Budgeting for your baby

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Preparing for your new arrival and managing the immediate costs of becoming a parent

Parents can fork out up to £3,500 on things like baby equipment in a child’s first year, according to the National Childbirth Trust. Your new arrival will need a cot, a car seat, a pram or buggy, and a changing unit – and that’s just for starters. But, with a bit of initiative, you can find affordable ways to source many of the essentials. Also, find out more about how one family got ready for their baby and saved money along the way.

Parents can fork out up to £3,500 on things like baby equipment in a child's first year, according to the National Childbirth Trust

Equipment for your baby

In the months leading up to the birth of a baby, it can seem like there are hundreds of expensive items you need to buy. Baby magazines, catalogues and stores will all try to persuade you that you need to spend a fortune on top-of-the-range buggies, highchairs, rockers, cots and safety equipment. Just for starters, a ‘travel system’ can cost up to £700 and a deluxe cot as much as £400. But before you rush into anything, consider which items are worth paying more for and which you can get more cheaply.

Experts agree that some items should be bought new for safety or hygiene reasons such as car seats, because you cannot guarantee a seconhand one has not been damaged in an accident. However, you may be able to find secondhand items such as cots, buggies and highchairs, in good condition, for a fraction of the cost. Whether you are buying new or secondhand, look out for safety marks. The main ones are fire safety labels, the CE mark, the Kitemark and age labels. The Which? website has some useful information in the ‘baby safety equipment’ section or visit Trading Standards.

The National Childbirth Trust holds ‘nearly new’ sales in most parts of the country, while auction websites and local car boot sales are good sources of bargains.

Making your home safe

Toddlers are curious, unsteady on their feet and have no sense of danger: a stressful combination for parents. While no home can be made 100% safe, it is vital to take some basic steps to prevent accidents.

Stairgates are a must. They need to be fitted at the top of each flight (though some parents opt to install them at the bottom of flights too) and will set you back about £25 each.

Move all breakables out of reach and relegate dangerous items such as medicines, matches and cleaning products to inaccessible areas. Modern electrical sockets are fitted with automatic shutters to stop children sticking their fingers or other objects into them. If you have older sockets, you’ll need to fit plastic shields, but these are cheap to buy, as are safety catches that stop toddlers opening windows, cupboards and drawers. By law, only safety glass can be used in doors and windows these days, but if you have an older property, you’ll need to check that french windows and internal glass doors are shatterproof. Again, visit the Which? website to compare prices and safety ratings on baby safety equipment.

If you need some extra help meeting the cost of home improvements, HSBC offers personal loans that can be tailored to your needs, as well as credit cards.

Switching to a family car

Before the baby arrives, you may want to consider more family-friendly transport. Legally, you will not be allowed to take your baby home from the hospital in a car without a car seat. Children should always ride in a car seat and the Department of Transport recommends they use a booster seat until they are over 150cm tall.

If you’re going to change your car, it’s a good idea to invest in a vehicle with good handling and safety ratings, as well as plenty of room to stow folding buggies, travel cots, holiday luggage and supermarket shopping. You might want to consider a car with five doors rather than three, as it is more practical for getting bulky car seats in and out.

There are a number of different ways to pay for a new car, and it’s important to assess which finance package would be best for your circumstances. Personal loans [link to:], hire purchase, Personal Contract Purchases (PCPs) or cash are just some of the options available. Visit our pages on HSBC Car Insurance for more information and to get a quote.

Case study

Lauren Browne, 42, lives with her husband, Stephen, and six-year-old son, Tom, in Derby. When she got pregnant, she and Stephen were on a tight budget and needed to save money wherever possible. They decided not to buy an expensive travel system; instead, they borrowed a pram from friends for the early months and then bought a lightweight foldable buggy. “This proved to be much more practical than the expensive ones my friends had, which were heavy and bulky and hard to get into a car boot,” says Lauren. The couple kitted out the nursery with secondhand items, including a cot and a chest of drawers, from a charity shop specialising in children’s things. They painted the chest white and decorated it with stencils. “It felt really personal and was a nice project to work on while I waited for the birth,” says Lauren, “plus it only cost us £10 rather than £250!”

Lauren and her husband sold their three-door car before Tom was born and bought a secondhand five-door vehicle with good safety features and fuel efficiency. They made sure it had dark upholstery that wouldn’t show grubby fingerprints, and a good entertainment system so that story CDs could be played on long journeys. Well before Tom could reach the door catches, Lauren made sure she activated the child locks.

Before Tom began to crawl, Lauren invited a friend with a slightly older child to visit. “I wanted to get a ‘toddler’s eye view’ of anything that was temptingly in reach,” she says. This led to her moving her DVD player, CD player and several lamps on to higher surfaces to prevent damage. She also discovered that two internal glass doors and her back door were not fitted with safety glass and was concerned that an excited child could easily put a hand through them. The cost of reglazing was quoted at several hundred pounds, so she instead bought some safety film from an online company for about £40 and fitted it herself.

Thinking ahead

A baby is fairly easy to accommodate even in a small property, but as they grow – and you perhaps consider a second child – you’ll quickly find you need more storage space, more bedrooms and a bigger garden. You may need to extend your property or move to a larger one.

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Everyone's circumstances are different and what applies to one person may not be right for someone else. The suggestions above are based on a general assumption of each circumstance and they are not intended to provide advice or recommendation.