10 Ways A Parent Can Save Money
Guest post from savvy saver Lousie Tillman
Louise is a first-time mum, who escapes by writing financial and money-saving guides for various websites including moneysupermarket.com.
Before I became a mum, my spending habits were, shall we say, erratic. If I saw something I liked the look of, and the money was in my purse, I bought it. Shopping around, using vouchers, buying second hand…these things just didn’t occur to me most of the time. Sure, I looked at the sale racks, but that was about the extent of my frugality.
It wasn’t until I had my daughter Robyn 10 months ago, and had to cope with maternity pay, that I really began to appreciate the various ways in which a parent can save money. So here’s my top 10 ways for saving money when you’re a parent, all personally tested by myself, Husband and our little one.
Don’t be afraid to accept gifts from other parents. We were fortunate that some close friends of ours had a girl 10 months older than Robyn, and they’d kept a lot of the clothes that she’d grown out of – most of it brand new as she was bigger than expected! So that saved us a fortune in clothes, and still does, as we get a regular supply from them. So ask your friends and see if you can get a ‘hand-me-down’ club going, or even find parents with children of a similar age to yours, and swap clothes and toys from time to time.
Coupons are a godsend. The Bounty and Emmas Diary packs you get all have coupons in, but if you’ve thrown them away don’t despair; you can get more online. Voucher sites are becoming ever popular and a quick search before you shop can save you quite a lot of money. As Robyn is a fan of Blossom Farm, Early Learning Centre printable vouchers came in very handy; it’s one thing we buy new as nobody else we know has Blossom Farm things their child will part with!
Baby food can work out extremely expensive. Once your little one is starting on solids, avoid the temptation to buy tons of jar foods; the stuff you eat yourself can, with a little modification, be just as good for them. Anytime we have potatoes, vegetables or meat, we cook it without any condiments, put some aside to puree or mash, and give it to Robyn. She loves having the same food as mummy and daddy, and we know exactly what she’s getting. You can freeze your home-made baby food, or dish it out into little tubs to take out with you.
Visit second-hand or charity shops for baby clothes and toys if you don’t have any parents to share with. I’ve found so many cute outfits for Robyn at these places, and none of them have cost more than £2. And one of her favourite toys also came from a charity shop. Just make sure you wash anything thoroughly before putting it on or giving it to your child.
They say that if you buy anything new for your baby, make it the car seat. But even here, you can buy second hand if you know what to check for. A baby car seat will be made of plastic and solid polystyrene, and it’s the latter which will break if the seat has been damaged or in an accident. When looking at a second-hand car seat, take off the cover and check the seat thoroughly; look for any cracks or white areas (indicating bends) in the plastic, breaks in the polystyrene or stitching repairs in the straps. If any of these are present, then don’t risk it. If everything looks sound; you’ve just saved yourself some money! We managed to get a full Graco travel system for just £50 using this tip (and it helped that Husband is a trained child seat fitter who told me what to look for).
When Christmas and birthdays come around, it’s your chance to be creative. Robyn was 4 months old on her first Christmas, so we took a few impossibly cute pictures of her, and made our own presents and cards for doting grandparents. A quick trip to WH Smiths got us some photo frames in the form of coasters, and some fridge magnets you can insert your own photo in. Hobbycraft saw us buying some card-making bit and pieces, and each grandparent received a bespoke card and gift, with a picture of their beloved grandaughter in it. Although we did spend a little money, it was nowhere near the amount we would have spent if we’d bought brand-new, ‘proper’ gifts and cards.
Entertaining your little one doesn’t need to be expensive. Often, a game of peek-a-boo with daddy is enough to get Robyn giggling her head off, or a trip to the park (she loves the swings) can keep her happy for ages afterwards. But if you do decide to take your baby somewhere which costs money, like the zoo, take a picnic with you instead of paying for meals out, and check to see if there are any family discounts available before you go.
You can also make money as a parent, by selling the things your child no longer uses. As mentioned previously, we were given a lot of clothes by our friends, and in actual fact, we had far too many to keep hold of. So, we did a car boot sale. Baby clothes are immensely sought-after at boot sales, so even at 50p per item we still made over £60. The hardest thing about this is getting Baby up at 5 am to get a decent pitch! That, and resisting the temptation to go spending on the other stalls…
Be cheeky! If you know grandparents or trusted friends are going to go out for the day, ask if they’d take your little one along with them. It’ll give him or her a day out, and it’ll give you a break too. Husband’s parents regularly take Robyn out with them, and she always comes back with a new toy or an outfit, happy because she’s had some fresh air and seen new things.
Finally, look online at a swap or free item sites. Freecycle, and sites like it, are viewed by hundreds of parents, offering free items or looking to trade for something else, so it’s a great way to get new things for your baby or even for yourself. By offering up your own items, you can also clear a bit of space – helpful when you need to baby-proof your house!
Well, I hope this post has given you some ideas on saving money that you didn’t know beforehand. There are many, many other ways to save money, but I listed these particular ten as they are personal favourites of mine.
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