They say it takes a village to raise a child. As a mum of three little ones, I agree with this 100%! These days most parents lack the emotional and financial support of an extended family. And a close-knit community seems a thing of the past.
In addition, our lifestyles tend to demand more from us compared to previous generations. This often leaves new parents baffled by the costs of raising a little human (or two), especially on a reduced income.
Learning to live on a single paycheck is a huge change. Add to this the cost of setting up a nursery plus all the other paraphernalia that comes with having a baby, and gone are all your savings.
But like most things in life, a little forward planning can go a long way. Over the years there are a few things I’ve learnt about how to gain some financial control in this unpredictable journey called parenting. Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Stick to the essentials – Before bub arrives only buy what you can’t go without. And by this, I mean the basics. The rest will come in the form of gifts once your baby is born. Tempting as they may be, those designer outfits and cutting edge baby bouncers are not only expensive but impractical. Leave them for your friends and family to buy, which they will.
2. Buy second hand where possible – From eBay to buy/swap/sell groups, there are many places where you can get great items in new or excellent used condition for a fraction of what you might pay at the store. And most you can pick up in your local area.
3. Rent instead of buy – For items that you only need for a short amount of time this just makes sense. A perfect example is the infant capsule. A new one can cost you upwards of $400 and is usually only needed for the first 6 months. Most baby shops will let you rent it out for only $80 for that period. Even with three little monkeys, it works out cheaper than buying new.
4. Buy essentials in bulk – For items like nappies, baby wipes, and toilet paper, buying in bulk can bring considerable savings. And best of all you’ll never run out of these items when you need them most. If you can stock up before bub arrives even better.
5. Make food planning your priority – As your leisurely lunches are now a thing of the past, most meal times will be a whirlwind rush involving hungry mouths and lots of mess. Planning your meals ahead of time will stop you from grabbing that over-priced sandwich in your 2-second dash at the shops. Those guilty drives through runs when your little one has dozed off in the car and you realise you haven’t eaten all day can add up quickly. Plus you can plan to fuel your body with nourishing foods rather than sugar-laden pick me ups that can cut a big hole in your now tight budget.
6. Map out your day –As with food planning for yourself, if you pre-plan your children’s activities you can reduce unnecessary spending on drinks and snacks for the kids. These heavily processed foods along with the entry costs of an indoor play centre, for example, can turn an innocent playdate into a $50 day.
7. Make your own baby food – Store bought pre-packaged foods may be easier but you pay a high price for this convenience. Make your own in bulk and freeze. You save money and you can rest assured there are no nasty ingredients, making it a better choice all round.
8. Allocate a part of your budget to gifts – This one can get out of control quite quickly. I remember when the babies in my Mother’s Group all turned one within a month of each other, during the Christmas period. Our budget took a beating and we learned that having kids meant attending lots of birthdays parties, gift in hand. Preparing for these costs will lessen their impact on your savings.
9. Get creative – Find ways that you can reduce spending without having to forego certain pleasures. For example, if retail therapy is your thing, invite a group of your girlfriends to bring over their unwanted clothes and shoes. Over a few glasses of wine you swap items you no longer need for their unwanted gems. It’s a fun way to get a new wardrobe and the only cost is the wine!
10. Set up a babysitting swap group – Sitters aren’t cheap. Add in the dinner, drinks and movie tickets for the night and you won’t get change for $250. If you have friends with kids this is a win for everyone. They look after your kids one night and you return the favour.
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Article by Evie Tramer
Disclaimer: all information contained within this article is of a general nature and should not be relied upon when making financial decisions. Please consult a professional financial advisor or planner (like us!) before acting.