THE patter of little feet around the house is always a joy but the addition of new family members into the household can be quite expensive and a financial strained if there is no planning.
Here's how to avoid falling into the parent trap of spending unnecessarily and reducing your childcare costs.
Sharing the load
The financial load of taking care of a child can always be better managed if both parents are working.
“The first thing one should do is to sit down and decide how the finances should be evenly distributed,” says financial adviser Wilson Low.
“Of course, it would be better if everything is determined some time before the child is born, rather than after,” he adds.
It's not necessarily a bad thing, however, if only one of the two parents is working, says Low.
“If one parent is working, then the non-working one can stay at home and look after the children full-time. This can seriously help cut down on the cost of hiring a maid or babysitter.”
Buy what you only need
Adlina Hassan, a stay-at-home mother of three, says one should only focus on getting the bare essentials or “only what is necessary” when it comes to buying food or clothing for one's children.
“There are a lot of products out there and I always like to compare. Many parents often get what their friends or neighbours buy but that shouldn't always be the way. They could be better off than you and the items they buy may not be to your budget.
“Just get what is necessary and no need to keep up with the Joneses,” she says.
According to Melissa Ram, who is a proud new mother, buying in bulk can also be a cheaper option.
“Buying in bulk would be good when there are promotional items on offer. Buying goods online can also give you savings. I shop a lot online and compare pricing to get the best deal for what I want.”
However, when buying in bulk, one needs to ensure that the goods can be consumed in time.
“I would not buy food or milk in bulk as I'm very particular about the expiration dates and such. I once bought some cereal from a hypermarket and it was expired,” says Gowri Arumainathan, a mother of two.
Melissa also says she keeps a lookout for baby fairs where she believes one can get “really good deals.”
“Another option is to buy clothes in bigger sizes as children tend to grow very fast and outgrow their clothes in a short space of time.”
Gowri also says she prefers to purchase children's goods, especially dairy products, from local sundry shops and mini-markets.
“It's definitely cheaper, at least by a few ringgit, and I also notice that the stock moves fast. This way I know I'm getting new stock of milk or cereal that I need to buy. This even applies for diapers.
“When it comes to clothes, I tend to buy most of them from the open market. It's cheaper and you'd be surprised by the quality of clothes you can find.”
Cooking your own meals
If you have the time to do it, then home-cooked food is always a cheaper option.
“I tend to make my children's meals. It's cheaper, fresh and I'm able to provide more variety to their food intake,” says Gowri.
Melissa, meanwhile, says: “In respect of the food, breastfeeding will save you a lot in the cost of milk! I also believe mothers should try to cook their own food for their children rather than to buy baby food off the rack.”
Getting extra help
A lot of times, one needs to get extra assistance to look after their children. This could be a willing and able family member, such as a parent, or getting hired help like a maid or babysitter.
“The cheapest is surely to get your parents to look after. In our case, we have a long list of “babysitters” on hand, ranging from our parents, sister to aunties and cousins,” enthuses Melissa.
Gowri also concurs that getting a parent to look after your children is a cheaper option.
“Of course, getting a parent to look after the child is the most cost-efficient way. Especially with reports of how children are not looked after well at nurseries and day-care prices these days are all going sky high,” she says.
“It's surely the cheapest option (being looked after by a parent) and you know your child's well being is close to heart. However, at times, grandparents are often too old or unwell to run around after small kids,” Gowri adds.
With that in mind, she believes getting a maid is a better option when the child is a little older.
“Getting a maid is only an option to me if my child is bigger and able to inform me about the maid. Otherwise, I will not be able to trust my younger children with them. With all the stories you hear of what they can put in your food and do to a child, it makes you shudder to think your child's health can be in harm's way.
“Babysitters would be my next option. As they don't take care of too many children at one time, you know you are getting a more personal touch. Day-cares are just too commercialised and can have too many children to look after. So the personalised care for your child is not there.”
Adlina believes getting students as babysitters is a cheaper option.
“Of course perhaps not as full-time babysitters but I always found that getting students to look after your children can be a cheaper option.
“Students are not so demanding. They're usually looking for easy pocket-money and they're usually quite happy with whatever you offer them, most of the time!”
By EUGENE MAHALINGAM firstname.lastname@example.org