baby boy sitting up on bed

How We Spent Almost $13,000 on Our Son in His First Year

How we spent almost $13,000 on our son in his first yearKids are expensive. We hear it everywhere. But looking back at a year of expenses for our first child, my husband and I know that we made things way more expensive than they really had to be. The cost of a baby really doesn’t have to be that high, but we lost track of our frugal values. We got sucked well into the machine that is new parent marketing and filled our house with stuff. Our basement, his nursery, and our entire house are drowning in children’s toys, books, clothes, and gadgets. We own things we never needed and have toys he has never touched. But it was honestly all our fault.

Recently, I visited Mustard Seed Money to share my plea to our family and friends to stop spoiling our son from now on. But after writing that piece, I felt the need to step back and take responsibility for the all the stuff that invaded our house and share the details on how exactly our crazy spending happened. Learn from us, and don’t let the consumption machine suck you in!

Breakdown of expenses in the first year

I am a bit Type-A and love data, so I have kept pretty meticulous budget records on what money has been spent on Fuss Fish. However, until I sat down to write this post, I had looked at it only on a month to month basis and not an aggregate basis. The numbers totally shocked me. All in, including the registry, gifts I kept track of, and all our personal expenses, $12,769 was spent on my son from when we found out I was pregnant through his first birthday. Of that money, approximately 70% we spent ourselves, and the rest was received as gifts. So, the vast majority of the exorbitant spending on our son in the first year can be blamed solely on my husband and me.

The most recent USDA numbers estimate the cost of raising a child to be $233,610 from birth to age 18, before college.  Of that cost, 29% is housing, which I didn’t include, which makes the comparable figure ~$9,215 a year. Then, the USDA had an additional note that the average family spends ~$300 a year less from birth to age 2, so that is $8,915. This means we spent about 40% more than the average family on our son in his first year of life. Oops.

Here’s how it looked for us. Keep in mind my husband is a stay-at-home dad, so we don’t have formal childcare expenses.

Breakdown of first child expenses over the first year

Where we could have cut

If you answered “everywhere” you are right. The fact is, some categories were significantly worse than others as I went through and parsed out what we purchased and thought about what we used. Fuss Fish definitely didn’t need over $2,200 in clothes. Baby clothes were my kryptonite, and I take full responsibility for that. If it wasn’t for I would probably still be buying adorable clothes like crazy.

The Other category is filled with a whole lot of crap. He actually didn’t use his MamaRoo bouncy seat much. And his little tent for when we were outside was excellent to keep the sun and bugs off. Well, at least for that first month before he could just crawl out of it… However, that category also includes useful safety accessories like many gates, a video baby monitor, and ear protection for when we brought him to a wedding and my brother’s hockey game, both before he was two months old. Overall, we probably could have cut about 40% of that category or a little over $750.

Fuss Fish's nursey bookcase
There is no such thing as too many books, right?

Finally, sadly, I have to call out books. I love books, and I love that Fuss Fish has mini libraries in virtually every room in the house. But we bought, every children’s book we saw and liked. He has piles of books in his closet that he won’t be able to read for several years. So, first off, I wish we had paced ourselves. Allowed for more room for him to pick his books when we bring him into the local bookstore. Waited to see what interests him most. Second, I should have recognized the power of the library. Within 3 miles of our home, there are two public libraries with massive children’s sections. My husband brings Fuss Fish there regularly, and he could have picked out any books he wanted to read. We could have rotated his stock more regularly and spent a lot less money.

What we were happy with

Fuss Fish's Where the Wild Things Are nursery
Our favorite reading corner!

While almost $13,000 is an exorbitant amount to spend on a tiny person who spent half of his first year most happy kicking on his back, there are parts of this spending I really can’t make myself upset about. The first of which has to be his nursery. Including all furniture, we spent $1,708 decorating Fuss Fish’s nursery. We bought non-toxic paint from Lullaby Paints so I could help paint, and I wouldn’t be worried about the fumes and the baby. I found fun art prints and Etsy products to tie in the Where the Wild Things Are theme, and we purchased an incredibly comfortable glider for his room. Every time I walk into his room, it makes me happy. I love that he wakes up and points to, “monster monster” on the wall in the morning. I love reading to him in his chair at night. The room turned out exactly how I imagined it, and I don’t regret a penny spent.

