Think your newborn can survive on boob milk and love? Reality check: your wallet’s opening hours will be 24/7. Here’s why.
Prior to the birth of my son one of my (subsequently-proven-to-be) idiotic friends and father of two told me, “Mate, stop stressing, newborns cost nothing. Give them some boob milk, wrap them up and that’s pretty much it.”
At the time he was trying to convince me of the merits of kicking off a start-up business despite having a baby in tow. I now feel ashamed that even five per cent of what he said entered my brain.
Your mates may not have the guts to tell you this, so I’ll do it for them — newborns cost money. A serious amount of it.
Here are four lessons I’ve learned in my first year as a dad about where the cash actually goes.
1. Never-ending nappies
Kids crap a lot, usually just after they have already crapped. It is a never ending cycle of multi-coloured mini-explosions down there. They smell of butterscotch, which is really odd and another story altogether.
My record is eight nappy changes for poo-related incidents in one day. And he wasn’t even sick at the time. And don’t forget, with every nappy a bunch of wipes are also required. Handy to have a nappy disposal bag as well. And some antibacterial gel. Oh, and you’ll need a bag to carry all of that.
You’re probably starting to get the point. It all adds up. Our nappy tally alone runs at about $80 per month, and that’s without the other bells and whistles.
It may be appealing to take the cheap nappy option – after all, a nappy’s a nappy right? After the first leaking brown mess or pee-pee-soaked grandma, you’ll go for quality. Although Aldi’ nappies are for winners. Just saying.
2. Formula – it’s how much?
Breast is not just best for baby, but great your wallet too. Many newborns will be fine on breast milk. But there are plenty who won’t be. Or breastfeeding may just not be your partner’s thing. Formula costs anywhere from $20 – $30 per tin, so you’re looking at a minimum of $100 per month if baby and breast don’t form a long and lasting relationship.
Even if you’re supplementing breast feeding with formula, tins generally need to be thrown out within 3 weeks of opening, so the costs still stack up. And no, you can’t just use Milo instead, as one of my childless friends once suggested.
3. Baby brain = money drain
Men get baby brain too. You will go out without nappies one day. Or forget to bring a bottle. You might even leave the house without the baby at some stage (note: always check you have the baby).
On five hours of broken sleep per night you would think you’d be forgiven for most of these things (you won’t be).
When it happens, you’ll be so racked with guilt that you’ll overcompensate. You’ll come home with the biggest box of nappies you can find, or dozens of bottles… and then lose them all.
You’ll create an emergency pack for the car which you don’t realise will only last three months because by the time you actually need it, your child is a new nappy size and requires a different teat flow from their bottle and the wipes have all dried out.
4. Indulging your inner toddler
Heroes in a half shell, Daddy power! That pack of Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles figures is just too tempting, right? Every kid needs one of those.
Finally you have a reason to buy that Nintendo 3DS! Lego Star Wars sets? Yes, please!
One problem — your kid isn’t even a month old.
You’ll think, “I’ll store it all in a cupboard, he’ll grow into it in no time…
OK, he’s 14 months now and still too young for it, but any day now…”.
The reality is babies, especially newborns, don’t need anything more than mobiles. They love just staring at things. Don’t go overboard unless you really want to. Everything is a toy to a baby – a remote control, keys, a phone. (all ‘toys’ best played with under close supervision).
Bonus tip: Have a hiding place for toys as baby grows. The little critter will go through phases of liking and hating things, including being scared of the dolls/books/bears he or she once loved. This goes for cartoons as well. Anything and everything could possibly scare them at some stage. For our bub, Curious George went from being the cutest monkey in the world to Jack the Ripper. Be ready.
It’s time to crunch the numbers
The bottom line is that new babies are expensive for a range of different reasons, and I haven’t even started on doctor visits, jabs, clothes, baby carriers, cots, prams and all the other big cost items a baby needs (or that you want them to have).
There’s only one solution. Get a raise. Just do so whilst constantly showing up for work exhausted, never staying late, and without taking on any additional workload.
Failing that, your best bet is a nappy tight budget. It may seem boring (it is), it may seem too grown up (it is), it may even sound difficult (it is, unless you’re an accountant), but it will get you out of a world of trouble you’re just waiting to get into.