The Second Biggest Day: Births, Babies, and Spending

A couple of friends of mine asked me to talk to them about how to be wise in their spending as they prepare for their first babies. Living out a missional life, as this blog explores, takes on every aspect of your life. I will do my best to lay some things out that I never did, didn’t know, or just messed up in.

I think when you want to talk about money at all in regards to God and biblical standards you have to continually remind yourself that this is not your money you’re dealing with. *Disclaimer, I still suck at this.

But, I want to take a look at the months before and after that second most important day in any couples life. The first baby. I want to add right off the bat that there are so many determining factors when it comes to this subject, so I want to remind you that this is based off where I am (South Korea), what job I have (English Teacher), and what I have learned thus far.

When it comes to being a family, having babies, and learning to adjust to spending as a household I think there are two time periods we’ll look at; before and right after the birth. We will also look at the three “areas” of spending that we’ll run into; known, unknown + unexpected, and unnecessary.

Before the wee one comes.

Before my wife and I had kids, which wasn’t long after we had been married (5 years ago), we spent money very unwisely. And to be honest, it still effects us on a monthly basis. Getting into a healthy spending mindset and really learning how to spend wisely is hard. The task is always reminding yourself that (A) it isn’t yours, and that (B) it’s not yours for very long anyways even if it were yours. Let me walk through this and explain some more.

Things you SHOULD know about before you have a kid, in Korea.

1. The birth, if natural, will be about W300,000 ($300). If you have a C-Section, like us (three times), it’s about W1,000,000 ($1000). This does not include things like photo packages that you may be talked into, we did, twice. (to be fair, they cover the range of pre-baby big belly pictures all the way to the 1st birthday pictures. Six shoots altogether I believe.) For our first baby my wife stayed in a resting house (about W1,500,000/$1500). This was nice for her as they helped to take care of the baby for two weeks for you, give you daily massages, regular doctor check ups, have some time with other new moms. However, for our second and third child this was neither necessary or financially healthy for us to do, so we refrained. But because my wife has had three c-sections, she has spent a total of a week in the hospital each time.

A. The government does help. You can go to your area health clinic and register that you will be having a baby (doctors proof needed I believe). They will probably send you to your bank to get a new card, or attach to one of your current cards with about W300,000 ($300) for you to use for your doctors visits, and consequently to help pay for your birth if you have any left over. Korea is actually in decline when it comes to births, so your area may be encouraging birth by giving new mothers money after the birth as well, but it is usually for third babies, not first or second. Our area says they will provide W200,000/month for 6 months or a year. They also give you W3,000,000 as an incentive to help you with newborn costs, but the moms in this area say that what they actually received is much much less do to the government “running out of money.”

2. Things you actually need.

Some clothes, diapers/wipes, formula/bottles (W10-20,000/per bottle), creams (W10-20,000)/powders (same), towels (W5,000-?), stroller (W250,000-500,000)/baby carrier (W50-200,000), baby bed (W50-200,000), a good thermometer (W100,000), a massage or two (?), …

wife added… baby bathtub (W30-50,000), baby shampoo, baby toiletries.

3. Things I recommend not spending money on.

Every baby accessory you see, especially in Korea. EX-PEN-SIVE. Don’t spend a thousand dollars on a stroller…             get a stroller, but don’t be fooled. Get nice big tires… and that’s really it (especially if you don’t have a car.) Don’t start buying books and expensive toys, a few things maybe, but try and get them from friends and family if possible.

Don’t be fooled into thinking, like some, that second hand is somehow treating your baby badly. Having a baby is expensive, anywhere, and cutting down on that cost, especially on things that to be honest are used maybe a handful of times is important. Baby shoes could quite possibly be the worst investment ever. They are expensive, and the majority of the time your baby hates them, and won’t wear them anyhow.

B. Please, hear me when I say, get what you can from other people. That will be your biggest way to cut expenses. The second biggest way to cut expenses is to buy USED ONLINE. I can’t tell you what a world of a difference that made for us when we realized that that was an easy and reliable way to get stuff we needed instead of buying things new. We have bought things like car seats, baby beds, and strollers online. There are almost always people around your area that are close to you and selling stuff you may want or need. This can also be a great way to buy the stuff you want, without over spending.

