Written by: Clearway Staff
Financial concerns and pressures are one of the most common reasons women cite when they choose abortion for their unplanned pregnancy. One 2005 study showed 73% of participating abortion patients saying that they could not afford a baby right now. A 2017 study using data from 14 different countries showed that the most cited reasons for women seeking abortion were socioeconomic concerns or limited childbearing. And we know this from experience, too. Financial stresses, college debt, car payments, rent expenses, gas prices–they weigh heavy on us, don’t they? Imagine adding the unexpected expenses of a baby into the mix. It’s easy to see where the stress comes from.
For many women, financial barriers are the primary (or even only) block in their life to having a baby right now. Organizing your financial situation can better prepare you for the unexpected. So whether you are facing an unexpected pregnancy or not, let’s talk through some basic budgeting practices to help you prepare for a prosperous future.
Assess Your Current Financial Situation
When you’re not used to budgeting, it can be hard to know where to start. But don’t worry–you can start simple. Begin by getting a grasp on your financial situation right now.
There are multiple ways to do this. One way is to use a budgeting app, such as mint.com. This helps you categorize your expenses and see where you are spending the most money. For those who aren’t comfortable with putting your financial information into an app, that’s okay. There are other ways to do the same thing.
If you are working full-time or part-time, sit down with a computer (or a notebook) and a calculator, and look at your situation. How much do you earn every month, after taxes? Now make a list of your expenses–first, the essential ones that you have to pay. Car payments, groceries, phone bill, gas, public transportation, rent, tuition, whatever it is you pay for. Everyone is different, depending on your support system and current living situation. Line up your income next to your expenses. How’s it looking?
Now, take a look at your previous month’s bank statement (or even the past few months). Where else did your money go, besides the “essentials”? Is there anything you’re spending money on that you can afford to cut out? For example, eating out. It’s simple, but significant. Whether this means pulling through the Dunkin drive-thru every morning on the way to work or ordering dinner three nights a week, it adds up.
We know it’s hard to find the time or energy to cook at home when working or in school full-time, but there are ways to make it easier for yourself. One way to do this is by meal prepping. Many people use Sunday afternoons to cook a bunch of food and freeze it for the week, saving them time, energy, and money spent on food Monday through Friday.
If you spend a lot of money on your social life, start looking for free activities and events in your area. If you live somewhere near a park or natural area, hiking and picnics are great free activities to do with friends in place of expensive drinks and restaurants. You don’t have to completely change your lifestyle, but try to make reasonable changes that can be achieved step by step. It’s about balance.
When I was in college, I was eating out way more than I could afford. So I made a rule: for one semester, I could only eat out once a week. It didn’t take long for me to realize how much money I was saving, and once I built that habit, it wasn’t hard to maintain. Try that rule for yourself. At the end of the month, see how much money you saved on food compared to the month before.
It’s also important to be aware of your credit score and other sources of debt. If you are behind on credit card payments, now’s the time to start getting that sorted. Although it’s less fun to pay off debt than to spend money on something in front of you right now, think of it as an investment in your freedom and your future.
What are Your Financial Goals?
The base layer of your financial plan is the assessment of your current situation. Hopefully, you are in a position to eliminate some expenses, prioritize others, and move forward. The second layer of creating a budget is knowing what your financial goals are. This includes determining your priorities if you are growing your family, planned or unplanned.
Go somewhere that you like to be: maybe that’s a city park, a garden or backyard, a bustling cafe, or just a cheery room in your house. Be in a space that brings you peace. Organizing financial goals can be overwhelming if they feel somehow unreachable, so it’s good to be in a space that won’t add to those feelings.
So, you have your outline of monthly expenses and income. Ask yourself, what position do you want to be in when the baby comes? Here are some questions you may want to consider:
- Will you be in the same living situation, or do you need new housing?
- Do you have a healthcare plan to cover prenatal care and birthing expenses?
- Are there any major purchases or financial changes that will take place before the baby?
- Will you need to pay for childcare?
- Do you have an emergency fund? An emergency fund is when you have the dollar amount of 3 to 6 months of expenses saved in your bank account. That way, if you suddenly lose your source of income, you have 3 to 6 months to get back up on your feet. Take a look at your savings account (if you have one). If you don’t have one, now’s a great time to go to your bank and create one.
The idea of creating a budget is to give every dollar a name. No dollar that comes into your possession lacks purpose. Once you know where you are and where you want to be, you can plan your financial choices to align with those goals. Your financial resources are a tool to get you to your goals.
Learn About Resources Available to You
We know that not everyone starts from the same place. Some of us have parents or family who support us financially, even letting us live with them as adults. Others have been on their own since the day they turned 18 (or sooner). Some come from a financially stable home; others don’t. Whatever situation you are in, you’re not alone. If you need a little extra support, that’s totally okay! There are resources available to you to support you on your journey.
Here are some local resources that may help you get started:
- Use She Might’s free Baby Cost Calculator to determine budgeting expenses for the first year of your baby’s life. They also offer this free Budgeting Template to get you started on your budgeting journey.
- WIC is a special supplemental nutrition program for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, as well as children under the age of 5 who are nutritionally at risk. Learn how to apply today!
- Prenatal Care Assistance Program (PCAP) provides low-income pregnant women with access to quality health care services from the Department of Public Health.
- Head Start is a federal program that offers early education and care programs and services for low-income families.
- Christina’s House is a local nonprofit offering transitional housing for women and children with two locations in Springfield and one in Hampden. Christina’s House is designed to support houseless or at risk of houselesses women and their children with up to 24 months in their program. If you are pregnant and in need of housing, find out if you are eligible for Christina’s House today.
- Embrace Grace offers local support groups for pregnant and single moms. If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and feeling alone, search for a group by your zip code. Join a community of women in similar situations, share a sense of belonging, and receive loving support. You may feel alone, but you are not!
- At Clearway Clinic, we offer free Prenatal Health Education Classes once a month in both Worcester and Springfield. If you are waiting for your new arrival and want to increase your confidence in labor, delivery, and caring for a newborn, call our office at 508-438-0144 to find out the dates and register for our upcoming classes.
Taking Control of Your Financial Story
Budgeting is about knowledge, and knowledge is power. If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, it can feel easier to just close your eyes, swipe your card, and hope there’s enough money on it. But the more you know, the more you can take control of your story, breaking cycles of overspending, debt, or poverty.
Look at your income. Look at your spending. Plan ahead. Have grace with yourself when you make mistakes or fall into old habits, and then pick up and keep moving forward.
If you can budget together with your partner, even better! If you have trusted friends and family to hold you accountable to your new plan, invite them to do so. Be honest with yourself, and open yourself up to creative ways to save more and plan better. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Financial Planning & Unplanned Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and it wasn’t planned, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a baby shower! Even if it’s a simple gathering at someone’s house, a baby shower can remind you to celebrate the joy of this pregnancy while also helping you gather some extra resources and items to help you prepare for the new baby.
If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, Clearway Clinic is here for you. Schedule an appointment today for a free pregnancy test, limited dating ultrasound, and options information. At your appointment, we will also provide you with a customized referrals list for local resources based on your needs. Call our office at 508-438-0144 for more information.
Please note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the advice of a professional financial advisor. These are just some ideas to help you get started on your journey!