You’ve just received the happy news – you’re having a baby! Presuming this is a positive development, it might take a little while before the dust settles and you realise your finances are going to take a hammering for the next 18+ years, though I’m sure there will be quite a few good memories made along the way.
Still, the cost of raising a child from birth to the end of third level education in Ireland is around €100,000, with the first year alone estimated at €4,000. So how can you get financially prepared for the incoming bundle of joy?
Know your rights
According to Citizens Information, there are a number of benefits and entitlements to which you may be entitled while pregnant, such as health and safety leave while working in risky environments or at night, and paid time off to attend a set of antenatal classes.
Both parents have the right to leave from employment during or after pregnancy, and should check with their employers as to their entitlements. For those who fall pregnant while in employment you are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave and 16 weeks unpaid. Employers don’t have to pay you while on maternity leave, though if you’ve made sufficient PRSI contributions you could be entitled to Maternity Benefit payable by the Department of Social Protection.
Paternity leave of two weeks is provided for under the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 for new parents (birth or adoption) other than the child’s mother. Again, employers don’t have to pay you for this time, though you may qualify for Paternity Benefit depending on PRSI contributions.
It’s a good idea to check how the drop in income from maternity or paternity leave will affect your budget – the earlier the better. Once you’ve calculated the shortfall you can start to save as required.
Putting money aside for one-off expenses like car seats, cots, prams etc. can help ease the burden down the line. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has a handy Baby Budget Planner to make things easier.
It’s easy to get carried away with your spending in the weeks and months leading up to the birth, but you need to separate the essentials from things you really don’t need. An Aston Martin pram might be quite luxurious, but a much cheaper option that hasn’t been hand-stitched will do the same job.
Parents.com has a handy list of essential newborn buys, including onesies, nappies and wipes, a baby bath, blankets and a pram. Shop around and compare prices, get as much as you can secondhand, and ask to borrow items from family and friends that are gathering dust in their attics.
It’s tempting to buy nappies, wipes etc. in bulk before baby’s arrival, but you don’t yet know whether they’ll be suitable or if another brand or option would work better. Buy enough to keep you going for the first few days, and then you can make a more informed bulk buy.
Make the most of freebies available to expectant mothers! Both eumom/Supervalu and Lidl/Maternity & Infant offer free baby gift bags/boxes, while you can sign up for special offers, free gifts or vouchers from the Tesco Baby Club and the Boots Parenting Club.
The Baby Market Ireland also hosts a number of events in locations around the country, allowing parents to sell their used but well-kept baby gear to those in search of a bargain.
Babies tend to grow quite quickly, and so buying new items every few months can become expensive. But you don’t always have to buy. For example, the National Sling Library allows people to borrow baby slings for several weeks at a time for a fee – the Sling Library Dublin charges €15 for four weeks.
If you need something on a short-term basis, The Stork Exchange rents out car seats, prams and travel systems, based in Dublin Airport (a pick-up and return point is located in Shannon Airport).