If you're expecting, focus your finances on the big-ticket items. Consider this sobering news from the U.S. Agriculture Department: A middle-income family with a child born in 2012 and earning between $60,640 and $105,000 can expect to spend about $241,080 until the child is 17 for food, shelter and other necessities.
After the cost of putting a roof over the head of your child, the next biggest expenses you will face are for care and education, including babysitting, day care, books, fees and supplies.
Steps to budget:
• Start collecting information. Don't wait until after the baby arrives. Check out the major expenses, from diapers to day care.
• Baby-proof your budget. How are you going to pay for the expenses of raising a child? Either you're going to make more money or you'll have to cut current expenses, or both. If it's only the latter, something's got to give. There are a number of free sites that calculate budgets online. One is Mint.com.
• Dump the debt. Do as much as you can to get rid of it so that you can have more money for baby expenses.
• Build a savings safety net. Start or build up an emergency fund aiming for three to six months of living expenses.
• Start saving for college. In fact, when people ask what you need or would like, tell them you would love a contribution to your child's tax advantaged 529 college savings plan. One of the best sites for 529 plans is Savingforcollege.com.