June 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

Having a baby? Get ready for a bellyful of costs

It more than goes without saying that having children costs money, from bake-sale supplies and college funds to tattoo removal and bail.

Just look at the latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reports that a child born in 2012 would cost his or her middle-class parents about $241,000 over the next 17 years. The report mentions food and shelter, but doesn’t say whether that total includes any Barney DVDs and the corresponding cost of daddy’s increased drinking.

Clearly, anyone having a baby knows it’s going to be expensive, but one thing most couples overlook in the cost of having a kid is the cost of actually having the kid. That includes maternity costs, insurance co-pays during pregnancy and, of course, delivery charges. This can amount to several thousand dollars, which can be a shock for younger parents who shop at Amazon.com and expect major acquisitions to come with free shipping.

Deliver us from the poor house

Sure, it seems cheap enough to get into the baby racket at the start. But then that 99-cent margarita turns into $12.98 for a home pregnancy test, $39.92 for prenatal multivitamins, insurance co-pays for a dozen pre-natal check-ups, and pretty soon you’re shelling out $2,500 for a pre-birth “babymoon” vacation, plus more dough for a birthing doula and placenta encapsulation. (Don’t ask. Just don’t ask.)

At delivery time, the average birth with employer-paid insurance resulted in a bill of $32,093 in 2010, according to Truven Health Analytics. Insurers paid $18,329 at their negotiated rates, and out-of-pocket costs to the parents averaged $2,244. That’s before all the costs we usually consider, such as cribs, car seats and diapers.

So before would-be parents start the college fund, they need to make set aside money for the baby fund. Remember: If you can’t afford an ultrasound, you’ll never be able to decide whether the nursery should be painted with Martha Stewart Heavenly Blue or Paris Pink.

Hey, doc - the epidural's on me!

As for family and friends, instead of sending along some delicately embroidered formal Irish lace bib that will either never be used or end up looking like the world’s most expensive sink rag, why not send some cash to help out expecting parents? Even though I loath gift cards, this could be the one time they’d truly be useful, as long as they’re not from Bob’s Pet Toy Depot.

Skip the designer crib sheets and send a check to cover the co-pay on the IV drip. Forget the silk christening gown and give cash to cover the hospital’s lactation consultant. And instead of a darling engraved silver baby cup, mail a Visa gift card and earn the expectant mom’s undying gratitude by defraying the cost of her epidural.

Babies, of course, are a rare and wonderful gift, if you define “gift” as something you make yourself then spend a lifetime worrying about and paying off. But considering all the upfront costs, having a baby is really more like buying a car — destination and delivery charges not included.

Brian O’Connor is author of the award-winning book, “The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese.”
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