10 money tips for parents
By Anna Studman
10 money tips for parents
Our top tips for how to tackle the costs of starting a new family - from shopping to childcare
1. Plan your budget and costs
If you've not yet had your baby, planning your budget will help you work out how much you have to spend on essential purchases, such as a pushchair and child car seat, and whether you'll have anything left over to spend on luxuries. It will also help you to identify areas of spending you may be able to cut back on. Our guide to planning an effective budget will help you get started.
Once you have an idea of what your budget is, find out how much the things you need to buy are likely to cost, and whether you need to choose from the cheapest products or can afford to spend a bit more.
Visit the Money Advice Service's baby costs calculator for estimated costs of essential items, and to make sure you haven't forgotten to include anything.
2. Save in a Best Rate Isa or savings account
Once you know how much it will cost to buy everything you need for your baby, putting money into a savings account each month will make it easier to pay for it. Take a look at Which? Money Compare to search for cash Isa accounts and earn tax-free interest on your savings. You can pay up to £15,240 into an cash Isa in the 2015/16 tax year.
If you already have a cash Isa and have paid in your full Isa allowance for the year, search Which? Money Compare for other savings accounts you can save into instead. An instant-access account is probably best if you're saving for baby products, as you can take out your money whenever you need it.
3. Find the best-value pushchair and child car seat
A pushchair and child car seat are two of the most important purchases you need to make when preparing for a new baby. Both of them - particularly the child car seat - will be instrumental in keeping your baby safe and comfortable when you're out and about, so it's important to get the best you can.
Although these items can be pricey, you don't need to spend a lot to get a good one. Take a look at our Best Buy child car seats and Best Buy pushchairs to find out which ones scored highly in our rigorous testing so you can be sure they are well worth the money.
Buying a good-quality pushchair and child car seat will also help you save money in the long run as they are less likely to need repair or replacement. If you already have a pushchair and have experienced problems with it, take a look at our guide to what to do if your pushchair isn't working as you may be able to repair it rather than having to buy a new one.
4. Get free baby stuff
Once your baby is born, there are freebies and entitlements to help you with the costs of having a child. Our guide to free and cheap baby stuff outlines things to look out for, such as cashback websites, parenting clubs and Bookstart packs containing free books.
If you're still pregnant, the guide also outlines ways you can save money before your baby is born, including free prescriptions and dental care, and free antenatal classes.
5. Buy second-hand baby equipment
Buying equipment second-hand is a great way to make savings, especially when buying things that you know your baby will quickly grow out of or stop using as they grow up, such as toys.
Our guide to where to buy baby equipment second-hand has information on the best websites to visit to buy second-hand baby equipment, as well as how to find out about sales of second-hand baby items near you.
Make sure you look at our section on safety issues to find out which items you should avoid buying second-hand, such as . These should be bought new, as second-hand car seats may have been weakened from being in an accident or through general wear and tear.
6. Get the maternity or paternity pay you are entitled to
Find out about your maternity and paternity rights, as well as what your employer offers, to make sure you receive the full pay you are entitled to for maternity and paternity leave.
Our guide to maternity pay and leave tells you how much you are entitled to.
For dads-to-be, our guide to paternity pay and leave explains when you are entitled to paternity pay, how much you could receive and how much time you can take off.
7. Use childcare vouchers
If you're returning to work and need to look for childcare, find out whether you can get childcare vouchers through your employer - this could save you up to £1,800 a year on childcare costs in a family where both parents are working. Our guide to childcare vouchers will help you find out more.
Using childcare vouchers can affect your entitlement to the childcare element of working tax credit so check this first. To understand more about this, visit our guide to .
8. Consider a nanny share
If you want to hire nanny but can't afford one, a nanny share could be the answer.
A nanny share works by different families in the same area sharing a nanny. So the nanny either splits their time between the families, or looks after all children from the families together, which means you can share costs. Visit our guide on help with childcare costs for more information on nanny sharing.
Take a look at our guide to childcare options to decide whether a nanny is a suitable option for you.
You can also share and swap in other ways. Streetbank.com is a lending website designed to help you share and borrow things from your neighbours, or you could house swap with someone in another country to save money on a holiday.
9. Claim child benefit and child tax credit
To help you with the costs of raising a child, the government pays you child benefit if you are responsible for a child.
Child benefit rates are fixed until April 2014. At the moment, you can receive £20.30 a week for an only or eldest child. The amount drops to £13.40 a week for any additional children. To find out if you're eligible for child benefit and how to claim, take a look at our guide to child benefit.
You may also be eligible for child tax credit. Visit our guide to child tax credit to find out whether you qualify and how much you could get.
10. Save for your child's future
Opening a savings account to put money aside for your child can help pay for future expenses, such as university living costs.
If your child already has a Junior Isa with the maximum allowance for the year already paid in, we've searched the market to find children's savings accounts that have great rates and are easy access, meaning you can take money out at any time.