But that was before. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has tightened the financial crunch of family life with high unemployment and economic volatility. Those stressors have even encouraged some would-be parents to avoid having babies, leading to what experts at the Brookings Institution predict will be a "baby bust" Opens in new window in the next few years.
Indeed, new parents during this tumultuous time need to be especially cautious with their financial planning. If you're in that boat, here are tips for managing the costs of raising a child during a pandemic:
Check with a financial professional
There are many ways that new parents can prepare their budget for the short- and long-term costs of kids. But before you make radical changes, it's best to consult an expert.
A financial professional can help you create a sound budget, set up a college fund, and save for specific goals or needs—from unexpected medical expenses to future activities like summer camps or piano lessons. Just as important, they can help you determine how much life insurance you should have (critical for new parents).
If you're worried about making those visits amid COVID-19, don't be: Many of these consults have gone virtual.
Make a child-care plan
If you need child care, compare options and pricing so you'll know what to expect. Also consider how different scenarios (such as hiring a nanny, day care, or shifting to part-time care) align with your family's needs—not just financially, but emotionally. Your health concerns related to COVID-19 should play a role in your decision.
As you plan, keep in mind your federal protections related to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Opens in new window. Under the FMLA, qualifying employees can take up to 12 weeks after the birth or fostering of a child. The FFCRA added on to those protections, for example, by allowing workers up to two weeks of partially paid leave to care for children during pandemic-related closures. Those new rules are set to expire at the end of 2020.
Buy (and accept) only what you need
As a new parent, you'll likely have the urge to buy many things you may not actually need. Resist it!
In the beginning, most babies only need a few essentials—a safe sleep space, clothing, diapers, wipes, and bottles (and formula if that's how they're fed). As you get to know your new little one, you can then slowly expand your stock of supplies as their needs evolve.
This essentials-only mindset also applies to gifts: If you're tight on cash, you can return unneeded gifts and use the refund or store credit for more functional items. Also make sure the things you do buy and keep are long-lasting, like a convertible car seat/stroller that will grow with your child.
Account for health insurance costs
Having a child qualifies you for a special enrollment period for health insurance, so take advantage of it: Not only do babies need health coverage, but your family has time to reassess what you need and can afford.
As you compare options, make sure to factor in premiums, cost-sharing Opens in new window, and networks to strike the right balance between month-to-month costs and long-term expenses you'll have to pay out of pocket. On average, kids get sick nine to 11 times a year Opens in new window with colds and stomach bugs, so factor that in as you plan for pediatric health care costs.
Take advantage of available resources
From new COVID-19 relief programs to long-standing state and local resources, support for new parents is out there. For starters, make backup plans for housing and health care: If you're worried about eviction or foreclosure, talk to your lender or landlord to see if they'll let you defer payments. And if you lose your employer-sponsored insurance, look into resources from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Opens in new window.
Local and national charities have stepped up during the pandemic too. For example, March of Dimes has expanded its resources Opens in new window for pregnant women and new mothers. Others have boosted programs around new parents' financial and mental health, along with diaper banks, food banks, and peer groups for caregivers in need.
Take care of you, too
It's a difficult time for everyone right now, but financial strains on new parents can increase stress. With financial worries a top contributor of mental health problems—and social distancing and quarantines limiting the village of support new parents once received—it's important that you don't neglect your own well-being and psyche. Practice self-care, and don't be afraid to get professional help if you need it.