Marine Corps Base Quantico -- The average total cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 is $240,000.
Hearing this number is a shock for most soon-to-be parents attending one of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society’s (NMCRS) “Budget for Baby” classes, said Carey Shott, NMCRS chair of volunteers, who ran the program for many years.
“But we tell them, ‘Hey, now you know, and knowledge is power,’” Shott said.
Since 1904, NMCRS has provided financial assistance and education and other programs and services to members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, their eligible family members, widows and survivors. Its goal is to help Marines and Sailors become financially self-sufficient. The Society is in the midst of its 2016 Active Duty Fund Drive.
NMCRS offers the free Budget for Baby classes monthly, every third Wednesday. Shott said the main goal of the class is to teach parents to differentiate between their baby’s needs and their wants and to get them thinking about the financial aspects of having an infant that they may not have considered.
“Parents are in such a state of excitement and they want to do their best,” Shott said. “But that doesn’t mean going through Buy Buy Baby and purchasing everything in sight—especially if that’s not in your budget.”
Most prospective parents know that having a baby in the house means there will be some new expenses, such as diapers and bottles. But they may not have considered the gasoline costs of driving the baby to the pediatrician or to visit grandparents or the increased grocery costs for a hungry breast-feeding mom.
Class participants fill out a worksheet to determine their total net income and expenses per month. Then they add in the cost of baby needs to see where they’ll be after the new arrival.
“Once you know your numbers, you can’t hide from them anymore,” Shott said.
Shott said the biggest expense is the initial set-up for the baby. While the classes encourage new parents to make heavy use of thrift stores and hand-me-downs for clothes and toys, they are firm in the advice that the crib and car seat be new to ensure that they meet current safety standards.
The one-time cost of setting up for the baby can be up to $2,500, Shott said. NMCRS estimates the expenses for the rest of the baby’s first year to be $9,500. Each family’s set-up for a new baby should be dependent on its income.
“Our biggest cost-saving advice is to not be sucked into things,” Shott said. “You don’t have to have the latest and greatest. Your newborn baby doesn’t need a Jolly Jumper. Your baby doesn’t need a professional photograph taken every month.”
In addition, the classes stress the importance of making a will and identifying guardians for the child if something should happen to the parents. Service members need to appoint immediate, short-term and long-term guardians for their children.
“And it’s important for those people to know who they are,” Shott said. “That nuts and bolts stuff is often put on the back burner but it’s necessary.”
She said the classes also introduce participants to other base resources available to new parents, such as the Marine Corps Community Services New Parent Support Program and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides vouchers to qualifying participants for nutritious foods and infant formula.
“The more knowledge you have, the better off you are,” Shott said.
The next Budget for Baby class will be held on April 20 at 11 a.m. in the NMCRS office above the ID card center in Little Hall. Call (703) 784-9754 with any questions or to register.
Marines and Sailors can donate to the NMCRS Active Duty Fund Drive locally at www.nmcrs.org/locations/entry/quantico.