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How to have a baby on a budget

You don’t need a lot of money to be an amazing parent. Most things that babies need – love, care and attention – are free.

But the more you can plan ahead, the better prepared you'll be for your new arrival.

These budgeting and saving tips can help you get ready for starting a family.

Make a list of the baby items you might need

It can help to make a list of everything you think you’ll need for your baby’s arrival. The NHS has a list of recommended baby items to help you get started. These include:

  • a car seat (if the baby will travel in a car)
  • a cot
  • a pram
  • clothing, bedding and blankets
  • baby bottles (if bottle feeding)
  • nappies

Make sure your car seat and cot meet safety standards. 

Work out how much the baby items will cost

Prices of baby products can vary, of course. For example:

  • a pram can range from £100 to over £2,000
  • a cot can range from £70 to £700
  • the average cost of a car seat is around £100 to £150

As long as the products meet the relevant safety standards, don’t feel like you need to choose the most expensive options – aim to buy what you can afford. 

Use the list you’ve created to work out how much you think you’ll need for the essential items and expenses. MoneyHelper has a baby budget calculator to help you. 

Remember, you can keep many of the costs down by:

  • buying second-hand items from online marketplaces
  • borrowing items from family and friends
  • making the most of free products, samples and vouchers offered by some shops and brands
  • shopping around and taking advantage of sales
  • re-selling items you no longer need
  • using your local library for free books or parent and baby classes

Create a budget

Once you know how much you’ll need, consider how you’ll cover the costs. Changes to your income and extra expenses can present a big financial challenge. 

Creating a budget can help you feel more prepared, so you have one less thing to worry about. 

Think about how much you'd need to put aside a month to meet your goal. If you can meet this amount from your current budget, that’s great. If not, you may want to cut back.

You might need to look at your outgoings to see if there are areas where you could save money. For example, you could start small by trying to reduce the amount you spend on food shopping or reviewing your subscriptions. Or you could think about making bigger changes like switching energy supplier.

As the due date approaches, you may find yourself doing fewer of your usual activities. If this frees up money, you could put it aside to cover some of the one-off or ongoing costs of having a baby.

Put money aside each month

If you’re working, you can make the most of your full salary by putting aside money each month before your baby is born. 

You may decide to use this money to buy some things in advance. That way, you can avoid having to buy everything in the last month of pregnancy. For example, you may want to save money for a car seat in the second trimester and a cot in the third trimester. 

Some shops allow you to put down a deposit or pay monthly on some of the more expensive items. They may also hold bulkier items for you, such as prams, until your baby is born. 

Build up your savings

If you have time on your side, building up your savings can also provide extra support if one partner is planning to take maternity or paternity leave. And, if you can, try to carry on saving after the baby arrives. 

It’s also good to have an emergency fund – ideally 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses to cover unexpected costs, but anything you can put aside is a bonus. This is even more important when you have a family to take care of. 

Explore: Saving for your children’s future

Apply for benefits you’re entitled to

It’s important to apply for benefits you’re entitled to, so you don’t miss out. 

If you’re taking time off work to have a baby, you may be eligible for the following:

This usually starts when you take your maternity leave and is paid for up to 39 weeks.

You may be eligible if your partner’s having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement. 

This can include medical appointments, but also parenting classes if recommended by a doctor or midwife.

If you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay, you may be eligible for maternity allowance. Payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due. 

Other benefits can include a Sure Start maternity grant of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child.

You may be eligible to get help with your childcare costs if you return to work after having a baby. You can get up to £2,000 a year (£500 every 3 months) for each of your children, to help cover the cost of childcare. 

If you’re pregnant or have just had a baby, you can also keep costs down by getting free prescriptions and NHS dental care with a maternity exemption certificate

Keep in mind – the amount you can claim will depend on your eligibility and individual circumstances. The government sets family benefits - and rules may be subject to change in the future.  

Billions of pounds of government support and allowances are going unclaimed every year, according to the experts at entitledto.

You can find out more and use this free calculator to see if you might be eligible for some of these benefits.