You don't need to break your FD to raise a baby
Budgeting for what is essential and what can be borrowed from Neena maasi
If the baby doesn’t sleep, mama doesn’t sleep. For newborn dolphins, that could be for a whole month after birth. You can picture chaotic little dolphins flitting from one spot to another with an exhausted mama dolphin chasing after them. But she won’t sleep as much as she might want to because she has to keep an eye on her child. Maybe we’re not so different from our marine mammal brethren.
Bringing a newborn home means stepping into a land of sleepless nights, endless feedings, and diaper changes by parents drained of energy and, slowly, finances. To have a child in this economy can make you consider dipping into your mutual funds to find all the right products that Romi aunty, your neighbour Tanaz, co-worker Payal and mommy blogger Sheetu said you have to get if you’re having a baby.
This rings true for new parents especially. Amid panic and anxiety about a new human entering your life that you need to be responsible for, you pick up all the baby gear people tell you to get, right from handmade baby bottles to bedazzled pacifiers and shoes for every occasion.
These money-saving tips for new parents can help with unnecessary spending, budgeting and prioritising what is essential and what can be borrowed from Neena maasi. Birthing and raising a child are expensive, but you can save some cash in those early months with a few smart moves.
10 money-saving tips for new parents
Embrace the hand-me-downs
We can all relate to the grumpiness that came with wearing our cousin’s hand-me-downs that were three sizes too big for us. But for infants, there’s really no point dropping major dough on clothes that they will outgrow in a matter of weeks.
When people say it takes a village to raise a child, in India, we’re fortunate that the entire village would actually show up if you asked them to. There are plenty of relatives, new and old, who are more than happy to part with the clothes and accessories worn by their own children like heirlooms travelling down the family tree.
Welcome them with open arms.
Organise swaps with other parents
One of the easiest money-saving tips for new parents is doing swaps with other parents. They are a great way to get baby items that someone else may no longer need, without having to spend any money.
Organising a swap takes a bit of effort but you can use social media, local parent groups, or people in your friends’ circle, family and peers. Set a date, and make sure everyone has brought their items that are in reasonable condition, and most importantly hygienic. This can include toys, clothes, diaper bags, and books.
Say no to shoe collections
It is very unlikely that your newborn will ever be in a situation where they need a selection of shoes – or any shoes at all. Baby shoes are probably one of the most pointless kiddie creations, destined to be dropped in the supermarket or kicked off at the playground. Sure, socks keep their feet clean and warm, but does an infant need Gucci sneakers? Functionally speaking, definitely not. Like clothes, they’re going to outgrow these faster than we did our low-rise jeans phase.
A pair of tiny baby booties are an adorable keepsake to give your kids once they grow up, but that one (or two) is probably all you’re going to need. Don’t let the Insta-moms influence you into matching every outfit with baby shoes (especially if they aren’t walking yet).
Budget the birthday parties
We’ve come a long way from the ‘90s, when kids’ birthday parties featured samosas and the ubiquitous black forest cake, and the chief entertainment was musical chairs. Today, kids’ birthday parties are turning into lavish events in a competition of parental oneupmanship.
Your infant isn’t going to remember their first birthday, or second or third. Remind yourself that the focus of the celebration is your child, not the adults, and they don’t need to be Instagram-worthy affairs if you’re trying to save money. Keep it small and simple, intimate dinners or a family meal at home with lots of photographs for your child to enjoy once they’re older (we’ve got some tips from parents and experts to help).
Don’t accessorise the cribs
When you see cribs or bassinets being advertised you’ll often find them filled with stuffed toys that are meant to be your little one’s new favourite cuddle buddy and tiny fluffy pillows. According to paediatricians, that’s not a good idea. Not only are you saving money by not buying these crib accessories, you’re also removing anything that can be a SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) hazard.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends empty as ideal, which means nothing goes into the crib with the baby until they are at least a year old.
Breastfeed, if possible
This is probably the most effective of all money-saving tips for new parents because it’s free, and you are the source. If breastfeeding is comfortable and possible for you, it’ll avoid the need for formula or replacement foods whose costs add up over time. It comes with the additional cost of a breast pump, but that’s a one-time expense.
Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and baby. It contains essential nutrients for a baby and helps promote healthy growth and development. breastmilk contains antibodies that help protect the baby from infections and illnesses, and it can lower the risk of chronic health conditions later in life. However, the hours spent breastfeeding can pretty much amount to a full-time job. If it’s not practical or possible for you, formula is a good alternative.
Rent play pals
These could be physical as well as imaginary. We’re talking about books and toys for your mini-me. Playing with toys allows them to explore their imagination and creativity which is important for cognitive and emotional development. Through play, babies can also develop their motor skills, as they learn to manipulate objects and use their bodies in different ways.
Reading, on the other hand, is important for babies’ language and literacy development. It helps them learn new vocabulary, understand sentence structure and grammar, and develop listening and comprehension skills. Reading to babies also helps foster a love of books and learning, which can have lifelong benefits.
These are things you can easily rent with online and offline libraries, and more recently, toy libraries. Once your child gets bored of their new shiny plaything, you can return it and get something new to catch their fancy.
Go old-school with cloth diapers
While convenient, the cost of disposable diapers is only going up with inflation, and they aren’t the best for the environment either. It is highly debated, but some experts believe that cloth diapers are better for the baby’s delicate skin and can prevent diaper rash because of frequent changes. At the other end of the spectrum, experts believe that disposable diapers would reduce the risk more since they are highly absorbent.
However, Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, paediatrician says, “If you’re good about changing your baby’s diaper very frequently, as we recommend that parents do, you can prevent diaper rash with both types of diapers.”
Cloth diapers aren’t very absorbent so they require monitoring and frequent changes. If the thought of cleaning up baby poop gives you the ick, then this tip might not be for you, because it’s only going to get ickier as your child starts to eat solid foods.
Save on toiletries
We’ve all seen an IG reel or two of babies in little headbands and bathrobes getting a skincare routine done, complete with jade roller, gua sha massage et al.
Though babies’ delicate skin does require extra care, you don’t need to go all out with fancy products. Dermatologist Dr Sunaina Hameed writes that soap, fragrance and detergent-free products are ideal. She mentions products from Sebamed, Aveeno and Cetaphil, which can be used by the entire family and not bought specially for the baby. You may not want to completely break up with your skincare routine (you would have already made some changes during pregnancy), but you can replace some of your basics with the same products you use on your baby.
Find stores with loyalty points
You’re playing the long game with this one, but most stores – brick-and-mortar chains and online – have some kind of membership benefits or loyalty program where you can collect points and get discounts. Of course, this takes some investment on your part and continued shopping from the same store to avail any of the benefits or discounts, but if you are going to be shopping, you might as well get something out of it in return.
Different stores have different programs. Some offer discounts and gifts on birthdays, special festival discounts with early access to members, and clubbing points to get a discount on your next purchase. You’ll want to read the finer print of the details, to see if points expire, for example.
Don’t let the daunting task of raising a little one break the bank. By implementing these money-saving tips for new parents you can save money (put it towards some low-risk investments instead) while still giving your little bundle of joy everything they need. You don’t need to splurge on a designer diaper bag and gourmet jars of baby food to be a good parent.