It’s not exactly a secret that having kids is expensive, but the actual amount that your darling offspring will cost you may come as something of a surprise.
The costs are particularly steep early on in the child’s life. Latest research found that baby gear - things like buggies, prams, cots and the like - end up costing more than £5,500, while clothes up to the age of five cost over £4,000.
These are staggering amounts, but with a bit of careful planning you can drastically reduce just how much your children set you back.
Go second hand
For example, you can save a small fortune by taking advantage of your friends and family who have already had children by asking if they have any hand-me-downs they can pass on.
I can speak from experience here - we benefited from plenty of barely worn clothes donated from our friends, and have passed on loads of clothing in a similar condition to other friends who are just starting out as parents.
If you don’t have friends that you can turn to, then charity shops are a great resource too. This stretches beyond just clothes too - everything from a buggy to a cot can be nabbed second hand at a fraction of the price, or even for free.
The one thing that it’s recommended that you do buy new is a car seat though, so that you can be confident in its safety standards.
Get help with childcare
The cost of childcare when you head back to work can be astronomical, but there are now a host of government schemes which can help you save a few pennies.
For example, all three and four-year-olds in England qualify for 15 hours a week of free childcare, while those with low incomes can also enjoy some free childcare for two-year-olds. You can actually apply to your council to double this up to 30 hours a week too, so long as you meet certain eligibility criteria.
You may also be able to claim the childcare element of working tax credits, which pays out an average of more than £3,000 a year.
In addition to that, last year the government launched its tax-free childcare scheme, which could help you save 20% on the cost of childcare up to a maximum of £2,000 (or £4,000 if your child has a disability).
Start your present shopping early
There is undeniably more magic to Christmas when you have small kids in the house, but it can also seriously hurt your bank balance.
As a result, taking a year-round approach to shopping is a good idea - if you see something in a sale in March that you reckon your kids would appreciate, snap it up and then hide it in a cupboard for a few months.
It’s worth doing something similar with birthdays too.
There are plenty of big shopping bonanza days now, like Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day, which can deliver some seriously big discounts and help you save a packet on presents for the next year.
Get better at budgeting
Perhaps the key to ensuring that having kids doesn’t lead to financial problems is to embrace budgeting. By taking a more proactive approach to monitoring where your money is going, it’s much easier to work out what you can afford on things like days out and holidays.
When Standard Life looked into this area a few years ago, they found that as many as 40% of us don’t bother with any budgeting, for reasons ranging from finding it boring to preferring not to know just what our finances look like.
While that can be understandable, the truth is that by keeping a closer eye on what’s happening to your money, you’ll be able to make it go further.
There are now lots of different banking and budgeting apps that make the process much easier, in some cases even allowing you to move money into specific ‘pots’ for things you’re saving for, such as a family holiday.
It will also help you identify the areas where you may be spending too much and have the opportunity to cut back. This might be by switching to a cheaper supermarket for food, or changing your energy tariff.
Make the most of free and cheap activities
This is another one that comes from experience. Keeping the kids entertained, particularly during the school holidays, can swiftly batter your bank balance. But in reality, it’s often the cheap and free days out that they appreciate more than the ones that cost a packet.
That means taking advantage of things like museums, free festivals and the discounted tickets on offer from major cinema chains during the holidays.