In my two previous posts I talked about the costs of adopting our daughter. But those are one-time costs, we now have the full time costs of having a child, so our budget has to change. Now, you might argue, somewhat rightly, that these changes actually took place 6 months ago when our daughter was placed with us. That is both true and untrue, partly because of the nature of being a foster parent.
At that time, we did increase our monthly budget for groceries and eating out. We also started tracking some expenses, like haircuts, new clothes, or shoes, in the miscellaneous category for tracking purposes, but because we could not be certain the placement was going to be permanent, we did not add a specific “kid” category to our budget.
In addition, there are a number of programs out there to help foster parents pay for things for foster children. When we sent Pop Tart to gymnastics camp for a week this summer, we didn’t have to pay for it. One of the local support organization took care of that for us. Once the adoption is final, we will no longer be eligible for those programs.
So what changes have we made? Our grocery budget went up by $150/month. Considering our budget had been at $135/person, that’s a slightly higher increase than we necessarily needed, but it helps account for the “startup” costs of getting school friendly snacks, additional toiletries, etc. Plus, we’re eating at home a bit more often right now due to schedules, anyway.
At the same time, we increased our eating out budget by $50/month, to take into account paying for one more meal. Given that a number of places we like to go do not have kids menus, this really only covers eating out roughly 3 times per month.
We also added two categories. The first is “Kid Expenses” at $230/month. This covers new clothes, after-school care, day camps, etc. This is a best guess amount, and we accept that it may need to be upped as time goes on. But based on current spending, that’s what we have.
We also added a “Family Activities” category at $150/month. This is for things like water park season passes for all of us, membership to the aquarium or zoo, and general whole family outings that we would not likely be taking part in if it weren’t for having Pop Tart in our lives.
Where is this “extra” $580/month coming from? You might remember that at the end of last year and early this year, we paid off my graduate student loans and refinanced our mortgage. Those two things cut our monthly committed expenses by $1,050. Now, some of that money has been committed elsewhere, but it created plenty of room in our budget.
If you listened to the Stacking Benjamins “Live from FinCon” podcast featuring J Money of Budgets Are Sexy, you may have heard him talk about his Baby Cost Tracker and think I am leaving out some important categories.
Because we are adopting a 10 year old, I get to skip the diapers and formula stage. But J Money said his two biggest areas of cost were day care and medical expenses. I mentioned above that after school care is covered in our $230/month “Kid expenses” category and you may be wondering how we can get away with that.
First, remember, Pop Tart is 10 and in school all day, so we only have to pay for after school care. We are beyond lucky to have an after school program run by our city that only charges $4.75/hour (can you get a baby sitter that cheap) AND you only pay for the hours you use. Besides the great price, the only pay for the hours you use works well for us because C’s school schedule allows him to pull her out early some days, or not send her to the program at all on Fridays. But if there is an activity they are doing that she wants to stay for, it’s not a big deal. We purchase time in 20 hour blocks and the city just auto-bills us when we are close to running out of time.
Right now, Pop Tart is in the program around 5 hours/week, so we’re paying about $95 every 4 weeks for after school care. And yes, we know exactly how lucky we are.
The other big expense J Money talked about was medical coverage. One of the big differences between his situation and ours is that all of our coverage is through my employer. It will cost me $50 pre-tax/month to add Pop Tart to my insurance coverage. Since I am also changing my number of deductions from 2 to 3 on my W4, I expect that to come out mostly as a wash, but we will see.
And if it was the case that I would have to pay substantially to add Pop Tart to my policy, I could choose not to, and she would still have medical coverage.
One of the benefits of adopting an older child from foster care is that in my state, you qualify for adoption support. I mentioned that in the last post regarding them reimbursing up to $1,500 in our adoption expenses. In addition to this, Pop Tart will continue to be covered via Medicaid until she is 18 and out of high school. I could choose to leave that as her primary coverage, but for my own convenience, I will be adding her to my policy and leaving the Medicaid as secondary coverage. However, it means we won’t have co-pays or be responsible for deductibles for Pop Tart, so our medical expenses will pretty much top out at $50/month pre-tax.
You might also be asking about college savings. We missed 10 years of saving for college. That seems kind of scary. And it is, and it isn’t. First, there’s a good chance Pop Tart will not choose to go to college right away. And I am okay with that. I am not certain I believe in college for 18 year olds to begin with, so if she decided college is not right for her, at least not right away, then C and I will be fine with that.
That does not mean we won’t save for college, or to be able to assist her with getting started in adult life, it just means I am not as paranoid about it as I might otherwise be. But, in addition to the medical coverage, part of adoption assistance is that the state will continue to pay us $400/month until Pop Tart is 18 and out of high school. Since our budget was set to absorb adding a child without a monthly stipend, this money is all bonus. That $400/month will be divided up between saving for college and major travel (like a family trip to Europe).
Adding a child to your family is not inexpensive. I am certain there will be other costs that pop up here and there that are not included in my current budget calculations. But this was something C and I planned for, and something we keep talking about and discussing. Having a child in our lives has brought a million changes, but luckily, one thing it is not changing, is our financial ability to live the life we want and save for the things that are important to us.