The Cost of a Baby Isn’t as High as You Think (But There are Surprises)

Before my son was born, I imagined that having a kid would be insanely expensive. The US Department of Agriculture publishes an annual report on the costs of raising a child, but the costs never seemed shockingly high. (Around $250,000 over a lifetime.) I thought our own costs would be higher than estimates, and so we planned accordingly. So we saved a large chunk of money for my son’s first year. But there were some surprises about baby costs. Here they are.

Surprises about the Cost of a Baby

1. They Aren’t Expensive

Babies really aren’t that expensive. In their first year the spend most of their time eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. Breastfeeding and cloth diapers dramatically cut these costs. Plus, you have a lot less time to go out and spend money on dining out and entertainment. Our heating bill went up, but costs in a huge number of budget categories went down.

2. Babies’ Stuff Is Expensive

What does cost a lot of money is all of the things you think you need for your kid. Instead of playing with the all natural wooden blocks you paid $40 for, your child would play the the empty oatmeal container or the dog’s bone.The best thing to do is avoid buying overpriced plastic. Visit clothing swaps and large consignment sales and you’ll get 10 times more for your money they you would in a store.

3. Babies’ Health Care Is Expensive

If you don’t plan for health care costs, these will rack up fast. In Minneapolis, Minnesota the cost for a drug-free birth with midwives where in-hospital labor was only four hours was nearly $14,000. A portion of the cost was “room and board” for the two-day post-delivery stay. But still, this number shocked me. Our insurance paid 80%, but the remaining 20% stung a bit. Even after labor and delivery, the costs remain high. Most insurance plans cover preventive doctors’ visits, but you will have more than your fair share of non-preventive visits in your first years for fevers, colds, rashes, and more.

4. Babies Lead to Lifestyle Inflation

The real cost of children is the potential for lifestyle inflation. Suddenly your house and cars seem smaller, your neighborhood schools don’t seem good enough, and your yard isn’t large enough for both dogs and kids to run around in. Once you have a baby and the toys start overtaking every corner of your house, you’ll convince yourself that you need more room. And that is where the true costs of children comes in. If you can avoid this, you’re golden. But most people move to a larger house spending hundreds of thousands more than they otherwise would and buy cars that are tens of thousands more. And that is why children cost so much.

5. Surprises are Costly

The biggest surprise about babies and money is that you never know what you’re going to need. You can buy as much used as you can and get hand-me-down clothes, but unexpected expenses will still arise. For example, when your kid starts chewing on the crib and paint is peeling off into his mouth, you don’t have time to wait for a gently-used crib rail cover to arrive from eBay. Instead you spend $30 at the store near your house to have a cover before his morning nap. Or when your child starts getting up too early, $40 for a toddler clock seems like a small price to pay for a little more sleep. The best thing to do if budgeting for a baby is plan for $100 or so a month in surprise expenses. Most months you won’t need this much, but the months that you do need it, you’ll be thankful

Babies cost money. Not as much as you think. But raising a child is the most rewarding thing that money can buy.

Photo credit: Upsilon Andromedae

Time and Productivity Featured Posts

Here are a few of the great posts about time and boosting productivity that were posted today:

How a Walking Desk and Crock Pot Made Me More Productive

Since there is no way to slow down time or add more hours to the day–but boy wouldn’t that be an awesome option–I have had to learn how to use my time better to be more productive.

And two of the tools that have helped me to do that are the walking desk that I made–also known as my treadmill desk–and my Crock Pot.

Read more at Suddenly Frugal.

Who Do You Want to Become

Who would we see if we were to take a peek into your calendar? Most of our calendars reflect the life of an overwhelmed, overworked, person who is living reactively pinging from one “have to do” activity to the next. Calendars have the potential to be a life-changing tool if we use them properly. However, more often than not they are a prison guard keeping us trapped in the vortex of a hurricane of tasks.

We go through life, living each day in reaction mode, attending meetings, conferences, completing tasks, and going places because we think we need to or feel obligated. Down-time rarely exists and when we get a day to slow down for a moment we end up crashing and sleeping half of it away.

Read more at Becoming Me

How to Accomplish More in 24 Hours

Did you know that effective time management is a key principle to a less stressful life? If yes, then why do so many of us struggle with managing our time better?

Just in the last week alone I’ve noticed a number of people on Twitter saying “I need more hours in a day”.

No matter what our situation is there never seems to be enough time to accomplish all the things we would like to get done. Whether it is stuff for work, chores around the house or simply finding time to hang out with friends and family – we all seem to be running around, frantically trying to keep up. If you are one of the many people that wishes there were more hours in each day, here are some tips on how to accomplish more in 24 hours and still enjoy your life.

