Don't Let Money Worries Ruin This Special Time; New Research Suggests Many Parents-to-Be Are Worried about How They'll Cope with the Financial Costs of Looking after a Baby LISA SALMON Asks the Experts about the Best Ways to Ease the Financial Baby Burden

Article excerpt

Byline: LISA SALMON

THE UK is experiencing a baby boom - but for some parents-to-be the excitement about their new arrival is dampened by worries about how they'll cope financially. A new report by comparison website MoneySupermarket.com has revealed that more than a third (37%) of expectant parents are concerned about how they'll afford the cost of having a baby, and 44% of them say the stress has caused rows with their partner. Some of that stress may be connected to the fact that the national average cost of childcare per year is now PS4,993 for 25 hours - and up to double that, of course, for the 23% of parents expecting to pay for full-time nursery care (26-50 hours). But many working mums feel they have no option but to pay childcare costs, as the need for more money means that once baby's born, nearly half of working mums (45%) cut short their maternity leave. Instead of taking off the full year they're entitled to on reduced maternity pay, a third (34%) of those questioned by MoneySupermarket are planning to take six to eight months off after the birth, while 10% say they'll take just three to six months.

Clare Francis, personal finance expert at MoneySupermarket, right, says: "As exciting as planning for a baby is, it can also be a daunting and stressful time. "Having to adjust your lifestyle to cope with the new arrival is hard enough, but with many couples seeing a fall in income due to one of them giving up work or taking maternity i leave, it can heap further pressure on families when they least need it. "However, money worries needn't get in the way of what should be a magical time. Planning ahead and understanding your finances ahead of adding to your family is vitally important, and will save you many sleepless nights - at least until the baby arrives." Reviewing household outgoings, saving some money if possible and reducing everyday spending can ease money pressures, says Clare, although 65% of parents say they haven't worked out how much household costs will rise once baby's born.

Clare advises parents to put some savings in an ISA, and make sure any extra savings are earning competitive interest. Any debts such as credit card bills should be switched to 0% interest deals to reduce outgoings. While half (51%) of expectant parents say they have enough money saved should any unexpected costs arise after baby's born, 24% will rely on credit cards and 17% on overdrafts to deal with any emergencies. One in five (20%) also say they would borrow from family and friends to get by. "Planning your finances for having a baby needn't be a major cause of stress for expectant parents," says Clare. "Taking a thorough ook at your household ^budget, making some simple money-saving changes and being realistic about how much 4 . you really need B to spend on things for your baby will ensure you and your family get off to a flying start." She stresses that Childcare costs averaging nearly PS5,000 a year can give parents a real financial headache A parents shouldn't fall for the marketing hype surrounding what's 'essential' for the arrival of a baby, pointing out: "It's easy to believe you need all the latest paraphernalia and gadgets money can buy.

"But in reality, you'll probably find you need a lot less than you think." It's estimated that expectant parents splash out an average of PS166 each to get ready for their new arrival, but Clare suggests new parents should try to borrow or buy second-hand baby equipment and clothing so they don't have to splash out so much. Mumsnet co-founder Justine Roberts agrees that it's almost impossible for first-time parents to predict which baby products will be essential. …