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Sleep deprivation, anxiety, and the amazing joy of unconditionallove – it may be impossible to really prepare for the emotionalroller coaster ride of becoming a new parent. But it is possible toprepare financially for the monetary challenges of parenthood.

The cost of raising a child has increased dramatically in thelast decade. National figures estimate the average middle-incomefamily will spend more than $300,000 to raise a child from infancythrough age 18. And that does not include college expenses. Manyfamilies will spend nearly $10,000 during the first year of ababy’s life.

When it comes to financial preparation, from maternity leave tolifeinsurance, there are many things you can do to financiallyprepare your family for new additions.

Look into what your employer offers in maternity or paternityleave. Parents who have worked at least one year for a company with50 or more employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid timeoff, as mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act. You’re alsoguaranteed a job at the end of your leave.

The cost of child care is often the highest expense forfamilies. If the cost of day care will exceed the bring-home from asecond salary, consider one parent staying home or working on apart-time basis. Some couples are lucky enough to have parents whoare willing to watch their children either on a full- or part-timebasis. Other families and friends share child care resources tohelp keep costs manageable.

Revisit the family budget and factor in such items as increasedhealth care and lifeinsurance costs when the baby arrives. Examine other areas ofyour budget that you can trim in order to put enough aside for theincreased costs as well as other monthly expenses. Consider hiringa financial planner to help you make the most informeddecisions.

If you are going to buy a home before having children, considerbuying one that’s smaller than what you had in mind. The moneysaved in mortgage and tax bills each month may help make a bigdifference.

Don’t go without life insurance. If something were to happen toyou, would your child or children be financially secure in yourabsence? Taking out a life insurance policy could save your familyfrom the burden of scrambling to financially cover your loss. Yourfamily can use the payout not only to cover final expenses, but tomake payments on a car loan or mortgage.

Don’t let the assumed high cost of insurance premiums sway youfrom investigating. Affordable options exist in the forms of levelterm or yearly-renewable term life insurance. You can work with aninsurance professional; like those at The Savings Bank LifeInsurance Company of Mass. (sbli.com) to find thepolicy that best suits the needs of your family.

In today’s economy, it’s important to be as financially preparedas possible for the cost of raising children, and every little bithelps. Follow these suggestions or use them as a creativespringboard to think up other ways to financially prepare forexpanding your family.