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Parenting advice: Having a baby on a budget
Whether you've planned to start a family or had a pleasant surprise, there's no escaping one fact: Children don't come cheap.
From the pregnancy, to newborns, toddlers and big kids, the demand is always high. This is in the form of essential items such as food and clothing as well as gifts and keeping up with trends.
Where do you start?
As soon as you have found out you are expecting you need to start planning. Like anything expensive you need to budget accordingly. This is whether you are a lone future parent, on a lower income or have other priority outgoings. This baby is going to need a lot of stuff...
Make a list
I love making lists but some people may not be as keen! Never the less, make one anyway just so you know where to begin.
First of all, you need everything for your pregnancy and the birth of your baby. This will include:
- Maternity clothes and nursing bras
- Parenting magazines or books
- Sanitary towels / pads (you will bleed for around 6 weeks after the birth of your baby)
- Nipple cream (if you choose to breast feed)
- Breast pump (get one of these even if you do not feed yourself. You may want to get rid of some of your milk and it's good for baby)
- Baby bottles and spare teats of different flows
- Formula (buy this even if you plan to breast feed. Things may not work out, or you may need a rest so you'll need a backup)
- Sterilizing fluid
- Bottle sterilizer or steamer
- Bottle brushes
- Lots of nappies (diapers) / baby lotion / baby wipes / cotton wool / baby bubble bath and wash / changing mat / nappy bag
- Crib / Moses basket with new mattress and baby blankets / sheets
- Baby bath
- Car seat
- Baby clothes: Sleep suits, vests, scratch mittens, bonnets, bibs, socks, outfits (cream, white and yellow if you don't know the sex), snowsuits, jackets
These are just the basics to start out with!
It may seem daunting and pricey but if you start to budget and buy now, you're giving yourself a head start.
We all know there is no such thing as spare cash, but if you can put money away each week or month it will help.
Set up a savings account if you haven't already got one and work out how much you will put in there. Put a direct debit in place to make sure the money goes in (as soon as you get paid so you don't get tempted to spend it) and this is your 'baby' fund.
If you smoke or drink, now is the time to give up! Not only does it make things healthier for you and your family, you are also saving a huge amount of money.
Cancel any outgoings which are not needed. This could be (temporarily) stopping your monthly charity payments or phone insurance you don't want. Look at cheaper insurance which covers a number of things. It could save you a lot of money.
Get rid of that clutter! You will need the room for your new addition and the money will come in handy.
Sell off old DVD's, ornaments, electrical goods, books or anything in your garage or attic. Either put up an advert in your local supermarket or newspaper, hold a garage sale or try and sell online. There are free sites to post on.
Don't be too proud to accept handouts
When I was pregnant I was incredibly lucky to know other people who had older babies. All the first born clothes they had were passed onto me.
At first I felt embarrassed to take it all and even offered money for it, but they were just happy to give the stuff to a good home. Once the baby had grown out of everything, they needed to get rid of it all. Because babies grow quickly, the clothes are all still in good condition.
Clothes weren't just the only things I was given. I had baby chairs, play mats and I was also given a pram.
Always let friends and work colleagues know that you're expecting just in case they know someone who can give you a few things.
Don't forget, when you have your baby you may get a few gifts too.
You can get some baby things secondhand which look brand new. It's always worth trying ebay or other websites, newspapers and nursery agencies who sell new and second hand items.
Buying baby baths, bath seats for older babies, potties (for even older babies), highchairs, cots, pushchairs, baby walkers and some washable toys will save you a fortune.
The only things you need to buy new for safety reasons are cot and moses basket mattresses and car seats. You may be able to get these new at bargain prices if you shop around.
Go to budget stores
When it comes to buying bottles, sterilizing fluid and baby toiletries try going to your discount stores.
These types of stores are everywhere now and even sell brand name products at a fraction of the price. Baby wipes and nappy cream need to be the best for your baby, and you can get good deals.
