The Checkout

The Cost of Raising Baby

The guilt started about six months ago.

Newly pregnant, I had gone to the store for prenatal vitamins. I found myself staring at one bottle for $8 and another that cost closer to $20. As far as I could tell, they had the same ingredients. Was the $20 one better? I wondered. Was I a bad mother if I bought the cheaper one? And is this how every baby-related spending decision was going to be from now on?

Argh.

The latter thought finally made me realize I had a long way to go so I had better save my money. I bought the cheaper one.

Now, with three months to go before the big day, my husband and I are trying to wrap our heads around the cost of bringing up baby.

My colleague Cecilia Kang wrote Sunday about what we might expect--financially, that is.

What I learned, to my relief, was that I am not one of the four out of 10 expectant mothers who didn't adjust their family budgets to include a new baby. Nor am I among the seven in 10 who hadn't reviewed their health benefits, according to a poll of 500 mothers by Aetna and the Financial Planning Association.

I am, however, not much savvier about what to expect beyond that, so I went looking for more information. Here's what I found:

According to Practical Money Skills, a financial literacy site run by Visa, expectant parents sweat the small stuff. Nearly half of them worry about everyday expenses such as diapers and wipes compared with 33 percent of new parents.

Fewer new parents may worry about the cost of diapers because they've already been hit with an unexpected dose of reality. The biggest financial surprise for new parents, it turns out, is the cost of delivery. One in four new parents ends up spending more than $2,000 on out-of-pocket costs for services associated with a normal delivery.

And despite the fact that every baby book says you should never skimp on essentials such as strollers and car seats, nearly half of new parents say they spent more than they needed on car seats, strollers and cribs.

So, where does that leave expectant parents? Well, pretty much where I was when I was choosing between the $8 and the $20 vitamins.

There are a number of online calculators that offer an idea of how much parents are likely to spend. The two I liked the best are:

* http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/english/index.php# (available from the calculator pulldown menu)
* http://www.babycenter.com/costofchild/

Help me be less clueless. What was the biggest unexpected cost you experienced when you had a kid?

By Annys Shin |  December 18, 2006; 9:23 AM ET Consumer News
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Comments

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Formula! I has planned on breastfeeding, but due to medical reasons, couldn't. Spending almost $90/mo on formula was a big surprise.

Posted by: C | December 18, 2006 9:48 AM

My biggest unexpected costs didn't come until school had started and I was being hit up every month (at least) for some sort of school or girl scout (fill in your child's favorite activity here) fund-raiser. It was really annoying to be nickel-and-dimed in this way when I was on an excruciatingly tight budget.

My advice about car seats is to buy an economy model that is easy to carry because you will be toting your infant a lot of places. Save the big money for when you have to find the one model (and it is certain to also be the most expensive) that your 2 year old escape artist can not worm his/her way out of.

Posted by: cotopaxi | December 18, 2006 9:58 AM

I read the Post article on child-rearing costs and literally laughed aloud at the expected cost of childcare. HA! If I recall correctly, it said the cost for a higher-income family would be $16k before the child was 6 years old.

I think we spent that in the first 8 months of our FIRST child's life -- and that was for part-time care! With two kids under two and working (even just part-time), our day care expenses are more than TWICE what my first mortgage was.

Posted by: JennyK | December 18, 2006 10:12 AM

The cost of putting a second child in daycare. One child in daycare seemed a reasonable exchange for what I made by going back to work. Suddenly the math changed when a second child was introduced. I worked the same amount, but was bringing home a much smaller chunk of my paycheck.

As for saving costs - we use cloth diapers. MUCH bigger up front costs, but I spend way less on diapers than anyone I know overall and I buy disposables only for traveling and daycare. My water bill is a little higher, but the costs don't compare.

Posted by: Carrie | December 18, 2006 10:17 AM

A new child is a lot more expensive than I anticipated. My wife and I both work full time. My wife telecommutes 100% of the time. We put our son in daycare 3 mornings and have a sitter to full in the rest of the work hours. We have a sitter so our son isn't in daycare 40 hours a week (not a judgment on those who do, just what we prefer). It costs about $1500 (one of my wifes 2 monthly paychecks) a month to do all of this. The other option is to have my wife quit her job (she wants to be a SAHM, I make more money). So either way we're out a LOT of money to make sure out son is cared for. We have a 2nd one on the way, and that may force us to have my wife quit work. Since the cost of watching 2 kids would most likely mean most of my wifes paycheck would go to child care.

Posted by: BigGuy | December 18, 2006 10:40 AM

I wish I had known about kids consignment shops like Once Upon a Child before I had a baby. I spent so much on all the new baby stuff (Exersaucer, baby gym, swing, etc.). In some ways they were worth it, since the babies used them heavily for a few months. But they were outgrown and then useless quite quickly. I would have loved to have bought them used.

Like Carrie, cloth diapers were a huge cost savings for me. I kept track and spent about $950 on cloth diapers. This was all I spent for two children to go all the way through toilet training. Many estimates say that paper diapers cost $2,000- $3,000 PER CHILD so this was a big savings for us. Plus, cloth diapers usually mean that the kid trains more quickly. Ours was fully potty trained a little after two years old.
Diapers are not the nasty pin-them-on diapers they used to be. Take a look at http://www.fuzzibunz.com/ for the kind I used.

Posted by: Neighbor | December 18, 2006 10:41 AM

I think it was formula - especially since the hosptials get you stuck on a certain brand and say you can't ever switch. After a little bit, we switched to generic, with NO PROBLEM, and saved $100s.

Daycare in this area is a huge expense. We pay almost $1000/month, and that is a $500 savings from the first 6 months (we moved and had to change providers).

We also had to get a bigger car. Two compact cars before - and the car seat didn't fit in the bag unless the front seats were pushed all the way forward! (So we got a new car payment, plus more gas, though insurance is less going from 2 cars to 1)

I thought listing housing, etc, costs in the article was a little silly. We would be paying that with or without our son!

Posted by: Mom of 15-month old | December 18, 2006 10:42 AM

Didn't your doctor give you samples of vitamens or a perscripton?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2006 10:42 AM

Oh, and congratulations, Annys!

