This post seems like it should be unnecessary. Afterall, don’t nearly all mums have a budget of some description? Having children is next oldest thing in the world next to the existence of humans so it’s not like it’s a new concept.
Ahh, but yes it is, because – KLAXON! – there wasn’t social media back then (try not to roll your eyes, I do appreciate it is the most overused phrase in modern times). Yes, you might see the local squire’s wife tooling around in glad rags, and in recent times you would have read about the fineries enjoyed by royal babies. But there wasn’t that reach-out-and-touch, ‘if you’d just saved better/married better/worked harder’, element to some of the things that some new mums, prospective mums, and mums-in-waiting think go with parenthood. Big name-brand pram, designer baby clothes, endless supply of cash for coffees with mummy friends…. The list could be endless because this is a competitive market, not least because being a parent is bloody hard work, so if you have the material goods to fit in then at least that’s one base covered. And who doesn’t want every beautiful, gorgeous, magical thing going for their kid?
For a distinctly working class but touching the edges of middle classdom mummy with friends of varying fiscal means and a wedding, two big holidays abroad and buying our first property within the past five years, this is how I did it to my satisfaction on a budget. [Note: I did toy with titling this post ‘How to be a carer on a budget’ because there are people with the same responsibilities who aren’t caring for a child. However, having no experience of caring for a non-dependent child or adult, I didn’t feel that that would be appropriate. Hopefully though, if you are a carer (inevitably) on a budget, hopefully some bits will be useful for you.]
Buy second hand
Goodness me, this is so obvious but lots of people don’t because they a) think that their child deserves better, b) they think second hand items won’t be good quality or safe, c) they want the experience of buying new shiny things, d) they just don’t want to, or e) all or some of the above.
My first comment here is that there is such a flood of second hand children’s goods available it borders on the ridiculous. Big ticket items such as cots, prams and gizmos like the Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo (if you have a baby and you haven’t heard of this, you soon will!) are usually expensive and people are keen to make their money back. For these items, what’s for sale will either be used to an expected extent so will be older, potentially slightly more raggedy, but usually more bargainous, or will be barely used so in really good condition but therefore more a reduced price rather than being truly bargainous.
Set your budget here: research what you want, how much you’re willing to pay for it and how much you want it before looking at market availability. If you’re dead-set on an UPPAbaby pram, you’re going to pay something more akin to the original price than if you want a decent second hand pram of any description, from any manufacturer. My absolute best bargain was my pram which is a Mothercare Xpedior travel system (now discontinued but still available second hand), purchased for the princely sum of £31. This is an exceptional bargain by anyone’s standards but it was used, and Mothercare isn’t necessarily a brand everyone wants. I decided early on that if I won the lottery, I’d be marching into John Lewis and getting the pram of dreams. Until then, it is more important that I buy food and keep my child entertained, so Mothercare was more than good enough for me.*
FYI, there are more places to look for second hand goods than eBay. Gumtree has lots of listings and is far easier to refine by location. Facebook also seems to have lots of sales pages specific to location, and I have bought some unopened baby formula and a baby support for very low prices. Worth having a look. Plus, NCT sales, local nearly-new sales and even car boot sales are excellent places to get good quality used baby wear, which, considering how quickly they grow out of stuff, is one of the easiest ways to save cash.
Learn to balance
With most of my disposable income (ha!) now going on my son, obviously my own wants have taken a back seat. So I have learned the art of balance. With more time away from work, I now shop around for basics and regular groceries, using a mix of supermarkets, discount stores and my local market to then afford the nicer bits such as decent veg for me and my boys and the occasional fakeaway (I might splash out on spices to make a curry but at least I’ll have leftovers and it’s still cheaper than ordering one in).
I now also scrutinise my wardrobe on a near daily basis because the days of only being able to wear that top with those trousers or having to have that particular bra under that frock are well and truly behind me. I am dressing against the clock every day so each item in my wardrobe has to work. That means that every time I refine, I sell the bits I don’t need (the mobile eBay app is a real timesaver here) and can then reinvest in one thing I really want. Most recently I got the Selfish Mother ‘Mother’ sweatshirt and I love it.
Scout out the free activities
This is going to be quite baby-centric because my son is only 1, but this applies across all ages. Essentially, you need to find out what’s available in your area for free. Why? Because it will give you a reason to leave the house, you might learn something, your baby/child will socialise, and it’s a great way to meet other mums if that’s what you want to do.
My local children’s centres have been absolutely invaluable to me. Run by 4Children, they provide free drop-in play sessions, breastfeeding support groups, and bookable sessions and courses on things such as baby massage, baby sensory, First Aid and weaning. I have learned so much from these courses and have made some wonderful friends. My son is now of an age where he really enjoys visiting the centre and playing with the huge array of toys on offer, which keeps things interesting for him and allows him to play with other children. Plus, the baby massage course I attended was vital in coping with his colic, and I felt a real sense of support from the centre staff.
Also, never underestimate the power of a park. It’s a great place to meet up with other mums (I took lunch and snacks in plastic containers to save cash) and having a roll around on a blanket in the sun is a lovely way to play and bond. Once the kiddies are older, swings are just a godsend. As long as it’s not raining, there’s never a day you can’t squeeze in a park visit.
Decide where to splash your cash
Having a baby is expensive. It just is. They need a lot of sh*t. And while you can buy second hand as much as possible and make use of free local resources, there will be times when you have to pay out. Here are the areas we spent money on:
Baby formula. My son had to be combination fed when he was born because of low blood sugar, and we carried on the practice once home. We used the same brand of formula as they had at hospital which wasn’t the cheapest but at least meant we were less likely to waste it because he knew he would drink it. We then had to invest in a particular kind because of his colic. Pricey but totally worth it.
- Osteopathy. Again, this was to address the dreaded colic but was absolutely worth it. I don’t know what my son would have been like without this treatment but I believe his colic would have been worse. At the very least we knew that we were doing everything we could to help him, which is worth a lot.
- Swimming. I invested in two classes, and while our baby sensory class was fun, I found it a very competitive environment parent-to-parent, not to mention quite cliquey. My son enjoyed it, and it did tire him out, but overall swimming was the winner. Being in the water together is such a lovely experience and our school focuses on water safety as well. Plus, this tires him out like nothing else. It doesn’t necessarily make bathtime that relaxing but he does conk out like a good ‘un afterwards. RESULT.
- Socialising. We didn’t go out every day to meet people, but when I did make plans to meet mummy friends, I went to a nice baby-friendly place which felt like a treat. We will still pop into a nice place when out shopping because it’s a bit of a treat for me and him to sit with a drink, being part of the world, looking all cute (him) and smug (me). Getting out and treating myself in this way is worth every single penny because I feel like a normal human being and so much more like myself. I got to see friends and my son got to see other bubs. I loved it and, as most mums will attest, getting up, dressed, and into your local town centre is time-consuming enough as to take up half the day, so throw in a lunch and a mooch and you’re day is done. Perfick.
I do hope you found some pearls of wisdom in there somewhere. Do let me know if you’d like to know more about my mumma experiences or if you never want to hear anything about them ever again! Have a good week everyone!
*In buying my second hand travel system, I researched buying used baby seats beforehand to ensure my son would be safe. If you’re ever unsure then buy your pram second hand but pair with a new car seat.