The Unplanned Budget
how can i afford this?
Here’s how I approached my finances to make room for this huge life change.
You might be wondered how I embarked on this journey and managed to get back on my feet. (In truth, I’m still finding my way onto my feet.) But the short story is that I quit my full-time job in LA, left my Malibu surfing lifestyle behind and moved back home to Chicago to live with my family. Not as glamorous as Instagram makes it look, huh? Maybe this sounds awful to you. Sometimes it was awful - especially for someone hellbent on her independence and sense of self-sufficiency. I’m really not going to sugarcoat it, it was really, really hard. But in time, it got better. And in truth, it made me a better person.
But here’s the good part: you can do this. I’m not telling you that you have to move home or leave or job or abandon your lifestyle, but you have to be determined. You have to find a way. For me, the emotional benefit to moving home for a short while was worth it and provided me some savings on rent; it was the right decision for my circumstances. But I did contemplate staying in LA, and I believe I could have pulled it off, but it would have demanded a few more sacrifices.
Before I jump ahead and go through how I made learned to adapt to this huge change financially, there are a couple things I want to point out up-front that were advantages I feel the need to address. I don’t bring them up to say that my circumstances made things easy for me (they didn’t), but I am aware of certain privileges I may have had that others don’t and I wouldn’t ever want to make someone feel that my story or my way through should be their way through. I will also list out some resources for women seeking financial, residential or job-search help below. We all have our own unique stories, circumstances and backgrounds, and there are different ways through our Februaries.
Here are the privileges I recognize:
I had the support of my family. This is not something all single mothers have. I was fortunate to have a family who, while I was afraid to share the news with (and were surely disappointed at first), did support me and love me through this journey. I felt so incredibly grateful for this. That said, I did not rely on my family financially (other than the free rent for the period I moved home).
I had a full time job when I found out that paid me decently well (I was making $51,000/year) and had this job up until the two weeks before I delivered Renley. I worked out a plan with my California-based employer that allowed me to work remotely from Illinois for the 2.5 months before Renley was born (which allowed me to save on rent) but I did not get paid maternity leave.
I was insured. Because I was 25 when I gave birth to Renley, I was still covered under my parents insurance (which took care of almost 100% of my labor and delivery costs). Coverage for Renley was another story. Renley’s dad did add Renley to his California-based insurance plan and some of her costs were covered but a lot was out-of-pocket, including her pediatrician wellness check-ups and immunizations for the first six months of her life. In order to save on the immunizations, I took Renley to the state health department for each round (which costs a fraction of what it does at the pediatrician - more on this here).
I had a baby shower that helped cover many of the upfront expenses that comes with having a baby. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and family when it came to my stroller, crib, dresser, accessories and clothing for Renley. My shower helped to cover about two-thirds of what Renley’s dad and I needed to buy for her before she arrived.
I had free, part-time care for Renley (my mother) when I started working part-time after she turned 3 months.
I landed a full-time job seven months after giving birth to Renley that afforded me total financial independence and the opportunity to lease an apartment with my sister (where I would pay two-thirds rent: one-bedroom + the walk-in closet to convert into Renley’s room.)
Onto the Budget
With that out of the way, here are first three questions I looked to answer:
What is this going to cost me?
Can I stay in LA or do I need to move home?
Will I stay at my job and take maternity leave or start over somewhere else post-baby?
First, I started with a budget. I created a budget in Google Sheets, you can find that template here for download. I started by outlining all forms of income, including my full-time job and the supplementary income I was earning from a side job.
Next, I laid out my expenses, including my credit card debt:
I broke out the budget month by month, determining how much was being paid out to my cc bill and how much was saved. I determined where I needed to cut costs and how much I was netting out. With that number, I could determine how much to allocate to my cc bills each month.
Once I paid down my cc bills, I could pull into my savings by month four and I set up automatic transfer from my checking to my savings and kept that money safe and untouched. By the month of my due date, I predicted a savings of $8,000 and zero debt. I had two weeks left of income expected and from there, I began pulling from my savings to pay bills (no more money was coming in).
So what would I do with that savings estimate?
I mapped out exactly what having a baby was going to cost and how, month by month, that savings was going to diminish. That diminishment forecast gave me a number of how many months I had to find a job post-baby.
Subject to change, I’ve done a lot of this legwork for you in the template - but of course, all costs fluctuate depending on insurance, state, what’s gifted at a baby shower (if you have one) and other factors. I found this to be relatively accurate, with a few unforeseen hiccups (medical emergencies) along the way - so make sure you leave a buffer for that.
