54 tips 'n' tricks to save with a baby or toddler
Babies are as costly as they are cute, so prepare your finances as early as possible. We've 54 tips 'n' tricks to help, whether you're expecting number one, two or more.
54 baby and toddler MoneySaving tips, including...
- Protect your family's income
- Free baby 'sleeping boxes', wipes and more
- 'Free' Amazon baby bundle with £20 spend
- Make new parent-friends with a free app
- Things you DON'T need to buy
- Free reusable nappies from councils
- New. Struggling? 'Baby banks' offer free clothes etc
- Free vouchers for nutritious food
- Free dental treatment for new mums
- Get up to £2,000 per child for childcare
- Sort your will out
- Quickly compare nappy prices
- Know your maternity pay rights
- Bag free pregnancy tests
- Mum-to-be? Get first dibs on train seats
- Tips to slash the cost of prams
- Flog old baby equipment
- Get others' hand-me-downs for free
- Free baby and toddler class trials
- How to breastfeed in normal clothes
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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 29 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. You only get a payout if you die within a fixed term, eg, 18 years.
- Level. 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.
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 key dos and don'ts and tips for getting it the cheapest way. See our Life Insurance guide for help with that.
- Term. You only get a payout if you die within a fixed term, eg, 18 years.
Make sure your car seat's safely fitted
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 2018 Which? investigation found 90% of stores it tested didn't install the 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!
Get baby freebies and discounts, including toys, clothes and baby 'sleeping boxes'
Retailers are super-keen to bag new parents' custom with baby promos, so when you've welcomed a new arrival, you'll find there's a lot of free stuff up for grabs... just make sure you only take them up on the good ones!
Bear in mind that signing up to some of these baby and parenting clubs will result in a torrent of spam pouring into your inbox, so consider setting up a separate email account just for this.
Free baby sleeping box in Scotland. All newborn babies in Scotland get a free baby box full of essentials. The box itself acts like a Moses basket that your wee one can sleep in (it comes complete with a mattress and bedding). Inside are clothes, a bath towel, muslin squares, a toy, a book and more. To sign up for your baby box, speak to your midwife – see full details.
My Mothercare – 20% off maternity clothing and vouchers. Register with My Mothercare for multiple discount vouchers worth over £100 in total, and early access to its sales. Plus you get 20% off maternity clothing.
Mothercare also runs free 'expectant parent events' in selected stores, where you can get advice on practicalities such as car-seat fitting, as well as pick up freebies.
Forumite laura_hoggle got a decent haul:
We were given a 10% off voucher and also a very decent goodie bag – ours had breast milk storage bags, Heinz food pouches, samples of nipple cream, a mini hair conditioner (perfect for my hospital bag!)... and more.
- Boots Parenting Club – bonus Advantage points. 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 instead of the normal four points.
Boots also says you'll receive free gifts via the club – MoneySavers have reported getting free changing bags and gift packs in the past.
- Asda baby discount events. Asda Baby & Toddler Club gives you the first shout on events, which are hugely popular with MoneySavers as they offer discounts on items such as nappies, baby wipes, walkers and safety gates.
- Emma's Diary – Argos vouchers. Join Emma's Diary Baby Club and you get multiple Argos money-off vouchers and coupons which the site says add up to £250 of discounts in total, offers from top mum and baby brands and entry to a host of competitions.
However, it's worth being aware that last year Emma's Diary was fined £140,000 for illegally sharing more than a million people's personal data with the Labour Party. See this BBC news story for more.
- Netmums' New Baby Club – free wipes and nappies. The Netmums' New Baby Club is run in conjunction with Aldi. Every member gets a free sample of Aldi's Mamia newborn nappies and sensitive wipes.
- Cow & Gate Baby Club – free cuddly cow. If you join the C&G Baby Club before you reach 30 weeks of pregnancy, you'll get a free cuddly cow toy and a pregnancy diary, as well as regular freebies.
It'll also send you offers by post.
'Free' Amazon baby bundle when you spend £20
Amazon's currently giving away a 'free' baby bundle when you spend £20 or more on baby products using its 'Wishlist' feature.
The bundle is a 'MAM newborn baby box' and includes a baby bottle, soother, massaging brush and breast pads. The deal ends Thursday 31 October, though it could be sooner as stock is limited. For a full how to, see the 'Free' Amazon baby bundle deal.
