“Here comes the baby, there goes our budget!”
I find this phrase to be ever more fitting especially for first-time parents, young families, or families with children living in urban areas. In today’s demanding lifestyle, parents spend thousands of ringgit just to ensure they provide the best when fulfilling all their children’s needs.
There are, however, nifty and practical ways for parents to save money and avoid overspending, especially for first-time parents.
Don’t buy too far ahead
First-time moms and dads are prone to overspending. Although there’s a need to cover all aspects, it’s important for first-time parents to save money, and not buy too far ahead for baby clothing, nursing garments and feeding bottles. Most top brands usually come with higher price tags and are no guarantee of success. Different babies have different preferences. To avoid wastage and save money, don’t buy in the dozens before you are sure that your baby will accept that particular feeding bottle. Some work just fine with more common and less ‘branded’ feeding bottles.
Babies grow fast!
Babies grow out of their clothes in a matter of weeks, so it is not necessary for them to have 20 pairs of mittens and different coloured hats for each occasion. Neither do they need different jacket styles with different witty quotes dedicated to each parent, or shoes when they are not even walking. Also, studies show that infants progress better when they are barefoot while indoors.
Stick to the essentials
This is a mental trap for most first-time parents, from the moment you discover that you are expecting you find yourself listing out the things you ‘need’ to have. Your baby starts off requiring very little essentials: diapers, a few comfortable sleepsuits, blankets, booties, mittens, a hat, bathing equipment and a car seat.
And before rushing for anything else, consider also:
Sales and bulk buying
For long-term necessities such as diapers, wet wipes and bathing essentials etc it is worthwhile to purchase in bulk or even stock up during sales to help you save money.
Multi-purpose products = Money-saving
Buy items which have multi-purpose uses. You may want to consider a stroller that lies flat so it can serve as a place to nap, or a travel system that features a detachable car seat. There are also strollers with extendable multi-compartments to allow you to seat more than one child. Get a backpack that serves as a diaper/carry bag instead of having to carry multiple bags on an outing. Consider furniture like cots that can be turned into playpens or toy boxes that serve as a table for the kids.
Go pre-loved, yard sales, barter trade and hand-me-downs
Whether you’re a first-time parent or not, don’t hesitate to go the pre-loved way. I love browsing through pre-loved goods and visiting yard sales. You can find plenty of items in extremely good condition to save you a lot of moolah in the long run.
Also consider barter trade or borrowing from your relatives, and hand-me-downs. They are lifesavers, especially for one-off uses like the occasional party suit or costumes.
Even essentials like breast pumps are also available for rent from hospitals. It’s an option worth considering so you won’t end up spending more than you should, in the event you don’t breastfeed long-term.
If you must buy new…
Make sure you shop around and compare prices if you must buy new, especially big-bill items such as car seats, a stroller, an electronic breast pump, bedding and mattresses. Look at reviews and online forums to get information as to products that truly match your preferences.
Pick gender-neutral colours
It is always better to settle for a non-gender-specific colour so you can re-use them for your next child. Even if you won’t be having another one, it’ll be easy to find someone who may benefit from it as a hand-me-down. Otherwise there is always the option of selling it preloved. So for things like a baby carrier, a car seat, stroller and high-chair, and clothes like jackets, hats and booties, it is wiser to opt for a gender-neutral colour.
Skip designer outlets
High-end baby apparel companies often have charming marketing campaigns, but you’ll save bigger bucks if you skip these designer brands when shopping for your kids. Your two-year-old will not appreciate her RM250 tutu skirt. Your children do not need to be ‘in’ or hip, they just need to be comfortable and safe.
Look out for parents’ community and support groups
Consider joining an online community group for parents and mothers so you can benefit from a network to share information on the latest buying tips, group buys and other money-saving tricks. There is so much to be gained from mummies looking out for each other!
There will be moments when you will have to resist the urge to make that big purchase. Always take a step back and evaluate if you really need it or if there are less expensive alternatives. Be money-smart parents who provide the best without compromising the safety and well-being of your children. It’ll all be worth it when you have more to spend on precious experiences with your kids!
By Dessy Barnaby
Dessy is on sabbatical from her full-time job in public relations, and has since become an expert in drool-wiping and kid-chasing. She now spends her days perfecting her critical negotiation skills with her six and 10-year-old. She’s convinced that becoming a SAHM was the best decision she ever made, and sees writing as the one thing that keeps her sane in her new role as a domestic goddess.