The following article appeared in the April/May 2015 edition of ‘Tots to Teens’ Magazine.
New Parents: 5 Ways to Cut Costs When Bubs Arrives
The estimated cost of raising a child to maturity in New Zealand is tipping quarter of a million dollars.
And this figure doesn’t include the cost of your pregnancy, nor the pre-conception stage.
Because we are waiting longer to have children, and conception is becoming more difficult, many can add thousands on top.
Worrying about whether your card will decline at the supermarket checkout is the last thing anyone needs, so how can you curb costs and make savings, while still maintaining your lifestyle?
Here are some helpful tips from resourceful Kiwi mums.
1 Re-think your definition of ‘luxury’
Some of your child-free luxuries will take a back seat to catering for your new family member.
Many new mums cut right back on personal luxuries like trips to the hair salon or beauty therapist.
Alice, mum Ellie (19 months) says she’s resorted to DIY home hair colour, but is lucky to have a hair stylist who’s also a new mum, now working from home.
“It’s great actually- I can take Ellie along to play with my hairdresser’s little one while she gives me a quick chop, at a fraction of the cost of a salon cut.”
Keeping an eye out for local salon specials on discount sites like dailydeal.co.nz or grabone.co.nz is another way to keep personal grooming costs down.
Amanda says, “I found being pregnant good practice for life-after-baby: spending less on going out, drinks, clothes, and spending more on things for the baby.”
Amelia (21 months) is reaping the benefits, as Amanda admits, “I actually enjoy buying things for bubs more than spending money on myself now.”
2 Gastronomic pleasures
Parents often identify items of spending that become unimportant or downright inconceivable after baby arrives.
Money spent on nights out, drinks and dining in the evening often becomes a thing of the past.
“We spoil ourselves on going out for lunches- instead of a three-course dinner accompanied with yummy wine,” says Tina, mum of Sydney (1). “It’s cheaper, but more importantly baby friendly.”
Lori, mum of Shelby (20 months) agrees. “I’d say a luxury now would be dining. Which we barely do, and if we go… it’s usually for lunch with Shelby who enjoys going so we are lucky.”
Lori has also been proactive in learning to prepare some of her favourite, but expensive, dining-out or takeaway foods so she doesn’t miss out.
“I have learned how to cook a lot of the things I crave like sushi… which is so easy to make and so inexpensive. I’m also making my own bread, pizza dough, pasta, and starting to learn how to make cheese. It’s become quite a hobby for me and a way to take care of my creative side.”
If dining out is something you can’t see yourself giving up, check out the kidzgo.co.nz website for a guide to family-friendly New Zealand restaurants. Welcoming families, these provide discounted meals for the little ones as well as colouring-in materials and the like.
3 Make do and mend (well, search out the sales, at least)
You may be fortunate enough to avoid some baby expenses by being on the receiving end of good quality second-hand gear from friends and family.
And if you’re lucky enough to have relatives who knit you’ll be glad of all those baby jumpers, hats and booties.
Since Sydney arrived, retail therapy on clothes for her baby girl has taken over from the pleasure of buying clothes for Tina.
“Baby clothes are definitely where I spend my money! I think I’ve bought enough clothes now till she’s three.”
Clothes can be purchased relatively cheaply if you shop around, look out for sales and stock up out-of-season to maximize savings.
All sorts of baby gear can also be purchased heavily discounted at Auckland’s annual Baby Show, now over 20 years running.
New parents find great ways to be resourceful; this can ease the household budget so perhaps not all your previous luxuries need be foregone.
Lori feels spending on herself on things like regular massage is more of a priority now that she is a stay-at-home-mum. She justifies this spending by making savings in other areas.
“I’ve started taking a sewing class in order to mend, and make things that look easy enough to make but are so expensive. I’m getting back to basics and thinking… what would my Grandmother do with the budget she was on? Four kids, one income, on a blue collar budget. She baked, and sewed. I enjoy thinking of her while I do these things.”
4 Creative entertainment for the little ones
For some, personal treats now take a back seat to taking the kids out.
Sarah says she now prefers to spend her money on outings with Kate (2), rather than on her own luxuries.
“Seeing her enjoy herself is more entertaining for me than sitting in a salon.”
Amanda points out there are plenty of activities that don’t have to cost much, if anything at all.
“Go to the park, play with bubbles and in the sprinkler, go to a cafe with a kids’ area and have a coffee while your baby plays, or meet up with other mums at each other’s houses or the beach.”
Both she and Amelia love to read books or join in ‘Wriggle & Rhyme’ sessions at the local library.
Check the Auckland Council website for details, or refer to the Council in your local area for information on free activities for pre-schoolers.
5 The household budget, and planning ahead
Groceries are where the bulk of savings can be made with a well-managed budget, says Christine, mum of Caius (21 months).
Her tips include buying meat in bigger portions and separating out before freezing, trying to eat vegetarian at least once a week, and buying the cheaper brands when quality is not an issue for you.
“I also make sure with all cleaning and personal products that we always have a ‘spare’. It means that we can space out when we buy them according to specials and if we have to trim the budget one week and leave something out, I know we won’t ever run out.”
Kara, mum of Eric (3), Thom (6) and Sam (10), shares a tip for making milk go further among three thirsty mouths.
“We buy the 4 litre generic-brand full-fat milk, then decant it a smaller container and half fill it with water. We basically just make our own low-fat milk! That way the boys can have it whenever they want- we know they’re not drinking too much milk- and we’re not paying two or three times more for the smaller full-fat product.”
Kara also has regular ‘swap nights’ with girlfriends to save on buying new clothes, and babysitting swaps with other parent-friends so there’s no need to pay a babysitter.
“You can also go running instead of paying a gym membership, or go to Saturday markets for cheaper fruit and vegetables.”
Looking further ahead, the ASG Education Fund programme assists parents to put aside money at regular intervals which is then returned at the appropriate stage for your child’s education needs. Visit asg.co.nz for more information.
Besides your coffee group or new-parent network, there are many avenues of advice to get the post-baby budget blues under control. The government-initiated sorted.org.nz is an online tool for everyday financial management, while all major New Zealand banks offer budgeting assistance, either in-branch or online.
Other resources include Plunket, big baby-brands such as Treasures or Huggies (both of which have a helpful online forum) and familybudgeting.co.nz, so seek the help that best fits your family at this time of change.
With a little planning and some commitment to making the best of your situation, life after babies can be- not so much less luxury-filled- as filled with a different kind of luxury.
© Tiffany Brown 2015