Nab further discounts on Amazon baby booty
Amazon Prime* members (costs £79/year or £7.99/month) can sign up 'free' to the Amazon Family* club. It's aimed at parents, though it is open to all. Members get 20% off nappies when they subscribe to at least five regular deliveries (full how-to below). We've also seen discounts such as 30% off baby monitors and £10 off breast pumps.
Amazon Prime and Family are essentially the same thing – you can't sign up for Family without being a Prime customer.
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 nappies discount, then diarise to cancel. Make sure you do, or it'll automatically take £79 from your account.
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, in 2012 we 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
Make new parent-friends with a free app
Want to meet local parents with similar-age kids for support and playdates without stumping up for costly classes? A free Tinder-style app, Mush, allows mums and 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. While much of its marketing is aimed at mums, Mush says dads are welcome too.
MSE Jenny says:
I met the loveliest mum with kids the same age, who lives 10 doors down. She's a lifesaver and we've shared many happy sleep-deprived playdates.
How to sign up
Download the app from Apple's iOS App Store or Google Play Store. Connect the app to your Facebook and add your kids' ages. Create a profile and you'll be matched with local mums. Tags such as 'wine lover' and 'mum of multiples' will help you find like-minded mums. 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.
What NOT to buy – don't get what you don't need
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 Choices 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 Top Ten Products you DON'T need thread in our forum. Here are some of the items on fourumites' '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 – and how to get reusables for FREE from your council
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 Cloth nappies advice thread to read others' feedback and add yours.
These can be much cheaper and some councils even give 'em away for free. Don't think old-fashioned cloth – their look and operation are surprisingly modern (see the picture to the right).
How many? This depends on how often you're prepared to do washes. But as a very rough guide, you'll need about 25-30 nappies and at least three wraps.
- Is it cheaper? The savings can be big. Studies estimate parents could save anything between £100 to over £1,000 using reusable nappies and there can be even more savings when the nappies are used on second and third kids. So for a larger family, the savings can really mount up.
Which type? It's tough to get out of the mindset of a sheet and a pin, yet modern reusable nappies look and work very like disposables. The only difference is bits of them are washed rather than chucked. There are several types available, so it's worth trying a few.
Clean 'em for less. Wash less-soiled nappies at 60 degrees rather than 90. Wash covers (wraps) at 40 degrees if possible, so they last longer. Use quick-drying liners so you can dry them without using a tumble dryer.
Some councils offer free starter packs or vouchers/cashback to help you save on the cost of buying reusable nappies. They do this to encourage you to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
For example, North Hertfordshire District Council offers a free starter pack worth over £100 or £50 cashback towards the purchase of reusable nappies. Bradford Council offers a free starter pack, while Essex Council offers £30 cashback on the purchase of reusable nappies.
Check with your council to see if it offers a similar incentive scheme.
If reusable nappies aren't up your street, there are a few nappy-saving tricks you can use to slash the cost of disposables:
Compare the cost. A nifty nappy comparison site shows the cost of your nappies at major online supermarkets and other retailers. See Bum Deal below.
Be a nappy tart. Companies offer money off and freebies for new mums in the hope they'll get hooked on their brand, so try 'em all (see extra discounts). Plus GP surgeries may give starter packs. Check whether they're available at yours.
Bulk-buy BOGOFs. Buy-one-get-one-free deals are a great way to save on consumables that don't go off and you use regularly. When you see these offers, it's a good idea to stock up. Yet beware...
If bulk-buying nappies, avoid too big a stockpile, especially in smaller sizes – growth spurts mean your baby may not use them all.
- Downshift your nappies. Shops' own-brand nappies are much cheaper than some other well-known brands. The price difference can run into the £100s when you're buying thousands of nappies per baby. Of course, make sure your baby's botty has no adverse reaction to shifting brands though.
Struggling? You may be able to get help from a 'baby bank'
You may have heard of food banks, but there are also 100+ 'baby banks' across the UK. If you're raising kids on a low income, they can provide free good-quality baby clothes and equipment, donated by local families or businesses.
The banks are run by different charities and other organisations, so how it works varies by location. But items can include kids' clothes, nappies, toys, cots and buggies. One chain of baby banks in London, Little Village, gives clients 40 items every three months for each child, up till their fifth birthday.
How to get support
To get help from most baby banks, you need to be raising kids on a low income – you can usually get support for children until they turn five. You usually need to be referred by a 'support worker'. This can usually be a midwife, health visitor or social worker – in some cases, you can even be referred by a food bank.
