Babies are as costly as they are cute. Your wallet starts to take the hit even before they arrive, so prepare your finances as early as possible.
We've 57 tips 'n' tricks to help you save cash, whether you're expecting a new baby, have a newborn, or have tots in tow already.
57 baby and toddler MoneySaving tips, including...
Protect your family's income
We know it's not something you want to think about as you welcome a new baby, but life insurance comes top of this list – and for good reason.
Sadly, one child in 30 loses a parent before finishing education, so it's crucial to consider the financial impact if the worst happened.
Level term life insurance pays out a set amount if you die within a fixed term. It's the simplest type of life insurance – it's based on two key factors:
- Term. The payout you get doesn't vary. It's always at a set amount regardless of when you die during the term, eg, £200,000.
- Level. You only get a payout if you die within a fixed term, eg, 18 years.
While this is one policy you of course hope won't pay out, it's well worth looking into. But it's very easy to pay £1,000s more than you need to over the life of the policy – even if you get it through a comparison site – due to huge commissions.
We've a step-by-step guide to help you work out if life insurance is right for you with, with key dos and don'ts and tips for getting it the cheapest way. See Cheap Life Insurance for full help.
Ensure you're getting child tax credit
Tax credits are payouts made regularly into your bank account from the state to support you if you've kids, or if you work but have a low income. How much you'll get will vary widely, depending on your circumstances, but this could potentially mean £1,000s in extra cash to help.
The more kids you have, the more you could get. There are two types, and you can be eligible for none, one or both:
Child tax credits
Anyone with children, whether working or not, could be eligible
Working tax credits
Anyone who works, whether they've got kids or not, could be eligible
You'll need to renew every year. If not, your repayments could stop completely. Always tell the tax office if your circumstances change to avoid overpayment hell.
Check what you're entitled to. Find info on how to check your entitlement, how to renew your claim, and frequently asked questions in the full Tax Credits guide.
Buy neutral baby clothes if you plan to have more
Many splash out on a raft of traditional pink togs and accessories as soon as they find out they're having a girl – or blue for a boy.
But if you plan to have more kids, invest in more gender-neutral colours like green, white or yellow. Then you can reuse them for any more new arrivals.
Urgently check if your car seat's safe
Several big high street stores that sell baby car seats offer to fit them for free, a huge draw for new parents worried about getting it right. Yet beware – shockingly, a 2014 Which? investigation found 90% of stores they tested didn't install the car seats correctly.
So be very careful when fitting your baby's car seat, and read the instructions fully. Fail to comply with car seat safety rules and you can be hit by a fine of up to £500 – and more importantly, your child may not be safe in an accident.
Only EU-approved baby seats are allowed in the UK, so check when you buy – look for the official symbol, a capital 'E' in a circle. You can find the rules for car seats on the Gov.uk website, while Which? has useful info on how to fit car seats safely. One forumite's tip:
Practise fastening car seat straps using a teddy or doll as a substitute, and practise putting the seat in the car a few times. It'll help familiarise you with what's required and stop a moment of panic in the hospital car park on the way home!
Urgently check childcare tax credit – don't miss out on £1,000s
Check if you're entitled to what's technically called the 'Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit' – this is NOT the same as Child Tax Credit.
You can usually claim it for children up to age 15, provided you pay for approved (Ofsted or equivalent) childcare.
Did you know? The average childcare tax credit payout is around £60 PER WEEK. That's OVER £3,000 per year!
The eligibility criteria are very complex, so we've tried to distil it in a simple rule of thumb – see Childcare Costs Help for full help.
To qualify for childcare tax credit you must:
Be a single parent working 16+ hours a week
Be in a couple both working 16+ hours a week
If that's you, and your total household income's under £46,000, you should DEFINITELY check if you're entitled.
Get hidden baby discounts at ELC, Boots, Asda...
As a new parent, retailers are super-keen to bag your custom with baby promos. Just make sure you only take them up on the good ones!
Early Learning Centre's Birthday Club
Open to parents of kids aged one to five, its Big Birthday Club* is free to join. Sign up online or in store and you'll get a 20% off voucher, valid in store, online or by phone, for three months (see voucher for terms).
Boots Parenting Club
Sign up to the Boots* parenting club for offers, free mags aimed at your child's age group, and 10 Advantage points for every £1 spent on baby items compared to the normal four points.
Asda baby discount events
Asda* has regular baby discount events in store and online. These are hugely popular with MoneySavers, with discounts on items such as nappies, baby wipes, walkers and safety gates.