Posted by: Neighbor | December 18, 2006 10:46 AM

Daycare was a shock ($14000+ a year for infant care). Formula was running us about $100 a month, diapers & wipes another $75 or so a month. The first relief came when she turned one and we switched to milk. The second relief was when she "graduated" to the two-year-old room at daycare and the tuition went down. Now I can't wait to get her potty-trained so we won't have to pay for diapers & wipes!

Posted by: PLS | December 18, 2006 10:58 AM

P.S. My ob-gyn (at Georgetown) didn't give me a prescription for pre-natal vitamins either. He said just about any brand at CVS, etc., would have the right nutrients. The important thing was to take pre-natal vitamins and not just a regular multivitamin.

Posted by: PLS | December 18, 2006 11:00 AM

Yeah, the article must be national, not DC data b/c I also laughed at the childcare costs. I have two kids and pay $25k/year for daycare and have friends with nannies who pay much more. How sad that I eagerly await my eldest to grow up so that he'll be in Kindergarten and the cost will drop. We pay more in daycare than we do for our mortgage.

Posted by: Jen | December 18, 2006 11:00 AM

Childcare costs still take my breath away 3 years after my son's birth. It falls into the one category that I will not go cheap on, which is safety. I buy clothes from Ebay, used coupons for diapers, and get second hand toys from family. Day care and car seats directly impact my child's safety, and that is where the money goes.

In the first year, breast feeding helps tremendously with costs. Even renting a pump to allow you to go back to work is cheaper than formula. If formula is a necessity, look for coupons and sales. The same with diapers. Babies really don't need a whole wardrobe of expensive clothes - they are just going to get them covered in some body fluid within an hour anyway :)

Posted by: cheap mommy | December 18, 2006 11:06 AM

My wife and I are expecting our first child in April and have started to look at child care options. We are surprised to see that there does not appear to be anything in the middle with regards to childcare facilities. On the low end we have found centers centers that are priced around $1,100 for an infant but are crowded, dirty, and not very appealing. On the other end we have found a center that we like very much but this is in $1,700 a month range. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Posted by: New Dad Sticker Shock | December 18, 2006 11:15 AM

My doctor recommended prescription prenatals since there is no governmental quality control for over-the-counter prenatals. It is usually cheaper as well since your insurance will pay for part of it.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2006 11:22 AM

I agree on the child care--we pay $450/week for two, full time. Well over our mortgage amount. However, that's cheaper than it might be because we found a good, professional family daycare provider. That's an excellent way to save some money, and if they're close to your home it's easy to do dropoffs and pickups. We also love that in a family daycare environment our children mix with kids of other ages (there are 4 children total, our 2 and another pair of siblings whose ages stair-step with ours). We're located in the Columbia, MD area, if you're trying to compare apples to apples on the cost.

I breastfed 11 months with #1 and 8 months with #2. Formula is incredibly expensive and really knocked our grocery bill up to the tune of $25/week. Yeesh!

As for furniture, strollers, etc.--don't be afraid to get gently used things from friends or craigslist, etc. All of that stuff is so transient--you'll have it for a couple of years and then done. And if you buy new, buy quality but don't pay for the trendy stuff--a $130 Graco stroller works just as well as a $400 MacLaren. And IKEA has lovely cheap cribs.

Nobody's mentioned breastpumps, but they can be pretty pricey too...

Posted by: 2 under 3 | December 18, 2006 11:37 AM

On the subject of prenatal vitamins- people, they're just regular vitamins with extra iron because some moms become anemic during pregnancy. They don't even have very much calcium in them (cuz calcium and iron don't mix well.) So you end up having to take a calcium supplement as well. Long story short, just take a regular vitamin unless you have problems with anemia. There is nothing magic about prenatal vitamins.

Posted by: a mom | December 18, 2006 11:41 AM

Day care is far and away the biggest expense -- think college tuition right out of the gate! DC area is roughly $11k/year minimum. Diapers, wipes, etc can be bought in bulk at significant savings, even if you stick with brand names. And the sooner you potty train them, the less you pay (there's incentive!) Yes, we spent more on strollers and such than we should've -- they outgrow those exersaucer things so quickly that used really makes sense. We'll be selling a lot of that stuff soon! And our son wears mostly hand-me-downs and consignment clothes, supplemented with a few basics from Target. Used clothes don't have to look ratty-I'm sure no one can tell his little $40 Ralph Lauren outfit cost me $8, and his savings account is better off for it.

Posted by: VAtoddlerMom | December 18, 2006 11:43 AM

Why is it that people always complain about the cost of child care? I hear people at my job complain about the high cost of day care, but yet they don't bat an eye at spending $4000 for a new HDTV, or race to get the latest hi-tech phone. Like I tell people here, you knew the job was difficult when you took it. Oh and by the way, it doesn't get any cheaper when they become school aged either, try finding after school care for an 9 year old. Everyone wants to keep babies and toddlers only.

Posted by: Mona425 | December 18, 2006 11:44 AM

Congrats Annys - your world will change dramatically.

Don't sweat the small stuff, really. You'll make yourself nuts tracking the dollars and cents.

Agree with the breastfeeding suggestions. Best expense EVER with my first was a lactaction consultant - $75 per hour for 4 hours. Yes, it was a huge scary expense for us - one income, no job potential in sight for me - but my kid has never had an ear infection and we saved tons of money by not buying formula.

As for gently used stuff - great idea. But not for car seats or other safety equipment.

Good luck to you. Boy or girl?

Posted by: lisa | December 18, 2006 11:51 AM

I have three kids, one in preschool, one in elementary school and one in middle school. When they're small, the expense of childcare and/or preschool can be astronomical, especially if you want something really high-quality like Montessori. It is literally about the same cost as tuition at a state university. With the older kids, the expensive things include the likes of fancy school field trips (like band overnights to NYC), ballet, travel sports, God forbid ice hockey for those crazy enough to let their kids sign up for it...and the list goes on. Then they all start wanting expensive things like snowboards and ipods. You must decide what to say no to before it gets out of hand. Have your kids prioritize what they really want to do and also help earn some of the money to pay for it. In the long run, they'll learn some money management skills and also appreciate it more if they're helping to pay for it. Most importantly, they don't have to have everything they want. All of us could use a dose of thriftiness from bygone generations.

Posted by: Mom of 3 | December 18, 2006 11:54 AM

Cutting costs where you can helps a lot. A new baby doesn't know if his or her crib is brand spankin' new or not. By time the baby stuff was around for our kid #3, you realize how little it matters.

