Can You Afford a Baby?

7 questions to help you make that big decision

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If you're of a certain age and life stage, then you might be asking yourself: Should I have a baby? Before getting carried away with visions of Baby Bjorns and onesies, consider this: Babies cost more than ever. According to the Agriculture Department, middle-income couples spend an average of $11,000 during the first year of a child's life. By the time that newborn reaches his 18th birthday, he'll have cost his parents around $204,000. (Creative solutions such as relying on grandparents for child care and swapping clothes with friends can help ease the strain.) Here is the Alpha Consumer quiz to help figure out if you're financially ready to become a parent:

  1. Do you have $5,000 to $10,000 worth of savings in the bank that could go toward baby-related costs?
    1. Could you live on around $1,000 less a month, the average cost of child care? If you or your partner plans to stop working, can you support your lifestyle without that second income?
      1. Do you know the details of your workplace maternity or paternity policy?
        1. Could you afford to add an additional dependent to your health insurance?
          1. Do you have an emergency fund that would cover at least three months of living expenses?
            1. Do you have life insurance and a will?
              1. Would you need to buy a new home or car before expanding your family?
                1. Explanation of score:

                  0 to 2 points: You may want to consider taking further steps to prepare financially for a baby.

                  3 to 5 points: You are on the right track, but additional planning could help ease the transition to parenthood.

                  6 to 7 points: Congratulations. You seem to be financially prepared to have a baby.

                  Did you know? Baby experts recommend saving up between $5,000 and $10,000 before giving birth to help offset some of those upfront costs, including child care, health insurance, and diapers. According to a survey by TheNestBaby.com, 61 percent of women who aren't pregnant or haven't had a baby yet are already saving for a future baby. Many first-time parents are also surprised by their workplace policies, including the cost of adding a new dependent to an existing health insurance policy. Of course, money isn't the only factor going into baby-making decisions, but planning ahead can reduce stress later.

                  Join a Discussion: How much money do you think it takes to afford a baby? And would you consider postponing parenthood for financial reasons?  Our friends at BettyConfidential want to know.