I’ve been rubbish with money for so long, unable to make it to the end of the month on what I had and often needing pay day loans or parental bailouts. I’m ashamed of that and it still irks me that I never got good at it before I had him. I’ve got better at it now, due to having the focus of a child to care for and provide for, and the fact that my social life is now not what it was. But I still struggle to make ends meet because life costs a fortune and I don’t make a fortune. That’s a fact.
So in bringing up my baby I’ve had to be creative and economical in every way, so I’ve picked up a few things along the way that may help any other struggling mums face the mountains of cost with a little savvy.
1. Buy second hand
For the love of God. I can’t stress this enough. Your child is not going to give a flying shit if you dress them in brand new designer gear or second hand things. The clothes will end up covered in shit, food and snot anyhow and will be grown out of before they even get a chance to be worn that much anyway.
Have a look in charity shops, on Gumtree, eBay and the many Facebook babywear selling pages – you’ll find TONS. I have bought and sold so much stuff this way.
Wash everything you buy before they wear it obviously.
This applies to most things, not just clothes. Prams, cots, toys, high chairs, books – there’s no need to buy everything new when you can find all the items you need in excellent condition for a fraction of the price.
The only things you really should buy new are: the car seat and cot/Moses basket mattress. You can never be sure of a car seat’s history if you buy it second hand and you cannot compromise on safety.
Also shoes, but that may be a question of opinion.
2. Look for stuff that doubles up as other stuff- saving space and cash!
Get a travel system rather than a different type of stroller/buggy for different terrains. I got the mamas and papas travel zoom system (second hand) and that covered the newborn stage (the cot bit can be used as a travel cot while they’re tiny) and later on.
3. Do not inundate your small human with piles of toys
With so many websites boasting the benefits of ‘learning through play’ one might easily be lead to believe this means your child should be given every kind of toy to learn with and be stimulated by. I do not believe this to be true.
A child will have just as much fun, stimulation and opportunity to learn and develop new skills if you give them safe household objects to play with, along with your own interaction, conversation and a safe environment to roam around in and explore.
I signed up to a local toy library – which has been a godsend. It’s a tenner for a whole year, most toys cost about 20p to rent for 2 weeks and Zac ends up with different and interesting toys to play with every fortnight before they get switched up again, always keeping him engaged.
Please don’t picture my little boy dressed in shabby clothes playing with second hand toys, with nothing new or of his own. He has toys of his own too and sometimes I even buy him brand new clothes. He’s perfectly well provided for. We just don’t go in for spending money we don’t have on shit he doesn’t need.
4. Food shop on a budget
I still wince when I think back on all of the money I’ve spent at Tesco and Sainsbury’s over the years- even Asda now feels pricey!
The day I found out that Lidl and Aldi had stopped being strange European discount stores without baskets or trollies that only sold foreign products with unpronounceable brand names -was the day that my weekly food shop became the funnest task of the week.
A weekly food shop for me and Zac usually comes to less than £50, which would be unheard of at Tesco.
Only things I do have to go to Tesco for are the gluten free products and Zac’s soya milk.
Try doing a shop at Aldi or Lidl and you’ll find yourself converted. They also have those mysterious islands in the middle where they’ll sell anything from espadrilles to toasters and wooden toys. A magical place.
5. Don’t be afraid to find out what help there is available to you
If you’re on a low income, work part time or are a lone parent, you can qualify for certain financial aids that make a difference.
If you’re renting, find out if you can get housing benefit. If you’re working 20 hours or more, look into tax credits. If you’re paying for childcare, you should be able to get child tax credits and/or working tax credits. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help if it’s there.
I was, but once I realised we couldn’t manage, I just sucked it up and asked. I was glad I did.
6. Find out about all the free groups and activities in your area
There will be loads – guaranteed. And if you don’t know where to start, first download the app Hoop and enter your postcode. That app is a revolution!
Think of farms, parks, playgrounds and open spaces near you- they’re all free and contain other children and their parents so you can let yours socialise with theirs while you possibly make a new friend or two as well.
7. Evaluate and review your outgoings every couple of months
If you go through all of your expenditures (lay them all out on a spreadsheet if you have time!) you can see what’s costing you the most each month and you can have a think about anything you could scale back on.
Shop around for different deals from energy providers, internet providers, insurance companies and whatever else you are being rinsed of monthly. Often if you tell your current provider you’ve found a better deal, they’ll match it to keep you with them. This is a win-win because you’re then spared the faff of transferring over to someone else.
If you’re buying products that don’t get used and end up thrown away, cut them off your shopping list. If you’re spending way too much on petrol, look at public transport links in your area and see if you can get around that way when you aren’t in a rush.
8. Shop smarter
Look at where you shop and consider cheaper alternatives. If you need clothes, don’t rush to River Island or Top Shop – try Primark or Matalan. I converted to Matalan in the last year and I’ve not looked back. They stock gorgeous clothes that are perfectly ‘on trend’ and are so much cheaper than places like New Look. They also do kids clothes and homeware.
For homeware, even though Ikea is cheap, it’s become more expensive in recent years so wouldn’t be my first choice. Plus, that place is like a damn parallel universe, with arrows leading nowhere.
My favourite places to get stuff for the home are:
- The Range (along with Aldi, this is my favourite shopping experience ever)
- Home Bargains
Look at the brands you’re buying and ask yourself if you’re buying for the name, for the quality or out of habit? Would your family notice the difference if you switched to a cheaper less known brand for food or products? Give it a try.
I have found a ton of brands in Lidl and Aldi that taste or work as well as the well known brands but cost half the price.
Now there are some things that just don’t taste as good as ‘the originals’ but believe me, you get used to the alternatives. And the difference on your receipt should give you incentive enough to sacrifice.
At the end of the day, if your family is fed, clothed and enjoying life then you’re doing it all right. It just doesn’t matter if they’re wearing brand new designer trainers and playing with the latest most expensive toys.
It matters that you feed them good things – but the good things don’t have to cost the earth. And I mean that in more ways than one!
That was deep, y’all.
Signing off now….