Free pregnancy and baby stuff Free baby stuff
Once your baby is born, there are entitlements, freebies and gifts to look out for - here we round up some of the most attractive.
Pass our tips on to other parents and parents-to-be using the sharing bookmarks at the bottom of this page, and check our free advice guides for buying the best pushchairs, child car seats, high chairs and baby monitors.
Make sure you've also seen our section on free pregnancy stuff, which highlights what's available while you're pregnant.
Baby freebie websites
There are plenty of general freebie websites that help you find free stuff and cheap deals, and many have dedicated baby and child sections. You might have to sift through what's on offer to find the really good deals, but if you've got the time you could find some hidden gems.
- Baby Freebies – a wide-ranging site that covers everything from discounts on clothes and free days out to money-off vouchers for a variety of items.
- Latest Free Stuff - a round up of free offers and deals available, many of which are new and mostly start-up packs and samples.
- All 4 Free - an extensive list of free baby samples, activities for children and ways to earn vouchers or points.
- Freebie List – is a UK-based site which doesn’t have a specific baby section, but is dedicated to reviewing the best freebies available online. It is regularly updated with the latest free offers, including a mixture of free stuff, product samples and software.
There are lots of sources of cheap second-hand equipment too, to help you keep costs down. Our guide to buying baby products second-hand shows you the best places to buy and covers the safety aspects of buying used baby equipment.
Cashback websites such as KidStart pay a proportion of the money you spend online into a nominated child's bank, building society or child trust fund (CTF) account (if your child has an existing CTF). After registering, all you have to do is go to the online shop you're buying from via the special links on the Kidstart site.
By shopping online in this way you can get up to 5% cashback on Mothercare purchases, up to 7% when buying from Tesco, 3.5% back on your first purchase from Boots, 25% from eBay revenue (ie how much eBay makes from the sale) and 2.5% from Kiddicare. There are more than 400 shopping sites in the scheme.
The Bookstart scheme aims to provide a free pack of books to all children. A Bookstart babies pack – for babies in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland – is available through your health visitor and consists of a canvas shoulder bag, four books and a Bookstart rhyme poster.
Bookstart+ packs for toddlers aged 18-30 months and My Bookstart Treasure Chest packs for kids aged 3-4 years are also available. Separate Bookstart packs are available in Wales, and you can get special packs for blind, partially sighted and deaf children – visit the Bookstart website for more information as well as events in your area.
Free parent and child classes
Many libraries offer free events and activities for children and their parents, such as 'rhyme time' sessions where you can join other families for nursery rhyme sing-alongs or storytelling. Contact your local library for details of what's on.
Sure Start Children's Centres, which provide Sure Start maternity grants, are centres around the country that offer a range of free services for parents and children. This includes health services such as support from health visitors, childcare assistance, advice on local services, such as speech therapists, and help with finding work and training.
Each centre is individual to that community, offering support that is tailored to the area. As such, services vary, so speak to your local centre to see exactly what is available. Visit the Directgov website to find your nearest centre.
Free parenting classes
This year the government has launched free parenting courses for parents and carers looking after a child under five. Currently the courses are only running in three areas for a trial period of two years - Camden, Middlesbrough and High Peak.
Those living locally to a class can claim for vouchers (collected from Boots stores) which will cover the costs of the classes. If these trials are successful, the government hopes to roll them out throughout the UK.
Childcare costs and child tax credits
All children aged three and four are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education a week for 38 weeks of the year. The government also plans to offer 15 hours of free nursery education to two-year olds whose parents are receiving benefits or on a salary of less that £16,190.
When it comes to paying for childcare, childcare vouchers and childcare tax credits help working parents save hundreds of pounds a year.
Available from your employer, these vouchers can save your up to £900 a year in tax and national insurance payments if you're a basic-rate tax payer. In addition, both parents can claim if you’re both working – so a family’s savings could total up to £1,800 a year.
See our full guide to childcare vouchers for details of who is eligible, how to obtain vouchers and how much you could save.
Childcare tax credits
Childcare tax credits are payments from the government that are again designed to help with childcare costs. You can get up to 70% of your childcare costs covered, dependent on your level of income and the maximum limit that applies per week - £175 for one child and £300 for two.
You can only claim childcare tax credits or childcare vouchers, so it's important to work out which would benefit you most. Visit our page on childcare vouchers vs childcare tax credit to help you decide.
Child tax credits
You can claim child tax credits if you are responsible for at least one child or young person - whether you work or not.
Tax credits are made up of a number of different 'elements' or payments. You may be eligible for just one element or for a few different elements, depending on your family circumstances. The higher your income, the fewer tax credits you are likely to get.
See our advice guide to child tax credits for full details on how much you could get and how to apply.
Child Benefit is a tax-free payment for each child you are responsible for under 16, or under 20 if they are in approved education or training. For a single child you can get £20.30 per week, and £13.40 for each additional child. However, Child Benefit is means-tested, so if one partner in a household earns £50,000 or more, Child Benefit is decreased. At £60,000 or over, it is stopped.
Means-testing of Child Benefit began in January 2013. Find out more about the changes and how much Child Benefit you can claim in our 60-second guide.
Do you have questions about your finances, or money issues you're not sure how to resolve? Our experts on the Which? Money Helpline offer free and unbiased advice to Which? members. If you're not yet a member you can sign up for a Which? trial subscription.