To apply for help, just talk to a support worker and ask them to refer you. If they haven't heard of your local baby bank, show them its website – Little Village has a tool to help you find your nearest from over 100 across the UK.
If you're unsure about who to approach to ask for a referral, try asking Citizens Advice for help – it should be able to point you to an appropriate support worker.
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 if he marries her afterwards, providing he lives in Northern Ireland at the time of the marriage. 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.
Free vouchers for nutritious food if you're on certain benefits – worth up to £322/yr per child
Those on certain benefits (or pregnant and under 18) can get NHS Healthy Start scheme vouchers every week to swap for milk, fruit and vegetables. You need to be pregnant or have a child under four, and the vouchers can add up to as much as £322 per child.
Who's entitled? Anyone who is under 18 and pregnant qualifies. Others must be on certain benefits – these include universal credit (with a total earned income of under £409/month per family), income support or income-based jobseeker's allowance. See a full list.
- What can you get? Pregnant women and children over one and under four-years-old get one £3.10 voucher each per week (£161/year). Children under one-year-old get £6.20 (worth £322/year).
If you're entitled, you could get free vouchers every week to swap for milk, fruit and vegetables and formula milk. There are a few exclusions, for example, it must be plain cow's milk or infant formula. Fruit and veg needs to be plain, ie, not dried, canned or juiced. See a full list of what you can buy.
Vouchers are valid at 30,000 shops in the UK including supermarkets and cornershops – find your nearest.
How to apply. If you already have an application form, fill it out, ask your midwife/health visitor to sign it and send it using the freepost envelope attached. If you don't have an application form, you can download one. Once it receives your application form, you should receive your vouchers within two weeks.
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/year or £7.99/month) can sign up 'free' to the Amazon Family* club. Join Family and you get an extra 15% off nappies and wipes when you subscribe to 5 products, boosting the discount to 20%. Prime normally costs £79/year, but you can get 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 198-pack of size 4 Pampers Baby-Dry at £21.78. This drops to £17.42 with the 20% off.
There's more on Subscribe and Save in our Amazon Buying Tips.
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 and 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!
Plus some can also get free eye tests, depending on where you live. Click the dropdowns below to get info for where you live:
While prescriptions are free in the rest of the UK, they cost £9 per item in England. However, women who are pregnant or who've had a baby in the past 12 months get free NHS prescriptions and dental treatment.
To get it, you need a valid maternity certificate or maternity exemption certificate. Get form FW8 from your doctor, midwife or health visitor. Find more info on the NHS website, and see Medicine Savings for more tips.
In Scotland, everyone gets free prescriptions and, unlike anywhere else in the UK, free eye tests.
Pregnant women or women who've had a baby in the past 12 months also get free dental treatment with a valid maternity exemption certificate. Get form FW8 from your doctor, midwife or health visitor.
In Wales, everyone gets free prescriptions. Pregnant women or women who've had a baby in the past 12 months also get free NHS dental treatment with a maternity exemption card. To get one, ask your doctor, midwife or health visitor for form FW8W. For more info about help with health costs, see Welsh NHS website.
Prescriptions are free for all. Pregnant women and women who've had a baby in the past 12 months can also get free Health Service (HS) dental treatment. Just get form HC11A from your GP, midwife or health care specialist to get a maternity exemption certificate.
Get up to £2,000 per child per year to cover annual childcare
Tax-Free Childcare gives eligible families up to £2,000 free per child towards childcare costs. Designed to replace the childcare vouchers scheme, it was launched in April 2017.
The scheme is designed so that for every 80p you put in, the state will add 20p – so it effectively gives you basic-rate tax back on what you pay, hence the scheme's name.
In total you'll be able to use the scheme to pay for up to £10,000 of childcare per child each year – so you could get an extra £2,000 per child (up to £4,000 if your child is disabled) each year.
Tax-Free Childcare are open to all qualifying parents, unlike childcare vouchers, which could only be bought by people whose employer offers the scheme. See our Tax-Free Childcare guide for more information.
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 (IHT) 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 Cheap and Free Wills guide.
Use forumites' tried and tested tips
Here are some tried and tested tips from forumites - share yours in the What you wish you'd known when you had a baby 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 Cheap and free 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.
Struggling financially? Consider a mortgage payment 'holiday' (as a last resort)
Some parents find money is very tight when a little'un arrives. If you're struggling to pay bills, some banks offer mortgage payment 'holidays', when you take a break from all or part of your monthly payments for a fixed period, usually a few months.
