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Parenting price tag: Tips for saving

Financial advisers say most people planning a family don't anticipate the parenting price tag: as much as $1,000 a month in the first five years.

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Sydney Sowles, a growing 20-month-old, hands her mom’s credit card over for new outfits at Carolann’s store in Hingham, Mass. Financial advisers say many people starting a family never think about the parenting price tag: about $1,000 a month for the first five years.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

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Financial advisers bemoan the fact that parents don't plan more carefully, ­budget-wise, when starting a family.

"New parents are most surprised to hear that a baby will cost about $750 to $1,000 per month for the first five years," says Anna Behnam, a financial planner at Ameriprise Financial. "They don't expect that such a small person can cost so much."

Time, too, is a cost often not calculated into the baby equation, says her colleague at Ameriprise, Dawn Jurkovich: "Many parents struggle with the decision to work and pay for day-care costs, or stay at home. Regardless of their decision, it is an expensive one. If parents decide to go back to work, not only do they have day-care costs, but additional costs of hiring out miscellaneous home projects, errands, etc., that they just can't get done because of the lack [or cost] of their time."

They offer these saving tips:

Prioritize. Don't try to save for the future over paying immediate costs, such as day care.

Keep saving monthly. Once cars and other big items are paid off, save the equivalent of those payments for kids.

Ask for gifts of savings. For holidays and birthdays, parents and grandparents can offer a gift that's half for savings, half something to play with now. The rule can even be applied to birthday parties. "We have a 'friend from school' birthday party every weekend," Ms. Jurkovich says. "I spend about $20 per gift that I'd bet doesn't get used or played with."

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