Feelings

Baby budgeting basics

You’ve just found out you’re pregnant, so you’re full of exciting plans for the next few months. But you also need to make some financial plans to get your budget ready for baby’s arrival.

With a new arrival on the way, now is the perfect time to review your finances. This will give you a clearer picture of your financial situation and show you how much you have to spend on the things you will need for your new baby. Include all your income and outgoings, both large and small, to get an accurate idea of where you stand financially and identify what changes you may need to make.

Even the smallest changes to your daily spending can make a big difference to your budget overall. Here are the baby budgeting basics you need to know about.

Baby budget calculator

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission’s Baby Steps Booklet has a great Baby Budget Calculator which can help you financially plan for the arrival of your new baby.

Once you have worked out how much money you can afford to spend, spreading the costs over the duration of your pregnancy will make budgeting more manageable as it means you’re not trying to pay for everything in the last few months. The Baby Steps Booklet advises parents-to-be to start considering the following factors when starting to save for a baby.

Planning for your baby’s arrival

Having a baby means making lots of changes, including decisions about your finances. You will need to consider things like:

✔ Medical costs: this will depend on whether you choose public, private or semi-private care. If you have private health insurance, review your policy entitlements under maternity cover;

✔ If employed, taking additional unpaid maternity leave or changing your working arrangements after your new arrival;

✔Increased spending before and after your baby’s arrival, e.g. maternity clothes, baby equipment, clothes, baby food, nappies etc;

✔Ongoing large costs such as childcare;

✔ Future costs, for example for your child’s education; and

✔ Emergency fund savings.

For a rainy day

Unexpected expenses can really put a dent in your wallet and when a baby comes along, you may find that you have some new ones, such as doctor’s bills.

money bank 1000

Saving before your baby coe mes along is more practical than afterwards. Saving even the smallest amounts each week can help set you up for the future. Consider setting up a savings account separate to your day-to-day bank account, to avoid accidentally dipping into your savings. Check out alternatives to the bank, such as the Credit Union or An Post and compare to get the best deal.

Financial Planner and Wealth Manager, Fonz Scanlan from moneysmart.ie suggests that now is the time to consider the long-term financial implications of raising a child. When you have dependents, life insurance becomes important, as does making a will. “You should also try to keep a savings account fund of three to six months’ salary for unexpected emergencies.” Fonz also strongly recommends putting an investment plan in place for school and college expenses.

5-step plan to control your finances

1. Keep a spending diary

Record everything you spend your money on each day, for four weeks. This will show what you are actually spending your money on so that your new baby friendly budget will be more accurate. There may also be things that you are spending money on unnecessarily and can cut back on if you need to.

2. Complete an income and expense check

If you have a bank account you can use the information on your statement to track money coming in and going out.

3. Identify your personal goals

You may want to set a short term goal such as paying for baby-related expenses.

4. Prepare a 12-month budget plan.

Make sure you include your additional income from child benefit and consider any other benefits you may have in the next 12 months. If you are working, you should check your contract with your employer to find out exactly what pay you will receive when you are on maternity leave and the impact, if any that maternity leave may have on your other employee benefits. Make sure to also factor in unpaid maternity leave if you are considering this.

5. Keep your finances under review

Regardless of your circumstances, you should review your financial situation at least once a year and this is even more important when your financial situation has settled down after the birth of your baby.

General money saving tips

  • Cancel any unwanted subscription services (for example will you or your partner have time to use that gym membership once your baby arrives?).
  • Save on your utility and phone bills. Check out the energy saving tips on www. seai.ie/power_of_one to help you cut costs. And www.comreg.ie has useful tips to help you save on your phone costs.
  • Cut back on non-essential/luxury items. Remember to be realistic – don’t cut out all your extras because if your budget is too tight it will be harder to stick to.

Check out the Economiser tool on www.nca.ie/nca/economiser. The Economiser analyses your spending in key areas, such as groceries, energy, mobile phones and will show you how much you are spending compared to others with a similar profile to you. It then gives you helpful tips on how to reduce your bills.

Baby budgeting basics
We wish!

Maternity Leave

If you are taking maternity leave, check with your employer to see what entitlements you have. If you are not sure what state benefits you may be entitled to, check with the Department of Social Protection at www.welfare.ie. If you have a pension plan with your employer, now is the time to find out how maternity leave might affect it if you were to change your working arrangements, or decide to take a career break.

Bargain hunting

Post Christmas winter sales or summer sales are a great place for finding bargains. Second hand shops and parenting forums can be great for picking up bargains in maternity wear, or baby clothes, but aren’t the best option for purchasing car seats, for example, as it is important to know the history of an item where safety standards are an issue.

Family and friends are usually keen to buy something for your impending arrival, so you could suggest a contribution to the cost of a travel system or cot instead of buying gifts that you might not require. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for any baby equipment that they no longer use.

This advice is from The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

More like this:

Expert tips for decorating baby’s nursery
20 things I learned while pregnant
Working through pregnancy

ASK LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.