how-much-does-it-really-cost-to-have-a-babyWhen my husband and I were preparing for the birth of our son nearly 12 years ago, we were daunted by everything we were told we were supposed to have. It looked as though having a baby would bankrupt us.

Today, costs are higher, and the list of things you should supposedly have for baby has grown. But many of these so-called must-haves are simply hype, and the reality is that having a baby doesn’t have to break the bank—especially if you carefully evaluate what you need and plan ahead.

What are the costs of childbirth?

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cost of childbirth because expenses vary widely and depend on the type of birth you have. A January 2014 study from UC San Francisco found that the billing for an uncomplicated C-section can range from $8,312 to almost $71,000. Chances are, though, that your childbirth will cost between $10,000 and $15,000 at a hospital.

If you have health insurance that covers these costs, the portion you’re responsible for will probably be your deductible plus 20 percent. For example, if you have a $1,500 deductible on your plan and you are responsible for 20 percent of the costs, a $12,000 hospital birth will cost you right around $4,000.

You can save money by using a midwife and having a homebirth. There are many families who choose this option, but it’s important to remember that an emergency may necessitate a trip to the hospital.

Other costs of having a baby

While there are endless options for toys, chairs, cribs, slings, and other items, the reality is that most babies just need a few essentials to start, such as:

  • diapers, wipes, and rash ointment
  • a good car seat, approved for newborns
  • a safe place to sleep
  • appropriate clothing
  • three or four receiving blankets
  • a safe place to bathe, along with bath time accessories
  • necessary items for feeding the baby
  • first-aid items appropriate for a newborn

In truth, with help from a baby shower, hand-me-downs, and thrift store shopping, you should be able to keep your initial costs low. My husband and I borrowed a bassinet initially, and we received diapers and clothing as gifts. We also became adept at shopping at our local consignment store in order to prevent completely busting our household budget. As our son grew, we brought his old baby clothes to the store and received a credit to use for the purchase of gently-used clothing of a larger size. This is a great option because babies are constantly growing.

The item that you shouldn’t skimp on, however, is the car seat. You should buy a new seat and ensure that it is properly installed. Most fire departments will help you choose and properly install a car seat for a newborn.

Baby slings, monitors, bouncy chairs, swings, strollers, and folding play-pens are all convenient, but not all are necessary. If you must have these items, look for deals and discounts before making a purchase, or see if you can borrow them from others. If you purchase baby formula, there are usually free samples and coupons you can use to help reduce costs.

Finally, don’t be too proud to apply for assistance if you need it. Programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are designed to help you afford the food that help keep you and your baby healthy. There are many other community organizations that may be able to help, as well.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, annual child-rearing expenses averaged between $12,600 and $14,700 for middle-income, two-parent families in 2012 (the latest data available as of the date of this post). However, you don’t have to spend that much if you carefully plan ahead and focus on purchasing necessary items rather than convenient ones.

Miranda Marquit is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance, family finance and business topics. She writes for several online and offline publications. Miranda is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money as an Online Writer and the writer behind PlantingMoneySeeds.com.