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Why raising a child needn’t cost the earth.

Time and time again when I was pregnant people would tell me how expensive children are. Naturally, Sam and I felt daunted and were worried about how far our finances would stretch. How were we going to afford it? Would we ever be able to buy our own home? How were we going to strike a balance between being careful and responsible with our money, while also enjoying things like eating dinner out, going on holiday and being generous with our friends and family?

We have always been quite careful with how we spend our money, even before Myla was born. Sam is naturally a saver, while I am naturally a pretty good spender. When we decided I would return to my job as a midwife on part-time hours, losing roughly a third of my pay each month, we knew we would have to find some way to cut costs so we could live comfortably within our new means.

Getting by with a little help from friends and family

We are fortunate to both have families who were interested in helping us along our baby journey by contributing some essentials. Incredibly, we were also gifted a pram and a cot from relatives, and a baby shower resulted in a lovely changing bag full of essentials, along with plenty of newborn clothes to get us started. Our wicker crib was a family heirloom, and some great friends let us use some of their preloved baby items.

Babies grow so incredibly fast. Many of Myla’s clothes would be worn once or twice before being put in the pile for storage as she had grown out of them. We have saved a fortune by having hand-me-downs from a friend with a daughter almost exactly a year older than Myla. This means the sizes fit the seasons - it’s no good having a Christmas jumper that fits during July, after all. I do buy some clothes for Myla during the year and tend to get them from supermarkets. I think the quality is incredible and, with Myla still growing so quickly, it seems silly to spend lots of money on clothes that won’t be used for more than a couple of months.

Having fun needn’t cost the earth

During the week, most of the activities I do with Myla are either free or cheap. We are lucky to live behind a National Trust park, which we get free access to. We have friends who live close by, so Myla is often entertained for an afternoon by having a play date. We like to keep things simple during the week, sticking to local activities like the library, play groups, walks and mundane things like cleaning and shopping. Then, when Sam is with us on the weekend we tend to spend more and go further afield: petting farms, zoos, swimming or out for a bite to eat. I’m a true believer that life is as fun as you make it - emptying the dishwasher or putting clothes away can be entertaining for a toddler if there’s a Disney soundtrack on and you dance enthusiastically as you do it. I definitely don’t feel the pressure to be travelling far and doing something entirely new and exciting with Myla every day. She is constantly learning new things, even when we are just feeding the ducks in the park or collecting leaves to make some crafts with.

Getting into the festive spirit

Christmas is often an expensive time for families. I was still on maternity leave last Christmas, so money was tighter than usual. We told both of our families that we wouldn’t be able to spend as much as normal on presents that year and, guess what? They were totally fine with it. They even told us to not buy presents for them and to save our money. But, I love giving gifts so we printed photos of Myla and framed them for our family members. This year, Myla will be decorating baubles to give to people. It’s incredibly cheap but of huge sentimental value.

It’s easy to become caught up in the mayhem of Christmas present shopping for kids and to feel pressure to spend vast amounts of money each year. Our house can’t accommodate lots of big presents each year, anyway. I know a few people who stick to the rule of “something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read”- a rule we may follow in the years to come.

For us, Christmas isn’t about spending lots on each other. It’s about getting together with our families, making some new Christmas traditions and giving Myla memories, which will last far longer than presents.