Family finances are an important consideration after your child is born. Read about costs related to having a baby including childcare, and about parental benefits and savings.
In the early days of a baby’s life, his immediate needs are fairly simple. If your baby has somewhere to sleep, warm clothes, nappies, food and a method of transport, he will be fine. Everything else can be bought as and when you need it. You don’t have to succumb to all the commercial pressures to buy, buy, buy. Remember:
- All babies are different. There’s nothing worse than spending a fortune on a piece of equipment to find that it doesn’t work for you or your baby.
- Speak to other parents before making major purchases and, if possible, try out their baby sling, bouncy chair or baby gym on your child before investing in one yourself.
- If you have a car, one area where you shouldn’t skimp is the car seat. Don’t be tempted to buy second hand or accept a used car seat as you won’t know whether it has been involved in an accident which may have weakened it. Take a look at www.childcarseats.org.uk for more information.
Financial help is available for parents, some of which is universal and some of which is means tested. See our section on family finances for further information on saving on the costs of having a baby.
If you and your partner are both going back to work, you will need to consider childcare options. Some families accept help from their relatives or work at different times so one parent is always available to stay with their child. Others, who don’t have relations nearby or choose not to use family or work more regular hours, will have to make alternative arrangements which may mean you have to take the cost of child care into consideration.
Every local authority area has a Family Information Service (FIS) that will have a list of registered childcare providers, including childminders, playgroups, Children’s Centres and nurseries.
Give yourself plenty of time to choose what is best for you and your child. It’s easy to put off doing the research, especially if you’re not sure what you want. But if you leave it until the last minute there will be fewer options available. There may be a shortage of childcare places in your area or you might want or need a particular kind of childcare, so the earlier you start checking things out the better:
- Speak to other local parents about their views and experiences.
- Make a shortlist of several settings and visit them with your child.
- Observe how staff interact with the children.
- Ask lots of questions and make return visits if you are still unsure.
- Check Ofsted reports and ask specifically how any criticisms in previous reports have been addressed.
NCT groups might be a good way to find nanny shares, if you think that will suit your child and your circumstances. The average costs of child care in the UK are among the highest in Europe. You might be able to reduce some of the burden through Childcare Vouchers if your employer runs such a scheme. These are a tax efficient way of helping to pay for childcare and there are several providers of vouchers in the UK. Child Tax Credits can also help you with the cost of childcare.
There are a lot of expensive options when it comes to buying for babies, be that designer clothes or the latest ‘must have’ buggy. There are also many ways to keep costs down, such as buying second-hand clothes and equipment or asking friends with children if they can lend or give you items that they no longer need NCT holds regular Nearly New Sales where items can be bought for a fraction of the high street price.
Here are some other ideas for keeping costs down:
- As well as being healthier, breastfeeding is effectively free food for the first six months of your baby’s life.
- It’is also worth thinking about real nappies, which can be re-used and work out cheaper in the long run than disposables. Many councils offer grants for real nappies and you can even buy clean second-hand nappies, bringing the cost down even more: visit www.usednappies.co.uk.
- Find out if there is a second-hand children’s shop in your area. These will only accept items that are in good condition. Clothing for very young children may be as good as new as it has often hardly been worn with babies growing so quickly. These shops are also a great source of toys, books and buggies as well.
- Websites such as Freecycle allow members to give away items for free rather than add them to landfill. The site is area based so you can sign up to a local group and keep your eyes open for things you need, or even request them. Then you can recycle the items through the site when you no longer need them.
- Don’t forget family and friends. Let them know that you are happy to accept baby items or, if you know they want to get a gift for your child, don’t hold back on giving them some direction about what you actually want or need.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby, including the Nearly New Sales.
NHS Choices has information on essential items you will need to buy for your baby.
Freecycle is a website enables people to give away items they no longer need to those who do.
The Money Advice Centre has a baby costs calculater which may help you in planning your finances.
Working Families publishes a handy weekly guide to maternity rights and benefits.