While this may sound tempting, it's important to understand that though you won't have to pay anything for the duration, you'll still be racking up additional interest on your mortgage each month. So the total amount you'll eventually have to pay off will increase – and your mortgage will take longer to clear as a result.
A mortgage payment holiday should only be used as a last resort if you're really struggling financially.
If you have savings which can see you through your maternity leave, you'll likely be better off using these rather than increasing the amount you owe on your mortgage. See our Repay Debts or Save? guide for more help on this.
It's also worth noting you can't keep taking payment holidays as most lenders only allow you to do this once. Not all banks allow payment holidays on all mortgages, so you'll need to contact your bank to find out if it offers them, and whether you're eligible to take one.
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 - a huge £500 saving.
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.
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 2019-20, it's £148.68 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 on average at least £116 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 services if under 25). Search on the NHS Choices website to find your nearest sxual health support service.
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, but you can also contact One Parent Families Scotland.
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.
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.
How much will I get? Ordinary Paternity Leave is £148.68 per week or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower. It's paid by an employer for two weeks, usually to the baby's father, once the child has been born.
This is the minimum employers must pay, but yours may choose to pay more. So ask them (and your colleagues) what they got.
You can also choose to take Additional Paternity Leave of up to 26 weeks, but only if the mother ends her maternity leave early.
Do I qualify? You must 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. For more info on each, see the Gov.uk pages for Statutory Paternity Pay or Statutory Adoption Pay. It's also well worth checking if you're entitled to additional paternity leave, see the Gov.uk website for info.
Mum-to-be? Check if your train firm offers first dibs on seating – or even a free upgrade
Travelling on the train when you're heavily pregnant is often a real hassle. But to help, many rail firms offer priority seating for mums-to-be free of charge – and some may even bump you up to first class.
What you're offered (or not) and how you go about getting it differs from firm to firm, so check before you travel. To find out what your train firm offers, try searching its website or asking at a station.
Generally they offer one or more of the following:
- Priority seating. It's common for train companies to designate a certain number of seats on each train – often near carriage doors for ease of access – as priority seating for disabled people, older people and those carrying children, as well as expectant mothers.
These are signposted as such and other passengers are expected to offer them to anyone who needs them. Some companies also allow you to reserve these seats when booking tickets in advance.
- 'Baby on board' badges and priority seat cards/mum-to-be passes. These easily identify you as pregnant, to make asking someone to give up their seat less awkward.
A number of companies will post you a free 'baby on board' badge (you usually apply online) to wear while travelling – a few of the firms we've seen do this include C2C, South Western Railway and Transport for London in the capital.
Alternatively, some companies let you apply for a slightly-more-official priority seat card, or mum-to-be pass. These work in the same way as badges – you're still not officially guaranteed a seat, but it looks official and specific to you, so should help you persuade someone to give theirs up.
Firms we've seen do this include Great Western Railway and London Northwestern Railway. Eligibility differs by firm, eg, in some cases you need to be a season ticket holder. You generally have to apply online, and some firms will ask you to supply a copy of your maternity certificate (form MAT B1) and/or doctor's confirmation of your pregnancy with your application.
- Free first class upgrade. A few companies will actually upgrade you to first class for free if you're in the later stages of pregnancy and there are no standard seats free on the train you're travelling on, although this is usually only the case if you're a season ticket holder or have applied online in advance (you'll sometimes need a priority seat card or mum-to-be pass too). East Midlands Railway, Greater Anglia and Virgin Trains are among the firms we've seen do this.
- Priority seating. It's common for train companies to designate a certain number of seats on each train – often near carriage doors for ease of access – as priority seating for disabled people, older people and those carrying children, as well as expectant mothers.
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.
You've also the right to return to your job if you take ordinary maternity, paternity or adoption leave. The rules are slightly different for additional maternity or adoption leave, or more than four weeks of parental leave, see Gov.uk for full info.
If you're heading back to work, don't think you've got to do it alone. There are handy resources to make the transition easier:
Parenting charity National Childbirth Trust (NCT) has more information and a free PDF guide summarising experiences of women returning to work after having a child, with useful notes on rights in the workplace.
The Money Advice Service site has useful info on your rights when returning to work and what to do if you think your employer isn't being fair, plus tips on where to get further help.
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 to screenings with a U, PG or 12A certificate. 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.