Supermarket baby clubs
Big supermarkets have online baby and toddler clubs which send money-off coupons and free samples to members. To join, just sign up online on the Tesco* and Asda baby club sites. Sainsbury's often has discounts on baby products on its website too.
Register with My Mothercare for discount vouchers and sneak previews of their sales. Plus, when your baby's birthday comes around, you'll also get 20% off toys.
Join Emma's Diary and get Argos money-off vouchers and a £15 photo book voucher, plus you can enter a host of competitions.
Nab discounts on Amazon baby booty
Amazon Prime* members (costs £79) can sign up 'free' to the Amazon Family* club. It's aimed at parents, though is open to all. Members get monthly discounts and 20% off nappies when they subscribe to regular deliveries (more below).
Confusingly, Amazon Prime and Family are essentially the same thing. The difference is Family members get Prime automatically, while Prime customers can get Family membership by clicking to sign up free to the club.
Get a free 30-day membership
Newbies get the first 30 days of Amazon Prime free as part of an ongoing offer – after that, it's £79 for a year.
Amazon's confirmed you can cancel any time during the 30-day trial and no payment's taken. So you can sign up, grab the discount, then diarise to cancel. Make sure you do, or it'll automatically take £79.
Tots judge gifts on fun factor, not cost
It's often said tots spend more time playing with the wrapping than the present itself. When Martin mentioned this on his TV show, he was inundated with people tweeting and emailing photos of their young children having great fun with cardboard boxes they'd been given for Christmas. See Martin's blog for the pics.
Many will want to buy a present for their baby's first birthday, but you don't need to spend a fortune on a gift to make them happy. Young kids judge presents by how much fun they have with 'em, not the price tag.
To help, we've compiled a huge list of tried-and-tested gift ideas for under £5 from our Festive Fivers competitions. They're sure to put smiles on kids' faces.
New 'Tinder for mum-friends' app
Want to meet local parents of similar-age kids for support and playdates without stumping up for costly classes? A new, free Tinder-style app, Mush, allows mums to do just that.
To be clear, this is a nookie-free zone – it isn't a dating app. But, like Tinder, Mush lets you browse through profiles to select potential pals with similar interests. (It hopes to launch a similar app for dads at the end of the year.)
More than 15,000 mums have joined since the app launched in April. Mush says 40% of its users are in London, with the rest dotted around the UK.
MSE Jenny says:
I moved to a new area last month and was a bit worried about being a Billy No-Mates. I downloaded Mush and have already met a lovely mum with a little boy my daughter's age, only 10 doors down from me.
How to sign up
Just download the app from Apple's iOS App Store or Google Play Store. Connect the app to your Facebook and add your kids' ages. Select a few interests such as 'nature-lover' or 'bake-off queen'. Then you can browse other mums' profiles and message them to say hi.
Mush recommends that you always meet other mums in public places the first time.
While promotions might be tempting, try not to go overboard. When out shopping, ask yourself if you really need those tiny Ugg boots, a 'wipes warmer' (seriously) or baby hammock. After all, babies want cuddles, not luxury outfits.
If it's your first pregnancy, you'll probably be a bit overwhelmed thinking about what stuff you might need. But if you're not careful, you could end up buying a whole load of gear you'll never use, before the wee one's even born.
To help put together your 'what I need' list, the NHS site has a handy list of recommended essentials, from bootees to bedding, car seats and cots.
If you need some advice on what baby items to steer clear of, check the Products you DON'T need thread in our forum. Here are some of the items on their 'don't buy' lists:
"Value nappy sacks do the job fine. If it's particularly stinky, just double-bag it."
"Bought it for daughter when she was three months – she'd outgrown it by five months. Much better with a blanket and a few toys on the floor. "
"She just didn't like and it got in the way."
Posh changing bag
"I bought a changing bag, which was unpractical, so bought a normal bag. Addition of a portable changing mat did the job."
Disposable vs reusable nappies
Yep, we're talking poo. If your tot's nappy bills are more expensive (and more frequent) than Lady Gaga's costume changes, it's time to get tough. Whether reusables or disposables, it's possible to make big savings. See the Cheap Nappies discussion to read others' feedback and add yours.
Check who has 'parental responsibility'
If you die, responsibility for your kids goes to anyone with 'parental responsibility'. Mothers automatically have this.
