The bundle of joy can come with a hefty price tag, writes Grainne McGuinness, in her weekly consumer affairs column.
WHEN awaiting the arrival of their first child, most parents are concerned primarily with the health of their baby and then worry about taking care of the new arrival; finances can be well down the list of concerns. But, even for parents who do not yet have childcare costs, the bundle of joy comes with a hefty price tag.
I spoke to Laura Erskine, Mum-in-Residence at Irish site mummypages.ie, about what new parents can expect financially in the first year.
“Having a baby is a very exciting time for both mum and dad, particularly so when it is their first child. The last few years have brought increased financial pressure for parents, with most families now trying to be sensible. Gone are the days where parents feel the need to emulate their celebrity mum icons with all of their designer trappings.”
Nonetheless, the site estimates that parents will easily spend more than €4,000 in the first year, when you factor in all the equipment needed, plus food, clothes and nappies. Budget-conscious parents should focus their spending on what matters most, such as a car seat.
“This is an absolute necessity which needs to be bought before baby arrives,” Erskine explains. “Your baby cannot leave the hospital without one. It’s also essential that infant car seats are purchased new to ensure safety. You can expect to pay between €150 and €300 for a car seat.”
Nursery furniture is also necessary but needn’t cost the earth.
“For a basic setup, including a crib, mattress and changing table, the average price of each item is at least €150. However, you can spend much more if you use matching nursery furniture sets and invest in the latest mattress technology. Many parents-to-be will receive second-hand cots and changing tables from family or friends or buy them up second-hand.”
Given that a lot of baby equipment and clothes are used for a very short time before being outgrown, purchasing “gently used” items is becoming more common.
“Lots of our mums are only too happy to buy a designer buggy second-hand and indeed beautifully crafted nursery furniture which unfortunately only has a finite life before the child’s needs evolve to the next stage,” says Erskine.
“We have seen a huge surge in mums buying second-hand clothes and accessories for their newborn babies and toddler children. From passing “gently used” baby equipment and clothes between siblings and friends, to buying through online baby classifieds websites and local pre-loved baby markets.”
Websites such as adverts.ie and donedeal.ie carry a huge number of ads for baby equpment, and donedeal also has a very useful blog post on how to check baby equipment before buying. Another idea is to talk to family and friends about gifts before the baby is born. New parents will find themselves inundated with adorable dresses, dungarees, and booties for their newborn. But the truth is fancy outfits will get worn once or twice at most. Suggest that family and groups of friends club together to get one item, such as a changing unit or baby monitor.
New parents may find they have far less free time to spend on their smartphones but one app well worth downloading is BabyDoc. This app finds special offers on everything from nappies to wipes to baby equipment and includes most major Irish retailers including Dunnes Stores, Tesco, Lloyds Pharmacy, Mothercare, McCabes Pharmacy, and Boots.
Financial constraints can have a huge impact on life with a new baby: “Almost two-thirds of mummypages mums claim to have experienced financial difficulty while on maternity leave.”
Make sure you are claiming the benefits you are entitled to, starting with maternity leave and children’s allowance. New dads are now entitled to two weeks paternity leave, but must check PRSI contributions to find out if they qualify for paternity benefit. If you are struggling financially you may qualify for extra help through the Family Income Supplement.
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