How to afford a baby

Try our great money-saving tips to look after the pennies while you're piling on the pounds

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baby with mum's hands

How to save money when you’re pregnant

Saving money on the baby can start before he arrives, says author of Smart Spending Jane Furnival. Her advice is:

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*Avoid mum-to-be shops. You can spend a lot of money on that expensive evening wear to neatly hug your bump, only to find you can’t even wear it for the whole of your pregnancy, let alone afterwards. That goes for shoes too, as your feet change size in pregnancy. Instead, borrow from friends or relatives or buy second-hand.

*Cook large batches of food and freeze what’s left. You won’t have much time to cook once the baby arrives and, on average, ready meals are eight times more expensive than cooking at home with fresh ingredients.

*Have a baby list, rather like a wedding list. Friends and relatives always want to buy you things, but you don’t want seven baby gyms and no cot bedding.

*Let friends and relatives know when the baby’s due and keep them updated on his age and stage. They can pass you on hand-me-downs, which are usually in perfectly good condition because babies grow out of things so quickly.

How to save money when your baby is born

Think twice about what you really need before you go into a babycare shop. Without being tempted by the lovely displays (you’ll feel you need one of everything!), you can assess things more rationally. For example, you mightn’t need:

*A baby bath – a washing-up bowl does just fine at first.

*A Moses basket – a cot or cotbed will last much longer.

*A changing table – only useful until your baby can roll over, so put the changing mat on the bed or floor instead.

*Muslin cloths – a tea towel does the same job.

*Baby designer gear – your baby can’t read the label and will probably throw up all over it anyway!

*Any new baby clothes – charity shops usually have a quick turnover of baby clothes and you can save a lot on the everyday things like sleep suits, vests and booties.

Free gear

If you don’t have anyone to give you hand-me-downs, log on to www.freecycle.org, where people give things away rather than bin them.

Caution: don’t buy a second-hand car seat. You never really know if it’s been in an accident, as damage doesn’t necessarily show. Go to stores such as John Lewis or Mothercare, where you’ll get good advice as well as the full range of seats.

Discount suppliers

If you really can’t resist that fab buggy or Victorian-style cot, try cut-price suppliers:

*Kiddicare Baby Megastore (www.kiddicare.info; 01733 579175)

*Baby Barn (www.baby-barn.co.uk; 01562 710220)

*Nippers (www.nippers.co.uk; 01206 243 626).

Borrow it

Babycare books – we all need them – can be borrowed from your local library.
Toys can be found there too and borrowed for about the same period as books.

Equipment can be borrowed from a friend or relative who’s between babies.

Cut the cost of…

Feeding

Breastfeeding is by far the cheaper option, but you’ll still need nursing bras. Don’t buy too many, as you may change size when breastfeeding. If you’re going to be returning to work while feeding, you’ll need a breast pump. They don’t wear out or get easily damaged, so see if you can borrow one, or buy second-hand.

Bottle-feeding requires not just bottles, but brushes, sterilising equipment and of course formula milk. So:

*Check out discount stores for sterilising kits that come with bottles and a brush.

*Consider boiling bottles or using sterilising tablets to save on a microwave or electric steriliser.

*Use hand-me-down equipment and just buy the teats new.

Nappies

Re-useable nappies are cheaper, saving you up to £680 per child (see www.WEN.org.uk for more info). That takes into account the costs of the washing machine running a lot but if you want to save more on electricity go to www.Uswitch.com.

To save on disposables, find cheap online suppliers through www.kelkoo.co.uk. However, you might want to avoid the really low-budget brands as they tend to leak more.

Toys

Many local libraries hire out toys, though you don’t really need them for babies – tissue paper to scrunch, a plastic picture plate to grip and study, a wooden spoon to bang – as long as the items shine or make a noise and can’t break or be swallowed, they’re just as good as toys for babies. You’ll find loads at local school jumble sales too.

For large equipment such as bouncers or bikes when they’re older, try www.freecycle.org and discount stores.

Work or childcare?

Deciding whether or not to return to work is the biggest cost consideration of bringing up a child.

If you return to work, there’s no perfect solution: the cheaper childcare options tend to require more of your input and the round-the-clock ones are very expensive.

If you don’t return to work, you may be making some longer-term career sacrifices, but you should consider some of the everyday cost savings of staying at home:

*You save in travel, lunches – and lunch-hour shopping!

*You’ll need less money at home.

*You can make a bit extra working from home, whether it’s childminding or telesales. Also, if it’s not a considerable amount you’re earning from home, it won’t be taxed.

Automatic cost cutters (and how to spend the savings)

*Skipping Friday night drinks throughout your pregnancy: 36 x £10 = £360.
Equals a Mamas and Papas birth-to-toddler travel system with a buggy and car seat, worth £370 (www.mamasandpapas.co.uk; 0870 830 7700).

*Not being tempted by shoes: 3 x £75 = £225.
Equals a baby-to-toddler Stockholm cot from Mothercare, for £229.

*Skipping a way-to-work latte for three months on maternity leave: 65 x £2 = £130.
Equals an Avent breast- or bottle-feeding solutions pack.

*Not needing a post-hangover greasy-spoon breakfast every month: 9 x £4 = £36.
Equals a Pixie top, £12, with a matching cardigan, £12, and pull-up trousers, £12, from JoJo Maman Bébé (www.jojomamanbebe.co.uk; 0870 241 0560).

*Not needing a taxi home once a month after a night out for the first three months of pregnancy: 3 x £10 = £30.
Equals a Peter Rabbit Playnest, worth £28.

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