3 money lessons I learned from my newborn son
Anyone can benefit from these three tips.
My husband and I welcomed our first child into the world three months ago, and my boy, it’s been a ride. We learned a lot, like how to distract a crying baby (ceiling fans and weird noises work wonders) and how to change a diaper quickly enough to avoid getting sprayed. But we also learned a few things about our finances that I didn’t expect.
Okay, so as a personal finance writer these ideas weren’t entirely new to me. But they reminded me why good financial management skills are important, especially when you have a family to raise. Here are three of my biggest financial fallouts from my first few months of motherhood.
1. Emergency funds are essential
My son was born in a dramatic fashion. He was born by emergency Caesarean section following a rushed labor where, to my surprise and that of the delivering doctor, we found out that my son was in the breech. Yeah, it wasn’t in my birth plan. The four days we were in the hospital afterwards, nor the $ 2,800 specialist visit to get my son checked up for hip dysplasia, were also not
Lucky for us, I had increased our emergency fund throughout my pregnancy in case any unforeseen expenses arose while I was on maternity leave. If I hadn’t had the extra cash on hand, these bills would have been a lot worse.
We all hope things are going well for us, but sometimes life only serves as dumpster fire situations with Ferrari-sized price tags. The only thing we can do is prepare.
There’s no hard and fast rule of how much you should save in your emergency fund, but you probably don’t want to spend less than three months on living expenses. This should be enough to cover all but the most important emergencies and support you and your family for a little while if you lose your job. You can certainly put more than that in your emergency savings if you want to. Don’t leave without. I promise you that when you need your emergency fund, you will never regret putting that money aside.
2. Avoid overspending by being realistic about what you really need.
I challenge anyone to go shopping for baby clothes and not be blinded by the cuteness. It’s really hard to hold back, especially when the outfits are only a few dollars each. We bought a lot of clothes for our son before he was born and we got a lot more. It never ended up wearing half of it, and many others were only worn once or twice.
Now, three months later, I still have a bit of a hard time resisting this adorable outfit with the baby jeans, but I’m a little more realistic about what and how much we really need. I often avoided putting it in clothes with a lot of snaps because they were less practical than outfits with zippers, so now I don’t buy them anymore. And I know you can’t go overboard with pants and shirts because most of the time he’s just hanging out in a onesie around the house.
It’s not always easy to know which features to focus on or what is a reasonable amount to spend on something, especially when entering an unfamiliar arena. Whether it’s your first car, your first home, or your first credit card, doing your research and talking to other people who have been through what you have to do can help you avoid spending. too much or getting a bad deal.
3. Budgets make it much easier to reach your financial goals
Before becoming a mother, I didn’t care too much about budgets because I rarely spent money on non-essentials and was always good at saving. But now, with a baby at home and more planned for the future, I decided it was time to take tracking my money seriously.
Our monthly expenses have increased with all the baby gear we need and then there are some long term expenses to think about like college and the Dodge Viper my husband wants to fix with our son someday. Throwing money into a savings account and forgetting about it isn’t going to cut it anymore.
So now I’m building a real budget to help me see what I’m spending, identify areas of overspending, and stay on track for my more expensive goals. It’s not always fun, but it doesn’t have to be a ton of work, either. These days there are many apps that can do most of the math for you, so you just need to enter the expenses. And a budget doesn’t necessarily mean the end of discretionary spending. In fact, most budgets don’t work if you don’t leave a little room for fun.
There are a few approaches you can take to budgeting, like the 50-30-20 budget where you use 50% of your income for the most part, 30% for what you want, and 20% for the savings. If you want to save a little more, you can follow this method and reverse the 20% and 30%. Or you can just find a target amount you want to save and set it aside every month. Just be sure to save for your bills first.
Ultimately, I want to give my son the best possible life, and that can’t be done without good money management. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, and I know I haven’t seen the last of the Unexpected Bills, but just like having a baby, it’s worth the effort in the end.