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What are the golden rules of buying on a budget?

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As a first-time parent, it's easy to feel that money is just slipping away from the moment you have your first scan printout in your hand. What is essential for a baby? Very little, is the answer. What you will need to have ready for the birth is lots of maternity pads, some nappies , a few babygros, a baby blanket, a warm suit, booties and a hat if it's winter, and a car seat.

Even the car seat isn't necessary on day one if you give birth at home. These are the basic essentials, but before you rush out and buy anything else, ask yourself if you know anyone who can lend you the items you want.

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  • What do I need to transport my newborn baby? The reality is that almost all families will buy a car seat, unless they live in a very urban area and always use public transport and a pushchair.

    In the case of car seats, there are convertible models available that last from birth to four years. If suitable for your car, a convertible model will save you the expense of buying a new car seat each time your baby outgrows the old one. It's best not to carry your newborn baby around in a sling , car seat , or pushchair that doesn't lie flat for long periods of time.

    If you plan to be out and about for more than two hours, it's a good idea to think about buying a cheap second-hand pram. All-terrain pushchairs are phenomenally popular. Before you buy one though, ask yourself if you plan to go running around the park or walking in the country with your little one.

    If the answer is "yes", then the expense may be justified. However, all-terrain pushchairs can be tricky to get in and out of car boots.

    If you'll be mostly walking to the shops, or hopping on the tube or bus, it may be not the best choice. Few parents with older babies use anything other than a lightweight buggy or stroller.

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    And the classified ads are packed with second-hand prams and travel systems. Should I buy a crib, Moses basket, or cot? Another key question is where your baby is going to sleep. It's a good bet that your baby will eventually sleep in a cot.

    So you may want to skip the expense of a Moses basket or crib, and go straight for the cot. What other items are desirable? Once you've solved the problem of sleeping arrangements and transport, there are plenty of other gadgets such as monitors, breast pumps and battery-operated swings that you may consider buying. However, none of them is essential, so you may want to wait until after your baby is born to decide whether or not you really need these items.

    What needn't I buy at all? While there are plenty of useful items you can buy on the cheap, there are some you needn't buy at all. For example, you can use your sink or a washing-up bowl instead of a baby bath. And you don't need to buy new baby towels and muslin squares when you've probably already got something suitable for the job around the house.

    However, you can still save money. Sterilising equipment can be expensive, so if you are planning to bottle-feed, think about using the boiling-water method or cold sterilising your baby bottles. These methods require little equipment and are cheap to use.

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  • Just make sure that the bottles you buy are safe to sterilise in boiling water or in a cold-water solution. Bottle warmers are also not necessary. Formula feeds should be made up fresh for each feed, so they will be warm anyway. But if you are using expressed breastmilk or a ready-made formula, you could just warm up your baby's bottle using some warm water in a container. To save time during night-time feeds, put some hot water in a flask so that you can pour it out in to a bowl whenever you need it.

    Should I use cloth nappies or disposables? If you do choose to use disposables, then buy the cheapest supermarket own-brand value ones.

    Is it really essential? Advice on its website says the Bednest should never be used with the folding panel in the half-raised position. The bedside crib Another option for new parents who want to keep their babies close is the bedside crib.

    If you only want to use the premium brands, stock up when they're on special offer. Should I buy second-hand? So few parents consider stocking their nursery with second-hand goods that there are some fantastic bargains to be had.

    The best sources are friends and family, car boot fairs, charity shops and classified ads. The National Childbirth Trust is another great place to look because it holds Nearly New sales in most parts of the country. You can buy virtually anything you need second-hand, but visit our guide to buying second-hand baby goods for safety information. I prefer to buy new. How can I save money? If you must buy new, then shop around, buy budget brands and never miss a sale.

    Many supermarkets and large retail shops sell stylish baby clothes at a great price. If you spot something you love, but don't like the price, shop around first.

    You may be surprised at what bargains you can pick up. If you can't live without the more expensive brands, then go straight to the sale rail or visit outlet stores. Are budget brands OK? Budget brands have to pass the same safety tests as the expensive brands and are often made by the same companies. You may be able to add your own finishing touches to simple items bought cheaply. Familiarise yourself with discount shops in your area, too. What about a baby gift list? Penny-wise parents-to-be could always prepare a baby gift list.

    Thanks a lot to WoodenStreet! The bedside crib Another option for new parents who want to keep their babies close is the bedside crib. If you travel a lot then, solid wood cribs which is light weighted and strong so that the travelling experience remains uninterrupted.

    Your friends' and family's money will be better spent if you do. Send your list out with the birth announcement, or give it to your best friend to organise for you. Make sure you exchange unwanted gifts for something useful. Prepare a wish list of nice but non-essential items to give to friends and relatives when they ask you what you would like. Ask experienced parents what they found really useful and read our buying guides to help you decide on a purchase.

    Assume that all gadgets and gizmos are cons until proved otherwise. Find out how much you're likely to spend in advance and see where you can cut costs. Buy in bulk whenever you see a good offer. Plan ahead so you can take advantage of sales. Is it really essential? Only buy new if there's a safety issue involved. Tell the world that you want hand-me-downs. Use your local library and toy library.

    Borrow items wherever possible.

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