Offers free entry for babes in arms to morning or afternoon screenings with a U, PG or 12A certificate. Also runs 'Cinebabies' screenings for parents and babies where it says it will store your pushchair, provide nappy changing facilities (not available in Brighton), dim the lights and turn down the sound slightly.
Babies under two can get in for free if they sit on your lap and don't need a seat. This applies to films rated 12A or below, starting before 10pm, if they're with an adult over 18.
Some Picturehouse branches have Big Scream screenings for parents of children under one. It also runs Toddler Time screenings for pre-schoolers.
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 Best Children's Savings guide for the best buys.
It's worth noting any interest earned on money specifically given to them by a parent is only tax-free up to £100 interest, per parent or step-parent.
So if your child earns more than £100, the whole lot is taxed at the parent's rate.
Tips to slash the cost of prams, incl cheap refurbished models
New prams and pushchairs can easily cost hundreds, with some even over £1,000. Yet there are quick tricks to help bring costs down.
Define your requirements
Before you spend, do your research. Think about which features are most important to you. Is having a lightweight number more important than one with all the bells and whistles? Does it need to fold up as small as possible to fit in the car or hallway? There are masses of different types, so draw up a list of your priorities.
Also ask friends and family if they've any unused prams or pushchairs you could borrow – if you don't mind the type, it may save you having to buy one at all.
Check reviews and feedback
There are a huge number of different types available, so check reviews to help – you can ask questions and pick up tips in our New Buggy Needed forum discussion. Parenting site Mumsnet also has handy user reviews for each type, and you can find product reviews on Amazon*.
Quickly compare prices online
Once you've decided the type, compare prices online to get the cheapest price from new as a benchmark. Then see if you can beat this – try eBay* and Gumtree, and giveaway sites such as Freecycle and Freegle to see if you can pick one up for nowt (see our 40 eBay buying tips and Freecycle & Freegle guide for help).
Depending on the type you've got, it may even be possible to buy just the detachable carry cot if you've got the frame already, so check on the retailer's or manufacturer's website to see if it's possible for your model.
Free sign helps stop cold callers waking the baby
Unwanted doorstep sellers can be hugely frustrating, particularly if you've just got your newborn to sleep. To help, we've got a FREE Trading Standards-approved No Cold Callers sign you can print 'n' pop on your front door.
I was getting very annoyed being disturbed by the doorbell when feeding my baby, as was she. I've only had one cold caller since the sign went up and felt fine about shutting the door!
Flog old baby equipment when you're finished
If you've little time and heaps of similar small items, consider selling them as a bundle. This works especially well with baby clothes. But sell more expensive branded goods individually – don't bung Baby Gap in with Tesco Value.
If you're buying pricey baby equipment which you plan to sell after you've used it, forumites recommend hanging on to the boxes if you've got space. Selling items in their original boxes may help to fetch a better price, though only sell when you're sure you won't need the items again. See the eBay Selling Tricks guide for tips to help you get the best price.
Don't assume junior ISAs are best
Junior ISAs are tax-free savings accounts that under-18s can save or invest up to £4,368 in this tax year (2019/20). They're tax-free until their 18th birthday (often beyond) to build a nest egg for adult life.
But for many, they simply aren't worth it. As most kids don't pay tax, junior ISAs have limited benefits so are generally most helpful for more affluent families. See our Top Junior ISAs guide to check if your kids would be better off with one of the best children's savings accounts.
If you save for your child in a junior ISA it's their money, not yours. When they reach 18, they can do whatever they want with it – including blowing the lot. Even cute toddlers can become rebellious teens, so you may prefer to save for them in your account instead.
Bag free baby booty on giveaway sites
I love Freecycle! I've used it loads to get baby things for my first which has been so helpful. We've given away a lot of things too.
We kitted out baby's nursery with a jungle theme from Freecycle, matching cot bumper, curtains, clock, cot mobile, washable play-mat, animal soft toys, toy boxes, moose rug, two bouncy chairs (which went back on Freecycle when he outgrew them), baby monitors, a breast pump, and moses basket/stand.
Get paid for your opinion between feeds
It's possible to earn £100s a year from home, without any special skill or talent. You could be paid to take part in online surveys, which are often short enough to fill in during breaks between feedings.
Some surveys can pay between £1 and £5 for just a few minutes of your time. Find the full list of top picks in our Top Online Survey Site guide, as well as tips 'n' tricks to help you maximise your returns.
