Thursday, 25 February 2010

£200,000 to raise a child? Try these money-saving tips

BY  Sandra Haurant of
Secondhand prams and utilising mother
freebies are among the ways to stop parenting becoming extortionate
A baby in a pushchair in front of David Hockney's Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy at Tate Britain
Some parents spend more on a pram than many spend on a car. Photograph: Dan Chung
The cost of raising a child now has topped £200,000, and according to friendly society LV=, and in the first year alone an average little one will set his or her parents back £9,152.
It is easy to see how costs can mount up. Baby clothes are temptingly cute, and splash out on a top-of-the-range buggy and you will be shelling out more than many pay for a car. But spending huge amounts of money on your first baby is avoidable, and spending the best part of £10,000 is certainly unnecessary.
There are plenty of checklists online listing the essentials you will need in stock before your new baby arrives and which can come in handy for the uninitiated. The Emma's Diary website, which is linked to the books GPs hand out to expectant mothers, for example, has a shopping list with essentials and nice-to-haves, as does the Bounty site.
However, for anything other than necessities, only buy things as and when you need them. "Don't buy a whole load of expensive equipment before the baby is born," says Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of the "Otherwise you end up buying things that you either could have done without or could have borrowed from someone else."

Essential buys

Keep your pre-baby shopping list to a minimum – the shops will still be there after they arrive – and only buy what you will need as soon as the baby is born. A boiled-down list of essentials includes:
• Clothes and baby-friendly detergent (in large quantities)
• A heap of nappies, whether washable or disposable, and a changing mat along with cotton wool, soft flannels or baby wipes for frequent clean-ups
• Somewhere for the baby to sleep, such as a Moses basket or a cot, along with mattresses and linen and blankets or little sleeping bags
• Something to transport the baby around in, a sling or a buggy or, more likely, both
• A baby bath – not essential but very useful. They will last, and save on water, until your little one is able to sit up. You could use a washing up bowl in the early weeks, or even just a sink. You'll also need soft sponges and baby soap
• A car seat – even if you don't have your own car this is handy in case you need to travel in someone else's
• Bottles and sterilising equipment – but only if you are not breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, just a few muslins to catch the mess, and perhaps a pump for expressing and a steriliser
It's easy to feel like you should buy the best of everything, according to Freegard: "For a first-time mother this can be a very emotional time. There can be a lot of pressure to buy new things. It is very hard to convince someone to go for a secondhand pram, for example."
But if you want to avoid that £9,000 initial outlay in the first year, hold off on buying expensive items brand new, many of which will only last you a matter of months, or even weeks, before being outgrown. There is nothing to say any of the necessary equipment needs to be bought shiny and new from your local, expensive, baby emporium.
The only exception is car seats. These should only be secondhand if you are absolutely sure they have never been in a car accident or even been dropped accidentally. Like motorcycle helmets, any impact could leave them weakened and unsafe if you have an accident.
For the rest, though, buying secondhand – even for washable nappies – will save a fortune. You may let yourself be tempted by some of those very cute baby clothes, but accept as many hand-me-downs as you can too. They will be out of newborn clothes before you know it, Moses baskets will only last around three months, so ask around and try to borrow one, and perhaps buy your own mattress.

Try before you buy

When it comes to prams and buggies, test-drive a friend's and get advice before you commit. "The prices can be astronomical," says Freegard. "But so often people buy expensive prams only to find out they are not practical." In the early stages it is important to buy a pram or buggy your baby can lie flat in, but beyond that, the most important thing is manoeuvrability and how easy it is to fold and stash away, says Freegard: "Within a few months, a cheap, £20 buggy will be all you need."
For secondhand baby equipment, head for the baby pages on eBay, try local NCT nearly-new sales and Net Mums' nearly-new boards to see who is selling what in your area. And ask around – people are only too happy to pass on perfectly good, used baby items that are filling up their lofts.
Look for freebies and money off where you can, too. Sainsburys' Little Ones club offers a Huggies baby bundle, apparently worth £9.99, including baby toiletries and a changing mat, Boots Parenting Club gives you money off vouchers, extra Boots Clubcard points and currently a free changing bag if you buy certain baby goods.
If you are lucky enough to have friends and family offering to buy presents for your new baby, take advantage of their generosity. You don't have to have a US-style baby list, but make a wishlist – then if someone asks if there is anything you'd like you can have an answer ready and avoid accumulating piles of cuddly toys or far too many newborn clothes. Plus, people like to know their presents will be used.
Finally, if there is any chance junior will have a baby brother or sister one day, don't throw anything away, and call back lent-out items when they are finished with. Equipping yourselves for your first baby may be expensive, but siblings are perfectly happy in hand-me-downs.


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