How to Budget for a Baby
Bringing up a baby is never an easy task. Many say it is a life changing experience, not only emotionally, but also financially.
The best way to avoid any financial strain is to get a grip on your finances and start budgeting before you have a baby.
In order to work out your budget you first need to determine:
1. What is your Income?
Both you and your partner need to determine your monthly income. Work out the sum of your combined salaries, along with any government financial assistance you might happen to receive such as Working Tax credits and income support. If you receive any other additional monthly income this should also be included.
2. What are your Outgoings?
It’s important to be as honest as possible right down to the last penny. Make a note of what money is spent on mortgage or rent, eating out, entertainment etc.
Then do the simple calculation of Income less Spending, leaving what you have spare.
What you hope to find out is that you are spending less money than you have coming in, if this is the case then you are saving money. If your spending is greater than your income you need to try and identify areas in your life where you can cut back on spending. This can be by not buying those nice pair of shoes you've just seen in the shop window or buying those boys toys that you really don't need. It’s money that can be redirected towards saving for your baby.
Find out how long you can afford to take off for your maternity leave. If you want to have an extended maternity leave then save for it.
Calculate the cost of buying the essentials for your baby in the first few months and then start saving towards it.
You should try and review your saving at least once a month to find out how you are progressing and to see if you can find areas where you can make more saving, such as your utility bills, insurance and food shopping.
Start Saving for your Baby
Here are some very simple yet affective ways you can save money when making purchases relating to your baby.
Firstly, open a saving account before you start trying for a baby. This way you can have a lump sum of money already put by before your baby arrives.
Whilst in Hospital
You may only be in for a few hours, but it could also be 2-3 days - here are a few tips to keep costs down.
- Take in lots of magazines and books to read rather than buy a TV card which can be expensive. The chances are you won't get a chance to watch TV anyway as you'll be far too busy looking after your new baby or trying to catch up on your sleep.
- Your hospital bedside cabinet will often contain useful toiletries after having given birth, be sure to use them whilst you are in hospital and if there are any remaining ask permission to take whatever is left.
- Make sure you leave the hospital with your free Bounty pack.
Saving Money in the Baby Nursery
There is lots of scope for saving money when it comes to the nursery - you don't need to go mad buying everything new, and it doesn't have to be expensive either.
- Buy standard sized furniture for your children's nursery rather than children's furniture as they soon grow out of children's sized things.
- Use paint rather than wallpaper. Choose a paint which is durable and only requires you to wipe the wall clean. This way you avoid having to reapply another coat within a year. You can then just add children's motifs to create the look you want at a fraction of the cost. Choose nursery decorations which will last your child until they are at least 5 years of age, avoiding a nursery decoration which is too babyish as this will save you money on unnecessary decorating costs.
- If you intend to have children relatively close together why not decorate the nursery in neutral colours so that it can be used for further siblings whatever the sex.
- If you have a light coloured carpet in the nursery, consider purchasing a cheap large rug to cover most of the floor, so as to protect the carpet through your babies early years.
- Buy nursery items which can grow with your child such as a cot/bed, as they can be used from birth right the way up until your child is five.
- A Moses basket may look lovely but is often only used for the first three months of a baby’s life. If you have a big baby the basket could be used even less.
- Crib pillows although they may look nice serve no real practical purpose, and are therefore an unnecessary purchase as it is advised to lay babies flat whilst asleep in their crib.
- Important - If you accept a Moses basket / crib / cot / bed from friends or family always replace the existing mattress with a new one.
Books and Toys for your Baby
If you have friends and family you will most likely get loads of gifts when your baby is born so hold back buying things yourself until you know what you have.
Join the library and take out books and rent DVDs/videos. This is free - which is lots cheaper than buying them :)
Don't go out and buy any toys for the first few months, as your baby will be spending much of their time sleeping and feeding. Your baby will have more than enough stimulation with you talking and interacting with him or her.
Feeding your Baby
A pretty important aspect of bringing up your baby. It can be expensive, but it by no means has to be.
- Make every effor to breastfeed your baby. Not only are you giving your baby a great start in life, but you are also saving money - it's free, formula is not.
- If you intend to breastfeed your baby don't go out and buy any breastfeeding clothes until you have established feeding in case for any reason you are unable to breastfeed and have to start using formula.
- A breast pillow, although a nice item to have, is not essential in order to be able to breastfeed. A cushion will do just as well if you need support when feeding your baby
- A breastfeeding chair and stool again is a non-essential item. Try not to rely on items such as these otherwise if you plan to feed your baby whilst out and about, you might not find it very easy.
- If you plan to use a breast pump then try and hire one or buy a mains operated one as battery operated ones tend to not be very cost effective.
- Make your own baby food rather than buying foods in a jar. There are lots of recipe ideas you can get from the internet. You can make large batches of baby food, freeze it and then use it as and when you want to.
Changing your Baby
What goes in, must come out.... how you handle your baby's deposits can either be cheap, or expensive. The choice is yours.
- Use real nappies. Using real nappies doesn't have to just be a choice for the environmentally conscious, it is also a great way to save money. There are a wide selection of reusable nappies available ranging from the traditional 'Terry's cloth-nappy' to the hi-tech shaped nappies. Don't forget to include the nappy bucket, nappy liners, and nappy covers (this may not be necessary depending on what type of nappy you opt for).
