Kids are costly. You've got to be ready.

Piggy bank family under red umbrella

Being a parent takes not only love and patience, it requires financial planning and preparation.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost the average American middle-class family more than $234,000 to raise a child to age 18. And then there's college tuition to pay.

The good news is you've got up to nine months to get your finances in order.

Everything from the balance on your credit cards to the insurance coverage you select will go a long way toward determining the kind of life they'll lead from childhood until they're young adults.

Our 6 smart moves to financially prepare for parenthood can help you make many of the right decisions.

Smart move 1. Start saving for the delivery.

The mere act of just bringing a child into the world can cost a small fortune.

According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the average cost of a vaginal delivery with no complications can run $10,000. A C-section with complications runs an average of $23,000.

Check your insurance deductibles now; they can run between $1,000 and $3,000 for labor and delivery.

If you have complications that require a C-section or a premature birth that requires neonatal intensive care, you could have out-of-pocket costs of up to $15,000.

It all depends on your insurance, but you should save now just to be safe.

Many unprepared parents spend the first few years of their child's life paying off medical bills.

You don't want to be in shock when the bill comes.

Smart move 2. Go over your health insurance and prepare for premium increases.

In most states, your child automatically will be covered under your insurance policy for 30 days. After that, you have to officially add them or they won't be covered.

Lots of things can go wrong with newborns, so health insurance is a must.

What a 1-year-old costs

Category Annual cost
Housing $3,920
Food $1,400
Transportation $1,690
Clothing $760
Health care $850
Child care/education $2,860
Miscellaneous $890
Total expense $12,370
Source: Expenditures on Children by Families, 2011; U.S. Department of Agriculture

It can be a big sticker shock for many new parents. The cost all depends on what kind of benefits your company offers.

If you work at a Fortune 500 firm, it may not cost that much. But for many smaller businesses, it's not uncommon for you to have to cover 100% of the premiums for dependents.

So, while your employer might only deduct $50 per month for your health insurance premiums, it could be $150 a month for your child's coverage.

Rising premiums over the past decade have forced many businesses to make drastic cutbacks. Some have started by not covering premiums for dependents.

Many parents at smaller employers find it cheaper to get individual high-deductible policies for their partners and children.

Ask your employer now.

Smart move 3. Get rid of your credit card debt.

It's already hard enough keeping up with the expenses of being a parent. It will be even harder if you're carrying high-cost credit card debt.

You need to pay off, or at least reduce, that debt before the baby is born.

Consider moving all of your debt to the card with the lowest interest rate or even transferring your balances to a new card that charges 0% interest for 12 months or more.

Our credit card calculators can help you develop a plan to pay off one card or a whole bunch of credit cards.

Smart move 4. Get a budget.

When you don't have kids, it's easier to wing it when finances get tight. You can cut out a weekend splurge or eat in more.

It's a lot harder to do when you're a parent because costs add up more quickly.

Unless you're very wealthy, you are going to have to make some financial sacrifices once the baby comes along.

You need to keep a close eye on your money by creating and sticking to a budget.

It doesn't matter how much you make; you're going to have an astounding number of new expenses, from diapers and formula to car seats and baby clothes. And these are the cheap things.

It gets much more expensive when you've got day care or tuition to pay.

A budget will help you see exactly where your money is going and where you can expenses to free up more money for the baby.

Our budget calculator makes the process surprisingly quick and painless.

Smart move 5. Insure your income and your life.

As a parent, you need the right insurance to protect your kids in the event you become disabled or die.

Disability insurance provides the money you need to keep up with mortgage payments and grocery bills should you or your spouse become too ill or hurt to work.

You may have coverage through your work. Check with your employer to see how long you must be out of work before the payments begin, what percentage of your income you'll receive and how long the payments will last.

If you're not covered at work, you can also buy disability policies from most insurance agents.

Premiums should run about 1% to 3% of your annual salary. So, if you make $40,000 a year, you should be able to get a policy for about $400 to $1,200 per year.

Short-term policies usually begin payments seven to 14 days after you've been out of work and continue to pay benefits for up to three months.

Long-term policies require you to wait at least six months before payments begin, but if you're permanently disabled, benefits can continue until you turn 65 years old.

How much you'll receive is typically between 60% and 80% of your income.

Next, you need life insurance. No parent should go without it.

Term policies are dirt cheap for those in their 20s and 30s.

A common rule of thumb says you should get a policy worth at least six times your annual gross income. So, if you make $40,000 a year, that's a $240,000 policy.

A 30-year-old nonsmoker should be able to buy a $250,000, 20-year term life policy for about $200 a year, and the premium is locked in. It won't change as you get older.

Disregard sales pitches for whole-life policies that are sold as investments. There are much more lucrative ways to save. Insist on a much cheaper term policy.

Smart move 6. Don't overspend on baby stuff.

When you have your first child, it's easy to overspend on nursery items. There's a multibillion-dollar industry built around convincing you what you need for your baby.

Many of the things you'll use for a couple of months or a year at the most.

Get the necessities, but don't overspend.

Don't be the parents that have name-brand baby clothes and luxury items, yet don't have a dollar in college savings.

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