After nine months of waiting, parents naturally look forward to holding in their arms their bundle of joy. But how many realize their new baby will literally cost a bundle to raise? We polled moms and dads on how much they spent on their babies in the first two years, and the average price tag is — drum roll, please — a cool million pesos!
Many years ago, when we learned I was pregnant with our firstborn, my husband and I devoured all the information we could get our hands on to ensure a healthy pregnancy. We bought books and magazines, subscribed to online sites and newsletters, interviewed friends who had young children, even watched YouTube videos. We threw a lot of energy into managing the pregnancy that we missed something just as important: planning for when the baby is born.
Don’t get me wrong. She had what she needed from clothes to furniture. But what we did not have was a budget to survive the first two years. We never expected having one child would cause our expenses to balloon to such an extent we were always running out of cash. When we started to confide with friends and family, we discovered we were not alone.
Layla* thought she had it covered because she assumed she would only need to pay for diapers; her older sister was giving her many hand-me-downs. “I was ready to breastfeed and resigned from work, so we did not hire a yaya. Talagang akala ko diapers lang ang gastos (I really thought our only expense would be diapers).”
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But then Layla’s baby would not latch, and her breast milk supply was not what she hoped for. She switched to formula milk, and that was one expense added. Doctor visits also became frequent between checkups and rashes and allergies. “Parang tambay na kami sa hospital tapos ang daming gamot na dapat bilhin. (We were practically bystanders in the hospital and added to that we had a lot of medicines to buy.)”
It was Belle’s second pregnancy, and after raising a 2-year-old son, she felt confident about welcoming her new daughter into the world. “With my son, I was always second guessing myself, so this time around, I thought I will be more prepared. But surprise, surprise, it’s hard to raise two young children side by side, and the expenses seem never to end.”
With her husband’s single income, Layla quickly realized she needed a budget to better plan their monthly expenses. “Na-miss ko ang sweldo ko pero ayaw ko pa rin bumalik kaya talagang super budget. (I suddenly missed having a salary, but I did not want to return to work, so we had to follow a budget strictly.)”
Of course, the budget did not solve her problems overnight, but it made it more manageable. “Instead of buying formula by the carton, we would buy in tin cans and get savings because of the bulk buy. All these add up somehow.”
Kelvin used a budget tracker and quickly saw the ‘money culprits,’ or specific items that were draining his family’s budget. Raising a baby and a toddler meant diapers became a staple in their weekly grocery visits. “My wife worked hard to potty-train our older son, and when she was successful, that was a big relief to us and to our budget.”
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In the case of Belle, she discovered that she was spending more raising her daughter than she did for her son. “It could be that everything has become more expensive after two years or maybe we became more discriminating and started to buy better products like organic cotton for her clothes. Plus, it’s always times two now, from milk to doctor visits so we began listing our expenses to see where we can cut back.”
Gabby found a way to cope with food expenses by sticking to fresh foods. “If you have to buy different foods for every member of the family, that will cost you — a lot. I prepare only two dishes with every meal, one vegetable, and one meat, and we all have to enjoy it including the baby. This means, one of the dishes may be a soup broth, or with vegetables, I can mash. No need for the baby food jars that are not only expensive but may have preservatives.”
Two years later, Layla can now breathe a little easier, but she has not stopped making a family budget and sticking to it. She wants another baby and knows that it will be an added strain to their monthly costs, so it’s crucial to anticipate all expenses.
“I can’t imagine how we would have coped with our expenses without a budget. At one time, parang our only choice was for me to go back to work and it did not feel right. I’m grateful that we found the discipline to budget kahit it was not easy.”
Aneth Ng-Lim began her career as a writer and happily returns to her journalism roots after working as a communications specialist in the government and the private sectors. While working for a bank as a consumer education head, she honed personal finance skills and increased her money smarts. A woman empowerment champion, she is a proud mom to two teenage daughters.