There's lots more you can do to make extra cash, even while at home looking after kids. See our Boost Your Income guide for more details.
Do a baby safety check on your hands 'n' knees
If you're making your home safe for a crawling tot (do it sooner than you think), don't rely on an adult's-eye view.
Here's one forumite's tip:
To make rooms more child friendly, crawl round on hands and knees, this gives a view of the world from their angle. Makes you realise corners of coffee tables etc are danger zones.
Here are a few quick pointers to get you started:
Cover corners and any crevices where little fingers could get stuck, eg, DVD player openings.
Remove anything that could be easily pulled over, eg, tablecloths and cables.
Ensure household appliances are well out of reach, eg, irons, hair straighteners and hairdryers.
Check any safety gates are fitted properly and tightly secured.
Secure any furniture units to the wall, so they can't be pulled over.
Remove any small objects – as well as ornaments, hunt for any overlooked stray coins or buttons they could pick up from the floor.
For more on baby and toddler safety, see the NHS Choices website.
Reduce the risk of SIDS – know the essential checks
While cot death is rare, there are simple steps that can help ensure you reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for your baby.
Cot death charity The Lullaby Trust recommends you should place your baby on his or her back to go to sleep, never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair, and not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby.
Don't overbuy clothes and toys – they're often gifts
Before you rush to the shops, remember to factor in any baby gifts – clothes and toys are common presents from friends and family for newborns, and mean you need to buy less.
Remember, babies grow rapidly. If you buy masses of newborn gear they may grow out of it before they've worn it all, so it's worth stocking up on larger sizes too.
Do a 10-min child-benefits check
A treasure trove of extra cash is available to help families. To quickly see if you qualify, use the Benefits Check-Up tool. Just enter your details and it'll show how much you may be entitled to.
This'll help check your eligibility for all the main benefits, including council tax and housing benefit, income support and many, many more.
There are masses of benefits available to help families and those on lower incomes. Here are some to get you started...
Maternity Grant. It's a one-off payment if you've had a baby or adopted in the last three months to help pay for baby equipment.
From April 2011, this was restricted to the first child only, so you can't apply if you've already got kids under 16. However, if you've already got kids and are expecting twins or triplets, you'll probably still qualify. If you're adopting a child or becoming a surrogate parent, you might also be able to get the grant. Make sure you claim within 11 weeks of the due date or within three weeks of giving birth.
Amount: One-off £500 payment, but you could be entitled to more if you have triplets
Child Benefit. For parents with dependent children. It's paid until the 31 August following your child's 16th birthday, or until the age of 20 if they're in full-time education or approved training.
Since Jan 2013, families where at least one parent earns between £50,000-£60,000 a year will only get a partial payout (stopped if over £60,000). See the Child Benefit cut to hit 1 million MSE news story.
Amount: Eldest or only child £20.70 per week, other children £13.70 per week.
Get free parenting help at Sure Start centres
Sure Start children's centres in England are open to all parents, carers and kids under five. They offer a range of free services, including advice on breastfeeding, maternity help and parenting support. Yet they aren't just for advice – some have great free play areas and other activities for tots.
Free services vary depending on your area, and the centres also offer some paid services. Check what's on offer at your nearest Sure Start children's centre. One forumite says:
The centre I use is purpose-built, clean, light and has a good selection of toys. The food there is brill as Sure Start promotes healthy eating, so there's no rubbish given.
Do a proper family budget
A new baby is going to mean an extra strain on your finances, so it's crucial to make sure you're budgeting correctly. Use the free Budget Planner tool and guide to help you work out exactly where your cash is going, and where any baby spending fits in.
If you're expecting, do your budget as soon as you can and factor in how long you've got. So if your child's due in four months, that's four months to add to your savings for baby items, so cut your cloth accordingly. Even if the baby's already here, it's never too late to do this.
Next, do a Money Makeover. This guide overhauls your finances, taking you through everything from debts to utilities. It'll take time to work through, but it's time well invested for your family's future. Some end up thousands better off in a single day.
Seek out second-hand baby treasure
Nearly-new sales organised by the National Childbirth Trust are another treasure trove. Use its tool to find an event near you.
Also try local Facebook Selling groups, where instead of eBaying second-hand goods, people harness the social network's power to sell to others in the local community.
Bear in mind Facebook isn't involved with payment or delivery in either case, so there's little comeback if you have problems.
