Budgeting for a baby | My top tips

1 Sept 2015

One of the things people automatically worry about when starting a family, is money. It's understandable when you consider that everything in our lives revolves around money, a topic which is constantly in the news, something which can make the difference between living comfortably and finding everyday a struggle. Money is a big reason we put off starting a family for as long as we did, but as lots of family and close friends told us, if you waited until you could 'afford' a family, you'd never actually start a family.

My partner and I aren't exactly what I would call poor, we definitely live comfortably and don't struggle to get by each month. If we want a takeaway it's no problem (although for our waist lines, definitely something we need to cut down on...), if I want to go out for a meal that's fine or if I want a random shopping splurge, I can do that. That said, both of us work full time and neither of us could ever be described as well off, so even when we began thinking about having a baby we knew it would make a huge dent on our finances. Not just on a monthly basis once the baby is here, with additional costs because there would be another person in our family, but the start up costs too.

I think it's safe to say no matter how well off you may be, no matter how lucky you might be with help from family etc, having a baby and starting a family will be a shock to your bank account. For this reason, I personally wanted to plan in advance and since the beginning of 2015 I started putting money aside, before we even started trying for a family. Unluckily for me early this year my work computer completely died on me and I ended up spending all my savings on replacing my computer, as well as finally replacing my very old and worn out laptop. That made a huge dent in my savings and so when I did find out I was pregnant a month or so later, I was massively worried that the lack of savings would make things very difficult. Thankfully, I was wrong. 

Be realistic
I've mentioned in a couple of previous posts as well as over on Twitter that I use a couple of pregnancy forums to chat to other expectant mums to be. Early on in my pregnancy I saw a few threads popping up on what kind of budgets people were expecting to live on, how much they thought they would spend on start up costs and the general costs of having a baby.

What shocked me - and I mean shocked me to the point of often having to lift my jaw up from the floor - was the initial costs many people think is necessary for a new baby. Some people were estimating £5,000-6,000 before the baby even arrived, which for us was just entirely inconceivable. I appreciate that there are people who are on much bigger wages than myself and who basically are just better off money wise. But for me, those sort of start up costs are crazy! I just don't think it's necessary at all. 

We have decided on a budget for start up costs of £1,500. So far we are right on track for that price range and with everything we have left on our 'to buy' list, I think we'll be in the right area for that figure by the time Gizmo is here. That's including all the essentials, all the new furniture we needed, as well as 'extras'; things that weren't entirely necessary but I just wanted to buy. Yes, of course it would be nice to have top of the range everything and all the big name brands, but let's be realistic about this. Not only would that only be for 'show', as neither of us are fussed by big name brands anyway, but gosh babies grow fast! I, personally, think it is ridiculous to spend money on big name brands that will fit your baby for a few weeks or a month, before they become unusable. Of course there are some areas you need to be willing to spend a little more, I think, but more so in terms of safety; such as with the crib, cot, pram, car seat etc.

You don't have to spend a fortune when you're starting a family and if we had wanted to be more frugal, we could have easily done everything we have so far and plan to do before Gizmo arrives, on an even smaller budget. You just have to be nifty when shopping and planning, which leads me on to...

Plan and organise
I think my level of organisation is possibly excessive, but I do think being organised and planning ahead, although not completely necessary, can help relieve a lot of the stress of both money and your life changing forever. Plus, if you're anything like me and completely impatient for the arrival of your baby, it works as a fantastic distraction technique!

The first thing I did was start an Excel spreadsheet. As I mentioned earlier there were some really big budgets flying about when discussing startup costs with other expectant mums and dads and when me and my partner settled on how much we felt was an appropriate amount to spend, I wanted to keep track of things to see at the end of it all, whether we had actually managed to stay within that budget. It's pretty simple; just your standard spreadsheet which has different columns detailing what the purchase was i.e. clothes, toys, accessories etc, a description, the size (clothes), where from and how much it cost, with a total at the bottom of the spreadsheet. I think it also massively helps me stay on track and stops me going overboard, seeing the figures there in black and white!