I’m also happy with our choice on diapering. We never really considered cloth diapers but didn’t want to entirely abandon our environmental beliefs. We found chemical free, 100% biodegradable diapers and ran with them. For a few days when Fuss was a few months old we considered cloth diapers, but at that point, he was starting to show a propensity for overheating, and I couldn’t find a cloth diaper I trusted to be cool. Bambo diapers cost a fortune (as you can see), as do Honest Company wipes, but they were worth it. Fuss almost never had a leak or blowout, the diapers were thin and light weight, and we were comfortable we weren’t adding piles and piles of a landfill that would stay in place beyond his lifetime.

What took us by surprise

Our second biggest expense category for Fuss was feeding. We spent almost $2,000 feeding him in his first year, and that doesn’t include normal groceries. We did baby led weaning with Fuss, which means he ate whatever we were eating from 6 months. So besides some puree pouches for snacks and on the go, that spending figure is just for formula.

Before Fuss was born, I planned to breastfeed for at least six months, with a goal of a year. I read two books on it recommended by my doula, I was excited, and I was ready for a challenge. But I quickly learned babies don’t care what your plans are. Fuss and I faced numerous difficulties in the first weeks with feeding. To work through it, we went to five private lactation consultant appointments, then we both ended up with thrush, and no one was sleeping. After two weeks, when he had fallen to the 0.05% weight-to-height ratio, we switched to formula. It was one of the hardest decisions I had ever made. I never planned to have to buy formula or so many bottles, and in the end, it was 15% of our total expenses.

What we learned being first-time parents

As new parents, we wanted to solve every need in our lives. We prioritized convenience over responsible spending and lack of clutter. Teethers are a perfect example of this. When Fuss started teething, we kept buying teethers to try to soothe his pain. We asked every other parent what worked for their kid and ordered them. There are maybe ten types of teethers floating around our house. He hates them all. His preference? A cold carrot from the fridge, a cool, wet washcloth, or a cold spoon.

Every kid is different and what works for them will vary and change, sometimes day-to-day. If we knew then what we know now, we would do a few things differently. First, before trying to solve any problem, we would give it a week. Almost all of our struggles and Fuss’s frustrations passed in that amount of time, and he didn’t need anything specific to help him. Second, for real issues, we would have tried the cheapest (or free!) options for things first.

Parents get by all over the world with a minute fraction of what we determine to be “needs” in the U.S. We just need to trust our natural parenting instincts, not the constant marketing to parents. Because, let’s be real, now that my son is a toddler, all he really wants is to run laps in the backyard in just his diaper. And I bet your kid isn’t much different.

Do you know how much you spent on your first child? What expenses did you have that you definitely didn’t need? Share in the comments!

17 thoughts on “How We Spent Almost $13,000 on Our Son in His First Year”

  1. We bought a ton of clothes and later shoes but our kids changed clothes sizes every 3 months in the first year.

    We also bought a ton of books. I had a thing for baby lotions and hair bows…

    I have no clue how much we spent. I just know it was too much.

    1. Shoes are such a pain!! Their little feet grow so fast and they hate wearing them anyway.

      I don’t know if it is the best plan to add up everything you spent – it was definitely a little daunting when we looked at the aggregate number…

    1. Good to know BEFORE walking into parenting for sure. A reminder to stay away from all the parent purchase traps! (And to be aware that you will probably fall for some)

  2. Like you alluded to, babies don’t get the memos to appreciate the special items you buy just for them. We found ourselves doing a lot of research before purchasing a moderate-cost product, only to watch it gather dust in the corner.

    It’s nearly impossible to know whether baby with like something until he or she tries it. The only feasible solution is to buy less, or buy used, in the first place (or repurpose food and kitchen utensils for teethers, love that!)

    Dr. C

    1. If you are a data junkie like me – you really thought all that research was going to get you the perfect products! So disappointing when you make the purchase and then your child has no interest. At least our experience can warn future expectant parents!