See our 40+ eBay buying tips for more second-hand buying help. Here's one forumite's secondhand success story for inspiration:
Brand new version of the travel system I bought = £650. Secondhand version of the same thing = £120. The only difference is the colour! It's the little person IN the pram that everyone looks at, so ignore the peer pressure to be in fashion.
Try the supermarket downshift challenge
With nappies, baby food, new togs and more added to your shopping list, the cost of a family supermarket shop can be eye-watering. Yet you can easily save over £1,000 a year by doing the 'downshift challenge'.
Over the years, supermarkets have hypnotised us into spending more and moving up the brand chain. Many people gradually buy increasingly more expensive versions of the same thing. The challenge:
Drop one brand level on everything and see if you can tell the difference. If you can't, stick with the cheaper product.
Drop just one brand level on everything and the average bill's cut by a third. On a £100 weekly shop, that's a whopping £1,700 a year less. Remember, supermarkets are experts at getting us to buy more than we need:
If you want to teach an eight-year-old about money, the best place to start is a supermarket. Ask them what they can smell: it'll usually be bread or a bakery. The scent makes us hungry and likely to buy more food, so the supermarket profits.
Grab free baby-class trials, including music and swimming
If you enjoy getting out and about with your little one, there are a plethora of classes on offer these days, from music to swimming.
Even better, the following offer a free trial in the hope that you'll sign up. You can use 'em to test if they're right for your little 'un or just fill your days for less by hopping from freebie to freebie. None of the below require you to enter credit card details to take the trial.
Monkey Music. You can get a free one-class trial of its music classes, which are aimed at tots from three months to four years and involve singing and percussion instruments. It runs at over 50 locations across England, Wales and Scotland. Just find your local class, register and hit the 'first class free' button when you add the class to your basket.
Caterpillar Music. This class is aimed at newborns to four-year-olds and features singing, instruments and puppets. There are 150 locations across England and Scotland – to book a free trial, just find your local class and click 'contact me' to request one from your local class leader.
Puddleducks. These are swimming classes for kids from 0 to 10 years, based at 35 locations across the UK. Click 'find a class' on its homepage to see your nearest. To book a free trial (Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire are excluded), just fill in this form.
Diddi Dance. For preschool dance classes across England and Scotland, check out Diddi Dance. It's for kids aged 18 months upwards (younger if they're steady on their feet). Go to Find a class, then click the book a trial tab.
Gymboree. These are 'baby sensory classes' across England and Scotland (find your nearest). Sessions include songs, puppets, bubbles and baby-sized instruments. To book a free trial, fill out this form.
Also look out for smaller independent groups near you. Many will offer free trials – it's well worth following their Facebook groups for short-term offers.
Borrow and reuse where you can
Don't be afraid to politely ask family and friends if they've any spare baby clothes or equipment you can use. Often they'll be happy to see them put to good use again.
If you've got clothing stored from previous kids, now's the time to dig it out and reuse. Think of it as 'baby vintage chic'. It can save a small fortune on kitting out your new arrival.
If you're after new baby outfits, here's a tried 'n' tested tip from our own MSE Andrea:
If you're buying for a new baby, choose clothes with pop-studs rather than buttons.
Buttons can be tricky to manoeuvre on a wriggling newborn, so anything with pop-studs you can just pull apart can be a huge time saver and a godsend!
Or to make those sleep-deprived nappy changes in the small hours even easier, here's an alternative suggestion from MSE Jo:
If you're buying for a new baby, see if you can find all-in-ones with zips. Even pop-studs can be tricky to manoeuvre on a wriggling newborn, so anything with a zip can be a huge time saver. It'll also be a godsend at 3am when your little darling's done yet another explosive one!
Can I breastfeed in it? Cheap nursing clothes
If you decide to breastfeed your baby, there's no need to spend a wedge on specialist nursing gear. Wearing the right clothes can make breastfeeding much easier, but with a few simple tricks, you can easily feed in normal, flattering high-street clothes – lots of which you probably already own.
Plus if you want to buy new clothes, opting for standard clothes means you can wear them once you've stopped breastfeeding too.
Here are a few top tips from MSE Jenny:
You can feed in almost anything in your wardrobe... apart from dresses with no buttons or zips on the front. It's not just about nursing tops and dresses. Go through your closet and hunt out anything that gives your baby easy access: tops and dresses with buttons, zips or wrap fronts. Keep an eye out for dungarees or off-the-shoulder 'Bardot' necklines. You can even feed through the armholes of some tops if they're large enough.
