several of my friends who've already had babies told me that after their main shower they received few if any gifts off their registries. This proved true for us as well. So, there were a number of items no one bought us that I'd consider necessities (such as infant nail clippers or a few baby bottles) and a number of registry items that aren't necessities but I knew I wanted for the future (such as the Stokke Tripp Trapp infant rail or more of the aden + anais muslin burpy bibs). You'll notice that items such as the ones listed above I got entirely through Amazon. A lot of the prices have changed since I made the purchases, another interesting aspect of dealing with Amazon -- if you see a really low price, act fast because that price could change in a matter of hours.

In addition to clothing and registry completion items, this category of spending covers a bunch of small baby purchases such as our first packs of baby wipes and Vaseline. It even covers the five cloth diapers I bought recently at a discount.

Now that so much spending has taken place our daughter will not need much to get her through many months ahead, so we're looking forward to going back to some more normal spending habits.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Nursery reveal!

We've been working on the nursery ever since July when I started the closet shuffle (parts 1 and 2) to make way for baby in the office-turned-nursery.  Now that no further progress will be made on the room before the baby arrives, I figured it's time to put it all together pictorially. So, without further ado....

(If you missed any of the process along the way, you can learn about nursery inspiration, DIY no-sew curtains, paint colors and furniture, the wall decal, a Modge-Podge IKEA bookcase mini-hack, DIY crib skirt, nursery art, storage strategies, and the ottoman reupholstering.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nursery progress: Quick ottoman update

For a while now we've been at a nursery progress stand still. There isn't really anything that needs to be done, but there are some little side projects I can accomplish as we wait on the baby's debut. The easiest of the remaining little projects involved reupholstering the $50 brown ottoman we bought at Target last month.

If you're on the Target website and you search for ottomans, you'll get over 1,000 results. This is no joke. Lots and lots to sort through. I found two light green microsuede ottomans that could have potentially worked in the nursery, but one cost $150 and the other was also over $100. Plus, I couldn't tell if either would be a perfect match to the color of the nursery recliner, so I figured after paying for shipping and then likely having to deal with the hassle of returning the furniture it wasn't worth the risk.

Instead while at the Target store Matt and I bought a circular brown fabric-covered storage ottoman that is the perfect height for the chair and the perfect general size for our relatively small nursery space. I wasn't in love with the ottoman's aesthetics, but I figured this was an opportunity to buy a staple gun and get to work.

I took leftover fabric from the nursery curtains and originally planned to reupholster the entire ottoman, but once I reupholstered the ottoman lid I thought the less-is-more statement worked quite well.

Because I've never upholstered anything before, I once again turned to Young House Love for advice and found this super easy tutorial for reupholstering a cushion, which is essentially what I was doing when I reupholstered the ottoman lid.

So, I went ahead and stapled the leftover curtain fabric at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions on the back of the ottoman lid. Then between each initial staple I performed a series of simple folds and added three more evenly spaced staples. The trickiest part of performing this task is keeping the fabric as taut as possible.

Eventually the entire lid was wrapped with too much leftover fabric, which I simply trimmed off before putting the lid back on the ottoman.

I'm satisfied with the less-is-more approach to the ottoman redesign. I think it gives it some style and makes it more integrated with the nursery decor without going overboard.

Although I could still add a mobile, some floating shelves, and a better solution for getting our additional light and humidifier to fit into our small space, for now I feel like the nursery is done...and that means tomorrow I'll share with you the big reveal!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Showering Baby Awesomerod, part 2

Continuing on to the next four events held in Baby Awesomerod's honor...

In mid-November while my main event shower was taking place, some of Matt's guy friends from college got together and threw him and his brother (who is expecting a baby in late February) a dual man shower. (BTW, we love the expression "man shower" around these parts.) I assumed this would involve boys sitting around drinking beer. While this was partially true, the actual event was much more organized than I could have imagined.

The boys entered the host's house greeted by a giant door covering featuring questionable baby daddy Justin Bieber. They also enjoyed this custom-made baby cake that required Googling a picture of a baby.

As their special gift, Matt and his brother received matching baby carriers, which will be perfect for manly outdoor activities, such as taking the future babies on a hike.

Matt apparently had the great idea to haze himself by insisting that he and his brother wear the matching, empty baby carriers out and about town after the group left the party to continue watching football at a sports bar. This is my husband.

Thanks to our college friends for throwing this special man shower!

Several weeks after all this, we had another afternoon of simultaneous baby showers, both work-related. Matt's social studies department threw him a really nice baby shower, complete with another adorable cake (this time made out of cupcakes)....

