That initial feeling of finding out that you’re soon to be a parent is commonly one of elation, and wonderment, and joy. And then the money worries begin… how will you afford the clothes, the prams, the childcare…. and then the uniforms, the games consoles, the days out… and then the driving lessons, university…and so on?
The Centre of Economic and Business Research calculated in this Telegraph piece that a child will cost a parent more than a quarter of a million pounds before he or she reaches the age of 21; a figure that represents a rise 50 per cent faster than inflation over a decade.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the value is an average, and not set in stone – that means that you can, with wise spending and planning over the 20 years or so, cut down costs considerably – take a look at this piece for 101 Ways to Save Money.
The biggest spends, by some distance, are childcare/babysitting. This is often left until the last moment when parents are preparing to return to work, and this can be counter-productive. A lack of research into the tax credits system means that some parents will miss out through ignorance of the system – for example, the average childcare tax credit pay out is around £60 per week, and well worth investigating.
It may seem counter-intuitive but you actually have to be working to claim it.
Babies can actually eat the food we enjoy from an early age, so consider putting aside a very small proportion of your meal and freezing it, which will save on baby food pouches. NCT nearly new sales are a fantastic way of picking up toys, clothes and equipment, in an organised and stress-free environment. And cloth nappies might constitute more hassle but can save parents around £2,500 than disposables over a couple of years.
Try rising half an hour earlier (perhaps when your children are old enough to sleep through the night!) and looking for online discounts, vouchers and other money-saving tips. For example, even if you’re planning to go out with the kids that day try purchasing the tickets online before you leave for collection, as there are often discounts – plus it might cut down queuing time. Swap extortionate cinema trips for home movie nights by utilising sites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Frugality can be learned. Meal planning cuts down on waste, and planning a menu with your little ones at the start of the week can be fun. Shopping online is usually easier and more convenient, and probably less likely to result in unnecessary impulse buying. Failing that, a trip to the market will often yield cheaper food, locally produced, and is far more interesting for your little ones. Find the Twitter accounts of local stores and restaurants that might be of interest, and check for regular offers and deals.
One final tip: children tend to use up electricity without any guilt whatsoever. Teaching young people to turn off lights when they leave the room, and switching off electrical or battery-powered devices when they are not in use could save you hundreds or even thousands of pounds over the 21 years. Price comparison sites may also help in finding good deals.
Parenting is a brilliant time of your life – don’t spend it longing for more cash.