Budget Blunders

Staying on Top of Finances

BLUNDER #5: Getting sloppy about spending

When you're up to your eyeballs in diapers, Desitin, and the demands of a newborn, who has the energy to balance the checkbook? But tough as it is, you need to find time to stay on top of your money. "Just as you need to babyproof when you have kids, you need to keep your financial house in order too," says Cooper.

First and foremost, that means making sure that you spend less than you earn -- especially if you've scaled back on your work -- and reining in the impulse to lavish the baby with extravagant gifts. "The expensive crib and the bedding and the perfect bedroom is all about you," Miller says. "The baby doesn't care."

Experts agree that it's very hard to catch up again once you've gone into debt. "So many new moms cut back on work, and then refinance the house or borrow against their 401(k), thinking it's temporary and that they'll make it up later," says Miller. "But then they discover, there is no later."

It's also important for stay-at-home moms to pay close attention to the family finances. "A lot of women don't feel entitled to make money decisions when they're not earning income," says Mary Claire Allvine, a financial planner in Atlanta. "But it's important that both partners stay closely involved to make sure you're both making the kinds of financial choices that will help you achieve your long-term hopes and goals."

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