If you or anyone you know has ever had an unexpected pregnancy, you know all of the emotions and shock that come with it. It may take a few weeks to get used to the idea of being pregnant. Then you have to tell your family and assess how you will handle this huge change in your life that you weren't necessarily preparing for.
While my husband and I were hoping for a new little one to add to our family, we didn't expect to get pregnant with two. All of the excitement of finding out that I was pregnant with twins instantly transformed into fear and worry when we realized we weren't just having a baby; we were having a family all at once.
My first worry was for the safety of the twins. I was living in Grenada, a developing country in the Caribbean, and I knew I wanted to move back to the United States to get better healthcare.
My second worry was money. We had started a small savings fund for a baby when I was trying to get pregnant, but now it seemed like we had to save double. We weren't exactly sure how we were going to do it, but little by little we developed a plan that allowed us to save $10,000 over the course of a few months.
Here are some tips on how to financially prepare for an unexpected pregnancy:
1. Make Sure You Have Good Healthcare
If you become pregnant unexpectedly, the very first thing you want to do is check with your healthcare provider. Pregnancies require many doctor's appointments, expensive ultrasounds, and a whole slew of blood work and tests in the beginning. You're probably not prepared to pay for these expenses out of pocket.
Find out what your insurance provides, and if it's not adequate, make sure to call around and check with different companies to see what your options are. Having a baby should be a happy time, not one of worrying about whether or not you can cover your medical bills.
2. Make a Savings Goal
Early in my pregnancy, I asked friends and family, "how much should I save for the arrival of these babies?" It was difficult to really get a clear answer out of anyone. My mom simply said, "A lot more than you think" while other friends said I wouldn't need much as long as I had health insurance.
Newly pregnant--and not knowing what to do or how much to save -- I came up with a goal number: $10,000. I planned to use that money to decorate the nursery, buy baby gear, hire some childcare help, and have a bit of a cushion (just in case). Your number may be higher or lower--just make sure you take the months you'll be spending on maternity leave into account, and be realistic about your needs. Will all your time off be covered? Will you need some extra assistance? What if you require a c-section? These are all things you need to think about.
3. Lose the Extras Until You Have a Baby Fund
Of course, saving $10,000 was easier said then done--I knew it would take some heard work. After learning about my pregnancy, I dropped my student loan payments from $800 to $200. I also poured every extra cent of side hustle income into a high yield savings account and really cut back on my spending. It's amazing how much you can set aside if you really put your mind to it.
If you're anything like me, you'll notice that thinking about your baby (or babies) is front and center in your mind when you are pregnant, but everything you buy--every purchase you make--should be well thought out. If you're spending more than you're saving, it's time to cut back a little on your expenses.
If I want to buy something at the mall, I'm constantly asking myself, "Do I really need this?" or "Can I use this money for the babies instead?"
4. Look Into Life Insurance and a Will
Looking into life insurance can seem morbid, and that's why people often avoid it. Still, if you're young and healthy, a term life insurance policy can cost very little (and will barely make a dent in your monthly finances). Likewise, a will can provide peace of mind that's invaluable. A lawyer can draw up a basic will for a minimal cost, or you can check out some of the online legal programs available.
5. Realize Babies Don't Need the Best of the Best
Even a frugal gal like myself can get caught up in the baby gear hype.
It's taken a lot of self-control to not buy them everything on the planet. When shopping for a crib, I'm instantly drawn to the more expensive ones and wondering why the others ones are so cheap.
My choices and my purchases require a lot more thought and advance planning, but over the past few months I've realized that a onesie from Wal-Mart and a onesie from Baby Gap really do serve the same purpose. And the best gift you can give your children is being financially prepared.
All in all, having a baby is really exciting, but I know that if you aren't quite ready for it, it can be a bit of a shock. Still, with a little bit of planning and clear thinking, you can be just as ready - and happy - about your pregnancy as any other expectant mother.
Catherine Alford, the author of this piece for GoGirl Finance, shares her adventures on her blog, www.BudgetBlonde.com.
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