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Oh baby! Prepare for parenthood with these four financial tips.

Prenatal classes, baby showers and birthing classes - oh my! Preparing for a baby is enough to leave your head spinning. Just when you think you have everything figured out and that hospital bag packed, you read the latest data on the cost of raising a child.

The cost is enough to give any parent a moment of panic, even without factoring in the Ivy League education (your child will definitely get a scholarship anyway). According to the latest information from the United States Department of Agriculture, the average child in the average middle-class family will cost close to a quarter of a million dollars: $245,000 per child from birth until the age of 18, to be precise.

Before this number makes your blood pressure soar, take note. There are proactive steps you can take to help keep these costs manageable. Some tips include:

  • Put together a budget. If you have not already set up a budget, now is a good time. Put together a budget that factors in diapers and daycare costs as well as mortgage payments, car payments and groceries. Review the numbers. If the costs are too high, see where you can shift funds to account for the new addition's new expenses.
  • Review your insurance. Health insurance is confusing. The policies often have certain medical facilities that are in-network and covered by your plan and others that are not. Review the details of your plan to make sure the facilities you plan to deliver and receive future care are covered. If they are not, consider either changing insurance or facilities. The cost of delivering a child alone, without complications, can run close to $10,000.
  • Prepare for college. It may seem early, but starting to save for college in the early years can have a big impact in the future. A little here and there (maybe that $50 gift from grandma at baby's first birthday?) can add up to big money when college bills start rolling in. Various plans are available that cater specifically to college savings. Consider starting one now.
  • Craft an estate plan. An estate plan refers to a variety of legal documents. The plan should be crafted to fit your needs, but often include a will, power of attorney documents, trusts and guardianship paperwork.

Start moving on these tips and aim to update budget, insurance and estate planning documents as the years go by. Once parenthood becomes reality, those years will go by faster than you can imagine.

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