Never mind the baby's birth. Financing a family can be a shock for new parents.

The cost of rearing a child is about $15,000 a year according to RaboDirect , which adds up to $270,000 over 18 years. That's an average, of course, and typically the more money coming into a house, the more that is spent on that new bundle of joy.

For those who have that sort of money available, or access to credit more likely, financial logic can go out the window as soon as the little blue line shows up in a pregnancy testing kit.

From that moment, marketers strike parents where it hurts: their emotions. They convince us we need all sorts of potions, lotions and pills if the baby is to be born healthy and that every new invention on the market is essential for eating, sleeping, safety or brain development.


But let's get real. Over and above nappies (which can of course be modern, easy-to-use reusable ones), a few sets of baby grows, a sun hat, somewhere to sleep, a car seat and a stroller, there isn't much that is categorically necessary for a baby in its first year of life. All the rest is marketing hype fuelled by parental fears.

One of the best things that happened to me was that our first child caught us a little by surprise and we hadn't even got around to buying clothes and a car capsule by the time she was born. It's amazing what you don't need when you don't have time to buy it. Plenty of items that parents buy for baby can be repurposed from stuff already in the house. That includes nappy bags, towels, sheets, burp cloths and much much more.

There are of course some nice-to-haves such as bibs, high chairs, thermometers, slings, and dummies (if you use them). At the other end of the scale, no one I hope could claim that a Tommee Tippee Fresh Food Feeder or a Closer To Nature Magic Mat are essentials.

Friends who bought expensive widgets and gadgets for their newborns, such as $500 change tables, hideous $150 nappy bags, $300 high chairs and all manner of "safety" devices, gave them away a few years down the track or sold them for less than a third of the full price.

Being naturally inclined to buck the system, I chewed over the gratuitous spending I saw going on around me in those first few years and found ways and means such as local baby sales to expend a fraction of what my friends did. No matter what emotional manipulation was thrown my way, I didn't buy the idea that my children would die if I put them in a second-hand high chair - and for the record they survived such parental neglect.

Fortunately others thought the same and were happy to buy our castoffs on Trade Me and I hazard a guess that we actually broke even on all the baby gear and toys we bought in the early years then subsequently sold off when no longer needed.

Another area that parents could cut costs on is all the educational paraphernalia they buy - after succumbing to the market hype that their child will be pedagogically stunted if they don't.

Although children need cognitive stimulation for their brains to develop, there's nothing that says this needs to come in expensive packages or for that matter that it has to be new. Second-hand Lego is no less educational than the new stuff.


When they hit school there's BYOD (bring your own device), an acronym that strikes terror into parental wallets. I've listened to parents who genuinely believe that their child's education will suffer if they have a $300 Chromebook instead of an iPad Air at more than twice the price.

And then there is the scary school uniform run where jackets that cost $10 to manufacture are sold for $115 - as I happened to notice in my children's school's uniform shop this week. I snorted silently to myself at being told that $115 was "good value" and messaged a few other parents until I found a new-looking second-hand one for a fraction of that cost.

Of course paying for baby isn't all about stuff. One of the biggest costs is the loss of an income. That's even bigger than childcare, which is a massive bite out of the family budget.

If you don't want to be struggling to make ends meet 10 or 20 years after the stork comes along it's essential to take control before baby brain sets in. Wants are fine. But if you're going to take control it's essential to make informed choices based on a budget relevant to your income. The BNZ/Plunket baby calculator, which can be found at is a great place to start as are the budget calculators on