Planning for baby: Bundle of joy need not break bank

Brett Stoppel and Holly Krebs, of Lawrence, planned financially for the arrival of their daughter, Evy, researching what baby items they’d actually need and prioritizing their spending.

The pregnancy test is positive, and it’s time to celebrate. But as you and your spouse are clinking champagne glasses (filled with sparkling grape juice, of course), one thought keeps nagging you both: “How on earth are we going to afford a baby?”

Victoria Bogner, of McDaniel & McDaniel Financial Services in Lawrence, has some answers.

“If both parents are working, and one parent plans to stay home with the new baby, then their combined income dramatically drops,” she says.

Bogner advises having six months’ worth of non-discretionary income built up in a savings account before the baby arrives, enough to pay necessities (rent or house payment, electricity and gas bills, etc.).

“If the wife is the one who wants to stay home with the baby and she’s currently bringing in 40 percent of the couple’s income, then the couple needs to ask, ‘Can we survive on the amount brought in by just the husband?’ Bogner says.

Bogner also says that the decision to have one parent stay at home with the child needs to be considered in terms of the cost of day care, too. Would it be worth it to keep that parent’s job, if the cost of child care is expensive?

Holly Krebs of Lawrence, the mother of 6-month-old Evy, says it’s been a blessing to her to be self-employed as a Rolf massage therapist in downtown Lawrence.

“Very slowly and gradually, I’ve gone back to work part-time,” she says. “My mother watches Evy a half-day a week.”

Krebs’ husband, Brett Stoppel, works as a Web administrator for Kansas University’s Natural History Museum. When the couple learned that they were expecting a child, they put a major effort into doing research into what baby items they’d actually need.

“We recruited all our friends who’d had kids,” Krebs explains, “so we had huge resources at our disposal. We borrowed as many used, hand-me-down baby clothes, car seats and baby bathtubs that we could.”

Krebs and her husband also prioritized what expenses they were willing to give up — things like books, clothes, CDs and eating out a lot.

“Our priority was that we wanted to keep buying good, organic food and doing things to help us take care of ourselves,” Krebs says. “That’s where we’ve put our money.”

Aaron Hale, a business services account manager, has other “babyproof budgeting” tips. He and his wife, Caryl Hale, a stay-at-home mom, are parents of 9-year-old Starla and 18-month-old Allyson, with a new baby on the way this month.

The Lawrence couple garden and grow their own vegetables to save money, and this past year, have tried using a cash-only budget for discretionary purchases.

“We cut up our credit cards,” Aaron Hale says, “and anything food-related or entertainment-related is budgeted with cash. The only times we use our debit card are for auto payments, gas at the pump or the regular bills that we have each month. Cash has a bigger effect on you, when it leaves your hands. When those dollar bills start flowing out of your hands, you actually feel something.”

The Hales also sold a lot of “stuff we no longer used” on Web sites such as Larryville, eBay and Craigslist in order to buy new baby items.

No matter how a couple organizes their budget to absorb the expenses of a growing family, communication is key. In fact, Bogner recommends that “once a month, they scoot the kids somewhere else, pour a couple glasses of wine, light a couple of candles and look at the bills together.”