We did cloth diapers only for the first few months, when you go through diapers at an amazing rate. Once solid food came into things, well, we switched to disposable.

Nursing, if you can manage it, is another cost saver. No bottles, no formula, (and no trying to figure out if it is the right temperature at 3 am).

Important items: Good car seat, perhaps the ones that are convertible into strollers. Crib that meets current safety regulations (not a good place to cut costs). Oh, and a good monitor. Don't worry about baby swings, bouncy chairs, etc. until the baby gets older.

Posted by: Di | December 18, 2006 11:55 AM

This reaffirms my stance on not having any more children. Day care was 5k Yearly in 1994 and the cost just keeps rising. I pay less in tuition for private school then I paid in daycare. The decision not to have anymore children was financial. When I get nasty comments from certain family members, I simply tell them to foot 100% of the bill and I'll have a kid. They shut up immediately.

Posted by: No More Kids | December 18, 2006 11:56 AM

re: prenatal vitamins

The problem with Rx vitamins is that, so far, all I've found are 3rd tier, ie extremely expensive, even with insurance. True, OTC vitamins are not regulated, but they are OK. You'll need more iron, calcium, and folate. WATCH OUT FOR VITAMIN A. You won't need any extra, and extra causes birth defects. This is why you're not supposed to use skin products with retinal, retinol, retinoic acid during pregnancy, too. When in doubt, ask the doctor, don't rely on the internet!

We're expecting our first in the next few days, and the biggest strain will DEFINITELY be daycare.

Hand-me-downs are great, except for car seats. Otherwise, used, used, used!

Posted by: atb | December 18, 2006 11:58 AM

I was ready for the high cost of daycare. I had never thought about the cost of summer camp for a gifted, or handicapped, child, though. A grand a week! Totally worth it, really, and I'll be taking a home equity loan to cover the expenses for the next few summers.

Posted by: Owlice | December 18, 2006 12:00 PM

Daycare is certainly the biggest financial shock. We get lots of used clothes from family and friends and our child doesn't mind a single bit (neither do we). Also toy exchange is a great thing -- swap toys with your friend's kids' toys. We can't afford second daycare and make too much money to qualify for daycare assistance, so one child is probably all we'll have. I also get nasty comments about this from neighbors and family members and also tell them that if they pay for daycare we'll have another child right away. They shut up. When I see low-income mothers dropping of their three, four or five children at daycare, all paid for by the state, and it makes me angry, I know it should't, but it does.

Posted by: Elle | December 18, 2006 12:20 PM

Along with the price of diapers and safety products, one of our surprises was the huge number of baby products on the market. A lot of money gets spent on just trial & error, figuring out which works best (especially diapers). I recently built a site to list the products we use and like the best. Hopefully it will help others in their decisions. Other than car seats, try to find items at yard sales, etc.

http://www.squidoo.com/babygearthatworks/

Posted by: Mac | December 18, 2006 12:23 PM

I think often people forget that a baby is another human that has needs too. They are cheaper to feed and dress than an adult, but cost more to supervise (day care - yikes!). I too laughed at the chart in the Post on Sunday. We pay $1200 a month for each of our two children for preschool. Fortunately next year our oldest will be in K, so we will save $900 a month! Of course that will go to more expensive clothing, field trips, etc. At least they don't drive, or want PS3s for Christmas yet.

Posted by: Jen | December 18, 2006 12:31 PM

To build on what atb said;
we planned for daycare and a nanny, but having a child who needed 3x per week speech therapy starting at 20 months and continuing to this day (5+ yrs) was something we didn't or couldn't have anticipated. Insurance covers some, but that is not the case for everyone. Not to mention the 'cost' of a parent needing to transport said child to all the appointments.

Of course we will do whatever we have to get him the help he needs for as long as he needs it, but it makes fretting over accepting a gently used crib or spending $100 vs. $400 for a stroller seem pretty silly in retrospect.

Posted by: cl | December 18, 2006 12:31 PM

Congratulations! My advice:

1. Get a copy of the current edition of Baby Bargains -- an invaluable book that will tell you not only where to save $$ but also how to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish where, for example, cribs and car seats are concerned.

2. I didn't discover our local consignment store until after I'd gotten a lot of stuff -- you can get things other than clothes on consignment, and with the exception of the crib and the car seat, it's generally safe to do so.

3. Day care is the biggest expense, no way around that really.

Posted by: mom of 2 | December 18, 2006 12:41 PM

Our 2nd kid is now 8 months old. Here are a few comments on what's worth spending $$ on, and what you can safely skimp on:

Highchairs: the cheap plastic, wipeable Ikea ones cost just $20 and work fine for the few months you'll need one---before the kid can move into a booster seat attached to a regular dining room chair.

Infant car seats: many babies are in these for just a few months. Try to get a newish loaner from a friend. DO, however, shell out $$ for the convertible seat that the baby moves into next, and stays in until he/she is 3-5 yrs old; the better ones are well worth the extra $$. I so regret the hours I spent struggling with the tangled straps on our first child's middle-of-the-road car seat. Britax has cornered the market on easy-to-use convertible seats, and in my life, they're worth every penny.

Clothes: use hand-me-downs as much as you can. It's pure folly to spend $$ on baby clothes.

Breastpump: essential even for SAHMs so that you can have a few hours to yourself now and then. Expensive up front, but much cheaper than formula. Electric pumps are an essential for frequent pumpers, but the manual Avent Isis pump works just fine for infrequent users, and is quite inexpensive.

Baby food: jars are easy and convenient, but try to find 30 minutes once a week to cook up a big batch of sweet potatoes or mash some bananas or pears, etc. Puree in a blender or, for older babies, mash with a potato masher, and then freeze in ice cube trays. Store frozen cubes in a ziplock bag & defrost as needed for your baby's meals. This easy process will save you bundles of money and supplement the jars you buy from the supermarket.

Posted by: DC | December 18, 2006 12:45 PM

a mom, I'm sorry but that's inaccurate. Prescription prenatal vitamins also contain much higher amounts of folic acid, which is known to reduce the occurence of spinal bifida, which is fatal. As another poster also said, prescription is also regulated by the FDA.

