- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

•Draft a spending plan for life after baby. Base it on past spending and then refine it to reflect the inevitable belt-tightening that occurs after the birth of a baby. You'll also want to come up with strategies to minimize the amount of impulse buying you do something that can quickly spell disaster for your family's bottom line.

•Figure out what you can reasonably afford to spend for baby gear and stick to your budget. Don't allow your emotions to lead you to overspend.

•Investigate maternity-leave and paternity-leave policies so that you can make a point of taking full advantage of the benefits that are available to you. If you're not sure how to get started, check out the Department of Labor Web site (www.dol.gov) for details.

•Reduce your debt. Try to pay off all of your bills each month rather than carrying a balance. The less debt you have on hand when baby arrives, the better off you will be.

•If you have a number of outstanding loans, consolidate your debt with a low-interest loan (e.g., transfer any outstanding balances to a low-interest credit card). Then, to keep yourself from getting into trouble again, cut up the majority of your credit cards.

•Make sure you're carrying appropriate amounts of life insurance and that you have a will in place. You want to make sure that your child will be well taken care of in the event of your death. You will also want to make a point of choosing a suitable guardian someone who is young enough to rise to the challenges of parenthood and who has values compatible with your own.

Source: "Family Finances," by Ann Douglas and Elizabeth Lewin, Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2001

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