Fathers usually have parental responsibility if they're married to the mother, but it depends on where the birth is registered. Here's a breakdown:
England and Wales. Dads automatically have parental responsibility if they're married to the mother when the child's born. Unmarried fathers of children born after 1 Dec 2003 also have it, if their name's on the birth certificate.
Scotland. Fathers automatically have parental responsibility if they're married to the mother when the child's conceived or marry her afterwards. Unmarried dads of children born after 4 May 2006 also have it, if their name's on the birth certificate.
Northern Ireland. Dads automatically have parental responsibility if they're married to the mother when the child's born or marry her afterwards. Unmarried dads of children born after 15 April 2002 also have it, if their name's on the birth certificate.
How to apply
If you don't automatically qualify, you need to get a parental responsibility agreement. The mother needs to agree to this, and you need to be connected to the child, eg, as their father or step-parent.
Fill out the forms, then take them to your local county court. You'll need the child's birth certificate and proof of your ID. If you want parental responsibility but the mother doesn't agree, you need to apply for a court order.
This is a complex area. There's a full guide to parental responsibility on Gov.uk.
If you die without a will and there is no one else with parental responsibility, the courts decide who looks after your child. See Arrange who'd look after them.
Get 20% off nappies with Amazon discounts
Combine two Amazon discounts and you can grab a big saving on nappies and wipes. Don't assume Amazon's cheapest though – compare first.
Step 1: Save 5% off with Subscribe and Save*.
Amazon's Subscribe and Save service gives 5% off selected household items when you place a repeat order, including nappies and wipes. There's no minimum commitment, so if you want, you can simply cancel after your first delivery.
Step 2: Extra 15% off with Amazon Family* via Prime
Amazon Prime* members (costs £79) can sign up 'free' to the Amazon Family* club. Join Family and you get an extra 15% off nappies and wipes when you subscribe, boosting the discount to 20%. Prime normally costs £79/year, but there's currently a free 30-day trial.
Remember – don't forget to cancel your trial before the 30 days are up to avoid being charged, plus stop your subscription once you've got all you need.
How much can I save? At the time of writing, Amazon sold a 174-pack of size 4 Pampers at £20.08. This dropped to £16.06 with the 20% off, working out at 9p/nappy. The next cheapest was Sainsbury's at 11p/nappy.
There's more on Subscribe and Save in our Amazon Buying guide.
Make sure you register the birth
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, births need to be registered within 42 days (in Scotland it's 21 days). If you don't register by this deadline, you can be hit with a fine of up to £200, so do it as soon as you can.
You can do this in the local registry office for where the birth happened, or it can often be done at the hospital before the mother leaves. If you can't get to your local register office, you can go to another and they'll send your details through.
Once you're with the registrar, it generally takes about half an hour to complete the process. See Gov.uk for more info and for your nearest office.
Once you have registered the birth, your baby will be issued with a short birth certificate for free in England and Wales. If would like a more detailed one, there are extra fees.
Most register offices have an appointment system and opening hours vary, so check before you go.
Free dental treatment & meds for new mums
Women who are pregnant or have had a baby in the past 12 months get free NHS dental treatment and prescriptions throughout the UK. It's a handy little freebie, so make sure you make the most of it while you can.
Remember to book a dental check-up before the end of your first year as a new mum, as MSE Jenny did:
I saved £260 on dental treatment, as I had a check-up the week before my card ran out. Woo woo!
Save £1,000s on childcare before it's too late
With childcare vouchers, you trade in pre-tax salary for vouchers to spend on childcare. For example, to get £1,000 of vouchers, you forgo £1,000 of salary. Yet after basic-rate tax and National Insurance, that's only worth £700ish in your pay packet, so you're £300 up.
Anyone can do this, even if their partner doesn't work, provided their employer offers it.
However, from April 2018, this scheme closes for people who haven't signed up beforehand. It will be replaced by 'Tax-Free Childcare', which has already started for the youngest children and will be rolled out over this tax year (2017-18) for the rest.
With this scheme, working parents (if you're couple, both of you must work), can put £80 in an account to pay for childcare and £20 is added. The maximum addition is £2,000/yr per child.
Each scheme has winners and losers, so you need to decide ASAP which is best for you. See the Tax-free Childcare guide for more information on the changes and how to work out what's right for you.
Sort your will out
If you're about to add to your family, make sure you've made a will. Everyone with any assets such as savings or a house, and loved ones they'd like to look after, should consider making one.
It's well worth tackling as soon as possible, both for your baby and for your peace of mind. A will has three main functions:
It names your executors. These are the people you choose to sort out your finances after you've gone.
