Budgeting for baby

More commonly known as SG Budget Babe, 29-yearold first-time mum and accounts manager, Dawn Fiona Cher, first caught the attention of netizens back in 2014 with her blog post on how she successfully saved $20,000 in her first year of work on a modest monthly salary of $2,500. Soon after, Dawn built a following as a financial lifestyle blogger, sharing tips on how to be financiallysavvy and grow one’s money from investments. Her own personal financial planning, pre-baby, was based on clear measurables. She had oversight of her lifestyle and targeted solutions to plug the financial gaps. Then Dawn, who tied the knot with realtor Nicholas Huang in 2017, discovered she was expecting baby Nate a year later. Suddenly, with a baby in the picture, she found that budgeting was not as straightforward as it used to be. No longer was everything easily quantifiable, nor were decisional outcomes guaranteed.

DEALING WITH THE UNKNOWN

Parents naturally want to give their kids the best, but they also have to spend within their means. Is it possible for parents to make the most financially savvy decisions? “Sometimes, there can be no such thing,” admits Dawn. “There is actually a lot of trial and error. There will be times when you just have to pay to learn that something is not suitable. Budgeting for baby is really a gamble.” She cites the time when she had stocked up on a particular brand of milk bottle she thought would be good for bottle feeds — but her son had other ideas, and it didn’t work out. “We had to make the switch,” she laughs. Then there were decisions based on potential benefits. The couple decided to go for cord blood banking – umbilical cord blood, a good source of stem cells, has the potential to treat blood disorders. Though Dawn and Nicholas recognise that research in this area is still relatively new and inconclusive, they went for it regardless. “There are a lot of what-ifs, but we understand that science is a work-in-progress.”

WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS

Still, not all baby-based financial planning decisions have to be tough or ambiguous — for some, you can simply weigh the benefits against the costs. For instance, with items like baby furniture, Dawn believes one can save on these. “Our cot is second-hand. Baby will outgrow it eventually, we didn’t see the need to spend on a new cot. We also chose not to spend on branded items, there are plenty of other good buys you can get at a lower price.” Before making a purchase however, she will first run through a checklist. “I’ll look at cost, safety, quality, manufacturer history and how long it has been in the market,” says Dawn. “And of course, I will consider baby’s specific needs.” While figuring out what to spend and save on can seem daunting, Dawn says it boils down to personal preferences and what each couple considers to be of importance to them and their baby. She adds, “It is easy for us to stinge on ourselves but you cannot put a fixed price when it comes to your child.”

START WITH THE NECESSITIES

While having a baby is a big financial responsibility, with baby’s needs and budgets constantly evolving, Dawn believes that identifying immediate or necessary needs can help parents put together a realistic plan and manage costs (see tips below). It is also a good idea to start saving early, either while you are trying for a baby or when you learn of your pregnancy. Says Dawn, “That way, money will be the least of your worries after your baby is born because you’ll have so much more to worry about when that time comes!” Dawn and Nicholas initially targeted $20,000 before they learnt that some of their friends – especially those who had an emergency C-section – spent close to that sum just on hospitalisation and delivery fees. “We then revised our baby budget to $30,000 to last us throughout pregnancy and the first four months of Nate’s birth,” shares Dawn. For the couple, their biggest spend was the hospital fees. Says Dawn, “It makes sense then that one of the first things parents should decide on is whether to go with a public or private hospital as costs vary quite a lot.” After some thought and research, the couple felt that a private hospital was the best option for them. Though going private was a little pricier, “it was worth paying as we were clear what we wanted and didn’t want,” she explains. The couple chose Thomson Medical for various reasons. “The charges were reasonable for a private hospital, but more importantly, I felt at ease in Thomson as it has a homely atmosphere. I also wanted a cosy single room so I could rest properly – the rooms at TMC are comfortable and just the right size, not too big. Also, there are sofas for family to stay over, which was good as I wanted Nicholas to be there for support. In fact, it felt more like a staycation than a hospital stay!” The hospital tour also left a positive impression on her. “The staff were friendly, helpful and professional. Thomson was also very upfront about the charges as well; friends have shared their experiences with hidden delivery costs, but I didn’t have that problem; in fact, nurses even shared tips to help me reduce cost!” Dawn recalls.

