8 Smart Ways to Afford a Baby

To make ends meet, parents-to-be turn to creative solutions.

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Check on benefits. People are afraid to ask about workplace policies because they fear it's not appropriate, says Roney, and then are often surprised to learn that taking maternity or paternity leave to care for a newborn comes with a pay reduction or no pay at all.

Weiss suggests checking up on health insurance coverage, particularly when it comes to well-baby checkups, which can cost over $100 per visit. She also recommends researching long-term-disability and life insurance options, some of which can be relatively inexpensive when added to existing health insurance plans. Financial advisers say parents need life insurance that will provide for their families in the event of their death; usually that means a policy worth at least 10 times their current income.

Make trade-offs. Paul Golden, 34, a spokesman for the National Endowment for Financial Education in Denver and father of two young sons, says that after child-care costs, he and his wife were netting less than $10,000 a year. They decided to reduce their retirement savings and delay putting money away for their kids' college tuition until their child-care costs go down as their sons get older. Retirement savings have to take priority over college funds because his sons could take out loans for college and pay them back later, Golden explains. "They have a longer time to overcome the burden of savings," he adds.

Plan ahead. When Golden and his wife were buying a home, they were approved for a much larger mortgage than the one they finally took because they knew child-care costs would strain their budget. "If we had [taken the larger mortgage], once we had kids and put them in day care, we would have been swimming," he says. He recommends that parents-to-be live below their means in advance of having kids so expanding the family doesn't cause a big financial shock.

Starting a "baby fund" ahead of time can also make the transition to parenthood easier, recommends Roney. She suggests putting away between $5,000 and $10,000 before giving birth.

Practice budgeting. To encourage couples to consider the costs of parenthood, Ticknor suggests that they try living on $550 less each month or, if one person plans to stop working, to try living entirely on the other person's income before the baby arrives. "Doing this for nine months will help them experience just how significantly their lifestyle will change once the baby arrives," she says.

Think creatively. Mooney, who has a 5-month-old, chose to move back home with her parents when she decided to become a single mom. "I wasn't financially ready [to have a baby]," she says, adding that biologically, in her late 30s, she couldn't wait much longer. In addition to saving on rent and food, Mooney gets free child care; her mother takes care of her son while she works.

Take the plunge. "Don't wait until you can afford kids because it will never happen," says Being Frugal blogger Lynnae McCoy, 36, mother to a 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. She makes ends meet by passing hand-me-down clothes among friends, volunteering at the YMCA in exchange for a free membership, and swapping baby-sitting duties with friends. "I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom," she says. "To make it happen, you have to set priorities."

As for Rescigno, she and her husband have decided to let nature play a role in their decision over whether or not to have a baby. "We won't actively pursue it, but we also aren't actively avoiding it."

Trying to decide if you're ready to have a baby? Take this quiz to help figure it out.