Read more at Tackling Our Debt

Ways to Find More Time and Increase Your Productivity

Women juggle multiple responsibilities, especially if they are moms.

There are work responsibilities, household responsibilities, and family and children responsibilities. Don’t forget to set aside some time to care for yourself by preparing healthy food and finding time to exercise.

The work at home mom must become an expert at juggling because she’ll constantly have to switch between childcare tasks and completing her work. I should know because I’ve been a work at home mom now for two years.

In the beginning, juggling my childcare responsibilities with work responsibilities was fairly easy. My two younger children took fairly long afternoon naps, and my workload was not that heavy as I was just starting my business. I could get all my work done during nap time and in the evenings after the kids were asleep, and I still had time to relax.

Read more at Free From Broke

Finding Time and Increasing Productivity

Would you rather have more time or more money? Yesterday we covered how to make more money, so today's posts are all about how to find time and/or increase your productivity.

How Find More Time Each Day: 7 Tips

I can't find a scientific survey to back me up on this, but I'm fairly certain that women have less time than men in their lives to do the things they want to do. Or at least they think and feel that they do. Why is this? Women tend to do more of the household upkeep than men do - whether it's cleaning the house or taking a larger share of parenting responsibilities. In the last year women who work in senior corporate and governmental positions have come under the spotlight. Whether it's the Don’t Try to Have It All debate that took place through the Atlantic, or Marissa Mayer (the Yahoo CEO) having a baby and returning to work two weeks later, and more recently ending telecommuting women and work/life balance is hot news. When you read or hear about these topics and events you probably tend to have one of a few reactions. Some people think - how on earth can these women go so much done in a day? They must be superwomen. Or, others look at these examples and point to the exceptions in these women's' lives that make them able to do so much (such as having a stay-at-home husband or a in-office nursery).

The reality is that we seek out differences - to form an "us vs. them" dichotomy - as this makes us feel better. If I believe that I could really do everything I wanted to - if only I made $500,000, or had a stay-at-home spouse, or didn't live so far from my job, or could work-from home, or owned my own business - then I feel better about the things I’m not able to do.

A better solution is to stop feeling guilty about what you can't get done and instead start doing the things the matter the most to you. So, how do you do this?

1. Cross Things Off Your List (Without Doing Them)

Make a list of everything you want to or think you should get done in a day. Write down everything that you could possibly want to or need to do each day. This could be as basic as drinking coffee to taking a shower to billing 8 hours at your job, to exercising for an hour, to taking your kids to the park and your dogs for a walk.

If you use your email as an inbox, open that up as well. Now, cross things off (or delete emails) that you don't actually need to do every day or are ok not doing everyday. For example, one of my friends takes a shower every other day. Some people find this gross. Others "need" a shower to wake up in the morning. But you would never ever know that this woman only showers every other day unless she told you. She found other things in her life to be a priority.

When going through your inbox, delete stuff. Instead of reading the emails that don't require a personal response, just delete them. Chances are great that your life won't be better off because you read or responded to an email with a link to a sale at your favorite clothing store or read a blog post from one of your favorite authors. Life will go on if you delete these emails.

Just not doing things that don't absolutely need to be done or avoiding doing things that you would rather not do is probably the biggest way to find more time in your day.

2. Work Out

Richard Branson is famous for saying that working out gives him four extra productive hours in his day. People who regularly exercise swear that hitting the gym actually gives them more free time, not less. Personally, I’ve also found this to be true. When I work out I actually am able to accomplish more in my day than I am if I don’t exercise. If you don’t believe this, do an experiment. Go to the gym, do a workout video, get outside for a run -- try any form of exercise -- 5 days a week for a full three weeks. Compare your productivity and overall happiness from before and after this experiment. If you don’t gain extra time by exercising, and you honestly don’t have time more it, then quit. But you owe yourself the chance.

3. Eat Better

One of my favorite books on time management and productivity is The Power of Full Engagement (Amz aff.). Of of the biggest takeaways from the book is that you need energy in order to be productive. (And when you’re more productive you’ll have more time.) Energy comes from four sources: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. And the cornerstone is physical energy (because if you don’t have physical energy you likely won’t have the other forms either.) In order to have physical energy you need to eat well. Experiment with eating health meals and see if that changes how much you can get done each day.