It shares out your estate. A will lets you state where everything you own will go, from property to pets.
It helps sort out inheritance tax. If you die without a will, strict rules mean your assets may not go where you want them to. If you haven't planned for it, inheritance tax may take a hefty, unexpected chunk. See the Inheritance Tax Planning guide for help.
Don't leave a financial nightmare for your family. Even if you've already got a will, make sure it's current. Solicitor-drafted wills can be cheap or free to make or amend. Find full info on all the options in the Free And Cheap Wills guide.
Use forumites' tried & tested tips
Here are some tried and tested tips from forumites, share yours in the What you wish you'd known discussion:
Be a team
"If you can, spread the load with your partner and family. Setting aside a little time for yourself can pay dividends, so try to give each other time off.
"You will both be exhausted at times but giving each other a break makes the world of difference. We have a routine where every Saturday I get up early with our daughter. We sit in the kitchen batch-cooking food for the week while mum has a lie in.
"Any little thing you can do to show that you still care for your partner will make for a happier home for your baby."
Try baby booty swaps
"My little one is eight weeks younger than my cousin's. So I bought one item, she bought another (bouncing cradle and door bouncer). We just swap when we fancy a change!"
Babies love simple pleasures
"I put my baby in her bouncy chair and would sit her watching me as I did chores or activities. I would narrate to her what I was doing or show her interesting things, but she was enthralled just watching me."
Listen to your instincts
"Everybody has an opinion about raising babies and they feel the need to tell you. Take it all with a pinch of salt. Stick with how you feel and what suits your baby (and partner) best."
Arrange who'd look after your kids if you die
If you've a new baby on the way, or other kids under 18, make sure you discuss with your partner and family who'd look after them if you're unable to.
Don't put it off – making plans and provisions now will help to ensure they're safe and cared for if the worst happens.
When you discuss it, first make sure those you've asked are prepared to do it, as it's a big commitment. You can then name them in your will as legal guardians (see Free and Cheap Wills). But if, further down the line, they become unable to look after them, or if they refused, a court would appoint a suitable guardian instead.
Quickly compare the cost of your nappies
Nappies make up more than a wee part of your baby budget, so do your research before buying.
Comparison site Bum Deal instantly shows big disposable nappy brands' cost at big retailers, including Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Ocado, Aldi, Sainsbury's and more. It also compares baby wipes.
Select your preferred brand and size, and it shows where they're cheapest, plus special offers.
Bum Deal estimates you'll use more than 4,000 nappies in your baby's first two years. It found these cost £900 at the priciest retailer, compared to £400 at the cheapest, saving a huge £500.
Don't be tempted to buy designer baby clothes
Your baby isn't a brand snob. They just want clean, comfortable and safe clothing, not the latest labels and trends. So don't be tempted to splash out on designer gear.
They'll soon reach their teens and demand expensive goods, so save the cash for later (you'll need it!)
Similarly, while many want to splash out on a present to celebrate their baby's first birthday, they're at the golden age where pulling a silly face gets a giggle. Enjoy it while it lasts – see Tots judge gifts on fun factor above for more.
Get your full maternity pay entitlement
If you've worked for the same company for longer than six months and take time off work when your baby's born, your employer's responsible for paying you at least a minimum level of salary.
How much will I get? For 2016, it's £139.58 per week or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower. Maternity pay is higher in the first six weeks, as you get 90% of your average weekly earnings before it's capped.
How long will I get it for? Statutory maternity pay is for if you're pregnant and employed (adoption pay has similar rules for those adopting). You'll be paid for up to 39 weeks whilst you're on leave.
The statutory level's the minimum you should get, but your individual contract may provide more.
Do I qualify? You must earn at least £112 per week and have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks by the time the baby's due-date is 15 weeks away (maternity and paternity pay both have the same qualifying rules).
How do I get it? Payments are made via your employer, so speak to your manager or human resources department. You'll need to give your employer proof of pregnancy in the form of a letter from your doctor or midwife, or a MatB1 maternity certificate.
Bag free pregnancy tests
OK, for many reading this guide it may be a bit late for a pregnancy test... but if you're planning on adding to your family, here's a quick tip to help.
For a stick you wee on, pregnancy tests can be surprisingly pricey. Yet anyone can get free pregnancy tests at family planning clinics, from your GP, or from some Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics (plus Brook Centres if under 25). Search on the NHS website to find your nearest centre.
If you are going to shell out, don't assume pricier pregnancy tests are more accurate.
