How much do you need to make to have a baby?

Having a baby is one of the most exciting – and expensive – times in a person’s life. With the cost of healthcare, childcare, education and all the other expenses associated with raising a child, many couples wonder if they make enough money to start a family.

What are the costs associated with having a baby?

There are a variety of costs associated with having a baby. These include:

  • Prenatal care and delivery – Prenatal doctor’s visits, lab tests, ultrasounds and the hospital delivery can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on insurance coverage and whether there are any complications.
  • Baby gear and supplies – A crib, stroller, car seat, clothes, diapers and other essentials can easily cost $1,000 to $3,000.
  • Childcare – Daycare for an infant may cost $800 to $2,000 per month depending on your geographic location.
  • Formula and food – Formula can cost $100 to $200 per month. As the baby grows, the cost of solid foods also adds up.
  • Healthcare – Well-baby visits, vaccinations and sick care averages $500 to $1,000 for the first year. Health insurance premiums also go up after adding a child.
  • Lost wages – Many mothers take maternity leave or switch to part-time work, resulting in lost wages.

Other costs like extra housing space, baby proofing your home, diaper disposal service and activities/toys can also impact your budget.

How much money do you need to make to cover the costs?

Exactly how much money you need to make to comfortably afford having a baby depends on many factors:

  • Your current household income
  • Number of children you already have
  • Your health insurance coverage
  • Whether you’ll put your child in daycare
  • If you or your partner plan to take unpaid leave
  • Your geographic location
  • Lifestyle factors like having pets, travel, etc.

That said, here are some general guidelines on income levels that can make having a baby more manageable:

Household Income Affordability Level
$35,000 – $50,000 Difficult without major lifestyle changes
$50,000 – $75,000 Manageable with moderate lifestyle changes
$75,000 – $100,000 Comfortable if living within means
Over $100,000 Very comfortable financially

For households in higher cost-of-living areas like New York City or San Francisco, these income levels would need to be significantly higher.

How can you reduce the costs of having a baby?

If your income falls on the lower end, there are steps you can take to reduce the costs associated with having a baby:

  • Look into government assistance programs like WIC, SNAP, TANF or Medicaid
  • Use cloth diapers instead of disposables
  • Breastfeed instead of using formula
  • Buy baby items second-hand
  • Create a baby registry for gifts or hand-me-downs
  • Consider lower-cost childcare options like family members or nannies
  • Minimize maternity leave by working from home
  • Join local parent groups for free events and activities
  • Cook at home instead of eating out

Saving money well before trying to get pregnant and sticking to a frugal budget after baby arrives can really help offset the high costs that come with having a child.

How can you increase your income to afford having a baby?

If your household income is on the lower side, you may need to find ways to increase your earnings in order to comfortably cover the expense of having a child. Some options include:

  • Ask for a raise or promotion at your current job
  • Search for a higher paying job
  • Pick up a side gig or second job
  • Have your partner work extra hours or overtime
  • Sell unused household items
  • Rent out a spare room
  • Develop marketable skills to freelance online
  • Complete surveys in your spare time

Having a baby inevitably requires some financial sacrifices. But with careful planning and strategic money-saving and money-making choices before and after having a child, you can find the income level needed to turn your baby dreams into reality.

What income level is ideal?

While you can find ways to cut costs and make a lower income work, most financial experts recommend having an annual household income of at least $75,000 to comfortably afford having one child. This provides a baseline to cover the many expenses associated with having a baby without needing to make major lifestyle sacrifices.

Here is a breakdown of ideal income levels based on family size:

Family Size Recommended Minimum Income
1 child $75,000
2 children $85,000
3 children $95,000
4 children $105,000

Of course, these numbers vary greatly depending on where you live. A six-figure income goes a lot further in some parts of the country than others. The key is to target an income level that allows your family to live comfortably in your specific area.

How do childcare costs impact income needs?

One of the biggest expenses parents incur with a new baby is childcare. Infant care at a daycare center can easily top $2,000 per month in many cities. For some families, nearly one entire income goes just to pay for childcare!

Here are the recommended minimum household income levels based on childcare decisions:

Childcare Plan Suggested Minimum Income
No childcare needed $50,000
Family care $65,000
In-home care $75,000
Daycare center $85,000+

As you can see, putting an infant in full-time daycare calls for a significantly higher income than using family members for childcare or having a stay-at-home parent. Think through your childcare plans carefully, as this makes a huge difference in the amount of money required.

How does location impact affordability?

The cost of living varies tremendously across the United States. Large coastal cities tend to be the most expensive places to raise a family. Mid-sized cities in the South or Midwest are often more affordable.

Here are some examples of estimated minimum income needed for a family of 3 (two adults and one child) in select US cities:

City Required Minimum Income
New York, NY $115,000
San Francisco, CA $105,000
Washington, DC $95,000
Boston, MA $90,000
Denver, CO $85,000
Portland, OR $80,000
Atlanta, GA $70,000
Dallas, TX $65,000
St. Louis, MO $60,000

Carefully consider the cost of living in your location or where you may want to raise a family. In high cost areas, you’ll need to significantly exceed the minimum recommended household income to live comfortably with a child.

Does having two incomes make a big difference?

Having both parents work and contribute income can certainly make meeting a baby budget easier. But it’s not strictly necessary if one income is high enough.

The main benefit of having two incomes is that it provides more breathing room in your family budget. If one parent loses their job or takes extended parental leave, your family is not financially sunk.

Dual working parents do need to weigh the cost of childcare against the second income. It may make more financial sense for one parent to stay home rather than work solely to pay for daycare. Do the math carefully.

That said, two average incomes of around $35,000 to $50,000 each can certainly open up your options in terms of what you can comfortably afford for child-related expenses.

How can you balance work and family?

For parents who both wish to continue their careers, arranging childcare and balancing professional and family obligations can be challenging. Here are some tips that can help:

  • See if your employer offers paid parental leave, flexible schedules, or the ability to work from home when needed.
  • Stagger your work schedules so one parent is always home with the baby.
  • Hire a nanny or au pair for more affordable individualized care.
  • Split the week into “on” and “off” days where one parent takes over childcare duties for a set period of time.
  • Work opposite shifts so the baby is only in childcare for a few hours a day.
  • Take advantage of work-from-home opportunities even for a portion of your week.
  • Ask family members to help with occasional backup care.

It takes creativity, commitment and a joint partnership between parents to handle a baby and two careers. But many families find solutions that allow them to meet both work and family obligations.


Deciding if you make enough money to have a baby is a complex, personal decision based on your financial situation, lifestyle, childcare options and career considerations. While a household income in the $75,000 to $100,000 range is ideal for affording the average costs of having one child, lower or higher incomes can also make parenthood work through mindful planning and budgeting.

The costs associated with adding a new family member are significant. But don’t let finances alone determine your family planning. With an understanding of your income needs, careful saving, and strategic choices to reduce expenses, babies can bring joy to families across a broad range of financial circumstances.

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