Whether you’ve just found out you’re pregnant or your due date is fast approaching, these thrifty tips will help you cut costs, shop smart and avoid overspending before your baby arrives.
Make a plan for the year ahead
We’re not going to pretend that buying baby products, preparing your home and planning for time off work and a change in pay is going to be easy – or cheap. But organisation is key.
By being realistic about your financial situation as soon as you can during pregnancy, you’ll be prepared for what’s to come and avoid any nasty surprises further down the line.
Get advice on managing your family finances now and once the baby arrives – these tips on creating a budget are a great place to start.
Get the financial support you’re entitled to
If you’re expecting a baby, you can get free NHS dental care and prescriptions while you’re pregnant and for a year after your baby is born, which can be really helpful at a time when everything else seems more expensive.
There are also other benefits available to help keep your finances afloat when you have a family – read more in our guide to financial support for parents.
Consider your costs during pregnancy
While NHS maternity care is free to women in the UK, there are a lot of additional services you can choose to spend money on. Before paying for private options, understand the difference between what you’ll be getting:
- NHS vs private health care: what are your options?
- Pregnancy ultrasound scans: what’s offered on the NHS and privately
- Choosing antenatal classes: what will you get by paying for a course
Aside from the products you might be buying for your baby, there are also many ways to spend money on the mum-to-be during pregnancy – from maternity clothes or a pregnancy pillow to antenatal exercise classes.
While the occasional treat can make a big difference when you’re suffering with symptoms like sickness and sleep deprivation, bear these tips in mind if you’re looking for short-term savings:
- Buy second-hand: The nature of pregnancy-specific products like clothes and comforters is they’ll probably only be needed for a relatively short period. Look to buy used items for a fraction of the original price.
- Think long-term: Some maternity clothes can double up as breastfeeding-friendly outfits, so think about how you might use them after pregnancy too. If you’re looking for support for your bump when sleeping, a breastfeeding pillow will earn its value both pre- and post-birth.
- Ignore the name tag: Just because something is branded as ‘for pregnancy’ – from vitamins and skincare products to herbal teas – doesn’t mean a standard version won’t work just as well. As long as you check the ingredients are safe, it’s worth seeing whether a cheaper alternative will serve the same purpose.
- Adapt your activities: While pregnancy yoga or fitness classes can be great fun, it’s useful to know that you can continue most normal exercise routines throughout pregnancy. If you already have a gym membership, it may make more financial sense to ask an instructor which equipment and classes can be adapted to pregnant women, rather than paying for additional sessions. Swimming and walking are other activities that are gentle both on your body and wallet when you’re pregnant.
When it comes to baby products, stick to the essentials
As easy as it is to get carried away with online shopping when you’re awake with pregnancy insomnia at 3am, resist the temptation to buy everything you might need – your house will end up cluttered before the baby has even arrived, creating an unnecessary expense.
Instead, make a shortlist of essential baby products and think about when you will actually use them. Here are the key things to think about buying before your baby arrives:
- Baby car seat: You won’t be able to drive your newborn home from the hospital or birth centre without one, so this is an essential pre-birth purchase. Find out which option would be best for you and your baby with Which? advice on choosing the right car seat.
- Pushchair or pram: To be suitable from birth, a pushchair must recline completely flat or come with a carrycot – see what else you should consider when buying a pushchair. A sling or baby carrier can also be a relatively cheap alternative or complement to a pushchair for getting out and about with your baby.
- Cot bed, Moses basket or baby crib: To help you decide what’s best for you, we’ve got separate tips on each of these sleeping options – read about choosing the best cot bed, Moses basket and baby crib to find one that suits your home and budget. If you’re often on the move, a travel cot might also be worth the investment.
- Nappies: You’ll need to change your newborn’s nappy up to 12 times a day. Buying in bulk can often work out cheaper, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve stocked up for the first few weeks. But don’t go overboard if buying disposable nappies, as the type of nappy your baby needs can change quite quickly.
Depending on how you’re planning to feed your baby, there are also breastfeeding essentials you may want to have ready – and a breast pump can help you to express and store milk. Meanwhile, baby bottles and sterilising equipment are needed for expressed milk and formula feeding.
For other products you might want to consider buying once you’ve had your baby, see our tips for new parents.
Do your research to avoid overspending
Simply put, spending more money on baby products doesn’t guarantee better quality. That said, it can be hard to know exactly how much you should expect to pay for certain items, and even trickier to identify products you should steer clear of.
For those big buying decisions, Which? Baby and Child reviews can help you find the products best suited to your needs and budget.
Taking some time to do the research before you go into a store or shop online can also mean you’re more sensible about how much you spend in one go. Spreading out expensive purchases throughout pregnancy (rather than panic-buying the lot in week 39) is an act of kindness towards your bank account.
There’s also the option to buy certain items second-hand: you can often find used pushchairs and baby monitors in good condition – just be sure to check them thoroughly for any safety issues before parting with your cash. Do be aware that car seats should not be bought second-hand, as it’s impossible to tell if they’ve been in a crash, which will have weakened the seat.
If you have friends or family with children older than yours, ask if they have any products they’re not using anymore that you could have, buy or even borrow, to test out before purchasing your own.
Save on everyday items
From your weekly food shop to essential toiletries and stocking up ready for your baby, these five steps will have you navigating the supermarket aisles like a pro:
- Try to avoid shopping at ‘express’ stores – convenience comes at a price.
- Buy non-brand for cheaper prices; there’s often little difference between products.
- Consider larger pack sizes, to pay less per weight/quantity.
- Cut back on the cost of basics: see the cheapest places to buy toiletries.
- Plan meals for the week ahead and stick to your shopping list.
You can also save money and time by buying and cooking food in bulk, and freezing extra portions. You’ll be particularly glad of some pre-prepared home-cooked meals in the early days with a newborn to look after, so fill up that tupperware and thank yourself later.
If you don’t currently have a freezer, they don’t need to cost much – find out more about buying the best freezer.
Reduce household bills
You could save yourself hundreds of pounds a year by switching to cheaper energy, broadband and mobile deals. This is especially important once you’re on maternity leave, as you’re likely to be at home more, and doing a lot of washing and using more electricity, water and heating. This can quickly raise your monthly bills.
As dull as the prospect of switching suppliers sounds, it really doesn’t need to take that much time – and the extra money in your account each month will be truly worth it.
- Which? Switch: find the cheapest energy deal for your needs.
- Which? Switch Broadband: discover the best broadband offer for you.
- How to haggle for the best mobile phone deals: one quick call can save you a lot over a year.
Get something back when you’re spending
Many retailers, restaurants and supermarkets offer loyalty schemes which reward customers by giving you points every time you buy something. These points can then be used toward the cost of future purchases.
Loyalty cards for places like Boots, Superdrug and supermarket chains could come in particularly handy if you’ll be buying lots of nappies/wipes/formula from one retailer. Find out which supermarket loyalty cards are worth it.
To get even more bang for your buck, look out for discount codes to save on the items you really want. In a classic case of ‘don’t ask, don’t get’, you’ll only find out what discounts are available if you actively search for them. Before buying something in a shop or online, do a quick search for in-store offers or voucher codes.
Use your savings wisely
By following the above tips, you’ll hopefully free up some extra cash. We’d certainly advocate using some of this to treat yourself and/or your partner – perhaps a babymoon or quiet date night before your little one arrives – but you may also want to put some money into a savings account.
Having some spare cash put away could help towards future product purchases or give you a buffer during maternity/parental leave. Make sure you use a savings account that gives you good interest and the flexibility you need, by using Which? Money to compare savings accounts.