My wife is expecting, and as we plan, I want to know if there is anything that people were surprised by how expensive it is, or didn't realize they would need to pay for?
Having kids has been a fairly expensive endeavor for my family. We have two kids - a 2 year old and an 8 month old.
Our biggest 'expense' has been a loss of income (of the mother). Although I am not a stay at home mother, time taken off for maternity leave, taking care of a newborn, etc. adds up. Between the two kids, we "lost" about 16 months of income. Depending on the country you live in, this will vary based on maternity benefits and child benefits offered to you.
Another expense has been child care - after I went back to work, we needed to pay for someone to watch the kids. Child care can be fairly expensive, again, depending on the country you are living in. Currently nearly half my income goes towards paying for the child care.
Another expense was a larger house and all the expenses that come with it - we needed an additional room in the house to be able to put the kids in it. The bigger house comes with its own higher expenses such as higher property taxes, utility bills, etc. Utility bills was a bit of an unexpected one for us since now there is someone (a nanny+kids) home all the time, the bills are naturally higher (versus my husband and I being at work all day long).
Another expense was a bigger vehicle. Putting two rear-facing car seats in a 2-door Cavalier can be fairly challenging. We've upgraded our car with the first one, and now are thinking of purchasing a mini-van - with the car seats, our car no longer can fit 5 people. (We also have more luggage when we go places like camping, so we just need a larger car now.) An additional car (or a bigger car) comes with its own expenses such as higher fuel costs, insurance, etc.
There are some one-time expenses as well, such as crib, crib mattress, linens, stroller, car seats, high chair, baby carrier*, rocking chair*, breast pump*, nursing pillow*, formula*, playpen*, swing*, bouncer*, etc. Of course there is also the diapers and the wipes, regardless of whether or not you are using cloth or disposable diapers. Not to forget the incredible amount of toys, books, and educational material that parents end up purchasing for their children ("but they need books!"). Lots of parent also invest in professional cameras or for professional photographers for their babies when they are younger. I didn't even get our wedding pictures in print, but we've got baby pictures all over the house. Even if you don't get them, there will be grandparents and great-grandparents asking for them. Also, do you like taking videos of your child? If you don't have a video camera, that'll be another expense.
There are also little items that just add up: are you going to be purchasing baby thermometer, baby monitor, baby toothbrush, baby toothpaste, baby lotions, baby towels, baby blankets, baby diaper bag, baby bottles, baby dishes, baby cutlery, baby snack containers, baby food, baby gates and other baby-proofing items? These can all be "optional", but many parents do purchase these items - and small items add up.
Baby clothing can be fairly inexpensive if acquired second-hand, but babies grow pretty fast. Our little one has a bigger collection of shoes than I do - and she only ever has two pairs that fit her at any time (sandals for summer/boots for winter + sneakers). It's also astounding how quickly they grow out of their clothes - it's not long before that extra-long-dress that used to go past her knees will look like a t-shirt or a mini-skirt gone wrong. Also, you are looking at purchasing fall jackets, winter coats, swim suits, life jacket - nearly every season. Oh and weddings - invited to your brother's wedding and your little one is the flower girl? You'll be spending more than a couple of dollars on that dress and shoes.
On the topic of clothing, don't forget that the mother is going to new a brand-new wardrobe. She will need maternity clothes no matter what, and even more so if she continues to work during her pregnancy. Post-pregnancy, it can take a few months for the mother to go back to her normal clothes - so she'll need those "in-between" clothes too. Some mothers take longer to lose the weight, at which point she'll need a new wardrobe. It is not uncommon for women's feet to grow permanently post-pregnancy, so she may need new shoes. I also had the minor expense of getting my wedding ring resized because my hands are just...fatter now.
We have national health insurance so that wasn't a concern, but my husband and I also get life insurance for the security of our kids - and they had to be relatively large amounts given the young age of our children. This is a monthly expense that will be a while before we rid of. Some people add disability or critical illness insurance, etc. on top of it - after all, you're not earning money or taking care of your kids when you're in a coma.
On top of all this, add the pressures of saving up for your children's future (university education), and yep, you start wondering if you're making less or the government is just taxing you more ;)
Generally speaking, everything you do gets more expensive now - you're no longer 2, but 3.
*Denoting optional items.
Child care is by far the largest expense for us. We live in a major metropolitan area and it costs ~1350 per month for full time child care in a montessori center. We use cloth diapers exclusively, breastfeed, shop craigslist for items that are safe to buy used, and cook all of our meals at home in order to afford to be able to send him to what we feel is the best educational child care setting available in our area. Before he got close to arriving, I had no idea how much it would cost and how strongly I would feel about where he would be cared for.
Our child seems to think sticks and rocks are more fun than elmo toys, so toys have not been a big expense.
Health care is another large one, the labor and delivery out of pocket cost was $5500, even with decent insurance. 12 months later and ear tubes went in for another $1500 out of pocket.
Some first ideas:
Edit: Bold formatting added.
This will vary wildly, depending on the family.
For those who do not breastfeed, formula will likely be at the top of the list. It's been a while, so I don't remember exactly, but I believe we were, at our peak, going through a tub of generic formula a week, putting us at roughly $80-100 in formula each month. This is way more expensive than even brand-name disposable diapers.
For those that do breastfeed, a pump and accessories can be expensive, but not everyone will need one.
Furniture can be expensive, depending on what you want, but it is a one-shot cost, that most parents will have planned out long before the birth. The amount spent can vary wildly here, too, as factors such as co-sleeping, hand-me-downs, and alternative "baby-friendly" bedroom environments can all play a factor. Of course, if you absolutely want that solid oak crib, with matching changing table, laundry hamper, and dresser, you'll be paying for it, but they're certainly not mandatory.
Clothes can be pricey, but, if like me, you live in a relatively suburban or even rural area, yard sales can make this a non-issue. In our neighborhood, there are literally dozens of yard sales available each weekend during the spring/summer if you look for them (and often if you don't), and many will have children's clothes (and toys, furniture, and accessories) for a fraction of the cost of buying new.