Posted by: StudentMom2Be | December 18, 2006 1:02 PM

biggest cost is by far day care and then college. But at least with college, you have 18 years to save and can take out loans. There are no loans for day care. At over 1K/month/child, it is really overwhelming. I also spent way too much on toys. I am definitely cutting back on toys. So many get lost in the toy box never to be found. I say this as it is a week before Christmas, ask me again next year. MOney or not, your child will bring you the greatest joy in your life. Worth every penny.

Posted by: foamgnome | December 18, 2006 1:11 PM

So far, having our daughter (almost 2) has really not cost us much at all. We figured that I would stay at home, so we have no childcare costs. Breastfeeding was free, our delivery was free (thanks to blue cross), cloth diapers cost us maybe $400 (and you can sell them on ebay for almost as much as you paid). I think kids can be as expensive as you make them, kwim? No one *needs* an $800 stroller, designer baby clothes, and classes at Gymboree twice a week. I would say the biggest waste of money, though, is new baby gear (except for carseats). You can buy a new baby bjorn for $90, or an almost-new one on ebay for $15. You can also find deals on playpens, swings, and many toys.

I would say the most shocking expense is preschool. Some of them seem to be over $10,000 a year! I have found that church/synagogue preschools are a less expensive, quality option, and if you are staying at home co-op preschools are also a good value.

Oh, and as for the vitamins, I started on some regular otc prenatals, but became unable to swallow the gigantic pills due to morning sickness. So I switched to a children's chewable, which has the EXACT same ingredients, plus an extra folic acid supplement. I never had any problems with anemia, and gave birth to a very healthy 9-lb baby.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2006 1:17 PM

Congratulations! My first baby was born in May. I have a few tips for you. I'll say though that in addition to the expenses mentioned by pp, one big expense for us has been related to *lack of time*. I used to have time to plan our meals carefully for the week and grocery shop... now I'm buying more convenience items to save time. With my husband and I both working full time and taking classes in the evening, we've hired a maid service to maintain the house... another expense. There's just so little time to bargain shop.

Prenatal Vitamins: I wanted to take a prescription, but my OB kept prescribing vitamins barely covered by my insurance. I was actually charge $120 once for a 3-month supply! I learned to ask my OB to write the prescription as, "generic prenatal vitamin." Then I researched online generic equivalents of various vitamins and went to the drugstore with a few in mind that met my requirements-- low vitamin A, high iron, etc.

Daycare: We are having a WONDERFUL experience with a family daycare that costs $210/week (Anne Arundel Co.). Initially my daughter was enrolled in a large center but we weren't happy with the rapport we had with the staff. Now we're saving money AND we could choose the specific person who will help to raise our child. She and our daughter have a wonderful bond and I couldn't be happier.

Gear: Buy an infant car seat and a car seat stroller frame for the first 6 mo. or so and forego the stroller. They are convenient, ride well, pack well into your car.. then once your little one graduates to a real stroller your choices will be wider (and less expensive) because you won't have to accommodate a newborn. You can often find strollers and carseats for great prices at albeebaby.com that are a previous year's color-- major discount for just buying "fire red" rather than "bright red." Go with used for swings, exersaucers... the ones at consignment shops are often in fantastic condition.

Diapers & wipes-- Believe it or not, Amazon has great prices for these items, and delivery is free!

Posted by: NewMom | December 18, 2006 1:24 PM

Our biggest unexpected cost so far was the cost of delivery itself. We had some complications while my wife was pregnant that necessitated trips to two other doctors, plus plenty of sonograms. Towards the end, she developed hypertension and had to be hospitalized. Then she delivered prematurely and our child spent two weeks in the NICU. I totalled up the costs for all this care and it clocks in at $75K. Fortunately, it was almost completely covered by our insurance. Needless to say, I'm not complaining about high premiums any more.

Posted by: Bob | December 18, 2006 1:25 PM

Summer Camp! It is very difficult to find affordable summer programs for elementary school age kids that are available for the entire summer break (most are just for the month of July), and that offer more than just babysitting services. A good, interesting day camp can run $300/week!

Posted by: datadiva | December 18, 2006 1:49 PM

"On the subject of prenatal vitamins- people, they're just regular vitamins with extra iron because some moms become anemic during pregnancy. They don't even have very much calcium in them (cuz calcium and iron don't mix well.) So you end up having to take a calcium supplement as well. Long story short, just take a regular vitamin unless you have problems with anemia. There is nothing magic about prenatal vitamins."


A mom, you can be cheap with the most important thing in your life if you want, but most people will not. prenatal vitamins have high levels of folic acid in them! If they weren't needed by Rx, why wouldn't they all just be at the drugstore.


Posted by: duh | December 18, 2006 1:51 PM

The unexpected cost for me was furnishing our child's room. We were going for cheap initially until we realized parts of a used crib were missing. Suddenly I had to have a "safe" but beautiful crib from PotteryBarn kids (they did offer free shipping) and the matching drawer, lamp and nightstand. We didn't stop there- we had California closets come in and design a closet for our little one's room. In retrospect, we could have gone a little cheaper than we did but he is our first. Maybe we'll recycle a bit more with the second.

Posted by: Paula | December 18, 2006 1:54 PM


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Election fraud in Georgia
The Cox legacy: Who "owns" our votes?
By Denis Wright

Online Journal Contributing Writer
"A temporary restraining order is necessary and proper under the facts presented to the Court since release of the CD-ROM today at 5:00 p.m. will significantly and permanently impair the rights and interests of the public and the Secretary of State as the custodian of those rights and interests." --Motion and Supporting Authority for a Temporary Restraining Order, filed in DeKalb Superior Court, State of Georgia on behalf of Cathy Cox, Secretary of State

Two months prior to leaving office Cathy Cox, Georgia's outgoing secretary of state and the subject of much controversy, felt compelled to stop an effort to perform a citizen audit of the state's primary and run-off elections of July and August 2006.

Georgia's elections, like some 38 other states, are conducted on DRE or direct record electronic voting machines which are manufactured, upgraded and serviced by various private corporations that claim they are unaccountable to any outside scrutiny. In Georgia's case that corporation is Diebold Election Systems, and Diebold supplies not only the machines but the ballots, the training, and the "proprietary" software that counts the votes.

