First-time parents have a lot to learn in a very short period of time: What to get? What not to get? How much to spend? How much to save? These are the pressing questions that should go through any expectant parent’s mind before the birth of a child. And, all-in-all, they are pretty easy to answer.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?
Before first-time parents panic and walk in to a baby store unprepared, they should do a bit of research. And, by research, I mean they should talk to other parents who have recently had a child and also more experienced parents (people with children a little bit older) who will tell you what you really need. Want to know the latest trends? Ask a new parent. Want to know what is going to be a waste of money? Ask a parent who has had a bunch of kids and has tested out their fair share of products. This should help you compile a list of what your baby actually needs (baby essentials like diapers, wipes, bottles, sleepers and rash cream) versus what may be helpful if a certain situation arises (Sleep Sheep) and what will be totally useless to you (Wipe Warmer). Act as if you are spending your own money to buy everything, even though, more often than not, much of your new baby products will be gifts from family and friends.
WHAT NOT TO GET?
Don’t get anything you don’t need that month. This is especially a good rule of thumb with things like diapers and clothing; anything that a child may outgrow quickly. But this even applies to things as generic as wipes, which should not be bought in too much bulk on the off chance your child develops an allergy to them. Also, don’t get things just because a store clerk says you need it, or a friend with a lot of discretionary income says it’s the best thing ever. You may never use it and just be wasting your money. I find the best way to shop for products is to see them in use at a friend’s house or a play place or a daycare. If you see a product in use and you think it will work for your kid, then buy it – but don’t buy it just on the word of someone who wants your money or someone who has money to burn. Trust me, you’ll have lots of things to blow your money on as your child grows.
HOW MUCH TO SPEND?
Well that’s an individual thing. It all depends on your budget. Once you have all the big ticket items you need (stroller, crib, car seat, bottles, clothing), you still have to be able to pay for things like diapers, and wipes and tearless baby shampoo and, in some cases, formula. Buying brand names can add up, and generic brands basically produce a similar product- they just don’t have to recoup all the Research and Development costs. But there are slight differences between brands, and you have to decide if they are worth it to you to spend the extra money. Personally, I am more apt to be really careful with what goes in to my baby’s mouth, but some people are just as picky about what goes on their babies butt and are happy to pay extra for “the best.” But it’s all subjective. Just know how much you have to spend monthly on these items and choose accordingly. There are products for everyone.
HOW MUCH TO SAVE?
Seventeen or eighteen years seem like a long time, but it really can go by just like THAT! And if you don’t start looking down the road, at least a little bit, you are going to one day find yourself paying for something huge like summer camp or your child’s college tuition all out of your own pocket. OR, you could save a little and take advantage of our friend, compound interest, or take advantage of great government programs and grants that enhance your contributions towards things like your children’s education. CST Consultants Inc. (CST), a trusted organization that helps Canadians save for their child’s post-secondary education, has such a program and my kids have been signed up for it from the day we brought them home from the hospital. Focusing on education savings, CST helps to make higher learning financially possible for all Canadian children. And it doesn’t take much to get you started. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take 18 years to come up with $150,000 than scramble when my kid gets accepted to a college. But that’s just me. For more info about opening an RESP with CST, you can go to www.cst.org).
Now, did your life just pass before your eyes? How about your child’s? Are you ready for all that lies ahead? You will be, as long as you do your research, don’t waste money on things you don’t need and invest in things that will help you way down the road. But first, congratulations on becoming a parent; there is no better job in the world.
You can do it. It’s only as hard as you make it.