4. Stop Drinking

A huge part of American culture is heading to happy hour after work or cracking open a beer after a long day. There are days when nothing sounds after a stressful day at the office. But the reality is that drinking alcohol drains energy. If you are trying to find more time in your day and increase your productivity, stop drinking - at least on the nights you want to be productive.

5. Use The Early Morning (or Late Evening) Time

Some of the most productive writers either get up extremely early or stay up unbelievably late as they find this is when they get their best work done. Personally, I'm a morning person. Even in college I would rather get up at 4 am to finish a paper than to write past 8:30 or 9 at night. (Thankfully I only procrastinated this severely on a handful of occasions.) Even now when I have something that must get done, I get to the office before the sun comes up rather than work into the night. But, I would still rather sleep in. So, I’ve developed a habit of waking up early to find more time. Before the sun comes up (and my son wakes up) I can get a lot more done. Figure out whether you’re a morning person or a night person and then make a habit of working during those hours. There are fewer distractions and you'll get a lot more done with your time.

6. Work (or Relax) During Lunch

Many people are required to take lunch breaks during work. What do they do with their breaks? They tend to sit around with their co-workers chatting about something relatively minor and unimportant. It’s, of course, extremely important to socialize with your coworkers most days of the week if this is your coworkers' normal routine as it’s usually important for career advancement. But, consider shifting your habits and spend one to two days a week doing something else during your lunch break. Eat quickly by yourself and then take a 15 minute walk. Read a book. Go to the gym. Or sit with a pen and paper and work on something that will increase your income. Lunch breaks take up a lot of valuable time and are best used to either take a real break from your work (which means not socializing with coworkers) and either relax 100% of the way or spend your time doing something you'd rather do.

7. Consider Your Commute as A Way to Be Productive Or Escape

Another huge time suck for many people is their commute. Listening to the radio is enjoyable, but it's also filled with ads, songs you might not like, or talk shows that aren't so great. Instead, use your commute to really escape. I highly recommend books on tape. For days you want to be productive during your commute try learning to dictate. Dictate emails, letters, blog posts, or business plans during your drive. If you take public transportation, reading or books on tape are excellent ways to decompress. But checking Facebook or responding to emails probably isn't the best use of your time. You’ll find yourself happier and more productive when you return home from work if you use your commute to either relax or actually accomplish a task.

The Takeaway

The bottom line is that you should break your time into three categories: Time that is 100% Productive, time that is 100% relaxing; and time that is neither productive nor relaxing.

Try to minimize this third category of time. Chances are you think you're relaxing, but you aren't really getting the full benefits of total relaxing. For example, checking Facebook or watching an extended amount of TV falls in this third category. You probably think you’re relaxing, but you aren’t totally relaxed. I would guess that you’d find a warm bath, a brisk walk, a cup of hot cocoa, or playing with your kids much more relaxing. So do these things instead.

Photo Credit: abnormalbeauty

Increasing Income

Ready to start earning more money? Check out all the posts below to figure out the best ways to increase your income. Let us know your favorite posts in the comments.

6 Ways to Increase Your Income by Changing Your Mindset

There are many great blog posts, articles, and courses about how specifically to earn more money. But all of these articles assume that you are ready to earn more. You probably think that you’re ready to earn more money, but the truth is that many of us are held back by internal assumptions, mantras, fears that prevent us from actually stepping out and increasing our worth. So instead of listing specific tips about how to increase your income (If you’re looking for tips, here are a few good posts: decide how to make more money, how to make more money at work, how and why to find a second job, how to make money on the side) this post is about how changing your mindset can help you earn more. Let me start by saying I’m not one of those people who believes in the Secret. That’s just not my style. I don't think that just because you think about something or and visualize it for long enough it will automatically happen. I'm not going to tell you to start “sending your intentions to earn more money out into the universe." But I do believe that our minds can hold us back. And instead of looking outward for answers, it’s best to look inward.

Here are six things to change your mindset about in order to earn more money:

Time

Tomorrow’s Women's Money Week topic is all about time, so read those posts to learn more about time and money. But the bottom line is this: many of us (myself included) frequently tell ourselves that there's not enough time. We say, "if I only had more time" I'd be able to: start a freelance business, blog more, work overtime at work, or take a second job to earn more money. But the thing is, you do have time to do those things. You just have to change your mindset and think about time differently.

Instead of saying "I don't have time to earn more money" start saying "I will use the extra time in my day and week to start earning more." Think about how you could be spending your time differently so that you are using even the smaller amounts of time in your day more mindfully. If you don't recognize the extra hours you do have in your life, you'll never be able to use those hours for anything, including earning more money.

