Sleepless nights and nappy changes aside, taking care of a tiny human can be expensive. So before starting a family, you need to make sure you’re financially as well as emotionally ready.
LV Insurance claims that a baby’s first year could cost £6,000. However, Hilary Osborne, Guardian writer and self-confessed cheapskate, believes you can raise a one-year-old on just £1,000. After setting a budget based on what you can afford, consider the various ways you can can keep your costs down during your child’s first year.
How much do you have to spend?
First of all, add up how much you’ve got in savings and work out how much you could save before your baby’s due. Money Advice Service has a handy baby costs calculator that includes a budgeting tool to help you see how much you can save over a period of time.
If you’re pregnant and unemployed or on a low-income, make sure you know what benefits you’re entitled to.
What are the costs?
Here are some of the essential items you will need to care for your baby.
Antenatal, Postnatal, and Birth Care
Whether you choose to use public or private healthcare before, during, and after birth will have a big impact on cost. Choosing private healthcare can cost upwards of £6,000 in the run up to birth, and choosing between things like a Caesarian Section or vaginal birth can raise the costs further. The decision to do what is right for you and the baby far outweighs any cost, but being aware of what those costs might be beforehand can help you budget accordingly, or investigate whether your health insurance might cover baby care.
You’ll need to dress your little one in new nappies every day plus its baby clothes. Money Advice Service advises investing in 10 bodysuits and all-in-ones and a few vests and cardigans to get you started. NatWest claims new parents spend an average of £40 a month on new clothes and £5 a week on nappies.
You might like to go all out with zoo animal wallpaper and matching curtains, but at the very least your baby will need a cot and mattress, which can cost £70 and £20 respectively. A baby monitor is also worth having and prices start around £30.
You’ll need special equipment for taking your baby out and about with you. A pram, car seat and changing bag can be essential items, depending on your lifestyle. The sky’s the limit in terms of how much you can spend on this baby gear, but you can kill two birds with one stone and invest in a pram that you can convert into a car seat.
If you need to use child care, this will likely be your biggest expense by far. Factors that can impact this include the length of maternity leave you take, what your company maternity pay is like and how much statuary maternity pay you are eligible for.
The government’s Money Advice Service has useful information on different childcare options and the average costs. For example, sending a child under two to nursery is £122.46 per week for part time care and £232.84 per week for full time.
Where can you save?
Say no to toys
This isn’t as Miss Trunchbull-esque as it sounds. Jessie Lewis, founder of Wild & Free Kids Yoga and mother of three, believes it’s better for babies to play with ordinary objects that encourage them to use their imaginations, an approach pioneered by Montessori education.
“Give your baby safe household objects and they will work out how to entertain themselves,” says Lewis. “But the best entertainment is an adult’s attention. The baby can learn about how to interact from their facial expressions and eye contact.”
Also, toys are very often made of plastic, so not buying them is kinder on the environment as well as your wallet.
Hunt down nappy deals
The cost of nappies adds up quickly, but there’s no need to get bummed out about it. Prices vary hugely according to which brand you go for and what’s on offer. A 48 pack of Aldi’s popular Mamia nappies, for example, is only £2.89, roughly half the price of more premium brands. Check out the Bum Deal app too, which reveals which retailers currently have offers on.
You can also save by investing in reusable nappies, which help reduce the huge amount of waste created by their disposable counterparts. In the UK alone, 3 billion disposable nappies are thrown away every year, according to recycling charity Wrap.
Don’t splash out
There are plenty of books and wonder products out there promising to help your baby (and you) get a solid night’s sleep, from white-noise toys to womb-shaped rocking devices. But according to Lewis, it’s best to let non-sleeping babies lie. “Babies don’t sleep through the night. It’s normal that they keep waking up, but everyone tries to fix it. If you just give up and stop trying to fix their sleep with products that don’t even work, you’re going to save a lot of money,” she says.
Buy second hand
There’s no need to buy everything brand new, especially when it comes to clothing that your baby will grow out of quickly. Charity shops are a great place to start! Which? has also published a list of the best places to buy second hand baby equipment online, including sites like Netmums, Gumtree and eBay. And make sure you ask friends for any hand-me-downs. For safety reasons, LV insurance recommends the only things you don’t buy second hand are a mattress and car seat.