Check your larger supermarkets for their latest offers too. Sometimes nappies may be half price or buy one get one free.
Save on nappies
Terry nappies are great for saving money compared to disposable and they are also better for the environment. They are more modern nowadays and come in different sizes, shapes, styles and colors.
Starter packs can be purchased from your local supermarket or online. You will be provided with the nappy, liners, booster liners (for wetter nappies), safety pins and a special bin for your wet and soiled nappies.
Washing the nappies and re-using them works out cheaper in the long run, and it doesn't have to be a messy job!
Emptying soiled liners and flushing them down the toilet, then soaking and machine washing the nappy is as difficult as it gets. You can buy all in one Terry nappies for when you are out and about too!
If you are unsure about re-usable nappies, alternate with disposable nappies, especially if you are visiting family.
Again look for half price deals, or even try the supermarket own brands. They are not as bad as you may think!
Join baby clubs
By joining Mother and baby clubs online, you are usually sent free sample products and given vouchers for money off on baby goodies.
It is worth signing up for multiple sites or companies for lots of great offers.
Get a 'bonus' store card
Some stores and supermarkets give you a swipe card to use every time you shop. You then build up points which will give you can redeem for goods, or get money off vouchers to use.
This gives you the opportunity to cut back on spends every time you buy a new toddler cup, rattle or baby powder.
Check if you are entitled to benefits
Once you have a baby you should be entitled to child benefits. This is a small help towards costs for your baby. You may also be entitled to other benefits or tax credits. Check with your local authority for everything you're entitled to. They won't always tell you freely.
You may also get vouchers towards formula milk and cows milk when your baby is a year old.
Learn to knit
It may seem old fashioned but knitting is the 'in thing' again! If you can knit baby cardigans and booties you are saving yourself money on clothes your little one is rapidly growing out of.
Weaning your baby is tough. It's trial and error and you usually end up trying out more than you bargained for!
If you buy jars and packets of baby food, your baby might get a taste for one thing but hate the rest. Then you have a cupboard of unwanted baby food.
Make your own
Personally I used baby rice as a base when I started to wean my son. He was a hungry baby, so thickening up formula with the baby rice satisfied his appetite in the early days. He went longer in between feeds and cheaper than having a stock of bought jars.
Not all babies like baby rice. Let them try a variety of other foods. Don't just stick to the same things, as they will be more reluctant to try new as they grow.
Try pureeing stewed apples and pears. Make sure they are well ripened, not sour. Resist the temptation to add sugar to it.
Puree vegetables. Sweet potato and carrots are good to start with. Make sure they are smooth, not dry. You can add baby gravy but never the adult version as it contains too much salt.
Never add salt to baby food as the build up of sodium is dangerous for them.
Baby porridge or Ready Brek is great for babies too. By mashing a small amount of banana in it sweetens it naturally. Weetabix is also good as they get slightly older.
Buying it for all the family, including baby saves money. You can also buy cheaper versions.
Make in bulk
As you start to take weaning onto the next level, cook baby food in advance and freeze. Recycle old jars of baby food or buy small pots with lids from a discount store to put the food in.
Make a variety of food. Pasta bolognese, cottage pie, chicken, mash and peas, even mild curry and rice! Be inventive, but beware what you add to it. Some babies love the taste of garlic, but some don't.
Blend everything down using a hand blender, ensuring there is enough liquid to prevent it from becoming dry. Place in pots or jars, allow to cool, label and date, then place in the freezer.
Take a few out at a time and allow to defrost in the fridge over night for meals the following day.
Always defrost fully and heat until piping hot to kill off bacteria. Cool before feeding baby!
As your child goes from puree food to textured, blend less or mash with a masher or fork, then freeze. They may need bigger portions when they get older.
Sell your old baby stuff!
Finally, once your baby has grown out of his baby walker, moses basket or bouncer think about selling it all off! You won't be needing it anymore, and unless you know someone else who is pregnant, sell it and use the money for the next thing you'll need to buy him!