4. I would recommend writing a list of all the things you think you will need for the birth, and divide that cost (with a little extra added as a safety if possible) into months and save a portion each month so that you have or are ready to purchase the necessary things when the time comes. This will help you not to feel so burdened or constrained on your spending or lack of money after the birth. Take advantage of friends who want to give gifts to you for the birth as times when you can receive things you actually need. If you don’t they’ll bring random stuff that may be of no real help. And as my wife reminded me, if you’re western, or around westerners, having a baby shower is awesome to help with that too.

As this is the pre-baby time, there aren’t really any “unknown” costs per se.

After the wee one comes

1. If you haven’t purchased those all important things, now is the time to do so. Assuming that you saved up a bit for them. You will be tempted now to buy everything you see… step away form the fluffy toys, you don’t need them. Someone will give you one or two anyways. Oh, yeah, buy more diapers… you need them already. Didn’t know that they would disappear so fast. BUT, don’t buy a million “new born” diapers, buy a lot of the 1 size diapers.

2. Things you actually need money for.

Doctors visits (W4-10,000 per visit plus medicine if you need it)-(although it is cheap in Korea.), more formula (about W30,000/$30 per can)-(especially if you are not planning on breast feeding full time, or you find out that physically you don’t have a lot to feed with, we’ll leave it at that), diapers (W20-30,000/$20-30 per pack of diapers), some more clothes (maybe set aside W200,000 if possible for clothes) if you don’t have baby clothing benefactor friends, vaccinations (Korea = at least W1,000,000). A couple little things like pacifiers (if you are ok with that sort of thing, some people get all up in arms), chew toys (yes, babies are like dogs, kinda), …

3. Things I recommend not spending money on.

LOTS of clothing, actually excess anything (it can be hard to know what that is.) For example, for my daughter, my wife kept buying bottles. I was going crazy seeing these $20 bottles, seriously for ONE. They kept coming home with her from the store. I would highly suggest walking through a baby store together as a couple doing two things; (A) writing down a list of things that are essentials and (B) make a list of things that you will keep each other accountable not to buy. You could make a wish list that you give to friends and family to buy that are things that don’t fall under the category of necessary and you would love if they bought you.

Wife added… don’t buy too many onesies, they grow out of them too fast, perhaps buy a couple and just wash them every day. ALSO, if you have relatives visiting from abroad, have them bring clothes for you, as it is SO much cheaper to buy baby clothes in the U.S. My mom and dad personally clothed my kids for almost three years. have them bring any sizes bigger than they will be when they visit.

I should really close this off and start a new post on baby stuff soon… so here is my wrap-up. Leave questions in the comments if you have them!

You can never really know EVERYTHING you will need, but you can have a great idea of what you need. I would recommend to start living LIKE you have the baby before you do. Don’t eat out all the time (we did, and still have trouble not doing that; for various reasons). Save every month, but remember to give to your church every month. make that a habit before you have the baby. We found we were going months before we gave money because we simply didn’t have it, or thought the other was the one giving it. My wife stopped working after our first, which we didn’t really know we were gonna do, so we were trying to live a two salary life with one salary. Not good, not easy, not God honoring.

It’s hard, it’s still hard, but you can do it. Remember that not a thing, including your baby is really yours, just a loan and you will really live much differently. Your choices will be measured and weighed by a greater balance. Your respect for what you have will also be greater.

Last thought… really. You are always, through every moment, covered by grace. In the times we have been struggling, God provided. In the times where we had excess, kind of, it was by Gods design. We have never really had any “extra”, every month has been covered though, it always came from somewhere. Even when I lost my job, had no savings, no place to live, and a new baby coming in a matter of weeks, God provided. Be prayerful and ALWAYS be in communication with each other about your ideas, expectations, wants, needs and desires and you should be more than fine.