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COLUMN: Oh baby, it costs a lot to raise a baby

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By Theresa Howard

 What does it cost to raise a child from birth through age 17? Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that in 2003, it averaged $130,290 when household income was below $40,700; $178,590 when household income was between $40,700 and $68,400; and $261,270 when household income was more than $68,400.

While money should never be the only consideration in deciding whether or not to have children, it should at least be a point of discussion. Each new addition to a family will be costly. Not only do babies take more money, they take more time.

Few young couples can handle childbirth expenses without financial help. That is why it is extremely important for expectant mothers and fathers to go over their health insurance benefits to see exactly what is covered.

Check your coverage carefully for obstetrical fees, well-baby pediatrician visits, immunizations, prenatal vitamins and genetic counseling. Also, know the amount of the deductible you will have to pay before benefits begin.

Now is the time to write your will, buy life insurance and if you haven’t already, start saving for your child’s education. Financial planning is important. Don’t assume if you died without a will everything would automatically go to your spouse. Both husband and wife need a will. Use it to name a legal guardian for your child so the state will not have to designate one.

Quality child care can be expensive unless you have a willing grandparent. If you have someone come to your home to care for your baby, you may be obligated to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes and federal unemployment taxes for the employee. Care provided outside the home isn’t subject to these obligations. Don’t forget to claim the federal childcare tax credit on your income tax return.

During baby’s first year, you’ll change about 3,500 diapers. Before that you’ll have expenses for maternity clothing for the mother and basic clothing needs for the baby after it’s born. These are just some of the expenses parents must plan for when adding to their family.