Babies. What an excellent excuse to make googly eyes, goofy sounds, and to splurge on adorable newborn outfits.
Is your favorite person about to give birth? Chuck the outfits, the booties, and the bottles. What every new parent does need is more time and more money. Both are in short supply.
Unfortunately, you can’t add hours to the clock or offer a full ride to college. But a practical gift will surely stand out amongst a sea of soft pink and blue.
Dropping off a meal is de rigueur (and always appreciated). Here are some other ways to alleviate the stress of too few hours and too many feedings:
Cozy up with a book. I still remember the feeding balancing act. Sometimes turning the pages of a book was nearly impossible. E-readers make it easier. But why not go hands-free altogether with an audiobook. Audio books that can be played on your tablet or smartphone start at $14.95 on audible.com, and the service guarantees you’ll like the book or you can exchange it for a new listen.
Show me. If mom’s more of a show-watcher, a subscription to Netflix or Hulu is sure to please. Or ensure the ability to watch saved shows from any service on any device—even when offline—with a PlayLater account (playlater.tv).
Special delivery. Subscription-based services have really taken off in recent years. The range is truly amazing. You might want to skip the hygiene products, although razors from dollarshaveclub.com are a great value and who doesn’t chuckle at the name helloflo.com for a feminine care subscription? The range of monthly subscription boxes for healthy snacks, beauty products, pregnancy stages, and kid toys is overwhelming. Fortunately the ramblingsofasuburbanmom.com blog has a frequently updated list of all the options (tinyurl.com/mtc54vh).
Give the permission to splurge. With estimates of raising a child topping $250,000—and that doesn’t even include the cost of college—adding a baby to the family is financially terrifying. For the thriftiest of folks, having a kid will put their frugal instincts into overdrive, and you’ll find them trying to make their own baby wipes at 2:00 a.m. (not that I’d know this from experience). Do them a favor and buy them what they wouldn’t ever buy themselves. Think: a massage or pedicure, a series of baby and me yoga classes, or a bundle of non-toxic, organic bath or cleaning products from a site like honest.com.
Take care of take out. It’s inevitable. New parents will spend more money on takeout than they did before baby was born. There will be days when cooking just isn’t going to happen. There will be days when there isn’t much more than mustard and a shriveled carrot in the fridge. But takeout can be costly, so do your friend a favor and stock a folder with delivery menus and gift cards. Even better, buy a gift card for bitesquad.com too. Bitesquad is a delivery service that works with dozens of local restaurants to bring new parents their favorite sushi, a stinky soft cheese plate, or whatever off-limits-during pregnancy fare they happen to be craving.
Play Mary Poppins. A play date for older kids or the offer of babysitting—even if it’s for a short spell so mom can take a nap—will be much appreciated. According to care.com’s cost of babysitting calculator (care.com/babysitting-rates), the going rate for babysitting in the Twin Cities is $9.50 per hour for one child, $1 for each additional kid. If cost isn’t the issue, trust is. Most new parents have a hard time leaving little ones in the hands of a neighborhood teen or close-by college student. You’ll be saving them, money, worry, and sanity.
Offer your own skillset. We all have skills that new parents could use. Photo session of the new Master or Misses? Homemade baby food? Starting the baby book we all insist we’ll completely fill out, but never do? The options are endless. If you have more money than time, pay for outsourcing laundry or housecleaning. Wouldn’t we all like that kind of help?
Pay for a plan. This is a gift more appropriate for family, but worth mentioning in a money column. With babies comes a completely new financial paradigm. Think of all the new expenses and the new needs for insurance and college savings. Yet parents have little bandwidth for the stressful and potentially argument-inducing tasks of budgeting and planning. Fee-only financial planners will sometimes work with couples on a per-project basis to review insurance needs and answer other pressing questions. Depending on the adviser, you could pay by the hour or per plan basis. Look for an adviser at fpanet.org, or even consider a book. Try The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents, by Stacey Bradford or Expecting Money, by Erica Sandberg.
Kara McGuire is a personal finance writer and a St. Paul mother of three. Send comments, questions and story ideas to