We often hear people say that will start a family when they can afford to, but unless you win the Lottery or are William and Kate, it’s fair to say that nobody is ever truly prepared financially to have a child. The Office for National Statistics estimate that 850,000 babies will be born this year, but research has found that over a third of expectant parents are worried about how they will afford the cost; unsurprising when you consider that the average outlay from 0 to 21 years has reached more than £222,000 up an incredible £82,000 in the last ten years.
It goes without saying that those wishing to start a family should start saving a long time in advance, but in many cases this is unpractical. Twenty-somethings are far more likely to be saving for a car, or a deposit on a house.
In the early months of parenthood, the major costs include things like a cot, push-chair, high-chair, nappies, clothes and toys. We all like to think that our baby is the most beautiful, the fastest learner, deserves the best and we want all things new for them. But there really is no harm in looking for second-hand items; your bundle of joy will never know the difference. Charity shops, friends, family and eBay are all worth checking out for most things.
However, if you really need the most up to date, three-wheeled buggy with all mod-cons but are short on cash for the Christmas sales, you could consider a short term loan from the likes of wonga.com – this allows you to take out a small cash sum over a short term that can be paid back early (you’re still charged a high APR rate however so be very careful using this strategy.) It’s advantageous as it may help you net a bargain at the right time. It also allows you avoid the long and perilous road that is credit card debt; which if left unchecked can snowball faster than excited children down a hill during the first snow of winter.
If you can't beg, borrow or buy what you need, the National Childcare Trust runs 'nearly new' sales around the country. Their website shows details of sales in your area. They are the UK's largest charity for parents and offer a wide range of support and advice.
Also make use of the varied benefits available to you, including maternity pay, free prescriptions and NHS dental treatment, child benefit and child tax credit.
Pregnant women and families on certain benefits with children under the age of four and all pregnant women under the age of 18 are offered Healthy Start vouchers for fruit and vegetables, milk and free vitamins. Pregnant women or new mothers on some benefits can also qualify for a Sure Start Maternity Grant of £500; however this is only available for the first child.
Between April 2013 and October 2017, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit are being phased out and replaced by a system called Universal Credit.