Worrying about whether your card will decline at the supermarket checkout is the last thing anyone needs, so how can you as a new parent curb costs and make savings, while still maintaining your lifestyle? Here are some helpful tips from resourceful Kiwi mums.
The estimated cost of raising a child to maturity in New Zealand is tipping a 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, for many parents, this can add thousands on top.
Here are some top post-baby money-saving tips:
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 to 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 who charges 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.
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 now, instead of a three-course dinner accompanied by yummy wine,” says Tina, mum of Sydney (1). “It’s cheaper and, more importantly, baby-friendly.”
Lori, mum of Shelby (20 months) has been proactive in learning how to prepare some of her favourite, but expensive, dining-out or takeaway foods at home, 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.
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.
Baby clothing can be purchased relatively cheaply if you shop around, look out for sales and stock up out-of-season to maximise savings.
Lori, a stay-at-home mum likes her regular massages, but tries to make 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.”
creative entertainment for the little ones
For some, personal treats now take a back seat to taking the kids out. And 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,” Amanda suggests. Both she and Amelia (21 months) love to read books or join in ‘Wriggle & Rhyme’ sessions at the local library. Many areas have Mainly Music sessions that cost only a few dollars, as well as community playgroups where little ones can play safely and you can meet other parents.
Check out the Calendar of Events on the Tots to Teens website, or refer to the Council in your local area for information on free activities for preschoolers.
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 also has regular ‘swap nights’ (where you exchange clothing/shoes/accessories that you no longer wear or fit) with girlfriends to save on buying new gear, and babysitting swaps with other parent-friends so there’s no need to pay
“You can also go running instead of paying a gym membership, or go to Saturday markets for cheaper fruit and vegetables,” she suggests.
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 website www.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 is a freelance writer. Natural parenting and food are two of the topics regularly featured on her blog http://zigzagutopia.wordpress.com.