Children are expensive. In between diaper changes and doctor’s appointments, you may wonder how you can afford it all, not to mention long-term money goals like retirement and paying off your mortgage. (We have a guide for new parents here.)
The easiest way to stay on track? Budgeting.
This simple template measures income against expenses. You can download the spreadsheet here and personalize it to fit your lifestyle.
Here's how to use it:
- Enter your cash on hand and any sources of income.
- Add your fixed expenses (like day care or car payments) and estimate how much you'll be spending on unfixed but essential expenses (like diapers or groceries).
- Add spending levels for wants like clothing, travel expenses and a “necessary” spa day once in a while.
- Track your spending every month. If you find yourself constantly going over budget in a certain category, you may want to tweak your budget or figure out a way to lower your expenses.
Budgeting tips for new parents
A couple things to think about before you build your budget:
Include contributions to your child’s 529 plan. Though it may seem early to think about college while your baby is still in diapers, it’s important to start saving as soon as possible. Set a realistic goal for how much you’ll contribute each month. Check out our state-by-state guide to 529 plans.
Take into account any loss of income for parental leave. Most companies offer some form of paid leave. Check with your human resources department to find out your employer’s policy.
After you get the whole budgeting thing down, look ahead to your long-term money goals. Need to save more for retirement? Want to build your nest egg in case of an emergency? The beauty of a budget is it can change based on your wants and needs — adjust accordingly and get tracking.
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Image: Brittney Smuganco