New moms share their smartest pre-baby money moves

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If those little bundles of joy were born with price tags attached, more people might think a little harder about becoming parents. The USDA estimates that a middle-income family will spend $233,610 raising a child to the age of 17.1 (Luckily, you don’t have to cough up that cool quarter million all at once!)

But as daunting as that may sound, there are plenty of ways to make parenthood less pricey. That’s why we asked seasoned moms to share a few of their best pre-baby moves that helped them minimize financial stress once the sleep-deprived nights started.

Slash student loans

“A year before having our first baby I consolidated my student loans with a private lender that offered a much lower interest rate. That allowed me to pay the loan off more aggressively, while I was working full time and not paying for childcare. Then, when my husband’s annual bonus hit, we put half of it toward the principal and set the other half aside to make automatic loan payments for at least 12 months. That gave me the freedom to take an unpaid maternity leave without worrying about my student loans.”—Jenny Orndoff Avila, mother of a 5-month old

Skip rattles for college savings

“Before our baby shower, we created a 529 college-savings plan that many people contributed to instead of shopping at big-box stores for rattles and onesies we didn’t really need. I have a very large and generous family, and many of the same people contributed again for holidays and birthdays.”—Amanda Simkin, mother of a 5- and 3 year-old

Enjoy dining in

“My husband and I really buckled down our budget to pay off our debt while we were in the process of adopting. We decided we would not eat out. Since January, I can count on two hands the times we've eaten out or picked up. I meal plan, go shopping every Friday, clip coupons and make sure we have things at home to make dinner. We both have busy schedules so sometimes it's just chili dogs and baked beans. We don't eat extravagantly, but we aren't going hungry either. And that budget tweak helped us pay down almost $52,000 in debt in eight months!”—Emilie Gaschke, mother of a 6-week old

Cut hospital costs with a health savings account

“We maxed out our Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions for two years, which meant we had about $6,500 in the account before the baby was born. Our hospital bills were about $3,500, but with additional doctor bills during the pregnancy, the total cost for us was closer to $6,000. We waited until all of the bills were in, checked them twice, paid them, then submitted the claims to the HSA the same day. That felt so great.”—April Erickson, mother of an 18-month old

Work a side gig

“Before I got pregnant with my second child, my husband and I paid off his graduate school debt. Then, to build back up our savings, I started teaching cake-decorating classes at night. I liked it so much, I kept expanding, eventually teaching people at home and selling my own cakes. By the time our second was born, I had enough momentum to launch my own business, Chicago Custom Cakes. Because I work more evenings and weekends, I can also save on childcare.”—Libby Godecke, mother of a 3-year old and an 11-month old

Skip the pricey nursery furniture

“When I was pregnant, I read a book that helped me realize that some standard baby things are worth the money, and some aren’t. We ended up purchasing a crib and a changer that were a fraction of the cost of some of the overpriced furniture options. Getting informed saved us over $1,000!”—Joy Symonds, mother of a 9-month old

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1 "The Cost of Raising a Child," Jan. 30, 2017, United States Department of Agriculture

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