5 ways to get financially ready when planning for a baby

So, you're ready to have a baby. You're probably at least a little nervous about the sleepless nights — that is, assuming you're not already losing sleep over picking the perfect first storybook or wondering what kind of parent you're going to be. (You'll be great!)

Plus, there's one source of stress that nearly everyone planning for a baby has to come to terms with. Your baby's cuteness comes with a price: about $250,000 by the time they get through high school.

What's a soon-to-be parent to do? It all comes down to the "planning" part of family planning. Having a financial plan in place will keep you from stressing about paying the babysitter so you can focus your attention on more important things, like capturing every adorable moment on video.

Here are five ways to prepare for your newest family member.

1. Research necessary purchases

You'll encounter an army of parents with their own recommendations for baby products that, according to them, you just need to have. Behind them, there's an entire industry dedicated to making sure you have access to enough gadgets and products to fill your house to the roof three times over.

Before you go on a shopping spree, research what's truly essential. Think things like diapers, car seats, clothing, and formula. Talking to loved ones, watching videos for parents on YouTube, and even asking your doctor can give you a good sense of what's nonnegotiable. Just make sure you keep the conversation limited to the things you really need, and not how your friend's high-tech singing mobile totally changed their life.

2. Start saving now

Once you've decided what products you absolutely must have, organize financial planning for a new baby around saving for those. Make a long-term plan to pay for any items you either can't afford or don't need yet by adding up the costs and dividing by the number of months you have until your baby is born. There are countless websites and books that can help you estimate how much everything on your list might cost.

This is also a great opportunity to explore secondhand sources of baby items. Chances are that little thrift store — not to mention your cousin's attic stash of every outfit their kids ever grew out of — will have lightly used items or hand-me-downs that get you close to what you're looking for.

Beyond necessary baby goods, start looking into other costs like day care. Day care can be surprisingly expensive in most major Canadian cities, ranging from less than $200 per month in Quebec to around $1,500 per month in the Greater Toronto Area.

3. Rethink your budget

Babies are small, sure, but they have a big influence on your budget, and you're probably going to have to make some changes, especially if you take full parental leave or haven't topped up your employment insurance payments and have less money coming in. That may mean saving up the balance so you still have the same amount of money to live on while you're taking time off with your baby.

See if there's any wiggle room in your current budget. Dinners out or expensive gym memberships might need to take a backseat to child care supplies, but you may find yourself too busy for those things, anyway.

4. Plan for college

University may seem far, far away when you're holding your newborn baby, but starting a registered education savings plan (RESP) early on means you can maximize both compound interest and federal and provincial grants, so you'll have the maximum amount saved when your child is ready to head off to college.

5. Consider life insurance

As you bring new life into your home, the last thing you want to think about is what could go wrong, especially things that are out of your control. Having the right insurance is one way to put your hand back on the tiller as you enter deeper waters. Life insurance can help pay the mortgage, cover tuition for school, and make sure your children are financially secure as they grow up. Some options to consider might include whole or term life insurance and disability insurance, but talk to your advisor to get the best plan to protect you and your family.

Planning for a baby is a thrilling experience, but don't feel bad if the stress starts to get to you. Instead, focus that energy on the steps above to get financially prepared. You'll rest easier knowing you have at least one major piece in place — which is good, because you're going to need all the sleep you can get.