The most recent legal battle in Georgia began after Atlanta attorney Mike Raffauf filed an Open Records request for a copy of the CD-ROM "which contains a copy of the information on each memory card (PCMCIA Card) which shall include all ballot images and ballot styles as well as vote totals and a copy of the consolidated returns from the election management system" for DeKalb County.

Linda Latimore, director of elections for DeKalb, responded thus on November 3: " . . . by copy of this letter we are putting all interested parties on notice of our intent to provide you with a copy of the requested CD-ROM by 5:00 p.m. on November 9, 2006."

Ms. Cox and her legal representatives felt that it was improper for the very citizens who cast the votes to audit the results; results that exist only in the inner workings of an electronic voting system that is itself mired in controvery and shrouded in great secrecy. Ms. Cox apparently felt very strongly that Georgians be kept in the dark about their votes: She had the request to deny the release of the CD records filed with the court 25 minutes before the disk was due to be handed to the public, without notifying Mike Raffauf she was racing to beat the deadline.

Cox and her staff contend that release of the files would constitute a "threat to public security or property if released." One of her staff members, Kathy Rogers, felt it necessary to send an email to county election supervisors equating release of the data to "criminal or terrorist acts" after Georgia citizens requested it in 2004. Also enlisted was Ray Cobb, director of the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, who filed a supporting affidavit with the court.

While Ms. Cox claims in her request for the restraining order that she and her office "fully support and indeed have advocated" for the Open Records Act, the record shows a different reality. Numerous Open Records requests have been filed by citizens for information regarding the voting process which have been denied or never answered.

To bolster his case, Mr. Raffauf enlisted industry expert Yobie Benjamin to rebut the claims by Ray Cobb and Cathy Cox. Mr. Benjamin describes his experience and expertise in his affidavit, "I have 20 years experience with information systems management technologies . . . I am an internationally recognized expert in computer information security and have served in this capacity with several notable companies". Mr. Benjamin inspected and analyzed the Diebold election system for former California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

According to Mr. Benjamin, "Release of election data that was recently publicly available should not cause this level of security risk. There is clearly something deficient with this election system."

Benjamin continued, "Regarding the claims made by Mr. Cobb's affidavit that the files 'contain encryption codes that could be used in an attempt to modify, 'spoof', 'crack' or 'hack' the GEMS [Global Election Management System] software or the receipt or tabulation of votes using the GEMS software.' It is common practice in commercial and government industry to regularly change security codes and points of access as part of a prudent security program."

In fact, the certification test of the Diebold Election System prepared by KSU for the office of the Secretary of State in July 2006 states that the dynamic password on a Poll Manager Card "has a six digit password and allows this password to be changed as often as desired." Similarly, the password on Voter Access Cards can be changed to ensure security. Surely this most basic of security tenets would be followed in elections and this information would be changed as often as deemed necessary. Had industry standards been applied in the voting system and passwords and other security related information been changed after the election, Mr. Cobb's assertion is a red herring. If not, security concerns move well beyond the release of records regarding a closed election and speak to the apparent incompetence of those entrusted to protect the votes.

Furthermore, in response to Cobb's claim that the CD data cannot be reproduced without copying security information, Benjamin calls this an "ignorant assertion" as any bit or byte of data in any computer system can be isolated securely by any competent computer professional.

Concludes Mr. Benjamin, "Election results and ballots should be made public irrespective of its form or format. It is up to the public to decide how they utilize this information."

Why is the release of this information so vital to the citizens of Georgia? First there is the question of "who owns the votes." Diebold and other manufacturers have consistently insisted that the vote tabulation software is private company property and have fought vehemently to stop any independent scrutiny. There are other concerns and issues as well which are specific to this election and merit in-depth study: In almost 50 percent of DeKalb County precincts, the number of cast ballots did not match the number of signed voter certificates; undervotes were unusually high, exceeding 40 percent in some races; 106,000 ballots statewide (14 percent of the voters) did not record a choice for the U.S. Senate, the "top of the ticket" race.

According to Cathy Cox, it seems, the interests of a private corporation take precedent over the rights of the state's citizens to know how their votes are tallied in state elections. As the official "protector" of our votes, just who is Ms. Cox protecting? One has to ask why Ms. Cox would feel the need to halt the release of information that, in fact, already belongs to each and every voter in Georgia. Why rush in just minutes before the deadline in a secret and faulty court filing? Just who are the "interested parties" in our elections, Diebold or the citizenry? And just how do the results of a public election "significantly and permanently impair the rights and interests of the public" as Cox claims?

These and other lingering questions should be asked and answered under oath by Cathy Cox prior to leaving office. It seems likely, however, that the ever-expanding voting scandal will be inherited by incoming Secretary of State Karen Handel.

In her position papers prior to election, Ms. Handel claimed that our voting system is both insecure and outdated and promised to replace it with one that provides a Voter Verified Paper Ballot. But will any new system continue the history of secrecy and subterfuge exhibited by Diebold and their apologists or herald a new era of openness and transparency so desperately needed in this arena so critical to our democracy?
The fact remains that we already have the capability to provide a Voter Verified Paper Ballot utilizing Optical Scan technology. Not only would this solution be much preferable than would pouring millions more dollars down the Diebold money pit, it would provide something that DRE voting can never attain: clear voter intent. If Ms. Handel hopes to regain public confidence in elections her office should explore and pursue any options that put the votes back where they belong: in the hands of the people.

Posted by: che | December 18, 2006 2:08 PM

Biggest cost: lack of sleep.

Seriously, it affects job performance and eats up "vacation" days that are needed to recover.

But seriously, why do you worry about the cost of having a baby? The return on the investment is priceless. So, quit worrying about it.

Posted by: John | December 18, 2006 2:37 PM

My advice to you is to enjoy the process, and don't sweat the cost stuff too much.

I am a dad to three grown children, and my youngest is mentally "challenged." My wife stayed home to raise them in the early years because child care cost exceeded her income potential. This is the type of trade off folks make, and have always made. We have over 300 million folks in the country, so obviously the cost tradeoff is acceptable to many.

Keep the tradeoffs in mind, and just make decisions you are comfortable with. We sent our kids through summer camps, and paid for college (including dorms/apts). And I was still able to live a decent life on a single Federal Govt income.

Relax. They grow up before you know it!

