If you are planning for or expecting a baby you may be wondering about how much money to save and budget, and how much financial support you can get from the government.
It’s good to think ahead. Babies require a lot of stuff. And while the NHS helps ensure medical coverage is largely free, the average out of pocket costs of a baby in the UK during the first month is around £500, and about £11,500 in the first year. Most of this is spent on toys, furniture, clothes, nappies and childcare. (You can read more about the cost breakdown and how to mitigate costs from our How much does it cost to have a baby post)
Understandably, in these unsure times, parents might need help with financing. Fortunately, no matter your financial situation, the government offers a lot of support.
What maternity grants are available?
All parents can get the Child Benefit for each child up to the age of 16. With Child Benefits, parents receive £21.05 each week for the eldest or only child, and £13.95 per week for each additional child.
And if you live in Scotland, every baby receives a Baby Box that arrives a few weeks before the due date and includes many essential items including clothes, thermometers, toys, books, a teething ring and more. The box even doubles as a crib.
Beyond this, there are many grants, tax credits and benefits you may be entitled to. Eligibility is based on your employment and financial circumstances and where you live. These include:
Sure start maternity grant (not available in Scotland): With few restrictions, this is a one-off payment of £500 to help with the costs of having a child. As mentioned above, this is often what most parents pay out of pocket in the first month, making this a welcome contribution to a baby’s setup costs.
Best start grant (Scotland only): Similar to the Sure Start Grant, parents who receive benefits, whether they work or not, will receive £600 for their first child and £300 for any additional children. Additional payments can be applied for when the child is between 2 - 3.5 years of age, and when they start school.
Maternity leave and pay: This benefit is for the time period leading up to birth and the period after birth. The amount of money you receive varies significantly depending on your employer, salary and how long you have been employed. You are eligible for maternity pay if you have been at the same job for at least 26 weeks before the baby is due and earning at least £90 per week. Mothers are also entitled to 52 weeks (a year) of maternity leave no matter how long they have been with a company.
Paternity leave and pay: Fathers are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave right after the child is born and they can share the 52 weeks of maternity leave.
Tax credits: If you are on low income and have a baby you may be able to claim new tax credits or get more money if you’re already claiming tax credits. This includes a Child Tax Credit for up to £3,375 per year (this has largely been replaced by Universal Credit), and tax credits for childcare up to £122.5 per week for one child (and up to £210 a week for two or more children).
Maternity grants eligibility and applications
If you have a midwife with the NHS they may be able to help you determine which benefits you are eligible for and how and when to apply.
Go to the government websites to learn more about each benefit, your entitlements and how and when to apply. Application deadlines vary, but many applications need to be submitted around 15 weeks before the baby is due.
Other tips to help keep on top of costs
The Money Advice Service offers a baby cost calculator to help you estimate how much you may expect to spend on a baby. And once you use the government calculators above to see how much money you are likely to receive in grants and save through tax benefits, you can determine how much money you need to save to fill the gaps.
Most new parents will have to revise their spending habits and create budgets to meet their financial goals for a new baby. There are many small and significant steps you can take to reduce spending and increase saving, even with a new baby. Some of those methods are outlined in our articles on How to set achievable saving goals, How to budget money on low income, How to budget as a couple, Managing money with a partner when you're expecting and How to budget as a single mum.
But whatever you do, it always helps to keep a close eye on your spending and saving over time and day by day. Use an app like Money Dashboard that automatically tags all your spending by category so you to see where your money is going and where you can cut back spending: essential actions for successful budgeting.