...and we received lots of generous group and individual gifts from Matt's co-workers as well.

My English department has a special tradition of giving new parents from the department a basket full of baby books that various members of the department help assemble. I received this incredible gift during a mini-baby shower portion of my department's monthly meeting at the same time Matt was attending his work baby shower. Building a great library for Baby Awesomerod has been one of my goals, and I'm glad to have such an excellent start with this basket of books which came to us filled with lots of titles unfamiliar to me. That's the best thing about English teachers -- they'll introduce you to books you've never heard of before. We've also received several other great collections of books as baby gifts, and we are so happy to fill our daughter's nursery with as many books as possible.

So far she already has one complete shelf of board books (set at toddler height) and one complete shelf of picture books (set at adult height so she [hopefully] can't access them by herself and rip up the pages).

The last event held in Baby Awesomerod's honor is really dear to my heart because it was organized by my former journalism students. They got together with my friend and colleague Shauntel and planned an after-school shower for me in Shauntel's classroom on my second-to-last day of teaching before starting maternity leave. The fact that so many of my alumni would come back from college to reenter the hallways of their high school and put on an event for me is such a reminder of how special my students are and how fortunate I have been to work with such great people for so many years. Some of my students who attended are getting ready to graduate from college; others are in their junior year of high school; all are special to me.

As a treat, Matt was able to attend as well, which is perfect because he's a bit of a celebrity among my students, for no reason other than the fact that he's married to me and I suppose my students are interested in my personal life.

There was another awesome cake, this time bearing the nickname my students coined for me.

There was a hilarious shower game that involved my students cutting out images from magazines in order to piece together a picture of what our daughter will look like. These were the perfect people to participate in such a challenge because 1) they're a competitive bunch, 2) they're really creative and funny and 3) they apparently follow this blog rather religiously and therefore have uncanny knowledge of my life.

The winning team and the runners-up were crowned by Matt and me based on not only the picture they created of the actual baby, but also because of the ways in which they incorporated really specific details from my life into their collages (i.e. "Here's a bird because your nursery has an unintentional bird theme.") Other students put a broom in our daughter's hand symbolizing the amount of housework I'm going to make her do (ha!). One group sort of gave up on the challenge and just cut out from a magazine a very Pottery Barn Kids-esque room scene with a super organized wall of bookcases, which actually isn't such a bad way to symbolize the child Matt and I could create.

In addition to group gifting us our Fisher Price bouncer (which I am so excited to own!)...
...many of my students brought us adorable baby clothes, including cute onesies, tiny socks, baby sunglasses (!) and this precious little dress one of my students who now attends U.Va. -- our alma mater -- gave Baby Awesomerod. We can't wait to dress her up this spring and summer!

My former students' generosity is really astounding, and I appreciate how they too have formed a presence in our daughter's nursery.

Matt and I are so fortunate to have wonderful people surrounding us in every aspect of our lives, and we're so grateful for everything everyone has done to help us celebrate and welcome a new life into the world. (One of my former students even thanked me for having a baby, which I thought was super sweet.) We cannot wait to begin this next stage of life surrounded by so much love. THANK YOU!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Showering Baby Awesomerod, part 1

To date there have been five (!) events in Baby Awesomerod's honor, and I thought now would be a good time to post a recap and to express our gratitude in mass electronic form to everyone once more (now that the final individual thank you notes have been written). Today I'll write about the main event, and tomorrow I'll fill you in on all the other goodness that came our way since then.

The main event was in mid-November hosted by two of my very best friends, Susannah and Lindsay. Susannah and I are friends from back in the days of seventh grade when we passed notes in the hallways between classes. Lindsay and I met on move-in day of first year of college as we were two of the 10 girls living together in our dorm suite. Both girls are classy, creative and know me well, and the shower they threw reflected how much thought and hard work they put into a truly personal event.

They decorated the house in oranges, grays and greens in honor of the nursery's color palette. The hand-sewn cardstock streamers from Etsy and the tissue-paper pom poms made pretty decorative statements.

They also said they "attempted" what they called a "quasi-book-theme" by balancing plates of food on top of stacks of board books and by decorating the pumpkin cupcakes (it was November!) with little flags containing classic children's book covers.