Posted by: art | December 18, 2006 2:52 PM

I'm crazy about coupons now. I don't buy diapers or wipes w/out coupons. Make sure to hoard as many as you can. Sometimes you can get them at your OB office!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2006 2:58 PM

One we avoided - the cord blood scam.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 18, 2006 3:27 PM

I'm almost 5 mos pregnant with my first and while I haven't bought anything yet (waiting to find out the sex first), I have been cruising Craig's List to see what's out there and like what I see for prices on swings and exersaucers, etc. Hopefully this will ease some of the upfront burden so that daycare can suck it all. Also, I have decent insurance and even with the insurance, my prescription prenatal vitamins are $40/month which I found a little shocking.

Posted by: noelle_dc | December 18, 2006 4:04 PM

well, i'm now scared enough to never have babies unless i win the lottery.

Posted by: holy crap | December 18, 2006 4:20 PM

Congratulations!
First, get a copy of Dr. Spock's book. The best advice is that you should follow your best instincts, and you will probably be right.

Second, we decided to manage with one parent at home, but this may not work for you. Take help when offered, an extra day in the hospital, a friend who will watch you child even for an hour, or cook a meal.

Third, college costs. Private schools are around US$47K this year. Imagine that in 18 years. Save for your retirement first. Let the kid get financial aid grants, loans, or start at community college.

Fourth, kids go through clothes like crazy, either every diaper change, or as they grow quickly. Get something practical, be able to mix and match, just like you probaly do for yourself now.

Posted by: Phila, PA | December 18, 2006 4:23 PM

Diapers and formula were very costly each month but the costliest has been childcare. I am expecting baby number 2 (1 mo to go) and I am concerned about finding good childcare and being able to afford it.

Posted by: webbyrd | December 18, 2006 4:25 PM

I had my first during graduate school, so I know a bit about saving money while adding a baby to the mix.

First off I'd like to say in response to one posting ... regular multivitamins not even close to being okay compared to prenatal vitamins. After taking a course on prenatal and infant nutrition, I finally came up with my own mix but for safety reasons feel the need to point out the importance of prenatal vitamins over regular multivitamins. Personally I think OTC prenatal vitamins don't have enough folic acid so I always supplemented with extra folic acid.

As for formula, don't be fooled by "designer" formulas with things like DHA and ARA added. These are not important to the development of your infant. Trust me, I used to review infant formulas for a living. Companies add things to formulas they say to make it more like breast milk but really they want to increase the cost of the formula. For example, DHA and ARA basically disappear from breast milk after 6 weeks so why would your baby need it in formula for 12 months? Pesticides and HIV can also be found in some breastmilk but we wouldn't want them added as well.

As for daycare costs ... I have been lucky to find family daycares for all my children when they were infants. The most I ever paid was $145 a week. You don't always get what you pay for in daycare, don't be fooled by high costs centers. We have an excellent provider who does it because she loves kids, not to be rich.

There are a lot of other ways to save money as well. If pumping breast milk, don't buy expensive storage bags for the milk. Regular generic brand freezer bags work well and have more room for labeling. When freezing the bags lay them flat in a tupperware container to make thawing go faster. Don't buy expensive creams for cracked nipples or skin care, generic vitamin A and D ointment works for all skin problems (even ones we don't want to talk about online). Cloth diapers work just as well as burp cloths for catching spit-up and are much less costly. Baby shampoo and baby wash contain the same ingredients more or less, buy one or the other but not both. Generic brands like Target, Walmart, etc are just as good as the name brands and sometimes can save you 50%.

Good luck!

Posted by: mom of three | December 18, 2006 4:37 PM

re: prenatal vitamins

If you're trying to conceive or are in your first trimester, I'd use the RX prenatal vitamins, as they have the appropriate amounts of folate and vitamin A. After the first trimester, once the patterning and organ systems are fundamentally established, you can go to OTC prenatals. Spinal closure (high folate good) and limb patterning (high vitamin A bad) are done very early. But you still need lots of folate for later brain development!

re: cord blood

I'm not into it. At this point it MAY help with childhood leukemias. Maybe. I think it appeals to designer parents who will shell out big bucks for cool-looking strollers and Ralph Lauren onesies. BTW, I'm a developmental biologist PhD, but I'm also not a freak mom, so I know enough to be vigilant but not panicked.

Posted by: atb | December 18, 2006 4:39 PM

Instead of a center, we have a nanny that comes to our house. I found her through our neighborhood bulletin and we share with 2 other families (3 kids total.) It's $300 a week, but worth it. I advertised on craigslist for this past year and found the two other wonderful children, so I think that's a great resource. Hope that helps expecting parents!

Posted by: Newborn Childcare | December 18, 2006 4:54 PM

totally concur with the writer about getting enough folic acid - before delivery - this is the deterrent to neural tube defects and would hope your GYN/MD would have made sure you have this!!
re: the biggest unexpected expense!!
eating out - because when we get home from work, no one has much energy to cook!! and as the kids get older, and into more activities, you eat on the way to..or back from them!!
overall - enjoy - children are such gifts!!

Posted by: r.olson | December 18, 2006 5:20 PM

Here are my thoughts on saving money - Let everyone know what you need. People WANT to get rid of things. They just want you to come get it so they don't have to deal with it (our crib/saucer/high chair/baby bath/etc)

If you do a registry, think ahead and register for things you will need 6 months from now too...

and don't buy any clothes yourself unless it is for a special occasion. People who you would never expect gifts from love to buy baby clothes.

Even if you aren't a Kaiser member, you can buy OTC ar very reasonale prices. My prenatals were about $12 a month.

Costco formula (reads the same as Enfamil), Costco diapers, and Costco diapers (fantastic!)

Posted by: Robin | December 18, 2006 5:36 PM

Holy Crap said it all. My fiance and I are thinking about getting pregnant after 8 years together, and all I can see is the $$$$ signs looming. And I'm the woman! It just boggles the mind, and after years of living paycheck to paycheck, I don't know that I want to go back to that so soon. We don't have a house either so we rent (who can afford to buy one in the inner suburbs!?) However, I'm not getting any younger (I'm 27) and I suppose the love and fun a child brings is worth the expense and pain. Thanks for the heads up on what to expect. Yi yi yi...

