While bringing up a baby is never going to be cheap, there are smart and simple ways you can save on both day-to-day expenses and big-ticket purchases. Take a look at our tips to give your bank balance a bit more breathing space.
Apply for benefits and support
There’s a range of benefits and financial support available for parents, to help with the costs of having a new baby. These include free NHS dental treatment and prescriptions, child benefit and food vouchers, to name a few.
Some of these benefits are dependent on your income, while others are available to all new parents. Making sure you get all the money you’re entitled to can make a real difference at a time when your income may have dropped as a result of parental leave.
If money is tighter than it used to be while you’re away from work, there are also things you could do to boost your income. Want to bring in some extra cash from the comfort of your sofa? You could be paid to review music or take part in online surveys. Get more tips on how to make extra money.
Work out a family budget
Sitting down to look at bank statements is unlikely to fill you with excitement – but as a parent, getting to grip with your family finances is a really important step to take.
While making a budget will probably take less time than you think, everything takes a lot longer with a baby to look after, so try to set some time aside to look at your budget, ideally when your partner is home or you have someone else around who can help entertain the baby while you’re number crunching.
Our guide on creating a household budget will take you through things step by step. Just remember to keep a written record of anything you’ve worked out as you go along, so you can easily return to where you left off if you need to take a break for feeding or nappy-changing duties.
Save money on baby products
Decide what you really need
A good rule to keep in mind is to only buy things that you actively miss, rather than buying in anticipation of what you think you’ll need in the future.
For example, while a baby bath can be nice to have, it’s not necessarily essential for every family. You can just ‘top and tail’ your baby using a bowl and warm water, and as they get older they can have a bath or shower with you.
The same goes for other baby equipment – so think about how much you’ll actually use something before parting with your cash.
Check out the second-hand market
Baby products don’t wear out very quickly, and you can often bag a bargain by shopping for things like clothes and high chairs second-hand (not to mention doing your bit to save the planet along the way).
Have a look at local selling pages on Facebook, or your local NCT sales for starters. Just bear in mind that not everything is safe to buy once it’s been used – for example, car seats, where you can’t tell if they’ve been in a crash in the past.
Keep toys to a minimum
It sounds like a cliché, but babies really are happier to play with the wrapping paper and box than the carefully selected toy inside. So if you’re strapped for cash, make toys the first thing you cut out.
Instead, try collecting a basket of everyday items like spatulas, hair brushes and empty kitchen roll tubes for your baby. They’ll have a blast and your wallet will thank you.
Get the grandparents on board
Family and friends might want to spoil your baby (the first grandchild, in particular, is often indulged!), but it can be difficult for them to know what will be most useful for you. Try to let them know what items would make a difference and the things you’d be really grateful for – for example, picking out a baby sling in lieu of the latest popular toy.
Shop smartly for essentials
Whether you’re buying nappies and formula for your baby, or groceries and toiletries for yourself, it pays to save on daily essentials.
Here are some quick tips to help you master the weekly shop:
- Try to avoid shopping at ‘express’ stores – convenience has a price – and consider buying larger pack sizes, as you often pay less per weight/quantity this way.
- Buy non-branded for cheaper prices, without necessarily compromising on quality. For example, see our advice on the best disposable nappy brands (the results may surprise you).
- Ditch the disposables and try reusable nappies and baby wipes if you really want to get your money’s worth on the products you’ll be using day-in and day-out.
- Cut the cost of basics: find the cheapest places to buy toiletries.
- Be rewarded when you shop with supermarket loyalty cards.
- Plan meals for the week ahead and stick to your shopping list. If you can, batch cook and freeze leftovers for future meals.
- This comes in handy when weaning, too. Making your own baby-friendly foods and freezing in individual portions could be more economical than buying pre-made jars and pouches. If you don’t currently own a freezer, the good news is that they don’t need to cost much: read our advice on choosing the best freezer.
Plan budget-friendly date nights
You and your partner may want (or need!) the occasional break from parenting duties, but date night doesn’t need to be pricey. Before you book in a babysitter for your night out, it’s worth doing a quick online search for money-saving deals.
Many restaurants offer dining discounts, while websites such as Opentable, lastminute and 5pm specialise in two-for-one meals, 50% offers, and promotions like free wine with your dinner. Look out for similar offers on two-for-one cinema tickets if you fancy a mid-week movie night instead.
If you don’t have access to a babysitter, or aren’t quite ready to leave your baby yet, there are plenty of ways you can make evenings at home romantic and purse-friendly at the same time. Search for offers on your favourite takeaway and rent a movie or trial a new TV-streaming service, then sit back on the sofa and enjoy talking about something other than your baby for a couple of hours.
It doesn’t really matter what you do, just enjoy the little luxuries and spend some quality time together. To maximise your chances of a relaxing evening, try to plan it in both of your diaries in advance and be realistic about allowing time for feeding and nappy-changing breaks.
Find cheap parent and baby activities
While your baby might not need much outside entertainment, it is completely understandable if you do. Being at home with a baby can be very rewarding, but it can also be seriously lacking in intellectual stimulation.
Activities specially designed for families, such as baby swimming or yoga classes, can be great fun – but they often come with a hefty price tag. For budget-friendly ways to get out of the house and find some adult conversation, have a look for free or cheap baby activities.
Your local Sure Start centre is often a good port of call – many of them run baby sensory or massage groups especially for parents with little ones. Otherwise, have a look around for church playgroups in your area. While not always free, you can usually get in for just a pound or two – and the entrance fee often includes free tea and biscuits as well.
Get more advice on coping as a new parent, in the early weeks at home with your baby.
Save wisely for your child’s future
Are you planning to put a little money aside each month to build up savings for your child? While it’s true that every little helps, it’s worth taking some time to pick an option that will make the most of your family funds.
You have a number of choices when it comes to child savings: from Junior Isas and easy-access accounts to investments or premium bonds. Whether you want a nest egg in case of a rainy day, or you’re saving towards university fees, find out which option would be the best way to save for your child.
While you’re thinking about your baby’s future, there is never a better time to get life insurance than when you become a parent, so you’ll know that your child’s future is secure whatever happens.
But that doesn’t mean you have to pay over the odds for it – there are plenty of options, and finding a life insurance policy that suits your family and finances is very important.
Read Which? Money tips on how to cut the cost of life insurance. Did you know, for example, that two single-life policies may offer much better value than a joint one shared between you and a partner?