If you’ve got a baby on the way, you’ve got to figure out how to live on much less money and you’re freaking out. Never fear, there’s plenty of help available and it doesn’t mean you have to resort to reusing tea bags. Unless you really want to, of course…
1. Create a budget and work out where it can be reduced
I know, budgets, fun, right? But they’re a necessary evil when it comes to tracking, allocating and curbing your finances. Note where all your money is going now and work out where you can save post-baby… perhaps your transport costs will be less or you won’t need to spend as much on clothes. There are plenty of online resources and apps such as Pocketbook to help you on your way.
2. Practise living on one wage
Ideally, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant you should aim to live on one partner’s wage and save the other. Not only does this help you prepare for the reality of life post baby, but it means you can get a great head start on saving for those baby expenses such as strollers, car seats and nursery items, as well as putting a contingency fund in place for emergencies. Look at all your household and personal purchases: are they a ‘want’ or a ‘need’? (Hint: spa visits and expensive bottles of wine are not needs. Soz.)
3. Become a savvy supermarket shopper
Before your baby arrives, keep your eyes open for specials so you can stock up on basics such as tea, coffee and cleaning products, as well as nappies, wipes and the like, which will save both time and money in those early challenging days. For comparison shopping online, visit www.myshopping.com.au or sign up to newsletters from discount supermarkets such as ALDI, who offer quality products at almost half the price of other supermarkets. Keep an eye out for their Special Buys as well.
4. Consolidate your credit
Those multi credit card days are over (for now)! Pay off any personal loans and move all of your credit cards into one low-interest account that you only use in the place of emergencies and aim to use a debit card for the rest of the time, where you’re only spending your own money. Go to finder.com.au to compare credit cards and get the best deal.
5. Reduce your bills
Take a close look at utility bills, subscriptions, insurance, etc and shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal – try using a comparison service such as iselect.com.au. Sign up for direct debit to take advantage of early payment discounts and avoid late fees. Look at your mobile and pay TV usage and make sure you’re not paying for what you’re not using. Could you further reduce electricity costs by being more frugal with energy use? (If you’re in the habit of leaving the TV on all day with the aim of scaring off burglars, then the answer is YES!)
6. Address your accommodation
If you have a mortgage, inspect your home loan to ascertain if it’s worth refinancing, switching to interest only or reducing payments for the short term if you’ve built up equity. If you’re a renter, you might need to consider renting in a cheaper location or property or perhaps even renting out a spare room. (Just don’t tell them there’ll soon be a newborn in the house, snigger.)
7. Check your entitlements
Before you have your baby, visit the Family Assistance website to see if you’re eligible for Paid Parental Leave, Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement, Dad and Partner Pay, Family Tax Benefit or Parenting Payment – you can start the claim process up to three months prior, although you might want to consider delaying the payments until a few months after your baby is born so you’ll be covered at the other end when money is often tighter. You should also contact your employer to see what your leave entitlements and options are… If they offer paid maternity or a parental leave scheme, ask if you can receive half pay over a longer period of time. Make sure you’re also taking advantage of tax deductions – 20 to 35% of child care expenses can be deducted depending on your income, so check with your accountant.
8. Embrace pre-loved items
Baby clothes and equipment are often used for such a short time that buying second-hand products really makes wise economic and environmental sense. You can score massive bargains online courtesy of eBay or Gumtree, or head to your local Baby and Kids Markets, op-shops like Vinnies or the Salvos and garage sales. Freecycle is a good online resource where you can give and receive pre-loved gear at no cost. Just follow caution when buying certain second-hand items such as car seats and cot mattresses – check out this guide on how to buy used goods safely.
Alternatively, ask friends and family if you can borrow things they aren’t using, many families might be in between children and relish getting back some closet space for a while. This is also a good way to road-test items like bouncers, baby carriers, swings and high chairs to make sure they suit you and your child.
9. Consider hiring rather than buying
For items you or your baby will only use for a short time, such as bassinets, car capsules, bouncers and high chairs, consider hiring rather than buying. As well as saving you money, it means you don’t have the hassle of trying to offload them afterwards. Have a look at Kidspot’s Baby Hire Equipment and Toy Directory for ideas on areas you can save big bickies.
10. Make the most of coupons and samples
Never thought of yourself as a ‘coupon clipper’? Now is the perfect time to start. Comb through your local paper and flyers or go online to find coupons on baby supplies. And don’t just limit yourself to baby items – finder.com.au compares about 500 different coupon codes from retailers offering a variety of discounts, free shipping and more. When shopping for baby products and while in hospital, ask about samples, coupons, and freebies for new parents. Not only are you getting something for nothing, but it’s a great way to trial a product to see if you like it before buying.
11. Socialise on the cheap
Just because you’re watching your pennies, doesn’t mean you’re confined to house arrest. Get out and about doing things that don’t cost much oney – meet up with friends or fellow mums in the park or go for a long walk together, head to your local library to borrow books, DVDs and CDs for free, or alternate between houses for a playdate. You can also ask family members to babysit or make an arrangement with mums in a similar situation where you take turns in babysitting to avoid the cost of a babysitter and give you a much needed break.