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | December 18, 2006 5:53 PM

For us, the best two things we did to save on delivery costs was take a Bradley childbirth course, and hire a good doula. It was the best $500 (total) that we could have invested. If we hadn't been prepared we likely would have ended up with an expensive C-section and who knows what else.

A visit with a lactation consultant is a good investment too.

Posted by: Bradley mom | December 18, 2006 6:07 PM

We couldn't buy a house until the kids were out of day care. Day care was (literally) $21K of a $24K salary my first year back after being home for two years with two kids 15 mo. apart. I went back to preserve my employment viability for the future. Between day care and student loans, even with both of us working, it was a long slog to save enough for a down payment. (No family resources to help with these things -- we are entirely on our own!) And we weren't looking for a McMansion -- just a split level in a family neighborhood with decent schools.

Gotta agree with the poster about the out-of-pocket expenses once they are in school! Public school is not free. I am always writing checks for one school activity or another (and again, we don't even do dance or music lessons!).

We started saving for college when the kids were quite small and went with respected mutual fund with a good track record, figuring we were in it for the long haul (12-14 years at that point). Bad decision. It has been a dud. Diversify!

Keep assets in YOUR name, not the kids' -- colleges expect you to liquidate assets in kids' names at a much higher rate than parental assets. What I've been told is that 529s are good if don't expect to get financial aid. Check with your financial advisor on this, though!

Posted by: Derwood Mom | December 18, 2006 6:45 PM

While extra folic acid is a good thing, it needs to be taked before pregnancy. Folic acid helps protect against neural tube defects but these defects occure in the earliest stages of pregnancy most women know they are pregnant. By day 30 after fertilization, or 2 weeks after a missed period, an embryo either has a defect or it doesn't and folic acid no longer helps.

Posted by: carol h | December 18, 2006 6:47 PM

Hey thanks for all the comments today. I didn't mention this in my item, but having also looked into day care, thought I'd mention that I've been pretty tickled by the description they give for the $1200-$1500 per month cost of watching a 6-month old five days a week: tuition.

Tuition!

The kid is 6 months old!

Posted by: Annys | December 18, 2006 7:10 PM

Why do the college fund? You retirement is MUCH more important, and your kids can take out loans for school. Not so for retirement! That's a luxury purchase. I know we love our kids and want them to be educated, but paying off a student loan never hurt anyone!

Posted by: atb | December 18, 2006 7:48 PM

Forgot to mention that retirement was another thing that was put largely on hold while the kids were small. We are trying to catch up now.

My kids will definitely be taking out loans and working, wherever they go to college. That's how my spouse and I did it. But don't be fooled -- U. of Maryland in $20K/yr. in-state and living on campus. It's still a boatload of $$$!

Posted by: Derwood Mom | December 18, 2006 8:54 PM

To echo others' posts, I think childcare is one of the most expensive parts of having children. My youngest started kindergarten this year, and what a difference it made to not have to pay the daycare bill! Not that we were paying as much for childcare in the Midwest (Kansas City) as you folks out East, but it was still a nice chunck of change.

Posted by: Elisa | December 19, 2006 11:25 AM

Daycare is definitely going to be a big chunk of change for our 3.5 month old - about $12k a year. But I wouldn't call it unexpected, since after hearing from friends with kids we were under no delusions that daycare would be cheap ;)

I've been surprised how quickly expenses have shown up. Carseats for example - our 3.5 month old is going to be too long for the infant seat within 3-5 weeks, at his current growth rate, so I'm already shopping for the next style (which is even pricier than the infant seat).

One bit of advice I'd offer, for those who have health insurance, is to find out what all they cover. I was surprised to find out that my insurer would pay a good portion of our prenatal classes, and totally covered my breastpump. I found that instructors & providers knew a lot about what I could get covered/reimbursed, so ask your nurses, doctors, & other providers which additional services & products could be paid for.

Posted by: Kat | December 19, 2006 12:29 PM

Way to cut down on costs:

Diapers & Wipes - I still buy in bulks from - preference Amazon.com with free shpping.

Biggest Expense:

Day care expenses - don't forget about "dependent care" deductions for companies/gov't agencies - allow up to $5000 "pre tax dollars" for day care/nanny care expenses. Also some companies & agencies with subsizided daycare - research BEFORE the baby is born.


Posted by: Dawn | December 19, 2006 1:00 PM

Our bundle of joy spend two weeks in the Neonatal ICU (NICU), after an emergency C-section brought on by Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension. Towards the end of the stay, a nice lady stopped by to inform us that the doctors who were caring for our baby did not participate in our insurance plan! Yes, this is a national plan. Yes, the doctor that delivered our baby was a participating provider. Yes, the hospital was a participating institution, but the doctors in the NICU are not affiliated with the hospital. At that point, there was little that we can do.

As our health plan is a PPO, there is coverage for out-of-network claims. We are currently negotiating with our health plan to cover more than the $3,500 that they consider the reasonable and customary portion of our $17,500 bill.

Per the letter sent to us by the doctors instructing us how to appeal the insurance plan's decision, their standard practice is not to inform patients that they do not participate in their health plan.

The moral is that you need to check these things carefully before choosing a location in which to deliver your new family member. Before this experience, I never would have thought to check whether the various doctors who might be treating our baby also participated in our health plan.

All that said, regardless of the cost, it's worth it!

Posted by: Elizabeth's Dad | December 19, 2006 2:56 PM

No shameless promotion here, just honest truth: I use UPromise.com to save for my future children's college. I don't have any kids on the map yet, but I've been a member of this program since 2002 and have over $100 racked up from reward dollars and percentages contributed to my account by companies for purchases I make regardless (food store, CVS, dining out, online shopping.) You can even open a 529 plan with these contributions. I'm hoping the power of compounding will let this grow over the years (or until they roll up the program) so the companies I patronize fund my kid's education, not me. Heh...

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | December 19, 2006 3:41 PM

One of my shocking experiences with having a new baby is the availability, or lack thereof, of childcare. And I'm not even talking *affordable* or screened childcare. I'm talking about finding childcare at all. Perhaps it is where I live - St. Mary's County, MD - but even finding a spot for a child under 2 years of age has been a challenge for me. I have been on a waiting list for a daycare center since May 2006, and I just found out today that I will have a spot for my son in June 2007. After contacting many childcare finder resources, I followed up with 27 people on their list only to discover that NO ONE had an opening for my son. Let me correct that statement.....I did find a spot that was TWICE the amount that I currently pay ($1120 per month), and I did find another slot that was 25 miles on the other side of where I work; not exactly convenient for me with my 9 hour work-days. So, in closing, do your research now in securing daycare services before your child is even born. As it stands, I should have made my contacts the day that I discovered that I was pregnant to be able to get a spot when I needed it.

