Finding the Upside of an Unplanned Pregnancy

Your Finances Are Freaking You Out

It's frightening when your debt seems to be growing at the same rate as your belly. When Buffy Scott, of New Brunswick, Canada, learned she was pregnant with twins, she had more than $14,000 in credit card bills, owed $10,000 in student loans, and had recently financed a new car. Soon after, she broke up with her babies' father. "I thought, How am I ever going to feed these kids for the next 18 years, never mind afford their college tuition?" she recalls.

To find your footing, "you have to develop healthy financial habits, then make them as much a part of your everyday routine as taking prenatal vitamins," advises Amanda Clayman, a psychotherapist in New York City who specializes in financial wellness. First figure out how much money is coming into your household, and exactly where you're spending it. (Mint.com allows you to track income and expenditures for free.) Then take a look at where you can cut back. For instance, Scott found she was perfectly happy preparing meals at home rather than eating at restaurants -- not surprising to anyone who has dined out with a baby!

If your finances need a complete overhaul, find an accredited nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency in your area (go to NFCC.org) that can help you map out a reasonable budget or negotiate with creditors.

Sure, you'll probably have to make some sacrifices. (Scott moved home with her mom for two years and filed for bankruptcy.) But "instilling good financial habits in your child is every bit as important as putting money in her college savings account," Clayman says. You're teaching by example.

Today, Scott owns her home, is caught up with her bills, and happily possesses only one credit card, for emergency use only. Ka-ching!

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