I just heard the news that my niece is pregnant with a little girl!  I am doubly excited for her since as a mother of three boys (and one girl), I am still “underweighted” in girls.  Bring on the pink.  What I’m about to say may come as a shock to you, and I feel I have license to say it because of personal experience with pregnancy (even though it has been over twenty years): When women are pregnant, they tend to act differently (read c-r-a-z-y).  (Any husbands want to second that?)  I can promise you that at some point in your life, you will have a pregnant woman say, or do something, that will leave you scratching your head.  Whether it’s eating pickles and peanut butter together (yuck!), eating entire boxes of frozen spinach (guilty), crying uncontrollably for seemingly no reason, having an uncanny sense of smell and being able to tell what people had for lunch or forgetting how to do things they’ve done a thousand times before, it will happen.

I know enough to say the cause of this natural phenomenon is hormones—lots and lots of hormones.  This increase in hormones allows women to prepare for the amazing physical and mental changes and challenges they will face before and after childbirth.  Basically, their mind, at times, will be going 100 miles per hour in 100 different directions.  I’m not suggesting we fight this.  Quite the opposite, now is the time to harness the power of this moment.

Let’s face it; women are better planners than men.  Unlike men, who tend to look at things one at a time, women can see the big picture.  When you are talking about a pregnant woman, it’s like having this supernatural gift on steroids.  To illustrate, I recently met with several pregnant women (on separate occasions) and although they were literally about to give birth (when I asked one when she was due she said “yesterday”), they wanted to talk about college planning, retirement, debt, etc.  My goodness!  You’re about to have a baby and all you can think about is 529 plans?  That is planning ahead, but you just might be putting the cart before the horse.

It is wonderful to think ahead, but before you have them graduating from Stanford, consider these planning ideas first during your pregnancy.

Idea #1 – Handle the “must do” items

There are a couple of important financial steps to take when you have a baby.  Be prepared to draw up or update your will to include a legal guardian when your child is born in case, God forbid, something were to happen to both you and your husband.  Many people postpone this because they don’t like to think about it, but if you don’t choose a guardian and the unforeseen happens, the State will do it for you.  Seriously, if you are tough enough to choose to become a parent, you are tough enough to pick a guardian – don’t postpone that decision.  For the same reason, review your life insurance coverage and increase it now if needed for both parents. Click here for a life insurance needs calculator.

Idea #2 – First things first

You’re not going to be able to save for college or retirement until you’ve balanced your budget, controlled your debt, and prepared for emergencies.  Newsflash!  Your budget after having a baby is going to be a lot different than before (even if it’s your fourth).  Use budgeting tools, such as Quicken® or Mint.com, to track your spending and get on a spending plan.  Use a debt repayment strategy, such as the DebtBlaster Strategy or Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Plan, to accelerate paying off high interest debt.  Finally, build your emergency fund so that you have enough to cover at least six month’s worth of expenses.

Idea #3 – Pay with cash

As you begin “nesting,” you’ll want to finish the baby’s room.  This includes buying a crib, mobile, sheets, bumpers, changing table, diapers, wipes, a Diaper Genie®, rocking chair, cute stuffed animals, blankies, paint, and a border (am I forgetting anything?).  Oh, and don’t forget the car seat, bottles, formula, etc.  With so many things to buy, you may be tempted to charge it all to a credit card.  If you know you have the money to pay for it, that’s fine, but be careful not to spend more than you plan, otherwise you may have more than a new baby to think about after childbirth.

Decide early on how much you can afford to spend on welcoming the newcomer, and use cash instead of plastic (debit or credit) to make sure you stay within the boundaries you set.

Idea #4 – Be thrifty

Consider buying cloths at discount retailers, like Old Navy and Target, and the special things at consignment shops.  Yard sales are wonderful ways to pick up used toys and port-a-cribs (I picked one up for $10 and keep it at my house for my visitors with babies).  Even when looking at the baby’s room, put your money where the long term value is.  Think about buying used mix-and-match baby furniture, because your child will outgrow it.  If you want to invest in a special bedroom set (which you can also find used, of course), wait until they are older so they will get many more years of use.

Idea #5 – Postpone long-term decisions until things settle down

It can be exciting dreaming about your child graduating from college, or spending time with grandchildren in retirement.  It’s definitely a good idea to save for both, especially if your employer offers matching contributions, but start with your own retirement first.  At a minimum, contribute to your retirement plan at work—10% if you can afford it, but at least enough to get the full matching contribution if your employer has one.

With college funding, start with the free route.  Sign up for plans that contribute to your child’s college education, such as BabyMint and U-promise, when you make every day purchases.  If you want to get an early start at college planning, use this guide, 5 Steps to Education Planning, to get you started.

Idea #6 – Take lots of pictures when the baby comes :)

Of course you want to email photos to the grandparents, but consider registering at sites, such as snapfish.com, where you can upload your photos and your family can order their favorite prints directly from the site.  Also watch for ads for discount print.  Register online at Shutterfly (I love their photo books and they are easy to do) or your local pharmacy, such as Walgreens or CVS, to receive email notices that include sales of reprints and photo books.

With pregnancy, anticipation is an understatement.  Life revolves around the due date of the new addition to the family.  Remember to slow down and enjoy each magical moment.  If planning mode goes into hyper-drive, at least focus on the best financial moves to make.