Insane cost of parents’ baby debt
EXCLUSIVE: Parents are drowning in the expense of having a baby and are going into massive debt as a result.
News Corp Australia can reveal a survey of 1002 Australians in July found one in five parents had to return to work earlier than planned after having a baby due to financial distress.
Alarmingly, one in 10 families said they had relied on credit cards to cover basic living costs in the first year of their baby's life.
The research, conducted online by PureProfile on behalf of Mozo, also found nearly 70 per cent of Australian families with an infant felt some level of financial strain in the first year of their baby's life and one in five parents found the expense of a new baby was more than they had anticipated.
Nearly half of all parents expecting a new bundle of joy are making a concerted effort to budget and financially prepare before the birth of their baby, but despite their efforts, many are struggling to make ends meet and cover costs.
Mozo director Kirsty Lamont said the research highlighted the rising cost of baby-related items such as nappies, wipes, formula as well as major purchases like cots, prams and even the growing cost of quality childcare.
"The cost of the first year of an infant's life is hard to pin down but is estimated to cost parents anywhere between $3000 - $15,000 depending on what you buy," Ms Lamont said.
"Making a budget and being aware of your incomings and outgoings is crucial to stay financially afloat when managing the cost of a new infant."
Alys Gagnon, executive director of The Parenthood, said getting more employers on board with supporting and providing extended paid parental leave was the key to reducing financial strain for families.
"I would argue that lots of employers talk big game about gender equality but there are not many employers that are willing to put their money where their mouth is and make sure parents have access to the money and time that they need to spend with their newborn babies," Ms Gagnon said.
"It's terrifying to me that people who work hard and earn good wages would have to live off their credit cards simply because they have brought a baby into the world."
Kate Pollard, co-founder of Circle In, a business designed to get more parents back into the workforce and in control of their parental leave journey, said the rising costs of living were pressuring families back into work after having a baby "not on their own terms".
"It is unfortunate but I think before having kids, where possible, couples do need to talk about money and need to plan for a baby," Ms Pollard said.
"You need to save up for having a baby and parental leave and also what you will do post baby as the reality is even when parents return to work, for many it is not full-time."
Cindy Lau, 28, said after having her eldest daughter Mia, 3, she had to return to work early due to financial reasons.
"I wanted to take a full year off with Mia but ended up having to return to work when she was seven months old. We ran out of money at six months and were living off savings in the last month. It was really hard," Ms Lau said.
The corporate manager who is due to give birth to her second daughter any day said she and her husband, Chris Tam, purposely put off having a second child until they could save for it.
"This time around we will be able to fully fund the time off and there will be less stress," Ms Lau said.
"I think we do need to have more discussions around this topic because it is a real issue for many families."
Minister for Families and Children Paul Fletcher said Australia "performs very well in many measures of wellbeing relative to other countries in the OECD Better Life Index".
"Families may be eligible for a range of payments to assist with the costs of caring for their children," a spokeswoman for Mr Fletcher said.
HOW TO SURVIVE THE COST OF HAVING A BABY
- Save and budget before having a baby, where possible and include funds for after the baby arrives too;
- Set up a registry of essentials so loved ones can chip in to help with costs;
- Consider second-hand items and scour sites like Gumtree for bargains where possible;
- Look online for baby budgeting templates;
- Join parent groups online and find out what you are entitled to in terms of parental pay and child care subsidies.