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Help! How can I afford a doula?

One of the things I hear most often is, "I really want a doula, but I just can't afford it." I get that. Money is tight for many people; especially when a baby is on the way.

Doulas constantly struggle with whether or not to discount our fees, or even waive our fees entirely. We want so much to provide doula services to every woman who wants them, but we also have to make a living. We incur expenses with every birth in the form of fuel, materials, meals, childcare, parking, etc. We pay to keep our skills updated with continuing education. We spend time away from our families. We miss holidays, special occasions, our children's activities & sporting events, and sometimes even vacations. While we love our work as doulas, for most of us, it's not just a hobby. It is our actual business, and we need to run it as such. So, how do we solve the dilema of providing our services so they are affordable for every budget? How can people find the money to pay for their doula? Here are a few ideas I've come across:

Add doula services to your 'baby registry'. If someone is throwing you a baby shower, when listing places you are registered, add "Donations for doula services" or something of that nature. Many doulas will make up gift certificates if asked. If you include her contact information in your invitations, people can buy them from her directly. Also, people will often ask what you need for the baby, and you can answer in a similar manner; "I already have so much of what I need for the baby. What would be wonderful is a donation towards birth support services."

Sell things you no longer need. Most of us have things we don't use that have enough value to sell. With so many sources out there for selling our unwanted items, it couldn't be easier. Also, if you choose, you can have a traditional garage sale, although that is definitely a considerable amount of work! Alternately, if you are crafty and sew, knit, make jewelry, take pictures, paint, ... the list goes on, sell them! Many people love buying handcrated items for themselves, or to give as gifts.

Check with your insurance or Flexible Spending Account. Some will pay for doula services, but you have to ask. It may take some time and a bit of research, but it is well worth it if they are willing to pay for all, or part of the fees.

Make a payment plan. Doulas will almost always take payments in installments. Every doula works this differently, and every situation is unique. If you are honest from the beginning, there is a good chance she will work with you to find a plan that works within your budget.

Cut down on (not necessarily cut out completely) other expenses and add that money to your doula fund. There are so many things we spend money on every day that we don't even think about. We all love our handcrafted beverages, (myself included!) but daily trips to the coffee shop can be $15 a week or more. Spread out over a 9 month period, that can be more than $600! Same with manicures, pedicures, haircoloring, massages...all those add up to big bucks over a few months' time. Check with your cell phone and cable companies. You may be able to save money on your current plan, or even scale back a bit. Meal planning can also save hundreds of dollars a month at the grocery store. Going to the store without a plan or a list (or when those pregnancy cravings hit) can be costly. Keeping extra trips to a minimum will go a long way towards saving money. Another way people make extra room in their budget is to shop for clothes or other household items in thrift stores. Personally, I hate paying full price for things and I love it when I find good deals at second hand shops. It's kind of like a treasure hunt! Implementing these budgeting tips will not only help towards paying for your doula, but are worth continuing even after the baby is born.

I am sure there are many other creative ways to pay for doula services. Ask around, other people often have great ideas for finding extra money. Most importantly, communicate with your doula. She most certainly has many ideas for how to pay her fees. Please share how you have been able to afford your doula!

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