- If you opt for real nappies then why not use reusable nappy liners.
- If you are going to use disposable nappies then try and purchase them in bulk to save money. Many stores offer vouchers for particular brands. Try a selection of different nappies including the non-brand nappies to find which nappy works best for your baby.
- More about nappies
- Baby wipes can be very expensive, so why not opt for reusable baby wipes which can be easily washed and used again.
- Buying cotton as a wad rather than cotton balls will work out cheaper.
- There's no need to buy a changing unit as your baby will grow out of it and you may find it easier to change your baby on a suitable flat surface with a changing mat.
Clothes for your Baby
Unless you want to be washing and drying clothes all day long, every day, you will need a fair few sets of everything. This does not mean you need to go out and spends hundreds on the cutest outfts you can find...
- Buy nearly new baby clothes from places such as ebay, the NCT nearly new sales and charity shops. Or take up the offer of second hand clothes from friends and family. Babies won't know that the clothes aren't brand new or care. If you are still a little apprehensive then why not just rewash.
- If you do buy new clothes then buy size 0-3 months rather than newborn, as baby’s growth is quite rapid during this time and if your baby is big to start with they will not get much use out of newborn clothes.
- Don't buy too many clothes for your baby as when friends and family hear of the new arrival they are bound to buy you baby clothes.
- Buy neutral colours if you intend to have more than one child you can reuse them no matter what the sex.
- Buy clothes which are machine washable rather than hand wash only or dry clean only as this will save you time and money when it comes to cleaning.
- Many midwives recommend swaddling your baby for the first few months, there are swaddling wraps which are designed to make swaddling easier but they are more expensive than a sheet which would do the job just as well.
- It’s not necessary to buy shoes for your baby until they can actually walk. Socks are perfectly adequate for your baby when learning to find their feet as they progress from crawling, to walking. When they are out and about a pair of booties can be used to keep their little feet warm.
Travelling with your Baby
It's not a good idea to spend all your time stuck in the house with your new baby - you both need some fresh air and changes of scenery. However, you don't need to buy a brand new pram, complete with gold plated wheel trims....
- Don't assume you will immediately need to replace your car if you have one. It could be that all you need is a roof box, or simply to better organise your boot space. If you don't have a car then don't automatically assume you'll need one, if you have good transportation links to where you need to go then use them.
- When it comes to buying the right pram you need to do your research well in advance. Ask friends and family who have prams for advice. Decide what you want from your pram and then look on the internet and search for the pram that best meets your criteria. Read the reviews from the parents who have tried and tested the prams. Go into a shop and test drive the model you are interested in.
Try and choose a neutral colour as if you intend to sell on the pram at a later date neutral/plain colours are more saleable than bright seasonal trend colours. Also try and keep all the packaging that your pram comes in as this also makes selling your pram on more attractive to buyers. Prams are one of the most expensive purchases you'll make so don't be afraid to ask for a discount.
- Buy a car seat that will grow with your child for example purchase one which can be used from 0-5 years. Although it will initially be more expensive it will save you having to buy another one before they reach the age of five.
- Important : Unless you are absolutely certain about the history of a second-hand car seat you should avoid purchasing one.
- Changing bags are offered as an accessory to your pram, and for what you get a bag with a fold away changing mat they tend to be very expensive. A cheaper alternative would be to buy a rucksack and fold away changing mat.
- Always check you have a stock of nappies and wipes in your travel bag otherwise you will end up going into a shop and having to buy a whole pack of nappies when all you need is one.
- More about Travel Accessories
Attend your local council run post-natal workshops, as not only are they a great way to meet other mums, they provide free advice and you can often get freebies for your baby such as vouchers.
Buy an oral digital thermometer for home use rather than an ear thermometer which tends to be more expensive.
Freebies for your Baby
The internet is a great place to find free advice relating to how to bring up your baby. Try and visit the different baby websites and sign-up to their newsletter. You will then be notified about any current coupon offers.
Shop around - Many leading retailers offer baby club schemes, have a look at what your loyalty gets you.
If friends and family send you gifts then show your appreciation by sending them an ecard rather than one through the post. Not only will it save you time but money as well.
Send your babies photo to friends and family by email. Then they can print them off if they want to. If you have time you could use your baby photo in the ecard that you send out to thank friends and family for the gifts they've sent.
You could consider setting up a baby gift list. It works in the same way as a wedding gift list. This way you'll be sure to get what you need and avoid having to take things back.
Parent & Toddler groups
Join your local parent/toddler groups. This will provide you with an opportunity to meet with other parents and your child to play with other children. Your local library or Town Hall will usually have a list of local community groups.
Child care costs can be very expensive. Set up a babysitting cooperative with your friends who have children and you can take it in turns to babysit.
Things to Remember
Not all baby items need to be purchased right away, for example babies won't need the use of the high chair until they can sit upright.
If you intend to make multiple purchases from one particular store be sure to ask for a discount.
In the same way most people don't rush into buying a house or getting married, take your time, plan ahead, and start saving early so you can reap the rewards of a financially stress free time with your baby.