Try the 'one up, one down' hack. This one is a lifesaver and perfect for cooler months. In breastfeeding parlance, 'one up, one down' is when you wear a strappy vest under a normal t-shirt, top or sweater. You can then pull up the top, and whip down the vest for easy access without exposing your tummy. No need for specialist nursing vests with clips – many people just buy cheap stretchy vests (I like Primark's) and pull the front down.
The Facebook page every breastfeeding mum needs. This group is an absolute game-changer. From wedding guest outfits to cosy pyjamas, the Can I Breastfeed In It? Facebook group is a wonderfully supportive community of women on a quest for high street buys that look great but are also easy to feed in. The best bit is members post photos of themselves in outfits, so you can see what the clothes look like on other mums. Also worth a look are its site and Instagram pages for more tips.
Check out current high street bargains. If you do want to buy new items (which with a changing body shape can be nice – let's be honest), the Can I Breastfeed In It? group often features items on sale and cheap supermarket outfits. See the group's Hot Favourites List with anything that's perfect for nursing.
Swap Tesco vouchers for cheap family days out
If you've a Tesco Clubcard, here's a handy trick to cut the cost of family days out at zoos, farms, adventure parks and more. It's possible to triple Tesco vouchers' value for days out, homeware and more via Clubcard Rewards.
This lets you swap £5 of vouchers for £15 to spend at a huge range of family days out – attractions in the scheme include London Zoo, Colchester Zoo and the Eden Project.
Plus if you've ever lost vouchers, you can access the codes online for instant redemption or get the vouchers re-issued.
It's fast and free to check your account for old vouchers. See the Reclaim & Boost Tesco Vouchers guide for a full how-to.
Free emergency water if you've a newborn
Some water companies provide free emergency water supplies for vulnerable customers, including nursing mothers (eg, Anglian's WaterCare) in case your water supply's interrupted.
So you're worried about cut-offs with a newborn to look after, you can contact your local water company and ask to be put on its special assistance list.
There are no hard and fast rules on this, so it will depend which company you're with as to what's available. Many companies can register any special needs by phone or via a form, so check with your water company.
The Consumer Council for Water website also has a list of water company contacts – get in touch with it if you have any problems making arrangements with your water company. It's also worth noting that bottled water isn't recommended for making baby formula but if it has to be used, NHS Choices provides guidelines. Plus see our Cut your water bills guide for full cost-cutting help.
Use Money Mantras before baby impulse buys
Shops are desperate to get you caught up in baby fever to make you spend, spend, spend, while trips out and coffee mornings soon add up.
One MoneySaver reports:
Beware, as a new mum getting out means you'll spend LOADS on coffee in cafes. Can't say I'm very MoneySaving with this, but now I know I do it I'm more aware and try to do other things.
So before you buy anything, use these money mantras to help keep your cash in your pocket. We've also designed this handy Free Money Mantras Card.
If you're skint, ask
Do I need it?
Can I afford it?
Can I find it cheaper anywhere else?
If you aren't skint, ask
Will I use it?
Is it worth it?
Can I find it cheaper anywhere else?
Find the cheapest online prices
We've found Google Shopping to be the most consistent at finding the cheapest price – our MSE Deals team even use it as a starting point when checking out deals.
It searches a wide range of retailers, including sites such as Amazon, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Tesco. It also searches less traditional retailers such as eBay and daily deals site Groupon.
For a full how-to guide and other price comparison sites to try, see 40+ Online Shopping Tricks.
Quitting may not be easy, but both your family and your wallet will be much better off.
An average smoker can save £40,000 over 20 years when you add up not buying cigarettes, plus savings on common financial products such as life insurance. One forumite reports:
Best decision I ever made – without it, my daughter would go to school smelling like a dirty ashtray. I'd smoked since I was 12, came from a house where both parents smoked even though we had no money for holidays, etc.
Share your tips on the Families forum
And finally... enjoy every moment
Babies grow up so quickly, so try to spend less time worrying and more time enjoying yourselves together.
A final word from the forums:
You will fret over vaccinations. You will smell of vomit. BUT when they give you a smile it is the most wonderful sight in the world. Their first laugh is a sound you will never forget.
My son told me he had a surprise for me today. He'd drawn me a heart because he wanted to show how much I was loved. Kids are hard work, but the best thing in the world.
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