Your Value and Worth

There are two ways a person's perceptions of her worth holds her back. Either you think you’re worth far more than you are and thus you turn down gigs because they don’t pay enough. Or you undervalue yourself. The only way you are going to earn more is if you change your view of your value and worth. Start thinking of yourself as being more valuable, produce a work product that is worth more to your clients, and then raise your rates. Or, if you overvalue your worth, be open to any job that pays extra money and take smaller steps to grow your business from there. Or switch paths as a different job may line up better with your view of your worth.

What You Can Do To Earn More Money

Don't get stuck in the trap of thinking that you can only earn more money if you do [fill in the blank]. A even worse trap to be stuck in is thinking you would only earn more if someone else did [fill in the blank]. The reality is that you can earn lot of money by doing a lot of different things. Instead of thinking that you (or someone else) just needs to do one thing to help you earn more, step back and think of four other things that you could do to earn more - no matter how small or simple these things are. Stop pursuing the one avenue that currently isn't working and try something new.

Your Job

What are the things you tell yourself over and over about your job and money? Do you say, “I don't like my job but I could never find a new one because the economy is too bad." Or maybe your mantra is: “I need to go to grad school to advance in my line of work." Or maybe it's "I'd like to quit my job and do [x], but I can't, until [y] happens." Or, “I will never get a promotion because there's no room for grow at this company.” When you tell yourself these things they become true. Instead, come up with a new mantra that you would like to be true and repeat that.

Your Salary

I don’t know a single person who believes that they get paid the salary they want and deserve. Most people believe are certain they deserve a larger salary. And this may actually be true for a lot of women whose male counterparts are earning more. But just believing you should earn more isn’t enough. Instead, you need to believe that you can do something about it. Perhaps it’s asking your boss to pay you more. But a better idea is to ask your boss what you can do to earn more. That is, instead of believing that you deserve more for what you’re already doing, start thinking about what you could or should be doing to deserve an increase in salary.

There’s another common culprit about salaries that holds us back from earning more. That’s the belief that our salary is the only way we can earn more money. The reality is that millions of people in every single profession earn more by doing things on the side. Whether you’re a part time waitress or a doctor with a full-time practice, your salary does not have to limit you.

Your Belief About the Power of Your Own Mindset

Until you recognize the extent to which your mindset can hold you back, you will never be able to earn to your fullest potential. Each of us has our own mantras - the things we tell ourselves or others day after day, week after week. These are the things which help us cope with our own unique and sometimes trying situations. Sometimes our mantras come in the form of excuses. Sometimes they are just the lens through which we see everything else. But until you can step back and identify what that mantra and mindset is, you won’t be able to move past it. The biggest mindset to change to increase your income is to recognize that if you shift your mindset about what’s holding you back you’ll be able to earn more.

The Bottom Line

What’s holding you back from increasing your income may be your own mind. Think through each of the items above and figure out the one or two things that you say to yourself day after day. What do you tell yourself about time, your job, your salary, your worth, your own power to make a difference in your life? Next, write down what you’d like to believe about that thing instead. Perhaps it’s “I do have enough time.” Or “I do earn a fair salary.” Finally, add an action to that mantra. So it would become “I do have enough time and I’m going to start using my hour after dinner for my freelance business instead of watching TV.” Or “I do earn a fair salary and I’m going to work with my boss and company to figure out what steps I need to take to earn a raise.”

What is the mindset that’s holding you back?

Women's Money Week 2013

Women's Money Week 2013 is the second annual weeklong online event running from March 4th-8th, 2013 — coinciding with International Women’s Day. Women’s Money Week is about encouraging women to speak up about money, take control of their finances, and reshape their financial futures. For one week of the year, the best and brightest in person finance come together to share their knowledge and experience. Each day a new topic is tackled a new topic as it uniquely affects women. The 2013 Topics are:

  • Monday, March 4: Increasing Income
  • Tuesday, March 5: Finding Time / Increasing Productivity
  • Wednesday, March 6: Family and Money
  • Thursday, March 7: Happiness, Hobbies, and Money
  • Friday, March 8: Future Planning & Financial Planning

Check back each day for a full list of posts.

In 2012 we had nearly 100 bloggers participating covering the following topics:

  • Monday: Entrepreneurship / Making Money
  • Tuesday: Relationships & Money
  • Wednesday: Saving & Investing
  • Thursday: Budgeting
  • Friday: Money in Your 20s/30s/40s/50s/Retirement
  • Saturday: Debt
  • Sunday: Goals / Taking Action

A full list of the Women's Money Week 2012 posts can be found here.