The Family Planning Association told us: "All the brands on the high street, including cheaper own brands, are extremely accurate. Just because a test is from a pound shop doesn't make it less reliable. The most important thing is for women to make sure they can understand the instructions and what they're supposed to do with the test to make it work."
Don't be afraid to ask for extra help
Caring for a new baby can leave you utterly worn out. Don't be afraid to ask for extra help from family and friends – whether it's doing the washing up or taking the baby out for the afternoon.
Here's a tip from the forums:
When people come round to visit the baby, have tea, coffee, sugar, mugs and milk ready – ask them to make refreshments.
I remember a group of friends from work coming round, chatting while I ran round making drinks. All niceties of being a host go out the window after little sleep, sore nipples and stitches!
For professional help, health visitors are registered nurses or midwives who are trained to carry out home visits. In England, all expecting parents and families with children under five have a named NHS health visitor. Make sure you've got their contact details in case you need them – your GP or local Children's Centre will be able to put you in touch.
Get instant help from specialist helplines
While your health visitor should be able to help with any questions you've got, some report problems with missed appointments. If you've any non-urgent questions (call 999 if it's a medical emergency), there are a range of specialist numbers to help:
Parenting support. The National Childbirth Trust is the UK's largest charity for parents. It has a helpline, 0300 330 0700, for practical and emotional support in pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.
It can help with all sorts of issues, including help with feeding, post-natal depression and more.
Breastfeeding. The charity-run National Breastfeeding Helpline is funded by the Department of Health. It offers a UK helpline on 0300 100 0212 for practical info and support for any breastfeeding queries.
Medical help. Only call 999 if it's a medical emergency – if you need other medical help fast, call NHS 111 service in England and Scotland or NHS Direct in Wales 0845 46 47. There are different sites for NHS services in England, Scotland and Wales. Parents in Northern Ireland should contact their GP.
Single parents. Charity Gingerbread has a freephone single parent helpline for one-to-one confidential advice and info. It only covers England and Wales, so alternatively contact One Parent Families Scotland or Gingerbread NI.
SIDS. Cot death charity The Lullaby Trust has a free helpline on 0808 802 6869.
See the NHS website for details of other useful parenting helplines available.
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Get your full paternity pay entitlement
If you're a dad-to-be who's worked for the same company for over six months, and take time off work when your baby's born, your employer's responsible for paying you at least a minimum level of salary.
Uncover hidden 75%+ Amazon baby discounts
We've built the Amazon Discount Finder tool to uncover massively discounted items on Amazon. Use these ready-made links to quickly search for discounts of 75%+ in its Baby* and Toys and Games* sections, or have a play with the tool to see what you can uncover across its other departments.
Know your maternity and paternity leave rights
The terms of your employment are protected when you go on maternity or paternity leave. This means you're entitled to any pay rises given while you're away, and you still build up entitlement to any holiday days while you're off.
Free and discounted cinema tickets for tots
A trip to the movies doesn't have to be pricey. There are often extra discounts available if you've tots in tow.
If your baby is small enough to sit on your lap while watching the film, they can go for free. However, it does say it's at the manager's discretion. Odeon also runs 'Odeon Newbies' – special film screenings that have brighter lights and lower volume especially for parents and guardians with new babies. Adults pay for a usual ticket and under twos go free.
Also offers free entry for babes in arms to morning or afternoon screenings with a U, PG or 12A certificate.
Some Picturehouse branches run the Big Scream Club for parents of children under one. The club costs £5 and lasts until the baby is a year old. Parents get discounted tickets that are the same price as a member would pay, and babies go free. Picturehouse also runs Toddler Time screenings for pre-schoolers. Membership is free, tickets for the tots are £3 and parents go free.
Check for extra discounts.
Cinemas can offer special rates for kids, teens, families, students and off-peak films, so do check with your local first.
See the Cheap Cinema Tickets page for the latest discounts, including school holiday deals, free previews and many more.
Batch cook before the baby arrives if you can
Time spent doing this early can be a huge help later, when you're exhausted from nappy changes and feeding. It needn't take too long.
If you've a little one on the way, here's a quick tip from our forums:
Stock up on ready meals and/or batch cook and stick some portions in the freezer. It's unlikely you'll want to cook much in the first few weeks, let alone find the time to.
Max the interest on baby cash gifts
If your new baby gets cash gifts from family and friends, make sure their first bank account has the best interest rate possible. Many banks let you open accounts for your kids from birth. See the Children's Savings guide for full best buys.