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Baby steps to saving

Last updated 05:00 17/08/2014

THEY GROW UP SO FAST: So resist the temptation to stock up on loads of expensive baby gear.

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When a friend recently experienced the patter of tiny feet for the second time, I felt a column coming on.

How would you suggest people can save money on babies, I asked?

"Don't have one," he replied - an answer perhaps influenced by having had three hours of sleep the previous night.

So far, that strategy has worked out excellently for me, but it's something I'll have to face one day.

With zero expertise in this area, I've called in the big guns. My fellow money writer Eloise Gibson, a new mum, had so many tips to share we're filling two columns.

When you work out a baby's actual needs, they boil down to food, clothes, and love.

What about the organic, gluten-free baby food, the reinforced steel off-road stroller, or the selection of "educational" toys?

The baby industry has seized upon the great anxiety and stress new parents face, and created an enormous array of unnecessary products.

Today we'll tackle clothes, toys, and equipment.

You'll want the bare minimum of clothes for the first six months, especially with a deluge of baby shower gifts. Designer brand items are frankly ridiculous, given baby is likely to show its appreciation by throwing up on them.

"Newborns grow fast," says Eloise. "Like, really fast. That means they hardly need any clothes, so resist the temptation to stock up on loads of expensive baby gear."

A few tops and pants, or nighties and some cardigans and booties is enough to start with, and perhaps one or two nice outfits for photos and special occasions.

"Babies don't care if their clothes are second-hand or the colours clash, as long as their outfits are soft, warm and comfortable," says Eloise. "And they're cute enough to pull off almost anything."

Be wary of expensive shoes for infants - they don't walk a lot, and they grow out of them in no time.

Also think about buying unisex colours and styles, for future siblings or possible resale.

One baby product outlet recommends you buy more than 40 items of clothing, excluding nappies. Slash that back to 10, and you can easily save at least $300.

Next up is equipment.

Eloise found all the big stuff like strollers, cots, bassinets and high chairs could be bought secondhand for half price or less, either on Trade Me or through local Facebook or parents groups.

On those four items alone, you're looking at saving at least $500.

You can also probably afford to buy better quality kit second-hand, which in turn will hold its value well for resale.

Finally, toys. Babies are infamous for spurning expensive "educational" or whizz-bang toys for the cardboard boxes they were packaged in.

It's a cliche, but it's true, says Eloise.

"Lots of babies love playing with household items like boxes, spoons and pots, especially if you play with the new ‘toy' with them," she says.

"They'll probably also get a kick out of a flash new truck set or an all-dancing, all singing musical toy - but you can borrow these from a toy library."

Conservatively, lets say you'll save another $200 or so on toys. All up, we've slashed $1000 from the annual baby budget, and we're only just getting warmed up.

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Want to know how boobs, frozen steak, and the internet can more than double that sum once again? Tune in again next week.

- Sunday News

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