Here’s a set of questions to ask yourself before heading to the shops that will cut the cost of raising a child by many thousands of pounds.
HSBC estimates it costs £166,000 to raise your first child, more than double parents’ own estimates of £73,000 – and that’s before university costs.
I wonder whether HSBC factored in savings made by smart shoppers. Here’s how you might be saving money:
Keep thinking second hand
Your total clothes bill over the years will be far smaller if you always buy from eBay, flea markets, charity shops and car-boot sales, for as long as your child will wear second-hand goods. With luck, that’ll be a long time, if you dig around for more stylish items.
The same goes for toys. Even when children get older, you’ll still be able to buy a lot of their toys second hand, and you could use whatever influence you have to encourage them to use their pocket money in the same way. It might teach them to recycle and in the process cut the cost of raising a child.
The price of love
Take steps to avoid over-indulgence and impulse buying in order to cut the cost of raising a child. A friend of mine spent £150 on kids’ stuff for her two-month-old at Christmas, for example. Imagine the mountain of clothes and toys you’d get for that money at a second-hand stall!
Lots of these treats are more for parents’ own pleasure, so try to treat yourself in a more modest way by sticking to a firm budget for your children. It needn’t be much, especially for younger ones.
The cost of anxiety
On the other side of the emotional spectrum is fear and peer pressure.
Today, the problem can be seen in the West’s growing health and safety culture regarding consumer products and foods.
There was a vague story a few years ago about how a baby developed a problem with its hip, and it emerges that the baby, like thousands of others with no hip problems, happened to be carried in a Baby Bjorn, a popular baby carrier.
While GPs asked for calm, many parents made five out of two plus two and rushed to buy a second, often more expensive carrier.
Buying checklist for kids’ stuff
Before buying anything at all for your child, ask yourself these questions:
- Will it really make my child happier?
- Do I really have to buy it brand new?
- Could I get free kids’ stuff by borrowing from a friend?
- Will a cheaper model/brand still fulfil all my criteria?
- Could I be being influenced by peer pressure?
- Have I looked for lots of customer reviews to help validate or dismiss any fears?
- Is this within the budget I have set aside this month, and have I considered
- whether saving it for a later month and a bigger purchase would be money better spent? Or even saving it for my children’s future?
If you don’t naturally ask these sorts of questions while shopping, you’ll need to make a note of them and carry them around with you. If you’re just not all that interested in saving lots of money, at least try to remember the one question where you think you usually go wrong most.