The cost of a baby

My first blog is one that is very close to my heart, the cost of having a baby. In the last nine months I have been on an amazing adventure with my first baby girl, but what has it actually cost me? Apart from being emotionally-life-changing, having a baby can have a considerable financial impact too.

I of course did my research before my daughter was born and found figures such as £9000 quoted online as the potential cost of a baby in their first year!! However I realised this figure was based on new mum’s buying everything new.

I am naturally thrifty and enjoy saving money because of the choices it gives me and my family in life, and therefore I was determined to keep my costs to a minimum. I hoped my personal budgeting and planning skills would put in a strong position.

Two months before my baby was born, I sorted out all the benefits I was entitled to. I completed the Child Benefit form, although I couldn’t submit the form before my baby was born because you need to detail your baby’s date of birth and register her birth. You also need to send a birth certificate with the form.

It really helped me to complete the form in advance, particularly when you are struggling with sleep deprivation in the first few months. You can find the Child Benefit form here http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/childbenefit/forms.htm. I also knew I was going to start my maternity leave about a week before I was due to give birth, so I completed ‘Form MA1’ for Maternity Allowance as I didn’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. You can find out more information about maternity pay here https://www.gov.uk/search?q=maternity

You can also find lots of information about benefits for families here https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/families. I would also recommend that you complete the Benefits Adviser online calculator to find out what you are entitled to https://www.gov.uk/benefits-adviser.

I knew all of my family and friends would want to buy something for my baby when she was born, so my husband and I created an Amazon wishlist of all the items we needed such as a baby monitor, room thermometer, grobag and nappies. This list ensured family and friends didn’t waste money on items we didn’t need. You don’t have to just add items from Amazon, you can also save money by adding items to the list from external websites such as eBay.

I admit, in the first month I had very little idea of how much I was spending on groceries and the emergency trips to the supermarket for nappies and baby wipes, but when I finally got some precious sleep, I started adding up how much I was spending.

I found eBay to be excellent with finding second hand baby items locally. On the rare occasions that I do buy clothes I always buy the next size up to maximise wear. We were given some hand-me-down clothes, which really helped particularly when they were bigger sizes. You can bulk buy good quality baby clothes on eBay for a fraction of the price retailers charge. I also used a cashback website ‘TopCashBack’ to convert any money I had saved into Tesco clubcard points. I then doubled my points at Tesco to use in their clothing section in the January sales.

It always amazes me when I meet clients who are in debt and have children, with how many who actually buy brand new baby clothes and prams. Many mums, particularly those on lower incomes, tell me they now regret spending so much. Retailers are very clever at persuading us to part with our money, but from my research, many supposedly essential purchases turn out to be anything but!

Family Action reported there research has shown that some poorer parents have to cut back on essential needs such as food and heating in order to afford baby-related costs.

Early on, I realised you can save money by joining various baby clubs with supermarkets and other relevant organisations because they send you coupons. I also remembered to use the coupons received in my Bounty packs.

When my baby was at the weaning stage, I discovered the 99p store and Poundland’s small but amazing baby section. I bought packs of bowls for £1 instead of £2.99, sets of plastic pots to keep food in for £1 instead of £1.99, beakers, bibs and later plates. I ended up with about £18 worth of feeding equipment for a total of £7. These stores are also surprisingly good for baby food – I bought packs of Organix finger foods. The only problem is that you can’t guarantee what will be available when. If you see it, buy it! The best way to save money on baby food is of course to make it yourself. I plan my meals for the week and write a shopping list based on a budget – this helped me to avoid making impulse purchases.

When you’re at the supermarket, buy items from the top and bottom shelves; high value items are always placed at eye level. I highly recommend the supermarket comparison site mySupermarket.com, which allows you to compare prices of products at each supermarket at a glance. You may wish to consider downshifting your supermarket. I highly recommend ALDI for staple goods and they have a great selection of fruit and vegetables that are often half the price of other supermarkets. Aldi like most supermarkets will stack from the bottom or back of the shelf, so reach to the back or bottom of the shelves to find the longest ‘use by’ and ‘best buys’ dates.

The approach I’ve taken to everything: if it’s on offer and you know you will need it in six months, buy it now. Sainsbury’s sometimes has 25%-off clothing days, which is the time to stock up on socks and basics vests, unless you can buy them cheaper elsewhere.

As some friends pointed out last year, I was able to go to NCT sales, despite not being a member, and actually did well by not being there during the members-only bit at the start as people start to mark things down towards the end.

I have avoided weekly baby music and activity classes that require paying in advance. For our singing and stories we tend to go to the library or children’s centres. Without paying to join the NCT I’ve been lucky enough to meet lots of great mums nearby, and once there are two babies in the room they don’t seem to mind that the entertainment is free.

Well, nine months have passed, I kept all the receipts, recorded everything since my daughter was born – and the truth is that you can give a baby everything he or she needs and keep the cost down to the hundreds rather than the thousands.

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