ALL-ROUND SUPPORT

When it came to breastfeeding, Dawn was glad to learn that TMC allows parents to bring their own breast pump for use instead of having to rent one, and the lactation consultant will even teach mums how to operate it. Thomson’s breastfeeding and lactation support at the ParentCraft Centre and helpline was a boon as Dawn suffered post-partum depression (PPD) and struggled with breastfeeding initially. “I would cry seven to 10 times a day, anything would trigger me. I was hormonal and it was very overwhelming.” With TMC, family and friends to lean on, Dawn learned to cope eventually. She is particularly grateful for the “mum tribe” she became a part of. “As a new mum, that bond shared with other mums is something I had never known before, and it really helped me overcome my struggles.” Today, with the emotional rollercoaster behind them, Dawn and Nicholas are enjoying parenthood. Dawn says her favourite thing about being a mum is seeing baby Nate beam at her, “although he can be stingy with his smiles!” she laughs.


DAWN’S TIPS ON WHAT TO BUDGET FOR

Anticipate and save for pregnancy and delivery

You’ll be paying for consultations, scans, blood tests and nutritional supplements at the gynae, among other things! On average, expect to spend between $150 to $380 per visit. Some gynaes offer packages, ask if that is an option. Delivery costs depend on whether the hospital is public or private, as well as method of birth. Prepare for the unexpected – you may end up with a C-section, even if a natural delivery is your preference. If your baby is born premature or needs to stay a little longer in the hospital for observation, get an estimate cost for that. Another potential cost is cord blood banking, which ranges from $5,000 to $8,000 for private storage.

Newborn essentials

A cot, clothes, diapers, breast pump, nursing bras, a stroller… the list of essentials can be overwhelming. If you’re not fussy, you can save by accepting hand-me-downs or buy cheaper, pre-loved items, especially baby’s clothing and furniture items, even maternity wear. Consider baby fairs and online sites for good deals.

Review your insurance policies

Make sure your family’s insurance policies are in order. With more expenses ahead, you want to be well covered. Consider maternity insurance that covers potential complications and congenital conditions. Settle your newborn’s hospitalisation and personal accident insurance within your baby’s first 30 to 60 days.

Select a paediatrician

Your child will be making regular visits to the paediatrican; shortlist one in advance.

Post-birth costs

Will you be hiring a confinement lady or arranging for confinement food to be catered? Will you be having post-natal massages?

Childcare

When your maternity leave ends and you return to work, will you get a domestic helper to care for your baby or turn to infant care?


THOMSON MEDICAL’S SUPPORT FOR MUM & BABY

Thomson Signature 8 is a programme developed over the years to make your experience a more delightful one. This includes the Signature Fish and Papaya Soup that is served mid-morning to all mothers, as well as visits by a lactation consultant who will support and assist you to breastfeed successfully.

First/Subsequent Born Incentive Programme (FBI/SBI) We have specially developed this maternity programme to help parents manage the cost of welcoming their new bundle of joy and support them on their parenting journey. As you progress in your pregnancy, enjoy member rates for your fetal assessment ultrasound scans, childbirth education classes, and be invited to our many pregnancy seminars on breastfeeding, baby care, nutrition and weaning. You can also use the card during the hospital stay and your baby’s follow-up visits at Thomson Paediatric clinics island-wide.

Hospital Tour To familiarise yourself with the hospital services and facilities before your delivery, hospital tours are conducted twice daily from Mondays to Saturdays. And if you are a first-time mother, there is a more comprehensive tour just for you!