You’re going to have a baby! Exciting! It is a magical time, and you don’t want to cloud it with money worries. You may have heard babies are expensive. Well, they generally come free but then it’s up to you how expensive you want to make them in their first year. A survey by NetMums.com for Guardian Money revealed the average spent preparing for a new baby is around £1,000, with 5% of us spending more than £3,000. But does it really have to be this expensive? We say no, and so does Siobhan Freegards, Netmums founder.
"Babies have been raised safely for thousands of years without an array of expensive gadgets and while some basics are a good buy, like a simple baby monitor, others are unnecessary,” she stresses.
Look long and hard at your finances well before the birth
As soon as you think about starting a family, it’s wise to begin saving each month, to cover the potential fall in income due to maternity leave, or a parent giving up work. Once your baby arrives, life gets hectic and a little daunting, so sit down and plan your finances well before the due date. Check your entitlements – your employer may offer childcare vouchers and you could claim childcare tax credits. And make the most of parental leave. Once you’ve taken into account what you have to spend each month for the first year, you can work out a budget.
Ask experienced parents what they found useful
Your heart is set on a large, expensive off-road buggy (ideal if you live in a remote Scottish village, less so in north London), but your neighbour gets around town with a baby sling and a cheap collapsible pushchair. Take a straw poll of your local friends with babies to discover the most practical items, and listen to your mum, too. Question every purchase. Is it really essential? Will it fit with my lifestyle?
Get to know other new parents
This is one of the biggest investments you can make when you’re having a baby. As well as gaining friends for life through a very special shared experience, you can cut costs by dividing up clothes and equipment, host free ‘play-dates’, attend community baby and toddler sessions and get out and about together with your babies to preserve sanity. Sign up for your doctor’s surgery prenatal group and the NCT.
Buy new only if there’s a safety issue
Babies use their equipment for a short time so look for lovely nearly-new equipment online, in charity shops and at NCT sales, at a fraction of the retail cost, and sometimes free. Most gear barely needs a wash and scrub-up, but we do recommend buying a new baby car seat, unless you can absolutely guarantee that the one you’re getting has never been in an accident.
Beg and borrow
You might not need to buy big ticket items for your baby at all. Lots of people have prams, cots, highchairs and all manner of baby paraphernalia in their cupboards, lofts and garages. They’ll be delighted to declutter and get them out of their lives and into yours.
Expect lots of gifts
People love buying presents for new babies. You’ll receive no end of cute babygros, clothes and bootees, so you probably won’t have to shell out for newborn items. If you get too many of these, most shops are happy to exchange them, so choose bigger sizes to use as your little one grows.
Breast is best – for your budget too
With formula milk costing at least £450 per year before you’ve even bought the bottles and sterilising equipment, it’s a financial no-brainer (as well as good for your baby) to master breastfeeding. After all, breast milk is permanently on-tap and delivered at just the right temperature, with no sterilising required - and it is free. There’s plenty of support available to help get breastfeeding right.
Cut nappy costs
Disposable nappies cost around £1,885 a year before you even take into account the environmental cost of them ending up in a landfill site. You can save a whopping £1,400 - £1,600 by choosing funky washable ‘real nappies’ and sticking them in the washing machine. They’ve come a long way from the prickly terry squares our grannies used to use. If you really can’t face washing nappies, look online for high street nappy bargains.
Join supermarkets’ and brands’ baby clubs to receive freebies, money-off coupons, tips and advice to save you lots of cash. Following brands on social media also ensures you know about special offers and promotions.
Let’s give the last word to Mumsnet co-founder, Justine Roberts: "For first time parents, it's almost impossible to predict which baby products will turn out to be essentials and which will gather dust in the cupboard… Just because something exists doesn't mean that anyone actually needs it."
Amen to that.