Over the last few years we've noticed that the cost of toys across many retail websites, and in shops, see a marked increase as Christmas approaches, and worse than that, stock availability is often poor during the festive season. Sometimes the price of individual items rises, in other instances, special offers that were available in earlier parts of the year disappear in the run-up to Christmas.
Our advice is to do your Christmas shopping early. Start looking for genuine bargains over the next few weeks and months. If you know some of the toys or other products that you want to buy then start monitoring their prices now and see if they come into a sale during the autumn.
Shopping early does mean that you could miss the number one Christmas toy, but if that's the only toy that you buy in the run up to Christmas, you can save yourself, quite literally, hundreds of pounds.
The New Year sales offer a great opportunity to stock up on birthday presents for the coming year. The only downside is that you need space to store everything until birthdays arrive, but if you have a cupboard out of the way, you can make dramatic savings.
A recent survey by the Daycare Trust shows that over half of nurseries in London have seen a fall in demand over the past year. This appears to be part of a wider picture of falling demand for childcare and will be of particular concern to nursery providers. As the economy continues to face uncertain times, more and more mothers are choosing not to return to work after having babies, and that is one factor fueling the fall in demand for childcare places.
Rising childcare costs (more than twice the rate of inflation over the last year) are forcing many mothers to ditch work and look after young family themselves. The average cost of childcare in England is £5,028 a year, rising to over £6,000 a year in London. This is income that has already been taxed, and the cost of putting more than one child into childcare just becomes eye-watering!
Increasingly, at the moment, mothers are leaving work to raise their children at home.
On top of this, nursery providers have found that their costs are rising fast too, which is the main contributing factor to the rising cost of nursery places. Rent rates have jumped hugely over the last few years, but so have many of their other costs including food, staff training and all the essential supplies needed by a nursery. It seems that as the economy has suffered over the last few years, the global reaction has just been to raise prices for goods and services to make up for slump in demand. This isn't going to hold much longer - something is going to break. The logical conclusion of this spiral of rising prices pushing down demand is that we will see nurseries closing and nursery chains going out of business.
This isn't all bad news for private childminders. The additional costs of nursery provision will see a move towards more flexible childminders, with lower associated costs, so we predict a boom in private childcare provision over the next few years. We are also seeing more babies being nurtured by their own families in their domestic setting, and that too has to be a good thing. Whilst nurseries and childcare offer a wonderful service, allowing families to continue working, there is a lot to be said for not having to have two incomes simply to live from day to day. Families that choose to stay home and raise children may have to cut back in some areas, but the marginal difference of a second salary after tax and childcare is making the 'stay at home' option look increasingly attractive!
Children are an industry - you can easily lavish thousands on your baby in the first few weeks of their lives, and indeed in the run up to their arrival, but babies needn't cost the earth; there are ways in which you can economise, and you aren't a bad parent for doing so!
When it comes to buying certain items, particularly ones where safety is involved, you should buy new for each baby. For example, you should buy a brand new car seat for your baby because you don't know the history of a second hand one - has it been involved in an accident and could it be structurally weakened? When it comes to buying baby bottles, you can continue using ones from earlier children, just buy a new set of teats and you'll save yourself considerably on the cost of extra bottles.
When furnishing your nursery or buying other baby paraphernalia such as stair gates, pushchairs or toys, you can happily buy second hand or choose cheaper models. Pretty much every item sold in our shops has to pass safety standards in order to go on sale, so a cheap cot, pram or stair gate should theoretically be just as safe and sound as the most expensive ones. Indeed, the price of goods may not even reflect the quality of the furniture so much as the retail markup and fashion.
Shop online and use price comparison websites and you will save a king's ransom! The same furniture can vary in price enormously, although make sure you factor in the cost of taxes and delivery which can make cheap items suddenly appear rather expensive.
You can also buy second hand clothes, either at 'nearly new' sales organised locally or online at sites such as eBay. Clothes tend to be sold in bundles on eBay and you may find that you can fit out your baby for the first couple of years for very little money at all!
Your children are going to cost you a fortune over the coming years, and there's no shame in economising, especially while they are too young to have an opinion on pre-owned goods. Perhaps a frugal upringing will set them up with a valuable life skill!
During their first years, the costs associated with having a new baby in the house are visible, but there are wider and longer term financial commitments that should be considered.
When babies are new, it seems they need lots of equipment and expensive stuff around the house. The cot, the car seat, the chair, clothes, nappies, shoes. Something you may get as gifts, other things you may have to save for. One building Society estimated that the average family spends £132 a week on children. Over an 18 year period, that is a staggering £123,500! It's practically a house!
One survey said that the value of a Mum was... wait for it... £32,800 a year! If only someone would pay that for our services!
But, there are ways of reducing the cost of a baby - it just takes a bit of planning and careful thinking.
- Borrow or swap toys so you only have to buy one lot and your friend buys something else to share every few weeks.
- Find out what is worth getting - speak to parents and discover which toys their kids like best.
- Check out nearly new sales and boot sales for second hand toys. You may be surprised at some of the bargains on offer.
- Look at own brand vests, baby grows, nappies and wipes etc.
- Breastfeed rather than buy formula - no waste and its fabulously free!
- Get family and friends to buy practical presents.
- Draw up a list of what you need and try not veer from that list.
- Make sure you get all the benefits, maternity pay and awards that you are entitled to. Remember to register for child benefit, tax credits and working tax credits. A little research could make a real difference to what you are paid.
- Claim your Child Trust Fund money and invest carefully.