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Getting ready for a new arrival is exciting, but tough on the pocket too.
Not only does your household income drop – often permanently if you’re self-employed or choose to reduce your working hours – but you also have a LOT of additional expenses you never had to worry about before.
I’m not talking about those ‘initial outlay’ costs; the cot, the pram, the adorable onesie with the ears (seriously, one of the best things about having children is dressing them up in costumes, purely for your own pleasure). I’m talking about those ongoing costs that will be coming out of your pocket for the rest. Of. Your. Life. Gulp.
Yes, it sounds daunting, but one of the lovely things about parenthood is once that baby is in your arms you’d happily spend every last penny on them without thinking twice. In fact, buying for them becomes infinitely more satisfying than spending money on yourself.
Still, it’s important to have a plan in place to cushion the financial impact of your new arrival.
The other week I was excited to be invited to listen to a money-saving panel run by the new digital banking service, B (which is powered by Clydesdale Bank & Yorkshire Bank). B has basically turned the banking industry on its head with an intuitive service tailored completely around what the modern customer wants and needs.
From their flagship space in Kensington High Street, Studio B, you can literally see the future of banking. Stuffy tellers and mind-numbing queues have been replaced with an airy interactive space where you can complete all the traditional banking services – from opening accounts to applying for loans.
Download their app and you can quickly manage your finances from home, the school gates, or while you’re waiting to pick the kids up from dance class. Because that’s what time-pressed parents want and need – convenience and simplicity.
In addition, you can take part in brainstorming sessions, free seminars, or goal-setting workshops: there’s even a free after-school coding session for children aged 5-8.
This particular talk was centred around a New Year ‘B-TOX’ and challenged us to find small, simple ways to save money and get those finances in great shape for the new year. It really got me thinking: I’m fairly frugal with my money (I’m fanatical about paying my own way, but I do like to compare prices and get the best possible deals) but there are definitely areas where I could save even more.
So I did a bit of research and, with the help of the B team, came up with a couple of quick, simple ways that anyone can use to prepare for their new arrival, and keep that bank balance looking healthy.
• Take a Break: When OH and I were expecting Big Sis I was self-employed, so I was only eligible for the maternity allowance. Although we were very grateful for this assistance, neither of us had family nearby to help us out with childcare so it still meant our household income was going to take a big dip.
In the last trimester, we took a three-month mortgage break but we both continued to pay the money into a savings account. By the time Big Sis arrived we had a little pot of money aside to pay for my half of the mortgage for those first few months, plus a little emergency money if we needed it.
HOWEVER – it meant that our mortgage repayments increased slightly once the break was over (the bank needs to ‘catch up’ on the missing payments so you still pay it off in the same time frame), but it was a good solution for us and our circumstances at the time.
• Round It Up: I’ve recently discovered rounding-up banking apps, and the concept is genius. Basically, you link the app to your account; every time you buy something with your card it rounds your purchase up to the nearest pound and invests those extra pennies either in a savings, or a stocks and shares account (depending on what you’ve chosen).
You barely notice the spare pennies are missing, yet they add up surprisingly quickly. As the saying goes: ‘Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves.’
There are loads of little lifestyle tweaks you can make to boost your pot – pack your own lunch or bring your coffee from home, then divert the cash you’ve saved into your round up account. You can also choose to deposit a regular amount into your account each week – even £5 builds up and makes a real difference.
• Point Scoring: when I first moved to the UK I could never understand the point of a loyalty card… then I finally got one, and realised how quickly those points actually add up. Use yours every time you go shopping and you’ll be surprised just how much you can accumulate – those points can then be used to buy all those day-to-day expenses, such as wipes and nappies. If (like me) you struggle to remember to bring all the different loyalty cards, check out the handy BINK app, which stores the details of all your different cards and automatically registers your points. Couldn’t be simpler, right?
• Double Up: when you do the big shop keep an eye out for special deals and add a couple of extras to your basket. You can never have too many packets of baby wipes. If you have the space to store them, boxes of washing powder, hand sanitiser, cotton wall balls, sterilising wipes and baby bath/shampoo are all great products to stock up on, as are baby muslins if your supermarket stocks them.
• Pass It Down: If I could go back and talk to my first-time mum self, I’d say ‘don’t be so precious!’. I insisted on buying everything brand new for Big Sis, and the reality is babies and toddlers destroy or grow out of clothes so quickly that you’re just throwing good money away.
Check your local mum’s Facebook group for people selling or giving away nearly-new clothes, or gratefully accept them from friends and family. Same goes when they start school – I always buy the girls fresh dresses and socks/tights for the start of the year, but for cardigans and replacement pieces it’s PTA pre-loved all the way: £1, rather than £15 for a monogrammed cardie? It’s a no-brainer!
• Let The Dust Settle: Don’t rush out and buy ALL the baby products you’re convinced you’re going to need. Apart from the obvious essentials (cot, pram, highchair, etc) hold fire on any extras until you settle into mum life, and figure out if it’s truly going to be useful. I was obsessed with getting a fancy nappy wrapper and used it religiously for a couple of weeks – until I realised it was quicker, easier and much cheaper to put nappies straight into the rubbish bin. Total waste of of money.
What are your best money-saving tips?