Having a baby is one of life’s greatest joys. There’s nothing else like bringing your own bundle of cuteness home from the hospital. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that it can also be an expensive time. It’s hard to know what you will need as a first-time parent, and there are so many baby-related accessories out there that it’s difficult not to give in to your newbie’s nerves and buy everything. Not to worry though, the following tips will help your cash stay in your pocket!
Bulk Buying and Second Hand
There are some items you know you will go through a lot of, nappies, baby wipes, nappy sacks, baby lotion and cotton wool, to name just a few. As it’s clear they will get used, a good idea is to bulk buy items like this to stockpile. Look out for when they are on sale in the supermarket or chemist or search on sites like Amazon, where you may be able to purchase multiple packs at a discounted price.
Though it’s tempting to use your baby as a reason to splurge, second-hand items are definitely easier on your wallet (though, of course, it is not recommended that some items, like car seats and cot mattresses, are purchased used). With several pricier items required to get you up and running as parents, it pays to consider having a trawl at car boot sales, on eBay and on Gumtree for some of your big pieces, such as pushchairs and changing tables. In addition, people often sell high-end baby items that have barely been used at great prices.
What Do I Need?
Like everything, looking after a newborn is straightforward once you know how, but before they arrive, it isn’t easy to envisage what bits of kit really is essential. Ideally, try not to buy things unless it’s obvious you will need them, e.g. a pushchair or until you can be sure that you will really get your money’s worth out of them. So many people invest in fancy baby slings, for example, only to find they don’t find it comfortable having the baby strapped to them. Others fritter away money on an all singing and dancing change bag when ultimately a canvas bag does the same job.
If you have friends or relatives with young children, ask them if you can borrow some things for a day or two to at least to try and get a feel for whether they are worth investing in. While you are at it, mine their experience, ask them what was the one really vital thing they purchased when becoming new parents and the biggest waste of money.
Your friends and family are likely as excited about your new arrival as you are and are keen to express this via gifts. Don’t be afraid to make a list of what you actually need, much like a wedding registry. This helps ensure what you receive is actually useful and saves you having to buy things yourself, rather than seeing you end up with three cot mobiles! People will want to indulge the baby, definitely let them, and if they want to help out by bringing over snacks or meals in the early newborn days, then welcome those contributions.
A bit like with weddings, most things to do with babies seem to be priced at a premium. You likely have already found this out after doing some shopping for maternity wear that didn’t even fit properly for long! Following the baby’s arrival, if you are choosing to breastfeed, you may feel like you need to buy an array of nursing tops and dresses. Though these can make feeding more discreet, frankly, the same results can be achieved by layering up some tops you already own and properly folding them. A large muslin or blanket to drape artfully over you and your baby will also achieve the same result.
When it comes to baby clothes, it’s difficult not to squeal over every cute outfit you see, but babies grow so quickly, you’ll barely manage to stuff them into something for a picture before they have outgrown it. Restraint is key when it comes to baby outfits. Remember that you’re going to be tired, and struggling to dress a baby in a complicated three-piece is unlikely to be what you are up for most days. Vests and onesies are going to make up the bulk of what your baby actually wears.
It will be tempting to treat your baby to some designer pieces as you love them so much, it’ll feel like money is no object but try to keep it to one or two high-end purchases. But, unfortunately, they won’t fit for long, and you know that as soon as you put your precious one in something expensive, they will vomit!
Feeding You and Baby
You’re going to have less time on your hands with a baby around, so gone are complicated weeknight dinners. However, you must eat well to give you the energy you need to look after your little one. This is where meal planning and batch cooking come into their own. So finding the time to sit down and make a list of your dinners for the week ahead will really pay off both financially and by ensuring it’s not beans on toast every night!
Making a large batch of something filling that keeps well, like a curry or chill, will mean you can reduce the number of times you have to cook. You could even get some Tupperware tubs and freeze some portions for the days when time really gets away from you. Making a large batch of one thing is also a more economical way of shopping for ingredients as you don’t have to buy so many different things. To be extra thrifty, you could even choose your week’s meals around what is on sale in the supermarket. A crockpot could also be your new best friend as not only does it make putting one-pot meals together a breeze, it’s also very forgiving when cooking cheaper cuts of meat, like pork shoulder, which benefit from its slow cooking method.
At around six months, your baby will start to try solid foods. Though the supermarket aisles are crammed with a dazzling array of baby food pouches, it’s much cheaper to make food for your baby yourself. To start with, your baby will only be having the first tastes of fruits and vegetables, which you can boil up and puree. You don’t even need any fancy equipment. Once the fruits or vegetables are cooked, you can mash them up and pass them through a sieve for an extra smooth result. You can save even more money by offering new foods to your baby based on what items are on offer. You can also economise by reducing your food wastage if you see an apple, for example, that is starting to look past its best, but you have other things for your baby to eat, puree it, then freeze it for another time.
Take Advantage of Free Activities and Doing It Yourself
There are lots of classes and activities you can pay for when it comes to pregnancy and babies. Of course, NCT classes are the go-to for many new parents, but usually, your local hospital will run some baby preparation classes for free, so it’s worth checking with your midwife.
When the baby comes, look out for free activities, such as nursery rhyme sing-alongs at the local library (also obviously a great source of free books) or playgroups in church or village halls which often charge a nominal admittance fee. Options like this are much more economical than costly soft play centres or baby sensory classes.
Being creative will save you money. For example, babies don’t need a lot of specific toys in their first year or so. They’re thrilled playing with household items and usually anything of yours! So stay out of the toy shop and give them pots and pans to play with or make shakers from old bottles and some dried beans, keep egg boxes to hide things in.
Get Everything You Are Eligible For
You probably already know that you get free prescriptions and dental care while pregnant, but this also continues for a year after your baby is born, so utilise this while it lasts. Make sure to apply for Child Benefit too. It’s paid every four weeks and is only potentially affected if you or your partner earn over £50k a year.
If you’re receiving benefits, it’s also worth checking on the UK government website if you’re eligible for Healthy Start vouchers which can help you buy basic foods like milk or fruit in over 30,000 shops.