  3. Every expecting mom needs to read this. And then read it again at some point during the first few months. Like you, I tried my best to be smart about things and not fall into the baby marketing traps. I definitely fell for some. My LO used his baby bumbo seat maybe 2 times. He usually cried his head off when we put him in it. I used the shopping cart cover twice. It is way too much of a hassle for me and most stores now have antibacterial wipes to wipe down the cart. I also bought way too many kinds of sippy cups. Someone got us a wipe warmer even though it wasn’t on our registry and we used it for 1 week. My LO also had way more blankets and clothes than he needed. Especially being in Arizona, he didn’t need anywhere close to the number of blankets he got. Some things that I am happy we splurged on: a really comfortable lazy boy like chair for the nursery that was around $500 at buy buy baby; his jumperoo; his high chair (I think it was around $125); his vtech sit to stand walker. I also have an unhealthy obsession for buying books. I should have only bought board books because it will be quite some time before my LO can be trusted with books with paper pages. Because I recognize my obsession with buying books, I tried to buy them at the Goodwill or another “higher end” thrift store around me where they are 4 for $1. I wipe them all down with antibacterial wipes.

    1. Baby blankets are one of those things I just won’t buy after having a kid. Everyone gets a million at their baby shower, regardless of their baby’s due date or location (like you in Arizona), and they just clutter closets. I love making baby quilts but now I won’t do it unless I’ve asked the parents first and if I can make it to match the nursery for them.

      We made the same mistake with standard books versus board books. Almost all the books we bought before he was born were paper, and then we stocked up on board books once we realized it would be ages before he could be trusted with the paper books. Great idea about Goodwill for books! I never thought of that!

    1. Woo! Thanks, Mr. Jumpstart! Another point to my husband that my budget tracking is not “obsessive” but “careful” and beneficial 😉

  4. Oh man, I’m totally dreading adding up the costs. I swear it might be over $100,000 due to hiring a night doula, day doula, a safer car, and all the other stuff in your pie chart!

    $13K ain’t bad!


    1. It is so scary to add it all up! I was lucky to have 16 weeks maternity leave and my husband home with me in those early months (since he is a stay-at-home-dad), because otherwise I think we would of ended up doing a night or day doula.

      Curious to hear what your total was! Thanks for reading!

      1. I’ll probably put a post together next year for sure. I like your recommendation of waiting a week. We just buy everything on Amazon that looks good. We tested out, and if it doesn’t work we just try something else exactly like what you did with the Teething.

        Will try those three things you recommended.

        What are your thoughts about lowering your worry for your child? I find myself worrying all the time regarding his developmental issues. He has a thing going with his eyes were he can’t really keep them still which is worrisome. Once you Google It’s kind of all downhill and you just expect the worst. But I’m doing some eye exercises and just hoping for the best that boy is still young and growing stronger every day.

        Did you notice things got easier after the third or fourth month? Regarding sleeping and habits and stuff like that? How long does the teething pains last?


        1. I’ll send you an email, but in short, it was constantly reminding myself that the range of “normal” for babies is incredibly wide and that, in the vast majority of cases, they’ll all be on the same level by the time they’re 2. My son walked at about 10 months for a couple days, then just gave it up completely for almost 3 months. It was hard not to worry, but he was a very proficient crawler and then one day he just stood up and took off. They’re going to do their own thing and googling is your worst enemy in trying to find an exact answer for normal or expected.

          It does get easier after those early months. Once they start smiling and babbling and holding their heads up consistently, they seem more like little people than blobs that need constant protection and worry. Sleep is a tough one to gauge, my son was better after the third month but some babies are still up in the middle of the night at a year old. If nothing else, you do start to get used to it after 3-4 months.

          Teething is the most annoying thing in the world. It feels like it is never ending. They’ll be popping teeth on and off until they are 2+, and teething looks a lot like a cold, so you’ll do a lot of worrying that it is teeth and then nothing will pop through. We just constantly have something around for him to chew on and that seems to work.

          Good luck! It’s a tough job but so rewarding!!


  5. I didn’t add up how much our kids cost, but I can’t believe it was that much. We got pretty lucky that the grandparents over-shop (like your Mustard Seed Money post), so we didn’t need to buy much.

    We didn’t need to buy any books or clothes. We didn’t buy toys. The cloth diapers cut down on costs, but I’m sure there was a lot more laundry. Baby formula certainly adds up, but there’s nothing you can do there.

    The biggest cost had to have been daycare. I simply couldn’t get any work done otherwise. And that’s a very big cost, but well worth every penny.

  6. I have a 16 month at home and so far the biggest expense has been diapers. We committed over a year to biodegrabable, enviornmentally friendly diapers. We started with Honest Diapers but switched to Parasol because they fit our son better. We went back and forth on cloth diapers but never pulled the trigger.

    One baby product that did not work for us at all was a baby bather. We had two infant ones that we used maybe three times total. A folded towel in the bath tub worked so much better.

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