Posted by: Queen of the World | December 19, 2006 8:42 PM

Breast feeding is not free:
Babies, when they are eating the most formula, eat an average of 28oz per day. Kirkland formula costs $0.10 per oz. That means you are spending $2.80 per day on formula.

On the other hand, when you are breast feeding, you need to eat way more food. Remember, you're eating for two. When my wife, who is 5" 1' on a good day, was breastfeeding, she ate more food than I did! She definitely ate more than $2.80 worth of extra food, and she was dropping weight like crazy. And you haven't even bought a breast pump yet!

It may not be politically correct to say it, but formula was cheaper for us than breast feeding. (We didn't switch because of the cost, we switched for health reasons.)

Biggest Surprise Expense:
Sick days. Kids in daycare get sick. A lot. And backup care, on top of daycare expenses, is killer. $275 per year plus $30 per day, plus $20 per hour. Ouch.

Posted by: George | December 20, 2006 5:07 PM

Child care....

I'm very very fortunate that my wife chose to stay home (from a successful engineering career) to take care of our children. For most families I think that you will be better off (from a money viewpoint) to have a stay-at-home parent once you have two young children who aren't yet in school.

Also, we've found that between garage sales (which my wife loves), family, friends and church members we really don't need to buy much at "real" stores. Clothes and toys have been very cheap indeed and we've got some very nice (if odd...) things.

Now doctor bills are different. Our oldest (of two) has a fairly serious medical condition. Were it not for insurance we'd be looking at 3-4K/month at least (or cheaper medical options with significant side effects). Just today we must have spent 3K!

Posted by: Mark | December 20, 2006 7:00 PM

I'm suprised health insurance costs for both the mother and the newborn aren't more common suprises for folk. I guess this may change with at least one of the DC region's larger insurance providers (Aetna) increasing rates 26% for 2007.

Posted by: slashdot | December 22, 2006 10:22 AM

I had my first at age 27..had 4 sons in 12 years time...then just when I thought I was going through menopause, surprise I am pregnant again. My oldest will be 18 when the newest one arrives.
Here are a few things I remember from before, and seem to be working in my favor this time around....

If you have prescriptions to fill...Costco charges the least amount(3%) over actual cost. I read a study online about this and had friends with lots of monthly meds check it out, and had cut thier costs by 75% each month!

I buy used for just about everything.
I do agree that car seats need to be safe, so buy new if you can, and take used to professional check up places...can't remember off the top of my head what they're called, but know they exist!

Make sure your crib is safe. I buy used,(online freecycle,or Craig'slist) but refurbish completely during my nesting phase! I like the port a crib style with the closer safer spacing on the bars, and spent $30 on used...replaced all nuts, bolts, and knobs, and recovered the mattress myself. Oldest boy used to specialize in dismantling them...with younger siblings in them..so be careful, and learn to reassemble!

I am currently 44 years old, with gestational diabetes, and hypertention, little arthritis in one hip, but otherwise healthy. I have decided to stay at home for the last half of my pregnancy, and for the first months of my newborns life.I am expecting to deliver with a 5th c-section in early April. I have BIG boys.

I work summers, part time, in farmers markets selling organic bread, and my employer supports my decision to both breast feed, cloth diaper, and take my baby to work with me...otherwise I would stay at home.

With the other boys, my fiance stayed at home, while he fixed up our fixer upper home...and I worked full time in Aerospace industry. Now he is working in lumber industry, and I will stay home with baby.

I bought my breast pump, cloth diapers, bedding, clothes, and just about everything else on ebay at a fraction of new cost...and kept the first years supplies at just over $200 for everything!
Since this baby was a surprise, I had kept nothing from the others..as by the 4rth one they were well worn!

I have also raised dairy goats for the last 12 years for milk and show...worked with 4H groups...and the goat milk was a wonderful bonus that helped out a lot raising the boys!!! Everyone pitched in to help on some level...the older boys don't live at home with me anymore, and only have 2 dairy goats for home use, but that will supply the average family's milk needs...and home pasteurization is quick and simple! We had allergies to cows milk, as I did also from infancy...hence my interest in alternatives!

While I know not everyone has facilities to raise goats, there are a few "co-op ownership arrangements" Where someone with the facilities would be happy to accomodate an extra head or two in exchange for help with feed cost..which is fair, reasonable, and surprisingly inexpensive!

I would not substitue regular vitamins for prenatal vitamins without very specific Dr advice!

I think my biggest expense was child care before I met my fiance...used personal home daycares, instead of larger more costly facility, and had good results, and family type relationships develop.
Kids did better in school with stay at home parenting, so prefered that when possible.

Because we lived in rural area, commuting to work took it's toll on vehicles, so gas/car expenses were the biggest surprise...Can remember walking 18 of the 50 miles to get home when the car blew up at work!

The kids were way worth everything it took to raise em! We all have to make trade offs...but hey, You bet I would do it all again...I am delighted to do it all again!

Other tips to feed a large family:
Buy 1/2 beef from livestock auction,producer, or butcher shop that does farm butchering, and freeze for the year's supply..you can have it cut anyway you like and spend about $2.50/lb instead of grocery store prices!
Did the same with 2 pigs / year.
Found frozen chicken, grocery store sales, @ 0.69/lb and bought 170 lbs...all this went into freezer also. This was a years supply of meat for a family of 6 and we ate well!
We rarely went out to eat, and never ate fast food...as there is really very little nutrition versus cost. Don't buy convenience foods. Use fresh raw, or frozen...much cheaper! When you do have a day off work, cook many meals and freeze them!
Things like salad dressings, marinades, and mayonaisse can be whipped up in the blender,quickly, cheaply and taste better than grocery store versions at less than 1/4 the cost of the bottled versions!

While not all of this info will appeal to eveyone, there may be a few ideas to help think outside the box, so to speak!

Best wishes to families on the greatest journey life has to offer...Parenthood!

Posted by: Shari D | December 25, 2006 10:36 PM

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