When guests arrived the hostesses greeted them with a piece of cardstock paper (decorated with prints from adorable baby-inspired stamps), a pen and a clothespin so they could write well wishes to Baby Awesomerod and hang their contributions to the ribbons on the wall. These became a cute team-effort decoration as well as a perfect keepsake when Susannah presented me with all the cards sealed inside an old wooden cigar box at the end of the shower. Since then I've added all the other cards we've received for Baby Awesomerod to that box, and hopefully in the next couple days (if baby stays put) I'm going to start her baby book by adding some sonogram pictures, pregnancy photos, and cards.

After everyone arrived and enjoyed great food (Lindsay is known for her mad cooking skills), Susannah got the main part of the event kicked off by having everyone in attendance go around and say her name and how she knows me. I was really happy she did this as it allowed friends from different parts of my life to mingle more easily because the gift-opening portion of the shower was quite informal (the way I like it) with standing-room-only space making it so that everyone felt free to move around the house, nibble on food, and chat with one another instead of staring at me in silence making the obligatory baby shower ohhhs and ahhs each time I opened a gift. Listening to my friends' and family members' quick introductions got me a little choked up as I looked out at my friends from high school, college, work, and general adult life; my family from Northern Virginia and Richmond; my mother-in-law's friends who attended. It reminded me of an email my friend Courtney sent me the day we found out Baby Awesomerod is a girl, and she said how lucky this baby is to grow up surrounded by so many strong women. I couldn't have said it better -- the women in my life are independent and strong and have made me who I am today, and for that I am most grateful.

On a less-sentimental note, as every woman in attendance introduced herself, she cut a piece of twine representing her estimate of the circumference of my belly. At the end of the gift-opening portion of the shower everyone tested her string theory (obligatory nerd joke, check) and most grossly overestimated my belly's size. The two who came closest were Susannah's mom and my friend Emily (who flew in from Louisville, another amazing surprise!), but Emily won by about a centimeter and received an awesome fruit tart (I believe that was the prize, but by that point in the day I was on sensory overload).

My little sister was one of the worst offenders in the overestimating category. Check out all that extra twine! I'll get you, my pretty, when it's your turn!

Of course, the gifts were the main event, and we received an incredibly generous outpouring of baby gear for our little one on the way. Many items came from our Buy Buy Baby registry (for the record, I still hate the name of that store). This was really helpful because it meant I left my mid-November shower with virtually everything we would need for our baby's first year of life. She received few items of clothing at this shower, but she has made up for it by getting a fully stocked closet from other generous friends' and family members' gifts since the initial shower.

Everyone made fun of me for how excited I was to receive a bunch of cloth diapers, but then my friend Katy, who has used cloth diapers for her two children, gave the ultimate cloth diaper demonstration (not on an actual baby). The crowd genuinely ohhhed and ahhhhhed as they got the low-down on modern cloth-diaper technology.

There are so many amazing gifts we received, and I am still amazed at how generous people are when a couple is having their first baby, but two that especially stood out were of the homemade variety. One great gift was from my high school friend Zoe who followed this post from Oh Joy! and custom-made these two freezer-paper onesies. One clearly labels our daughter as Baby Awesomerod, and the other has a little beach scene, likely paying homage to the many trips we're known to take with friends to Duck, NC.

The other amazing homemade gift, and the one that made me cry, was a collective group effort from my four best friends from high school. All made it to my shower, which was a special gift by itself as they traveled from Philadelphia, New York City and Denver for the event, but then they gave me another tiny onesie that melted my heart. It reads "11th Guy" on the front and "5 x 2 + 1 = 11" on the back. Here's the sentiment behind all the code: in high school we called ourselves Five Guys, partially in honor of the original Five Guys restaurant that wasn't far from our science and technology magnet high school (nerds!). Then we all got married between 2005 and 2009 and officially became 10 Guys. Now that I'm having the first baby of the group we'll soon be 11 Guys. The back of the onesie with the math equation is a nod to our nerdy science-and-tech roots. The onesie itself may not seem like a big deal to anyone outside our little circle, but to me it's a symbol of the ways in which our relationships have grown since we all met in 1995 and how we've grown together even though there's so much physical distance between us. These are the girls for whom you would fly across the country at a moment's notice. I know they'll be there for my daughter like they've been there for me.

And they love it how even though I may have a giant belly these days, I haven't changed my dancing habits since high school. For some reason it truly cracks them up when I dance around with a goofy expression and rub my belly. I nearly kill them.

To wrap up shower #1 (of 5! no worries, the rest will go more quickly), our gracious hosts encouraged each guest to take a little favor bag filled with kettle corn, my all-time favorite snack. The best part? Check out the handmade bags!

A final special thank you to everyone who made the day so special! It is an event that will stay with me for as long as my memory holds out :)