Baby items - $1500 (after baby shower - full baby shower guide coming soon, but see notes in my template and click here for a link to my registry)
Breast Pump - $0 (covered by all insurance)
Breastfeeding supplies (Lanolin, pumping bags, gel pads) - $100
Nursery Decor - $150 (or pull some old furniture together and DIY the crap out of it!)
Labor & Delivery - $0-1500 (depending on insurance provider - *see template for more on this) (full labor & delivery guide coming soon)
Hospital Pediatrician Bill - $0-1200 (if your insurance doesn’t cover everything like mine - *see template for more)
Child proof equipment - $100 (baby begins to crawl between 6-10mo.)
Doctor Visit Copays - $25-50/visit (depending on insurance provider)
Health (Medicine, Toiletries, First Aid) - $40/mo
Diapers & Wipes - $40/mo (Amazon Subscribe & Save, baby)
Laundry - $20/mo
Clothing - $50/mo (your baby shower clothes should cover you for a long while…)
Baby Toys/Books/Media - $35/mo (once they outgrow the early toys)
Formula - $60/mo (if you’re not breastfeeding or from the point that you stop breastfeed up until 12mo.)
Pureed Food - $50/mo (beginning at month 6)
Other (baby & mama needs) - $200/mo
*See my full budget template here for a full breakdown of these costs
A Couple Cost-Savings Tips:
Sign up on Amazon Subscribe & Save to get diapers cheaper than anywhere else. This said, set a reminder every month before you subscribe & save items are ordered to check your diaper/wipe inventory and assess whether you can pass that month OR need to begin ordering the next size up. If you add 5 or more items to subscribe & save, you save an extra 5-10% off. For baby, I only needed diapers and wipes on an ongoing basis, but think of household items you need and add them to the list
Sign up for BuyBuy Baby coupons on their website and ask your friends and family to sign up and forward theirs as well. I received 20%/$5 off almost everything I bought (with a restriction on diapers, wipes and a few select brands) but it is CLUTCH.
A Couple Finance/Budgeting Tips:
I used this baby calculator to get a general idea of costs in year 1 (which came to about 12k when I initially calculated: and Mint.com to generally organize my ongoing expenses post-baby (and after using my budget to get a full picture).
Don't forget that, as of 2018, you get a child tax credit when claiming a child, which will put a quick $2000 in your pocket. This assumes that you are unmarried and file as head of household (primary caretaker for your child) and claim your child as your dependent. Note: both unmarried parents who individually file as head of household cannot both claim the child as their dependent; only one parent can. So if your child's father in the baby's life but the child lives with you, be sure to make it clear to him that you will be claiming your child. Stay on top of completing social security paperwork for your child post-hospital as you'll need this when claiming your child during tax season. I file my taxes on Turbo Tax and find it very easy to use. For more information on child tax deductions and credits, see here.
If your finances need a complete overhaul, find an accredited nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency in your area. Visit NFCC.org to help you map out a reasonable budget or negotiate with creditors.
A Couple Scenarios I’d like to Address:
My job doesn’t pay maternity leave - All 50 states have laws in place to provide maternity pay, despite what your company benefits may be. Learn more here.
I don’t have insurance - If you are not covered by insurance or your child does not have insurance, look into your state's assistance programs. I figured this out way too late in my pregnancy (because I realized that Renley's California-based insurance was not going to cut it in IL but by time I began the application process, I learned it would take 6 months to get processed (I was due in 3) so do this early. In Illinois, I looked into state of Illinois' ABE program. Here are some other Illinois-based assistance programs. I realize this may sound scary to look for help but along the way I decided to put my ego aside and take advantage of the programs our state governments have put in place for women in these exact circumstances. Because I wasn't on top of this, I ended up paying $1200 out of pocket for Renley's Hospital Pediatrician bills (after the out-of-state insurance plan covered a good chunk).
My child doesn’t have insurance - see point above but also note that local health departments offer immunizations for a much lower cost out of pocket. I paid out of pock for Renley’s wellness visits at her peditrician ($75/visit) but took her to the Dupage County Health Department for three of her immunizations.
Other circumstances I’ll address in my full women’s resource guide & other sub-guides
I don’t have a job
I’m still finishing school.
I don’t have family or a place to live.
I am struggling with addiction or substance abuse.
I am in an abusive relationship and am afraid to leave.
I’m interested in adoption.
Other circumstances you’d like me to address? Contact me!