Something else I did very early on was write down a couple of lists; one is a list of essentials, so everything you are recommended to buy for a new baby, the other list is more unnecessary buys but things we'd quite like to have. You will actually find a lot of conflicting advice online as to what's necessary and what isn't, but if you look around and use a bit of common sense, you can quickly devise a pretty concise list.

Of course it's all well and good planning what you need to buy, but you need the funds to be able to do it. Planning your finances is the best advice I could give to anyone who like me is expecting their first baby, because it is so, so easy to get carried away with spending. Both my partner and I have sat down and worked out how much money we can put aside each month when all the household bills etc are out of the way and accounted for, and how much of that saving each month we want to spend on the actual startup costs and how much will be put aside as savings. Having proper real figures written down and targets to work towards might sound boring, but it has seriously taken away the stress that we would have if we were just guessing how much we had in the bank each month or how much we'd have to get by etc.

Of course I completely appreciate there are situations where one of you could be working and the other unemployed, or both of you are unemployed, and budgets will be tighter and things will be more difficult. In those circumstances I really recommend checking out what is available to you; there are Government grants to help out households who earn under a certain amount each year, as well as benefits which can top up the household income and charities/organisations specifically set up to help those on lower incomes. Do a quick Google search or pop someone like Citizens Advice Bureau a call, who would be more than happy to help. 

Shop around
As I've already mentioned, we're not big on labels and well-known names for our baby. I just think it's a bit unnecessary. For that reason a lot of the things we have bought so far have been fairly cheap; I love the baby ranges from supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco, basics from places like Primark and Amazon has also been pretty surprising for drastic price differences for reputable brands and products. Something I have found very handy is checking out bigger known baby websites for ideas of what brands and products are popular, then checking out how much those same brands and products cost on Amazon - sometimes the price difference is astonishing and you can easily save yourself 20-40% of the price, if not more. Shopping around is always a good idea whether it's your food shop, beauty products or essentials for a newborn.

Look out for sales, offers and baby events
Practically everything we have bought for Gizmo so far, unless from somewhere already pretty darn cheap like Asda, Tesco or Primark, has been during a sale. Mothercare, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Mamas and Papas have all had brilliant sales on which we have taken advantage on. We managed to sort out the majority of clothes for the first year all predominantly from sales, we've managed to get a reputable branded and beautifully designed travel system pushchair with a saving of £250 in a sale, we've picked up everything from clothes and toys to teethers and essentials in sales which has altogether saved us an absolute fortune.

Places like Boots, Tesco and Asda regularly have baby/baby and toddler events where a huge array of brands and products are heavily discounted - there's already been at least two of these baby events on in my 21 weeks of pregnancy so far, so they seem pretty regular making it easy for people all year round. Just like your standard everyday high-street stores, places like Mothercare and Mamas and Papas have seasonal and Bank Holiday events and sales where you can pick up everything from essentials to more splurge buys at heavily discounted prices, and a lot of places like Boots will even have weekly or monthly offers on specific products and brands. There is always a way to save money!

I'd also recommend checking out the expectant parent events that Mothercare and Mamas and Papas hold. I unfortunately missed out on getting a place at the recent Mamas and Papas event but I signed up today for the next Mothercare one which is in October, that my partner and I will be going along to. These events are great ways to get some advice from people who work in the industry, find out more about brands and products, what to buy, what not to buy, how to use certain things - you get the drift! I'm pretty excited for our visit to Mothercare in October, and already have some questions I hope to ask on the night. You can find out more about these events by checking out their respective websites, or you could even pop them a tweet for more information!

If you have any budgeting tips or ideas of how to keep things sensible when starting a family, I'd love to hear them. Is there anything you do differently? Or perhaps something you might try which I've mentioned in today's post?

Money can be a scary thing even when you're not having a baby, but staying on top of things and being organised has been a massive help to us so far. Please don't forget if you are in a situation where you are struggling, there is advice and help available. 

Last week: Halfway there | 20 weeks pregnant 
Next week: Handmade baby haul